The Survivors’ Guide to Early Autumn, Part One

Early Autumn. The leaves are just turning, the hedgerows are thick with bounty to be harvested, a fine dawn mist settles in the glens and, in houses across the land, people are rolling their eyes at the Christmas adverts, wanting to sell their children on eBay and  wistfully reminiscing about barbecues, warm lager and those few, brief weeks where Britain’s patio furniture wasn’t being carried down the middle of a rain-flooded high street.

It can be a tough time of year for everyone but the most hardened Autumn woodland pixie who loves pumpkin-spiced everything, Hallowe’en, Chris Packham in a sensible padded gilet and candles; so here is Part the First (Letters A through L) of The Early Autumn Survivors’ Guide (Without Mentioning That Scandinavian H Word) in Glorious Listicle Format

 

A – Is for Attitude.

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The attitude you wake up with is very often the attitude that lasts all day; so it stands to reason that the better a mood you can wake up with, the brighter the potential for the rest of the day, right? Just to get the boring old lady stuff over with straight away, yes, this means having a decent night’s sleep and waking up feeling refreshed. Everyone achieves this in a different way, but do please believe me (and all the experts) when I say that nobody finds a good night’s sleep at the bottom of a wine glass*. You might indeed sleep; but you won’t get the sleep you need. Believe me, I have several years personal research on this subject and chucking the evening tipple has improved my sleep and, ergo, my morning mood, more than I ever believed possible. Not having to get up in the night to pee is also a great help….

(*see also gin, vodka, lager, need I continue? Thought not. As you were.)

Set your alarm a little earlier than you need to – just a few minutes – and lay with your eyes closed and do a little early morning mental preparation. Don’t think about your work to-do list. Think about the good things that the day has in store. Don’t have any good things? Plan some. Just small things that you can really look forward to as little treats throughout your day – a real coffee instead of the usual instant; popping into the library to borrow a book; trying out a new recipe; something on TV that might be interesting to watch. We don’t have to try and change the world here, sometimes the promise of twenty minutes to ourselves to read a chapter of a book is all we need to change how we view the next few hours.

 

B – Is for Breathing.

breathe

When I first started meditation – and I hear a lot of people say the same thing – I thought the whole concept of learning to breathe properly really quite ridiculous. For the love of God, I’ve been doing it since I was born, it comes naturally, money-for-old-rope quack self-help gurus and their fancy expensive books, yada yada yada.

Until I started learning to breathe properly.

Breathe properly, steadily, deeply and you can pretty much instantly step back from that dreadful anxiety that can creep up on you when you least expect it. The trick is, I think, to practice breathing regularly enough that you remember to employ it as often as you can; thus allowing yourself to slip into it before a full-on panic attack takes hold. Not only are you then already breathing more deeply and evenly (keeping adrenaline and cortisol at bay) but your mind is already concentrating on the process of breathing. This is actually how the ‘paper bag for hyperventilating’ works – it doesn’t do a thing other than distract the sufferer and encourage them to take deeper breaths because they think the paper bag is helping. True, dat.

 

C – Is for Create

OK, a lot of you reading this are already crafty wee buggers; that’s probably why we’re pals but, like me, you might notice that – when things get a bit gloomy – our creativity is the first thing to go. There are multiple reasons for this, I think – when our brains aren’t behaving it is very easy to do ourselves down, belittle our own abilities and compare ourselves, negatively, with others. Often, we consider creativity as something less important than all the vital, pressing tasks we have building up and so it gets sidelined to be picked up as some kind of luxurious treat when we feel like we deserve it.

I say bollocks to all that (and I speak as someone who taught herself to crochet to get through severe anxiety; and then had the unfortunate issue of crocheting actually triggering anxiety attacks as my brain must have been linking the two things together).

Your creativity – however you choose to express yourself – is part of you. You have part of your brain that absolutely needs to be fed, and without sustenance it will suffer.

We are ALL creative – it’s not just about art, writing, music. Unfortunately, due to the constraints of time and society, many people lose – or at least forget – their creative sides; and creativity and self-expression can often be portrayed as something rather luxurious, something selfish and indulgent. When you are already struggling with your brain telling you that you’re not good enough and that you’re wasting your time; the sense of guilt that you are indulging yourself in a pastime that could be taking your time away from something more pressing and important can be enormous.

You are not being selfish and indulgent. You are feeding that part of you that needs to express itself, however you choose to do that. Self-expression is ancient, it is not some modern evil designed to keep you from answering emails and filling in forms; and man has done it since man came to be.

If creating something, if expressing yourself creatively, brings you happiness and pleasure; then your happiness and pleasure will spread to others. Your immediate circle will benefit from your improved mood; you may at some point wish to join others in a social gathering or club, or even volunteer to teach your skills to others for the good of the community.

Do you have to be good enough? Good enough for what, exactly? Ask yourself that. Does it bring you pleasure? Do you lose yourself? Then that, my friend, is enough. Anything else is an extra Brucy-Bonus.

Don’t think you can do anything at all? Pick something, find some tutorials on YouTube. Have a go. Everyone starts somewhere! The book pictured above, Emma Mitchell‘s ‘Making Winter’ is also full of some gorgeous new crafts to try during these bleaker months.

 

D – Is for Disconnect

Social media is fab, isn’t it?

Except when it isn’t.

Not just social media, but rolling news channels, magazines, newspapers (if anyone still actually buys those anymore). Sometimes the world is a horrible place that seems to be full of horrible people and you just sit there helpless and/or angry at the injustices and the abject stupidity in the world; and then you look at social media and it’s full of kittens and trolls and people moaning and drama and……

TURN. IT. OFF.

Turn it all off. Start with an hour. Build from there.

Can you remember the time when we didn’t feel the need to tell the world what we had for breakfast and take some carefully filtered photographs of the neighbours’ wheelie-bins?

I recently took a month long break from social media. I did miss people, of course I did, and the first few days were very hard; but by the end of the month I had absolutely not missed all the negativity that bombards you, and I did so much more with my time. I honestly had not realised how much time I had wasted scrolling through feeds. More to the point, I hadn’t realised how detrimental the slow drip-drip of drama, negativity and hate from some areas had been to my mental health.

 

E – Is for Extra Time

This is Husband Dearest’s idea, and I confess that I loved it. I was also stuck on ‘E’.

Husband Dearest has, of course, got a wife that won’t sit still and tends to go slightly manic when her mood is on the wobble. Husband Dearest would like to stress how important it is to slow down and take extra time to do things.

