I think there’s a real danger I could write this blog every week and sound completely sanctimonious. Here I am sitting in my high tower and preaching that ‘if you only do this your mental health will be better and you’ll have a wonderful life’.
I’m not naive enough to think that’s how life works. As I sit here, not in an ivory tower but in my chilly dining room, wearing two jumpers and a bobble hat, I know that some people are really suffering and some people are limping along and some people are desperately worried about their child/friend/sister etc. I want to acknowledge your pain, not dismiss it with a quick fix or a simple solution. Things won’t be ok if you just start walking more often, or take some deep breaths or whatever else it is I’ve written in these blogs over the years. A few deep breaths later and you might feel better or you might feel just as rubbish as you did before. Doing something brave by facing a fear you have (Getting into school/out the house/to a social event) and you might actually feel worse afterwards, not better. None of this still is easy or has a quick fix – let’s face it, if there was a quick fix people like me wouldn’t have a job because we’d all do it ourselves without the need for Clinical Psychologists or counsellors or whatever.
In a recent post I talked about the myth that Clinical Psychologists have perfect lives. I pointed out at the time that we don’t – we have just the same kinds of life as everyone else. Some tough stuff, some good stuff, some just-getting-through-stuff. Thankfully for me, I haven’t had very bad days for many years and when I do have a bad day I do have some ways to manage this. I think that’s down to lots of things, but is at least in part because I learnt more about our brains, mental health and how to stay well.
And that’s the position I write this blog from. I think, for some people, having the knowledge and skills can help to bear life and perhaps even improve it and I hope I might be making some small impact on that. When you take a breath, it’s not that the breath is going to magically make things better. But it is going to help you bear it for one more breath’s worth of time. When you take a walk, the same is true, and it might just help to get you through that day or at least to tolerate the discomfort. It’s not a panacea, but it is a start.
You have no idea what’s ahead of you. When things feel hard it’s easy to predict more pain and suffering ahead. Easy to predict, but hard to face. So don’t try and face it all. Just start by trying to get through. Get through the minutes and then through the hours and then through the days, and actively look for things which will help life to change from the endurance task it feels like it is. No magic wands, just putting one step in front of the other. And be proud of yourself for those steps and those breaths. Your pain is real, but your progress can be real too. I genuinely believe that there is a way for any person who wants to, to feel better, be happier and find a way to live life which feels manageable.