Happiness found in grief

Life is a constant cycle of grief

How would you feel if I was to suggest that life is a constant cycle of grief, or more probably many cycles of grief, all in different stages of process?

Imagine that your life is a globe filled with many balls of grief each in its own stage. Depending on how the globe sits, or is held, or can be seen will determine how each day progresses. If the globe shifts, is moved, pushed in a particular direction all the grief balls may also re-position and maybe seen differently, generating other affects on your day.  This is change, happening around us all the time and affecting us differently as each change may or may not impact on one, many or no other ball(s) of grief.

The grief process is not all sadness

As we are all aware, the grief process is not all sadness, many other emotions are experienced as we process grief. I believe that for happiness to be felt and enjoyed, grief and sadness needs to also be felt and experienced. It is impossible to be constantly happy, and who truly wants to experience no other emotion or felt sensation other than happiness? Actually happiness would not be what we define it to be, for our inherent need to experience a range of emotions is what enables us to understand what happiness can be.

Let’s use hunger in first world society as an analogy. For those of us lucky enough to be living in a first world society we take the accessibility of food for granted. For many of us the worse we experience is only being able to get apples when all we want is an egg. We have the luxury of choice to go without food for a nominated amount of time if we wish to experience hunger, and even that is different from the hunger experienced in other societies where food is scarce. So to, our desire for happiness is enabled by choice and so to our experience of happiness will be different to that of our neighbour’s.

So, in our first world society, all our drives and expectations that if we’re not happy something is wrong is a misunderstanding. We have choices, every day we make choices and they are determined by the stage of grief through which we presently view our life, the globe. This does not make us a society of miserable beings, this does not make us a society of permanent grievers or sufferers; it makes us a society adept at experiencing change. It makes us human.

Understanding our humanness

By understanding our humanness and being aware of grief processes, of losses that may have been overlooked (loss of time, moving of home, relationship breakdowns, not being heard) we can acknowledge and accept the changes that have occurred in and around us. By holding our globe in different positions we are offered opportunity to choose how to continue in our life with this change, no matter how large or small.

Having choice is a gift, accepting it through all our emotions is life.  #preventMHI #mentalhealthawareness

What is mental health?

You only have to search the internet to get numerous explanations of what mental health is.  Remember that mental health is positive as it refers to health not ill-health.

My preferred definition is the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) explains –

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

So if we know what mental health means, then what are mental health issues?

Mental health issues are when our state of mental health is poor or suffering or in need of some form of support.  Mental health issues are prevalent when we notice symptoms that cause us to feel unsettled within ourselves and our lives, when we know that we’ve been feeling different or behaving differently to our own usual way for a prolonged period.  Sometimes it only needs to have been for more than a week or two, other mental health diagnosis rely on symptoms having been present for months.  What I would say is that you know yourself best and if you sense symptoms are more than just a fleeting moment, seek support and ask for help.

Mental Health symptoms may arise due to a single challenging life experience or a series of challenges, they may be the result of physical injury or due to our physiological genetic make-up.

Just as with physical health, there is a wide range of mental health issues that we may be affected by and within each particular diagnosis there are sliding degrees of spectrum intensity.

Every single person with any level mental capacity will experience some degree of mental ill-health many times during their life.  This does not mean we will all be diagnosed with a mental health issue, it just means we are all susceptible to feeling different within and of ourselves from one day to the next during our lifetime.  As we grow, develop, age, live we experience change and with change comes a mixed bag of emotions.

Having a few days of feeling out of sorts does not mean you have a mental health issue.  It might mean that you are finding it difficult to manage, albeit mentally, emotionally or social.  However, that is natural and usually what you are experiencing dissolves as you are able to work through the challenge or whatever has generated change and you find yourself feeling back to your usual self again relatively quickly.

A mental health issue is when the difficulty continues to become harder to cope with, it starts to impact on day-to-day activities and you notice other areas of your life being affected.