I’ve just recently started looking into the whole ‘Slow Living’ movement as I stumbled across it on Pinterest and, to be honest, a lot of it is what we already do. Our family are superb potterers (hence the name of this blog) and whilst I am the undisputed queen of household multi-tasking, I do also like to take time doing things – a more mindful approach, if you will.

Cooking a lovely meal from scratch, gardening, preserving food, baking can take on a sense of quiet gentle ritual if you have the time to take things slowly and absolutely dedicate yourself to the task in hand. This has been a rather difficult process for me in many respects, as I am almost hardwired to try and do multiple things at once; but I have learned to take huge amounts of pleasure in these slow, gentle activities that are so absorbing and soothing to someone whose brain seems to gallop at a million miles an hour. I can see why blokes go fishing for hours and hours at a time, really.

 

F – Is for Forgiveness

Didn’t get up today? Drunk half a bottle of gin and texted a random stranger for a fight last night? Too anxious to leave the house? Burst into tears for no apparent reason?

It’s OK. This happens to everyone (OK, maybe not the texting bit, but…). The wheels haven’t fallen off, they just went a bit wobbly. Tomorrow is another day. There is nothing to be gained from giving yourself grief for it; but there is everything to be gained from accepting it as an experience you can learn and grow from. Had this never happened, you would never have gained this insight.

 

G – Is for Gratitude

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Sound the Cliche Klaxon, it’s gratitude time. Group hug, everyone.

Seriously though, it works. Use a little notebook or, for those of you who can’t drag yourselves off your mobile, you can get several apps that will prompt you to find something to be grateful for. Some of them even let you chat with a community of likeminded grateful types. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best, and sometimes we do need to be reminded that we have so much more than so many others.

 

H – Is for Help

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“Ask for it” says person actually notoriously terrible at asking for it.

Also, keep your eye out for others who might be struggling and – whilst running up and shouting ‘Do you need help?’ is likely to scare them witless – an offer of a coffee, a chat, a stroll/bike ride or even just stopping for a cheery two minute chat might just be what they need. They might even put you in their gratitude journal.

 

I – Is for Instant Gratification

Sometimes a Starbucks Cappuccino or the shop’s biggest bar of chocolate or that gorgeous dress from Boden or that new Dremel multi-tool is the only thing that will hit the grin-spot. Fucking go for it.

 

J – Is for Jac Doesn’t Know Shit

I really don’t know much apart from my own experiences, and what I have learned through research and talking to friends; and you may well be screaming at this list in frustration and feel like I’m talking to you as though you’re six. GOOD!

It means I’m getting a response from you, so you go and write me a list of twelve things you would do, or how I could have expressed my list better.

And then we’ll collaborate, because writing lists of how to make yourself feel better is a bloody marvellous way of learning what might make you feel happier, and how to achieve it.

That was a trap, that was. Good, eh?

 

K – Is for Kindness

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Kindness to others, but also to yourself. 

If your children are giving you grief, as mine certainly are, remember that they too are possibly going through similar seasonal changes and uncertainties. Schools have gone back and many children are in new settings, with new goals and expectations. Some won’t have the experience or vocabulary to explain and express their thoughts and feelings succinctly and will instead bicker, fight, tantrum, sulk, flounce and deal with hormonal and emotional rollercoasters as best they can. Don’t rise to it, tough as that undoubtedly is.

Being kind, daily, to yourself is something that takes some getting used to when you are more used to putting others first and, like creativity, can at first seem self-indulgent and vain; but it really is vital. Put time aside to do things for you. A chunk of time once a week, five minutes in every hour, twice a day – the choice is yours and yours alone. You know what you need to make you smile, and we all deserve to smile.

Things I do to be kind to myself include:

Walking in the woods

Making lovely cups of tea in my lovely tea-pot and tea-cup for one set

De-cluttering the part of the room where I’m spending most time

Cooking something I’ve never made before

Yoga

Wandering round art galleries and museums

So they don’t have to be expensive or time consuming; just small things that make me smile and add to my gratitude journal.

 

L is for Lists

L had to be for ‘lists’, really, didn’t it? Not exactly a surprise, I grant you, but I think the usefulness of lists can be easily forgotten. When we are in an anxious, stressed mood with thoughts flying from pillar to post, writing lists is a quick and easy grounding technique that leaves you with – well, a list. But whilst you’ve been writing you have distracted yourself from anxiety (and may have staved off a panic attack, see ‘breathing’ above) and you have also reduced potential future anxiety by having created a list to refer to. Daily to-do lists (with timings, if you think that will help – it certainly does me) are fantastic anxiety-busters (plus you get that delicious feeling of crossing them out as completed); but lists can be for all sorts of things including longer term plans and daydreams. How about:

  • Things to do with the kids / other half / besties in October
  • Things I fancy cooking
  • Places I’d like to go on holiday
  • Items of clothing I no longer wear and could give to the charity shop
  • Bucket List of Dreams

 

Well, this post was only supposed to take thirty minutes and has actually taken almost three hours. I shall therefore chalk this one down as a fine example of ‘Slow Living’ and leave you with the promise of Part The Second, Letters M through Z to come soon. Ish.

In the meantime, what would you add to this list? Do you have any experiences that you would care to share? Any tips on getting through this peculiar time of the year? Do please feel free to comment, please!

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Learning to let things go…Week 1 of ‘The Retreat’

Disclaimer: If you’re reading this on social media, it’s because WordPress cleverly posts for me without me having to be there.

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It’s 1pm, I’ve just finished work for the day. It’s a new project, a new client, and I’m just finding my feet; but that’s me done for today. I’m sat at my desk, the August afternoon sunshine is bright and deliciously warm through the window. Outside, children are playing, a lawnmower sounds in a nearby garden. Clouds – a combination of fluffy white meringues and darker, more ominous grey forms, both threatening rain – drift past. Washing hangs on the line, blowing gently in the same breeze that rocks the plum tree and causes a few thirsty leaves from the oak across the way to drift gently, silently to earth.

I am calm, I am quietly planning the rest of my day. This in itself has come as something of a daily surprise, as usually at 1pm I am mentally exhausted, unable to keep my eyes open and desperate for a nanna-nap.

It’s so difficult to try and explain how different this past week has been – a week without the lure of either social media or alcohol – and how much I feel as though seven short days have started to change me. I’m not known for being particularly superstitious but I will confess that I am frightened to death that too much early crowing may, indeed, throw the proverbial spanner in the works; so, for the time being, I will share what I have learned so far.

