Showing posts with label Irish Blogger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irish Blogger. Show all posts

Monday, 15 January 2018

Just Another Manic Monday...

 Today is Monday! 'Blue Monday' apparently?!
Like, who actually comes up with these 'trends'? Well, to answer my own question, and hopefully yours, Blue Monday was actually part of a marketing plan from a 'Travel Company' as an incentive to encourage people to book holidays.  Relatively smart marketing yes, but a disregard for those of us who already struggle through tough, tarnished weeks upon weeks of mental torture.What about our hashtags and formulas?! Have you one for my O.C.D? Or my friend's P.T.S.D?
  This pseudoscience was argued to have been discovered through using a "scientific formula"...

"The formula uses many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action. (By some fella Arnall in 2006).

Let me introduce you to Natasha, Counsellor, Mother, Mental Health Warrior and part of the Replenish Tribe. 
Natasha speaks candidly about her struggle with her mental health and how she manages through all those days that nobody has a hashtag or marketing strategy for.

What Natasha has to say to you...

When I am having a 'bad day' (don't you just love that label by the way? How I wish it was confined to one day - I'd skip off to bed that evening, safe in the knowledge that tomorrow everything would be ok again), which sometimes turns into days & worst case scenario a week or longer, my confidence plummets.

When I DO find the courage to look in the mirror I mostly don't recognise the woman looking back at me. Where did my vibrant, assertive, funny, confident self go? The girl who loved concerts, nights out in the City, travel?
On the bad days those things mostly fill me with fear. How will I get out of a concert in a venue I'm not familiar with, if I need to? People on nights out who have consumed too much alcohol peak my anxiety as they can be unpredictable, argumentative, aggressive. Travel means airports, security, confined spaces. 

I can only manage it with people I feel 'safe' with.
When I feel low & anxious I feel worthless, like I have nothing interesting to say to my friends, family, colleagues. Especially colleagues & customers, people who know me the least.
The paranoia is relentless, persistent and exhausting. The internal dialogue usually goes something like 'they think I'm boring/stupid, they wish I'd hurry up, they think I'm weird because I don't go on work nights out or drink, I'm the only one who makes mistakes' and on and on the list is endless.
When I'm having a 'bad day' I see no point in anything, there's no colour, everything is messy & dis-organised. I just want to stay in bed. I feel like I am merely going through the motions, functioning at the lowest level necessary, existing. NOT living.
That is what anxiety does to you. It robs you of your personality, robs you of your confidence and robs you of your identity.
My own experience caused me to feel as if my emotions and feelings had disappeared. I could not feel the highs of love that I used to feel, the intense happiness & excitement of seeing my favourite band, I couldn't grieve the loss of both my Aunts. Emotionless! This is exactly how I feel on a 'bad day'. Nothing anyone could do or say could make me happy. I feel numb and detached and there are times when I think I might never smile again.
My only thought can be HOPE. Recovering from the way I feel on those 'bad days'. I can tell those of you who feel like this that your emotions do come back in recovery. Your confidence and personality gradually return in little strips, building up in layers, until eventually you feel like the person you were before you became ill.
It takes commitment & tenacity. It takes speaking up, confiding in your 'tribe', being honest with yourself and with them. Totally honest! If you can't say it out loud, technology is your friend - put it in a text, just start the conversation.
Everyone's self-care is different. For me it's taking quiet time out, detaching, re-charging. My work is busy, both physically & mentally demanding, so quiet time is vital for me. I like to spend time with people who are close in my circle, people I feel safe with. Movies, pamper time, naps, meditation - these are all things I enjoy and I make time to incorporate them into my life. It's absolutely vital for me.
I read a lot about anxiety & obsessive thoughts.
Meeting Caroline has been an absolutely pivotal part in my recovery. Finally I felt like I could speak about how I was feeling, without fear. It was absolutely liberating. I drove home exhilarated after my first group session - I WAS NOT ALONE!