This is a real warning sign to share what you are experiencing with someone else and seek the support you might be in need of.

Cautionary note, if you even remotely think what you are experiencing might be a result of a physical injury or physiological illness seek medical attention immediately, do not wait even a day, as there is always the possibility of other serious conditions and in those instances, every minute counts.

How come wellbeing is discussed in and around the topic of mental health?

For me wellbeing incorporates our whole being: physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.

Physical health pertains to our bodily ability to be able to operate and function to a certain standardised level

Mental health is about our ability to be cognitive – that is to be able to think, speak, process information and communicate successfully.

Social health refers to our behavioural capabilities.  It involves our interactions with others, sharing in our societies, creating sustainable relationships.  As inter-dependent being this is a vital element.

Emotional health is about how we interpret, hold and incorporate the other 3 health dimensions into ourselves and our life.  It is our own unique blend of how we feel, sense and intuit the world in which we exist and how we choose to be in that environment.

Why is emotional health so important?

It is my belief that our emotional health is the key to maintaining and sustaining our physical and mental health.

Stress is a prime example of how our emotions play a pivotal role in our physical health.

When we become stressed we begin to notice that we don’t ‘feel’ comfortable within our self and as our emotions alter, our ability to think is not as clear and easy, certain social setting may frustrate us and signs of physical illness arise – headaches, flu, high blood pressure, accident prone

Anxiety is another great example of how our emotions hold the key to our mental health.

As most know, anxiety is generally an imagined or perceived fear.  That’s not to say what the sufferer is experiencing isn’t real, because it is very real for them.  What it means is that the anxiety sufferer has generally created an imagined or perceived set of ‘what if’ scenarios in their mind that they begin to believe will happen.  Sometimes it may have actually happened in the past and it is extremely hard to believe it won’t happen over and over again and for others the possibility that it may happen becomes very real and definitive. Inevitably a real fear becomes associated with that belief.  Simply it is the real fear that gains power and disables the suffer’ s ability to think rationally in relation to the scenario for which the anxiety is attached.  Hence the anxiety sufferer struggles with rational thought processing which can grow and impact many other areas of that person’s life socially and physically as well.

Ultimately to manage and sustain your positive mental health, check in with your emotions.  Do it right now….

Ask yourself how you feel right now?

Has this reading this blog trigger anything for you?

It doesn’t matter if it is – satisfaction…..curiousity….frustration….relief….nothing…something….

Whatever you feel is right for you right now.  Perhaps you’ve become aware of some sort of stress you’re holding within yourself, simply acknowledging that awareness is a step towards strengthening your own emotional health and inevitably sustaining your wellbeing. #preventMHI @mutuworld

Our subjective lives

Life is an experience of subjectivity.

Nothing is ever truly objective, not scientific research and findings, not the tree under which I sit, not the computer I now use and not what I may or may not do.

Wherever humankind is in one way, shape or, form connected to or with something (which is everything in our world) there is always an element of subjectivity, no matter how remote or minute it is, it is there.

Just as death is our only guarantee in life, pure objectivity is our only impossibility.

Whilst you hold your ticket for life, embrace your ability to be subjective, know that whilst many things may feel improbable, it does not mean they are impossible. Become aware of your own subjectiveness; your own perceptions, values and meanings you place upon yourself, others and things.

When you think about your own subjectivities, perhaps allow yourself to feel what it really means to you, imagine experiencing it physically, sensing where it is in your mind or body without thought. Teaching yourself to do this enables you to understand where you hold an emotion connected to your subjectivity of yourself, another, a place, a thing, a situation. It creates an opportunity for you to find a deeper understanding of what it truly means for you.

Just as we have evolved on this earth and just as in our everyday life, if we are able to identify something we can then create our own (subjective) objective definition/classification for it. Having an understanding helps us place it in our world and to work and live with it in a way that we learn to know is best for us.

“Half myself mocks the other half.”