Learning to breathe

As ridiculous as it may sound, I have learned to breathe. You might indeed consider this a quite ludicrous statement and, a couple of weeks ago, I would have been inclined to agree. However, daily meditation, and a daily session of at-home-yoga with the amazing Adriene on YouTube have taught me not just how to breathe properly, but how badly I breathed before. Why? Anxiety. Major causes of anxiety: social media (friends bickering, the dramas, the bitching, the one-upmanship, the upshitting, Brexit, more Brexit, trolls, Brexit, ignorant numpties, Brexit), wine, not enough sleep. Reasons for not enough sleep: social media, wine.

Never, ever underestimate the power of breathing properly. It’s incredible. Also, yoga with Adriene. That’s incredible too. I am learning to love downward dog and plank, honest.

I really like sleep.

I mean, REALLY like sleep. No more the 2am winehound dragging out the last few sips of wine whilst scrawling through the various dramas on social media, I have been tucked up in my bed by 11pm with a book. I have (mostly) slept brilliantly and been up and raring to go early rather than dragging my sorry arse out of bed at the last possible opportunity. I even got up at daft o’clock on a Saturday morning to go on an eighteen mile stroll with a pal, and I wasn’t crying for a sleep come midday. In fact, I had an amazing time and I cannot wait to go again.

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Saturday 9am, Loch Ard. It’s been a while since I saw 9am anywhere on a Saturday

My dreams, I should add here, have been mental. Who needs alcohol when you can control meteor showers using the power of your mind, have blazing arguments with everyone you know, dismantle an escalator, give birth to twins on a Ryanair flight, divorce a man you never married, deal drugs to Prince William and set fire to a china shop? Note: Any amateur psychologists might want to stay quiet about any dream analysis they are thinking of conducting, thanks-all-the-same.

Evenings and weekends are much longer without wine and/or social media

Genius, huh? It’s quite amazing what you can get done when you’re not involving yourself in someone else’s drama, arguing with trolls, verifying someone else’s well-intentioned ‘facts’ or getting upset about politics. It’s even better without wine because you can:

a) watch things on TV and actually remember them, therefore possibly even learning something.

b) not worry about spilling anything on pyjamas / laptop / duvet / floor

c) eat chocolate / gooey desserts without guilt because you’ve saved valuable calories you’d have wasted on wine.

d) Be able to get up early the following morning with a spring in your step and no mascara on your chin ready to have another fantastic (and amazingly long) day doing all the things*

*you may also end up clearing out kitchen cupboards, de-filthing children’s bedrooms, pruning roses and ironing. You have been warned.

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Tea. Is fab.

I’ve not been unhappy in a week

I know, right? Oh, there have undoubtedly been minor frustrations, arguments, headaches, grouchiness (hi there, week-early period!) and the odd wobble of nerves; but nothing at all like I have become used to over the years and considered quite normal. This, of course, is probably a combination of things – giving up social media and alcohol has meant that I’ve been sleeping much better, doing more interesting things, drinking a lot more water, eating more healthily and doing a lot more exercise – including yoga – and I think the cumulative effects of these have led to me massively reducing my stress-load and being able to handle life’s little wobbles a lot more calmly and effectively.

My relationship with alcohol definitely needed to change

I’m going to say it here, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s taken far too long for me to come to this (some might say startlingly obvious) conclusion:

You might not consider yourself as having a ‘drink problem’. Like me, you probably don’t need to drink every night, or drink vast quantities, or drink at odd times of the day or to ‘settle your nerves’. You might not (you probably won’t) have the shakes, the black-outs, red face. You won’t be clutching a paper bag in the park or eyeing up the cooking sherry.  Forget the old cliches – the cliched image of the drink-addled jakey sitting in a park is what the drinks industry, and their various hangers-on (advertisers, marketers, PR bods etc) want you to think of as someone with a ‘problem’.

It’s not about what you drink, or how much you drink. It’s about how that drink makes you feel, whether you feel artificially happier, bolder, stronger with it; whether you feel unhappy, angry, guilty or anxious during or after it (not to be confused with a raging hangover). It’s whether it is stealing your joy.

Here’s one for the women (not exclusively, but certainly predominantly). Take a look at social media. How many times do you read ‘HURRAH FOR GIN!’ or ‘IT’S WINE O’CLOCK!’ or ‘PROSECCO TIME!!!!!!’. It’s normal to drink. It’s normal to blame / thank your day by having a drink. Bad day – wine. Good day – wine. Naughty kids? Commiserate with gin. Good kids? Celebrate with gin. How many people do you know post almost constantly about being spangled/shit-faced or joke that they need a drink? How many people seem happy to promote a particular type of alcohol with their personality as though it is the most vital part their personality? Why do we do this? Do we realise what effect we might inadvertently be having on someone who might be desperately looking to cut down or stop drinking as we advertise the glory of being at one with the bottle of joy, as we glamorise it into something luxurious we deserve? Can you imagine if the same glamour, the same coolness, was still applied to having a cigarette? “Ooooh, it’s Berkley Menthol Time!!!!!, time to indulge in increasing my chances of developing cancer, what a crazy kid I am!”

Anyway, that’s an aside. That’s just something to think about when you’re next scrolling through social media. That’s why I have chosen to take a few weeks away from social media. What I actually want to say is this:

If you do actually worry about how much you drink, you’ve got a problem with alcohol. Problems can be fixed.

That’s what I have started to learn this week. I stood at a crossroads with an off-licence in one direction and the hills in the other.

This week, at least, I chose the hills. And, my god, they were glorious.

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Self Care September

 

I was mooching around on Twitter this morning, as I do, and I came across the hashtag #selfcareseptember . I will confess right now that it’s the first time I had heard of it, but it immediately struck me that a) this is a fabulous idea and b) I have been subconsciously using September as my own self-care month.

OK, I am getting married at the beginning of October; and part of this urge for self-care is, quite frankly, to stop me getting so stressed that I’m an absolute wreck and on three bottles of gin a day by the big event and also, in a rather uncharacteristically girlie way, a chance for me to feel and, hopefully look, the best I can. Although, let’s face it, given my usual look is slept-in-a-hedge chic, just having my hair brushed and no dirt on my face will be a vast improvement.

Just a quick disclaimer: I don’t have any medical training, though I’m very good at putting randoms in the recovery position, and I’m not squeamish about blood. I’m not trying to say that a bit of self-care is going to solve all your problems and ‘cure’ mental illness. It would be a gross and insensitive underestimation of all our intelligence to even imply that this could be the case. What I can attest to, however, is how various things I do at this time of the year personally help me.

