Where to begin?
I have been struggling to find a starting point for this blog. So much so that I've started this blog post a few times. I've been trying to figure out which way round to do this, because I don't want to dwell on what is often perceived as negative. What I'm going to do in this first post is write about what I do day to day to keep mentally healthy, which is really the point.
I write. I write on this website, I write in my personal journal, I write for work, and I write for my studies. It is one of the best ways I know to get out of my head and to make connections and put a perspective on my busy mind. I type and I write long hand. If I'm really stuck, I often start long hand and move to typing after a while. Like many others before me, I have found that there is something about my hand moving across a page that settles me down. It grounds me. Perhaps that's why the only personal (emotional?) journal that I have kept regularly for any length of time has been handwritten.
I cook. I bake. Both centre me like nothing else. I have cooked for as long as I can remember. I occasionally follow recipes, but more likely than not, I will have read around a recipe, finding different variations in cookbooks or online and getting a feel for the essence of the dish, and then play with it a bit. I grew up in a house where we had homemade family dinners. We also had homemade bread, cakes, and desserts. While there may have been disagreement about a lot of things at the dinner table, there was always agreement around food. And both my brother and I have inherited the cooking genes. We, more than our partners, organise breakfast, dinner, and lunch, and neither of us would have it any other way. Not that our partners can't cook; they both can. It's just that we seem to love it in a way that they don't. I love how focused I get when I chop vegetables. There can be six different things happening in my tiny, tiny kitchen, and as long as I am left alone (with the door open, I will talk to you), I am happy as a clam.
I meditate. Not as often as I should and I am aiming to fix that beginning this week. It is something that I have attempted to do since I was 15 or so. I know that it has helped my mum, and my uncle; I can tell when they haven't meditated. I initially found it so hard to keep still and quiet for 20 minutes. It was a bit of a disaster, ending with me being stressed that I couldn't de-stress. Then I found some apps and online tools which broke the whole thing down for me. I found Deepak Chopra's 21 Day Meditation and Headspace particularly useful. Which is why I am beginning again this week.
I also walk. I got out of the habit about 2 years ago due to an injury and it impacted me. I have recently started building regular walks back into my daily routine, and it is making a difference. It doesn't hurt that the weather is making that a bit easier. I used find that the transition time between home and work and work and home was much better if I walked. I live in Dublin, which is such an easy city to walk in; it's small and interesting and safe. I live in a lovely residential area, just on the outskirts of the city centre and there are plenty of routes that I can take for a 40 minute walk. I listen to podcasts as I go or meditations; they are a way of being in my own bubble in the world, which is very useful for introvert me.
Keeping mentally healthy is good for everyone, but I have a particular focus. I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder a few months ago. It's something that it turns out I have been managing for a very long time, but didn't have the words for. I used to call it 'stress', but the day that I couldn't find the stressor to my mounting agitation, was the day that it dawned on me that it could be something else. I took myself off to my GP and found out that the host of physical symptoms that I've been experiencing over the years are all connected to this. Now, I am doing a combination of low-dose medication and therapy. It is helping me so much. I know that there is a way to go yet, but having a name for this thing that made me feel weird made the biggest difference. I have good days and not so good days. The diagnosis threw me for a while, because I am pretty self-aware and I had this gigantic blind spot around my own well-being. Also, it made me profoundly aware of all my little 'ways'; you know what I mean, they way people like to do things. I had long ago gotten over the idea that I was laid back; I am not laid back. But I know that my 'ways' are for me to manage. If I want the cups a certain way in the cupboard, I do it; other people aren't doing it wrong (really, they're not.........). I am learning to be slightly more spontaneous, and trust that others are capable of making plans. I do love a plan, and I am very good at them, but I need to let others flex that muscle too. Being aware of my own anxiety made me more anxious for a while. And I was swimming in a big river of denial for a few months. I was FINE. I was COPING JUST GRAND. I was OKAY. I was not. I fell apart a bit in January, but I am very lucky and have a good support system around me that includes my partner, my GP, and my workplace. All very understanding and supportive, which gave me the space to face up to some things and get the rest and therapy that I have needed. I am so aware that this is not the case for everyone and I am so very grateful that I benefit from this situation.
Today is a good day. I am feeling bright and hopeful and calm. I know that this is only today, that this is all transient, and I am okay with that. Today.