“Half myself mocks the other half.” – Joseph Joubert

Joesph Joubert was on to something when he made this statement, though I can’t help but wonder if it is not so much a half of us but more so one of many parts of us.

I am a big believer that our mind, conscious and unconscious, is made up of many parts. Just as our brain consists of cortexs and lobes, just as our body has limbs, organs, cells, systems and so on, just as we have the capability to sense and feel a vast array of emotions. We are creatures who, without a doubt, are greater than the sum of our parts (Kurt Koffka).

So how is it that some parts of our self detests another part, why is it that our procrastinating part can annoy and frustrate our motivational part and its allies. What is it about a collective group of parts that choose to be addicted, how is it that our self gives that or those parts more strength and control over the remainder of our whole being?

A story that describes the handing over of control for me is when my nervous part spasmodically pops up and takes over the calmness of my voice, causing it to shake as it leaves my larynx. I, for some reason, give ‘nervous’ the power to do this when other parts are weakened with vulnerability due to a challenging situation. Yet other, more physical parts of my body are not displaying that I am nervous. There have been times when all I need to do is state my name, yet ‘nervous’ attacks my voice.

This unexplained experience can then generate a whole series of other parts fighting or siding with other parts causing a complex state of conflict that may then feed into other areas of my hour, day, week etc.

Yet, at other times I allow my motivated self (including all the parts allied for my motivation) to rally up and generate a sense of achievement and pride within my behaviour. Similarly this experience can inspire a whole series of other parts collaborating and celebrating with other parts causing a euphoric state of confidence and belief that I excitedly drive into other areas of my hour, day, week etc.

Bearing in mind Lao Tzu words, “It is wisdom to know others; it is enlightenment to know one’s self.”, my challenge of myself is to reflect and investigate what has happened to and for me during positive and negative scenarios. Did I experience a negative reaction that I can learn from? What am I trying to tell myself, what do I need to do to strengthen my areas of need that became vulnerable in that situation. What was happening within and around me that generated my state of positivity. Was it actually an event leading up to this moment, perhaps I nourished my body with different food that morning, did I sleep more soundly, has another person been charitable to me? Remember, that as we are made up of many parts, so too is our life made up of many parts. Connect the intrinsic and extrinsic relations of our self and our world in life.

Finally and importantly, regardless of the experience, how did I feel and do I want to feel like that again? Observe and learn. Appreciate that you are a being of more parts than your whole and embrace the necessity of each and every part. What is that part’s strength, what is it’s need? This reflective practice offers you opportunity to create understanding, appreciation and collaboration of all your parts, reducing internal conflict and enabling a greater sense of self.

Suicide – No 1 global killer of girls aged 15-19 years

Alarming – yes, Shocking – yes, Traumatic – yes, Surprising – NO

@telegraph released an article highlighting the horrific and newly identified @WHO statistics that suicide is now the universal number one killer of young girls 15-19 years old.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/11549954/Teen-girls-Suicide-kills-more-young-women-than-anything.-Heres-why.html

What I find most frightening about this release of information is that it is only skimming the surface. How many people have either never reported or mis-reported: self-harm injuries, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and/or suicide?

The numbers will be far greater than those charted by @WHO. We need action at ground level, in our homes, our schools, our clubs, our communities. #preventMHI will only happen when communication is happening, and I don’t mean talking about it, I mean talking about you, talking about your friend, talking about your family member, talking about the kid who you sit next to in class who isn’t in your friendship group but who confides in you, talking about your neighbour who made a random comment that made you wonder if something is wrong.

Self-harming, suicidal thoughts and/or actions don’t just happen they are nurtured. Nurtured by; negative thoughts, disruptive feelings and maladaptive behaviours. It is not just those of the sufferer, but also as a result of negative thoughts and maladaptive behaviours that have influenced relationships connected to the sufferer.

Self-harming isn’t just cutting or burning your skin, it’s also isolating oneself, eating disorders, addictions, trichotillomania (pulling out ones hair) and other self-sabotaging behaviours.