For those of you who don’t know me, I suffer from a delightful combination of clinical depression and severe anxiety. I am currently on Citalopram for the depression side and beta-blockers and mindfulness for the anxiety and, touch wood, I have been pretty stable with only fairly minor peaks and troughs for the past few months. So yes, having lived with this for at least the past thirty years, I do get mental illness. I also appreciate that we are all totally different, and what helps some will not necessarily help others. Always remember that mental illness is a spectrum, and all of us are on it somewhere, and wherever we are can be massively traumatic and confusing – do try not to compare your emotions with those around you.

There are times where you might like to try some of these. There are times where you might be too scared to leave the house, or too wired to concentrate, or too sad to get out of bed. Don’t worry, there will be other days to try, if you want to. Don’t add to your troubles by feeling you somehow fail because you can’t always manage self-care. That defeats the purpose.

“Autumn casts a spell
and dying never was so beautiful.” – Amelia Dashwood

September is a strange time of the year for me. It is undoubtedly breathtakingly beautiful, with the myriad colours and early frosts and morning mists; but also tinged with sadness. It has always represented, for me, an ending of things. The close of summer, the death of warmth. I’m not sure why I was always so pessimistic about the changing of the seasons, I can only put it down to the fact that I love hot, sunny weather and, as a naturally outdoorsy type I love the long days and the buzz of nature.

Last year I decided to do my best to get a grip on how I dealt with the colder, darker months. I was already unwell, I knew that, and understood that I needed to knuckle down and deal with getting through that without being bogged down with additional seasonal depression; and the best way I could think to be proactive was to find things that I really enjoyed doing and fit them into a self care routine as a way of treating myself whilst my poorly brain rested and recovered.

Here are a few things that work for me:

Walking It Out

They say there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. They have obviously never spent November in Scotland. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for a stroll, whatever the weather. Some of my favourite stomps have been on the dreichest of days where I have sloshed through mud, felt icy rain batter my face, and watched the rippled circles from raindrops dance on the Clyde. Coming home and drying off and putting on my cosiest clothes and indulging in a cup of tea in front of the fire is a treat in itself. I also find frosty mornings when it is so cold your jaws ache hard to beat.

My pro-tip here would be to always carry your phone or a camera; and invest in a pair of small binoculars and take every opportunity to stop and investigate your surroundings, and notice things you might never have noticed before. I’m going to write more about this, and the concept of Awe Walks in a later piece, else I ramble on forever.

Cosy Crafts

Autumn and Winter are perfect times to curl up with your favourite crafts and get stuff done in front of the fire with plenty of tea on the go. As you know if you’ve read my blog before, I am an avid crocheter and spend much of the colder months working on longer projects – last year I worked on my Hebridean Islands ripple blanket (you can find Lucy at Attic24’s pattern and tutorial here).

Another really worthwhile thing I was able to do was to stay involved with the local craftbomb club, and we organised a Christmas craftbomb in the village – it wasn’t an awful lot of work, but it kept me in touch with friendly faces and I enjoyed our meet-ups and discussions very much. Craftbomb / yarnbomb groups are popping up all over the country and often meet in local cafes and libraries so it is worth checking out your local community noticeboards.

Emma Mitchell, blogger at the lovely silverpebble blog has a whole book on beating the winter blues coming out next month.

You should probably buy it, like I will be doing the moment I can get my grubby paws on a copy. (Actually seriously cannot wait!).

Kitchen Witchery

 

Once you’ve burned all those calories with a good, bracing walk; why not indulge yourself with cooking something wonderful? I can understand that many people work really long hours and have other responsibilities such as caring for relatives, but if there is any way at all you can lose yourself in a recipe, you won’t regret it. When I am feeling particularly anxious, there is something incredibly soothing and comforting about just pottering in the kitchen, radio on, prepping and planning and taking time to concentrate on every aspect. I will confess I am not a very good baker and can destroy a Victoria sponge with a single glance; but I love making main meals for my family and experimenting with flavours and modifying recipes; and I have a particular love for making jams and chutneys. There is something very zen indeed about leaning over the jam pan, and something deeply satisfying about seeing all those lovely jars of hot preserve cooling on the windowsill.

 

Also, did anyone mention rhubarb gin? Quite ridiculously easy to make….

 

 

Over to Facebook

I thought I would ask my friends on Facebook how they liked to prep for the colder months, and what they would include in their personal September Self Care packages:

“Make time for yourself every day. You’re allowed to. It’s not selfish” – EO

“I get my SAD lamp out around about now and read by it most evenings. I also batch cook on the Sunday after pay day and freeze healthy meals for myself and my daughter – great for those nights you come in late and/or knackered after work.” – AG

I let things go – coming up to winter and going into summer are the two times of the year where I get rid of unnecessary things that weigh me down. Declutter of everything really – people, stuff, worries. A wonderful fire purge around Winternights/Halloween/Bonfire night is always welcome. It’s done almost subconsciously I think now. For winter its preparation for all the fabulous Christmas/Jul things. But also…you don’t want dead weight following you into a hard winter and a new year.
I feel similarly about spring into summer – shed the layers of clothes and any unnecessary baggage.” – CMcH

“I make a point of watching the sunrise from the swimming pool/sunset while I walk by the river. I make sure I stop and stare at everything beautiful that catches my eye on my walks – from a dramatic sky to a tree bending beautifully to catch the light.  I write those moments down for my memory jar too – a lot of repetition to others reading them but each one is memorable to me and makes me smile. Listening to music and TED talks too. Classical tunes, folk music etc for quiet relaxation and proper rock songs to lift my mood.” – CM

 

“I walk, a lot. It’s worth it to pay more attention to the changing seasons. Even in the rain, the sounds and scents change. I also have a clear out and rearrange where I can. An organised space definitely brings me a call mind. I try to do seasonal crafts with the kids.. I’m lucky they are going enough to still be interested. If not, we bake.. and have our treats for movie afternoons. Reading is a must too.” – LH

Wise words from some very wise women, I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirt on my hands and the sun on my face.

This week is National Gardening Week here in the UK, and as you’d expect there have been quite a few pieces in the media on the topic of gardening – many of them are little more than advertising features to sell garden centres and labour-saving tools; but some, like this piece by MG Leonard for Standard Issue, blend two things I am passionate and vocal about – the outdoors, and mental health issues.

Our raised bed at Bothwell Community Garden the first year we opened. It doesn’t look quite that productive at the moment, I grant you.

 

Now, I think we can all agree that telling someone that weeding a raised bed or planting some bulbs is going to magically cure their mental illness would be incredibly unwise – we don’t want to be one of these ‘helpful’ people, as collated by the awesome Amy Jones for The Pool; but I thought it would write a little on how it improves my life, a life that is frequently blighted by severe anxiety and depression.

A quick Google search of ‘gardening’ and ‘mental health’ will bring up a plethora of scholarly articles and rather nauseating motivational memes on how gardening is a panacea for those of us with mental health issues, however – like going for a nice walk, having a bubble bath or getting into a downward-facing dog pose – it’s not as easy as that when your brain is in a place where, for weeks, you have been terrified to leave the house, or just cannot see the point, or only have the energy to function on the most basic of levels to get through the day safely. Those of us who live with this know that mental illness is not a bad day, or even a collection of bad days that can magically be made better by digging some weeds or taking a walk through the woods. It is far, far more complex than that.

I’ve always loved the outdoors. I was fortunate enough to have maternal grandparents who were keen gardeners and loved to involve us children, particularly with harvesting; and a paternal grandmother who was an avid walker and thought nothing of taking us out on eight mile yomps across the Welsh countryside or coastline. Our springs were filled with seedlings, and wildflowers and birdsong; our summers with arms full of sweetpeas, bowls of freshly picked raspberries and sand between our toes and pockets full of shells and pebbles.

Of course, it never seemed to rain and the days seemed endless until I fell, protesting, into bed in the still-light and felt the bed gently rocking with my tiredness.

My childhood smelled of tomatoes, ‘fish, blood and bone’ and boat varnish, and sounded of blackbirds, lawnmowers, waves.

As I have got older, I seem to spend increasing amounts of time reminiscing on my childhood; comparing my youth with that of my children (mostly when I am trying to shoo them off the electronics and out to play) and whilst I can understand that life is different now, and children are different now, I am sad that my children won’t experience nature and the outdoors in the same way as we did. As much as I try to get them outside, the more I’m sure they consider it a temporary, just-about-tolerable disturbance to their screen-time. I’m glad to report that they do, however, enjoy being outside and exploring and learning once they are there, so I’ll take that as a win, thanks.

Those of you who know me of old will probably know that my mental health has been up and down for many years, and I suffered particularly badly with post-natal depression when my eldest was born. It caught me by surprise, I’d been expecting the symptoms to be your typical ‘lowness’ and sadness associated with depression, and for it to happen within weeks of the birth; so I thought I’d been lucky. How wrong I was.

What it actually did was appear as manic, paranoid and quite terrifying behaviour, when I look back on it now; and it hit when he was five months old, probably just as I was letting my guard down. I was like a stressed vixen pacing round her cub, snarling at the world, convinced that everything and everyone was out to hurt us. Every car was about to mount the pavement, the house was going to burn down (ironically when I set the grill on fire I acted so calmly I seemed to watch myself from outside my own body), every plane flying overhead was going to explode and its debris fall on us. I could see it. On a relationship level, everyone hated me. Everyone doubted me. I was hopeless with this tiny baby I loved so much, and everyone was conspiring to take him off me and lock me away.

Looking back on it now, the truly terrifying thing about it was how absolutely normal and rational these feelings seemed at the time.

To cut a long story short, I was lucky. I had an excellent Health Visitor who realised what was happening and got me help, and fast. Group therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and my very own psychiatrist and community team. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t thank NHS Scotland (and more specifically NHS Lanarkshire) because I don’t think I would be here now if they hadn’t acted as quickly as they did.

By 2008, another baby had arrived; and he was a wake-up. Literally. The little darling refused to sleep upstairs in the crib, or even in the pram top inside the cot in our room. I spent the first four months of his life sleeping on the sofa with him on the floor in the pram top. He liked to take an ounce of milk every half an hour or so, just to make sure I could never sleep. Once he settled upstairs (eventually), he got to the colic age, and would scream blue murder from 5pm until 3am. Every. Damn. Night. Then we both got Swine Flu. I could go on, I won’t.

Strangely, despite (or maybe because of) the stresses of Captain Squawk’s desire to drive me completely round the twist, I was not affected by PND this time round; but I was all too aware that depression and anxiety could hit me again at any moment, and for no discernible reason, as it had since I was fifteen or so.

We were up the Main Street in the village one day, the kids and I; and I was looking in the window of the butcher’s. Quite why, I have no idea – I was vegetarian at the time. There was a poster about a new community garden project to bring raised bed, no-dig organic gardening to Bothwell and a phone number and some lovely photos of the site it was modelled on in Fairlie.

The rest is history.

I plucked up the courage to phone the number, and attended the first meeting, where I plucked up the courage to volunteer to be on the steering committee to get the garden up and running.

Cutting the first sod, 2009. Jim, Ian, Norma, Avril, Bill, Sheena, Me and the kids. These are all still fantastic friends and have taught me so much.

The Organic Growers of Bothwell opened Bothwell Community Garden in 2010, and I’m still there, I’m still on the committee, and I still love it with the same enthusiasm that I did that first, glorious summer. I love to grow food, obviously, but I also appreciate – as a socially awkward introvert – the really lovely friendships I have made with people I would have been otherwise unlikely to have crossed paths with. I doubt they know it, but several garden members have been instrumental in helping to sort my head out in one way or another. The introvert in me should probably hate the thought of a community garden, particularly when one is on the committee and therefore viewed as some kind of fountain of all knowledge; but I actually appreciate how it can shake up my comfort zone, and ‘force’ me to be sociable and to indulge in the gentle chat I hide from but know, deep down, that I need.

There is the physical love of gardening and food growing that MG Leonard describes so eloquently in her piece above; but for me there is so much more. There are memories that make my heart swell. The smell of tomatoes in the polytunnel, always. That’s Grandad, I’m right back there in his garden, behind him as he shuffled in his slippers, rolly in hand, to adjust the windows of the greenhouse to best suit his Moneymakers. The smell of ‘fish blood and bone’ that I sprinkle on my bed as an organic fertiliser, I’m back in my maternal grandparents’ garden ‘helping’ to turn over the soil in the flowerbeds ready for the bedding plants to be planted out. When I walk to the gate past our woodland walk (a small wooded area at the front that we left intact) and see the wild garlic and bluebells and ragged robin and comfrey I am transported back to the Welsh woodlands of my walks with my Nanna.

The yomping, stomping grounds of Burry Port and Pembrey.

I’m back where I was happy, where I had nothing to bother me other than whether it would be sunny enough to go out to adventure tomorrow; and rather than depress me that I now have a life of responsibility and uncertainly, I find that hugely comforting. I can curl up inside my memories like a fox in its earth, safe and content, and even if it’s only for five minutes a day, and I find that massively beneficial to how I process the rest of my day.