Self-harming and/or suicidal ideation is not racist, sexist, ageist, abilitist (ability related), it does not discriminate according to socio-economic group, residential conditions or anything else. We are all just as capable of suffering from self-sabotage.

Self-harming and/or suicidal does not necessarily mean you’re crazy.

What does it all mean?

It means that you are possibly looking to belong, to feel wanted, needed, have a sense of purpose, connect with someone else who you feel safe with and valued by.

It means you may not be sure how to live in this world as you are, with no need for voyeurism or a desire for escapism because the you feel the real world is cruel or overwhelming or meaningless or you are worthless in it.

Each and every victim of self-harming or suicidal ideation will have a different story, they will have a different meaning attached to what they are experiencing and they will need time, space, support and trusting relationship(s) to rely on whilst they journey back to a better place of being.

Hospital EDs are not to blame

In response to this article

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/we-need-change-in-attitude-on-suicide-prevention-as-death-toll-reaches-3000-per-year-20150504-ggtvcf.html

John Mendoza writes candidly about his personal experience, and the deep affect it has had on his life is not to be dismissed as it is ever present in his words. I support his direction of thinking, of approach and especially his proactive response to the issue of suicide and self-harm in our Australian society.

I myself contacted our State’s government earlier this year proposing the implementation of a national programme focused on preventing and reducing Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Self-Harm & Suicide to secondary school students, tertiary students and all their relevant care givers. My proposal was delicately rejected with sightings of what is currently being done at a state level – hmmm, remind me how affective that is again?

I digress, so getting back to John Mendoza’s illustration of hospital EDs and the failings experienced by many people presenting with acute mental health issues, I can’t help but raise my own thoughts toward the situation.

It is not our hospital EDs or any of the on-hand medical staff that is failing patients who present with attempted suicidal or self-harm injuries it is us; their community and the system who has failed them.

As a member of community how can we do more to support others who are experiencing issues such as suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviours? How can we prevent these same members from needing to present at hospital EDs?

The system fails those presenting at ED for what is needed for the individual suffering is, time. Time to be sat with, to be comforted, to be heard. Please give me just one example of a hospital ED where any single member of staff has the luxury of time – just one. Nope, no one? Hospital EDs are not the place for a person with suicidal ideation, for a person who for whatever their reason has felt the need to cause themself physical injury. Yes, first aid is often needed, but not in this environment. Putting this individual into a bed and then leaving them there, isolated, unheard, quite possibly heavily sedated or just sending them home telling them not to do it again – come on, who really thinks this is going to fix ‘the problem’.

Let’s look at the system, let’s address our community and let’s understand the individual who is experiencing cognitive distress and emotional pain. The system is not set up nor is it prepared to treat, handle, manage, whatever term you’d like to name it, with individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis. The fact that such large numbers of our community present tells us that it’s not just the pointy end of the system that isn’t working.

In our community we can support ourselves as well as each other by truly understanding what it means to experience a mental health issue, become aware of what a range of ‘normal’ thoughts and feelings are, identify if thoughts and feelings are impacting negatively in our life, know who we can turn to for advice and support, model behaviours of openness and productive communication, learn that the majority of mental health issues are emotion related, increase our emotional and social intelligences and accept our self as well as each other for our similarities and our differences.

Each and every individual member of our community will experience a range of emotions, a variety of thoughts. Each person will behave in their own time and way to experiences, to challenges, to their own life. Know who you are, feel where you belong and never be afraid to ask for help if whatever you experience has an unexpected affect on you.

I don’t for one minute think this is going to be an easy task, nor do I expect this challenge to be conquered quickly. What I do believe though is that it can begin to be actioned now, today. What are we waiting for, another committee, a follow-up report of the current NMHC report? Let’s not waste more time and more money contemplating thoughts, let’s just jump in and spend the money on trying out some new initiatives surely it’s better to have tried and not succeeded than to have not tried.

#preventMHI @mutuworld