Gardening and being around woodland and wildness remind me of stories, resurrect long-forgotten events; trigger the need to tell my children anecdotes about the family they never knew, and a place they haven’t grown up in; the names are strange to them, mythical. The place names are Welsh, and when we go back to Wales to visit family I will often wail that there are now houses on a particularly fine lane for blackberries.

I remember when all this was fields.

The boys like my stories of Wales, of our adventures up hills and along coastlines; of raspberry picking and competitions to ascertain which of us could chew on rhubarb without wincing, of dusk bonfires and being chased by cows. My grandparents live on in my stories, my gloriously happy memories of a childhood outdoors, my hands in the dirt and my face turned towards the sun.

 

 

Starting to unfurl

 

I wake each morning to the sound of the blackbird’s song. A song of future promise, of the seasons to come; but also a song of the past, hardwired into my brain over so many spring-times.

Whenever I hear the blackbird, I am instantly transported to the back garden of my family home in West Wales. I’m five or so, lying under the heavy canvas of the old tent my mum has erected for me to play in. It’s afternoon, I’m alone – I assume my sister was having a nap and my mum was busy in the house – and it’s hot. I’m smelling freshly cut grass and that familiar, comforting tent smell that even now I love so much; I’m watching the dappled shadows of the hedges dance on the roof of the tent; I’m hearing the blackbird and the low thrum of a petrol lawnmower in one of the gardens behind us.

I don’t know why that particular memory stayed with me so clearly; I can only assume that it was one of my life’s defining moments; maybe a subtle change in my cognitive abilities caused by some brain pathways meeting, who knows? It’s burnt into my memory now, and I cherish it. I can still smell that tent, feel the ground beneath me, see the shadows bounce and flicker on the canvas as though it were yesterday; and whenever I do I feel instantly wrapped in comfort and warmth.

When you suffer with anxiety, stress or/and depression; turning your mind off from the constant worry of the ‘what if?’ scenarios can be exceptionally difficult. Brains tend to race from one stress to the next, sometimes cycling rapidly and sometimes bringing sufferers to their knees with worry and despair, particularly if a situation appears to be, or indeed is, out of our immediate control.

Let’s face it, at the moment the world – and Britain in particular –  is not a great place for your average anxious depressive. If we’re not worrying about our children, climate change, the housing market, job security and the NHS; we can always fall back on the rise of the far-right across the West, Trump, Russian intervention, terrorism and Brexit for things to keep us grinding our teeth and wringing our hands into the wee small hours. Happy days!

One of things I learned several years ago in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and more recently when I studied Mindfulness starting with this free online course is that in many instances, worrying changes nothing. There is a massive difference between looking realistically and practically at issues that affect us and doing our best to make contingency plans; and moithering and fretting about things that, in reality, we have very little sway over.

I’ve no idea who said this, I have seen it attributed to everyone from Gautama Buddha to Ernest Hemingway (though to listen to the internet, Hemingway was responsible for 98% of earnest – see what I did there? – psychobabble memes) but

Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.

And thus, on Friday evening, I decided to dedicate my long weekend from Friday night through to Tuesday night (I’m on a three day week this week) to relaxing, going with the flow, and doing only things that made me happy. It was a rare weekend with only one or two plans in place, so seemed an ideal time.

The ‘rules’ went a bit like this:

  • If you want to do something (within reason!) do it.
  • Stop when you want to stop, whether that’s after five hours or five minutes.
  • Put your foot down nicely, and only do things that make you happy. If you don’t think you’ll get anything out of it, then be polite but firm and say no. Obviously, keep an open mind and assess what you might gain from it before saying no – that stint of volunteering in the rain might lead to an interesting conversation or the start of a new friendship; or that trip to Lidl might lead to 30% off a real nice cheese….you get the idea!
  • Be mindful of what you are doing, and make a point of looking for the lovely in whatever you’re doing; whether that’s pride at the increasingly large pile of beautifully ironed clothes or a freshly weeded vegetable patch; or drinking in the beauty of your surroundings whilst out for a walk or appreciating a fantastic song on the radio.
  • Write things down to look back on. I have a small journal I carry around and write down things I am grateful for each day.

 

Saturday was a stunning day, we woke early and lay in bed bathed in spring morning sunshine and drank coffee and chatted before heading off to our local environmental group’s Spring Clean. We’ve done this for years as a family, it only takes an hour or so of our time but when there are enough of us it makes a huge difference to the village and it’s a lovely way to meet new and interesting people.

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We were delighted to see the ponds absolutely chock-full of frogspawn and tadpoles…

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It was such a glorious day, we decided to go on a grand adventure; so we organised a couple of daypacks (always best in Scotland to pack for all eventualities, so we never go anywhere without waterproofs and food and a flask of coffee) and headed North, to Pitlochry. The town itself was buzzing with people, so we decided to drive up to Moulin and then walk back into Pitlochry along the route towards Black Spout; it was warm and the air was full of birds and blossom and I could feel myself start to unfurl, like a new leaf. It was magical.

pitlochry

We stopped for chips on the way home from a lovely wee chippy just outside Stirling, this chips-in-the-car thing is becoming something of a family tradition after one of our grand adventures; but we eat pretty healthily the rest of the time so I’m not going to stress about a fish supper once every blue moon.

Sunday, being Mother’s Day, meant I was Princess for the day. Kid One had bought me a lovely rose scented candle and some pencils, and Kid Two had bought me a very sweet felt ‘Twitter bird’ key-ring from the Mother’s Day stall at school. (I had given them the money for this, so I actually bought my own presents, but we shan’t dwell on that minor point!). We went to Hobbycraft for supplies for this week’s Beavers’ craft activity, Bunny Bums for Easter and I was proud to go in for tissue paper and card and leave with tissue paper and card and not 56 balls of yarn, some silk paints and a polystyrene life-sized giraffe. We then spent the afternoon up in Airdrie visiting the not-husband’s mum, and we greatly appreciated her keeping an eye on the boys for a cheeky half hour so we could nip off to Morrisons and do the weekly shop without them, which was bliss as our children turn into maniacs the moment they enter a supermarket. The rest of the day was delightfully chilled out, and involved snoozing, The Archers and a delicious dinner followed by a walk and a truly stunning, blazing red sunset.

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Monday dawned gloriously – what a joy to wake to blue skies and birdsong – so I walked the kids to school and, rather than be fooled by my body telling me it’s tired and wants to go back to bed as usually happens on my days off, I decided to do the 5km circuit down past the entrance to Bothwell Castle , into Uddingston and home. It’s a route busy with walkers, and it was wonderful to share smiles and hellos with people as we passed. I listened to Radio 4, and just let the news wash over me – there is not much I can do to stop the triggering of Article 50 or hasten a second independence referendum, but I can remember to smile and say hi to people I pass.

I got home full of beans rather than feeling the exhaustion I have been feeling after the school run recently, and I went on to attack the ironing pile which has been getting somewhat out of hand. Though I did not quite reach the bottom, I have yet to find an undiscovered tribe living amongst the Minecraft t-shirts and odd socks, so I think I may have just taken action in time.

I spent the rest of the day pootling – I did a little crochet, a little embroidery, a little reading (Kevin MacNeil’s ‘The Stornoway Way’) interspersed with green tea drunk on the back step in the sun as my sheets dried on the line, and then decided to go up to the community garden and get our raised bed weeded and the strawberries tidied up and, my god, it was glorious.

I am so looking forward to getting growing this year, I found it hard to juggle my time last year what with my returning to work and my anxiety issues; and this year I am determined to make far better use of my time and remember that I view time spent in the community garden as a relaxing treat rather than a chore.

I decided to finish off a delightful Monday with a proper girlie pamper. I’m sure those of you who know me will agree that I am not the most feminine of creatures and can usually be found in a parka and wellies looking like I’ve slept in a hedge; but I am partial to the odd treat from time to time and I had just lavished a whole £12.00 on myself buying some Vitamin E creams and some face-packs from Superdrug whilst the boys were in Game at The Fort on Sunday morning. I locked myself in the bathroom, ran a bath full of bubbles and set about beautifying myself with an exfoliating face-pack, a body scrub, a soak and a read of the lovely Breathe magazine followed by a damn good moisturising. I came out as pug-ugly as I went in, naturally, but I was softer and smelled delightful.

It has been an absolutely lovely few days, despite having done nothing particularly special or even spent very much money; it was just time doing things that make me happy – even ironing gave me a great sense of satisfaction that I’d done some (and listened to Woman’s Hour at the same time, yay multi-tasking!). The key, I think, was that I chose not to worry about the things I cannot change. Whilst I cannot actually change many things, what I can choose to do is change the way in which I respond and react to them.

Welcome to British Summer Time. I hope you are unfurling too.

 

 

 

Imbolc, The Outrun and no Whiskers on Kittens

So, the wheel has turned. Depending on what you believe, and what branch of paganism you follow (if indeed you do) Imbolc – or St Bride’s Day – falls on either February 1st or February 2nd or, as some believe, when you see the first physical signs of Spring – usually snowdrops. If the latter is the case, I apologise – you celebrated Imbolc around three weeks ago up here, when I first noticed the much anticipated little white heads appearing through the dark, dank, rotting Autumn leaves.

Imbolc has dawned on a very different world to that of last year’s – I don’t need to laboriously hash out the details again; suffice to say that a time I usually welcome with open arms and a singing heart is a time that dawned heavy, laden with expectation but not much hope.

I don’t usually do much in January. I certainly don’t make resolutions. I count January as the last month of hibernation; the post-Christmas month-long trudge to the kitchen for more tea and more cheese and crackers (I swear our crackers have babies in the night, either that or Odin himself has blessed us with a crispy cornucopia, a cracker-box of plenty, as this thing seems never-ending); some gentle pootling (usually via a shop that sells wine) and that last, gentle stretch into the wheel-turn at the beginning of February.

This January has, for many obvious reasons, been one of worry. One of dark thoughts, wake-in-the-night panics, of grief and frustration. I listen to Radio 4 when I’m not working; listening with increasing annoyance, then anger, at articles on Donald Trump, on immigration bans, on the gradual dismantling of the NHS, on the omni-shambles vanity project that is Brexit. I mull and muse for hours on the grim realisation that Theresa May has few options now than to cosy up to what it looking to be the most horrifying leaders of the (free) world in most people’s living memory.

It’s not good for you, you know?

I battle with my conscience, of how much I need to be aware of to be able to do my best to educate and inform; against mindfulness and the idea that we cannot do more than live fully in the now. The latter starts to sound hollow, convenient. Lazy.

I have periods of clarity. I realise that rather engaging with news and current events, I am emerged – submerged – in them; they are sucking me under with more and more questions, more and more worries.

I seek solace in the things that bring me peace, things that I do where I can physically feel my shoulders and neck start to soften and the dark clouds, a constant dull ache in my head these days, part.

blanket

The charity blanket continues to grow. I start to knit, too, as a project for this year’s village craft bomb. I am not very good at knitting. In fact, I am terrible at it and keep either dropping stitches or picking them up; but I am only knitting 30 stitch squares so I am just using the hours as a lesson in patience and technique (I am a loose crocheter, but a much tighter knitter, but I understand this is quite usual when you start – I have discovered that two rows of the ripple blanket in its loose, effortless treble stitch, seems to be enough to limber up my hands to keep my tension looser when I pick up the needles instead of the hook). I don’t have any photos of the knitting yet, because I haven’t actually finished a square. There is a photo on Instagram of a red piece, which got to full size and then I monumentally ballsed-up when casting off. Ho-hum!

outrun

I have curled up in my chair, or sought solace in a hot bubble-bath to read, to transport myself away from this grey, scary place; and this book has been a wonderful escape. It is, in parts, far from an easy read – Amy has lived a life that many might not have come back from; but this really is autobiographical nature writing at its most beautiful and, I’m relieved to say, its most accessible. I loved it so much, loved the pictures she painted and the way she beared her soul, that I forced myself to only read a chapter a day because I didn’t want it to end. When the inevitable end came, I was bereft, as though I were waving goodbye to a friend. Her life in London echoed so much of mine, a few years earlier, and I suspect it was luck, rather than judgement, that carried me away from the bright lights and the easy highs when it did.

We have been out – we didn’t hide in completely during January. In fact, my hormones (ha, you knew I would mention it at some point, surely?) were going so crazy in January that the malefolk would all be chattering around the three-bar fire whilst I stood on the back steps in a t-shirt, fully expecting steam to emanate from my person. So, where better to go when you really just want to feel cold?

Largs, of course! It always seems to blowing a hoolie in Largs, even in July; so off we drove in the teaming rain at the arse-end of January to be blown down a rainy beach. Remember the times when I used to moan about bad weather? Remember when I was cold all the time, even when we went to Lanzarote and it was three days of 90 degrees before I took my jacket off?

Those days, my friend, are a distant memory.

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It wasn’t blowy enough in Largs. My hands were nicely cold, but I wanted the sort of cold that makes your face sting and your jaw ache and your earlobes thrum. Fortunately, for a bargain price, you can hop over to the lovely island of Great Cumbrae. Great Cumbrae has geocaches, cows, a marvellous view of the local nuclear power station, nosy old duffers in cars who yell at you because they think you’ve abandoned your eight year old (when in fact he was just having his own little adventure and being watched by us from a few metres away), and these bizarre road signs that say that the main town, Millport, is 1.5 miles away, regardless of where you are actually are on the island.

millport

Millport was, by the time we got there (we walked from the slip), mostly shut; but it seemed a lovely wee place with absolutely stunning views over to the snow-capped Isle of Arran; and we were delighted when a gentleman with a dog confirmed that the wee black heads we could see bobbing around in the sea were in fact seals. My face nicely chilled, my hands and ears frozen, my heart several tons lighter and my head considerably less scrambled, we walked up to the bus-stop by the pier and got the bus back up the road to the ferry, full of excited plans to return later in the year with our bikes, after getting a train up to Largs.

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The day was so lovely, it inspired me to get a wee gratitude journal to write in. As you’ll remember, I did the 100 Days of Gratitude on Facebook and felt I gained a lot from it in terms of actually stripping back what we need from life rather than what we desire, and giving thanks for and cherishing memories of the right things – health, peace, a day out adventuring, laughs, a kind word, that wonderful, warm sleepiness that comes from being physically, rather than mentally exhausted. I got this wee book from Amazon marketplace (where you buy direct from the seller), it is made by a women’s co-operative using sari cut-off fabric and recycled paper, and it really is a beauty; and small enough to fit in a pocket if needed. It’s an interesting exercise to go through your day looking for things to give gratitude for, rather than dragging yourself from gloom and doom ridden news report to news report.

As I said at the beginning of this blog-I-didn’t-think-I-had-the-wherewithal-to-write-tonight (and I’m very glad I persevered!), Imbolc dawned. The wheel has turned, and the light is returning. The world is going to feel like a dark place full of long, black shadows that we feel we cannot escape from; things we are too weakened to fight. I am reminded of the snowdrop. So small, so delicate, its tiny head bowed down not in submission but in determination. Determination to blossom and spread and bring beauty, whatever the still changeable, cold and uncertain days hurl upon it.

Whatever your belief, or whatever you don’t believe; I hope you can find beauty and determination in the dark.

snowdrops

PS: Sorry if you were expecting some terrible story about baby cats with no whiskers. I was just doing my Sound of Music thang. Again.

Blue Monday, 2017

Happy / Grumpy / So-So / Dreadful (delete as applicable) New Year, my dearest reader. Why yes, I do appreciate that is already past the mid-point of the first month of this, the year of Our Trump – sorry – Lord, 2017, and this is the first I have typed; but surely you know by now that I am a champion procrastinator and whilst there was a wall to be stared at or snoozing to be done, nothing else of note was going to appear from me.

I am, nevertheless, ready to rejoin the world and return to something of a routine. With my usual dark humour, I have chosen Blue Monday – the most miserable day of the year – to hurl myself enthusiastically back into the blogosphere and dazzle you all with my sparkling wit and literary genius.

Just as Virginia Woolf needed a room of her own; all I need is a cheapy drop-leaf table from the local Christian charity furniture warehouse and more felt-pens than is probably healthy of a woman of my age (23. Again).

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I am currently channelling my inner Virginia by wafting around the place in Tesco pyjamas and slippers with animal faces on whilst looking for a clean wine glass for my bottle of Co-Op Spanish Red; and trying not to think about hurling myself into a river. So far, so good.

As you know, 2016 wasn’t really the greatest for me; culminating in a pretty impressive breakdown at the end of it (how delightfully Virginia!) and I will confess that I have spent the last couple of months doing the absolute bare minimum, mentally; getting through Christmas and Hogmanay; and just building up my strength so I’m more prepared to face what we have to deal with in 2017. The tablets (Citalopram) are definitely working, probably better than I expected, to be honest, and now is the time to start plotting and scheming and planning ways to successfully get through the next challenges we face, if I don’t decide to slope off for a wee nanna-nap first.

(I think my cortisol levels were so high that I was like a coiled spring the whole time. I told my GP that I felt as though every single cell in my body was trembling in fright, awaiting something horrible to happen at any second; and when I think back now to how long it has been like that – over two years – I don’t mind that the Citalopram seems to have led to a bit of a ‘shut-down’ and that I am permanently exhausted, because I’m sure I could actually physically feel my brain relaxing, then my muscles loosening. I felt what it was to be still, with my mind at peace, for the first time in so, so long. It suddenly dawned on me that it felt as though my brain hadn’t slept for two years; that even when I physically slept, my hormones kept my brain racing, processing and over-processing and over-analysing and over-exaggerating and spreading its poisons far and wide. So, you know, pardon me if I need to take it slow and heal.)

With this in mind, my plans for this year have shifted somewhat. I just want to work on feeling better, on finding the old me – I know she’s in there somewhere. She’s a bit older, a lot greyer and thicker around the waist than she used to be, but she’s there.

I want to write more, too. I rediscovered one of my old, long forgotten blogs recently, and I forgot that I was, on rare occasions, actually quite funny. (That strange parping sound is the sound of me blowing my own trumpet, incidentally). I always loved writing, sharing words and stories, dreams and fears, tears and laughter, but anxiety and depression silences you. It undermines you, it calls you stupid. It mocks you as talentless, as a no-hope. It smacks eager fingers from keyboards. It doesn’t, after all, want you to talk about it. It wants to stay the terrifying, snarling black dog lurking in the shadows ready to bite. It doesn’t want to be understood, far less does it want to be tamed.

New Lanark (my photo with Prisma filter)

New Lanark (my photo with Prisma filter)

 

I shall spend this year doing more of what I love. Writing, walking, watching the changing of the seasons, embracing everything that nature has to offer. Celebrating the beauty in each month, the new growth, the metamorphosis as the year’s wheel turns without dreading what is to come. I have learned, since moving to Scotland, to love the Winter, to embrace the cold, crisp days that make your cheekbones ache but also to embrace the low cloud and drizzle that helps to bring forth the new greenery, to cosy up in the current buzz-word of ‘hygge’ – we have long had our own sense of hygge with after-school onsies, hot-chocolate and boardgames and laughter on dreich and dismal days followed by bowls of wholesome broths and stews with homemade bread; I’m not entirely sure why it is suddenly ‘a thing’, but that’s a rant for a different post.

This year I am going to love my brain, and I am going to do whatever I can to make it as well as it possibly can be. Anything else, well, that’s a bonus.

Watch this space.

 

Falls of Clyde. My photo with Prisma filter

Falls of Clyde (my photo with Prisma filter)