One thing I've read & utilise now on the daily is this :
'Never say yes when you mean no, and never say no when you means yes'
Simple but effective. Try it.
I was a people pleaser even to my detriment on most occasions, but now I realise I also need to please myself.
I often think to myself 'who am I kidding?'. I rarely stop thinking. I wonder about my internal dialogue. Would I speak to other people the way I speak to myself? Would I allow other people to speak to me the way I speak to myself? Absolutely not! Why then do I re-enforce the negative automatic thoughts? Example: 'You're useless/ugly/incapable/a laughing stock.....the list is endless'.
I've started challenging these thoughts when I have them and try to list facts to support the thoughts. The majority of the time they are unsupported.
I often feel tired of being tired. Obsessional thoughts are exhausting. Sometimes I just don't lend the energy to it. I concentrate on getting tasks done and nothing else. The more you learn to accept and let go, the more your body will respond to a new way of thinking.
I am the most impatient person, this I know. With everything in my life, not just wanting to be well. Recovery, I am told, will come in time. There is no time limit or magic cure. Everybody is different and some people will recover more quickly than others. Medication and therapy which works for one person might be totally ineffective for you - as I've discovered. Yes, it's frustrating - please trust me, just be patient and your body will take care of itself in its own time.
Remember this: you deserve to BE WELL. If you are struggling to be taken seriously by health professionals then be aware that you can take an advocate with you to help speak with you. I took Caroline with me to get the ball rolling. It started my journey towards reclaiming good mental health & has given me confidence to speak up to my GP since.
 Go easy on yourself x 



You do not have to be alone as you deal with your mental health. Replenish is developed by people with mental health issues who are compassionate about helping others who are similar to us.

Get in touch with us on:
or find out where your local 'Replenish Tribe' is.

What the media doesn't tell us is how to manage those Blue Mondays after they've created a unnecessary hype.

However, it's a hype that does bring more global awareness to mental health.
See what we had to say in our YOUTUBE video/Podcast here: 

Monday, 1 January 2018

My Victories of 2017

Saturday 4th February

I woke up in Dublin on my Birthday. We spent the day exploring our favourite parts of Dublin. My boyfriend and I went to the beautiful Italian restaurant, ‘Il Posto’  for dinner. This is where we went for our first date, 3 years prior. We intended to ‘go out’ after dinner, but our mutual love for all things cosy and comfortable led us straight back to our hotel. I turned 28. 

My mind feels decades older. Mental Health illness will do that do you. 

Friday 3rd March

For the first time, I visited Edinburgh. We stayed in a quirky Airbnb. In those freezing days in March I saw the iconic architecture of a city that proudly cherishes both its past and future.

As an old soul, and that ancient mind of mine, you could see why I found the archaic ascending path to Edinburgh castle absolutely captivating. I walked through the dark passageways as if I was cautiously navigating the through the mind of Robert Lewis Stevenson himself, unaware if the shadows of the people who passed were like that of Dr Jekyll, or more a sinister Mr Hyde; reminding me of the duality of my own mind. I had tea in quaint tea rooms, bought authentic Tartan scarves, visited The Writers' Museum, and celebrated the 1st Birthday of my boyfriend’s Niece.  

Thursday 14th April

For Easter I went to Tegernsee in Germany, just an hour from where my boyfriend lives in Bavaria. We stayed in a Spa/Boutique hotel which was very quaint. We walked around the town which seemed to still be in hibernation, but we loved it nonetheless. I find a strange comfort in stillness, it brings calm to an otherwise un-still mind.

April 20th- 28th

Within these dates I did a makeup demonstration in Debenhams for Lancome, launched my mental health organisation ‘Replenish’ , did two mental health talks, did session 1 of 6 of the first Replenish ‘Tackling Anxiety’ workshops and had my little dog of 17 years euthanized. 

The Day he Left...
Whenever I would play piano or put on any classical music my dog, Rico would always sit in a trance. He loved music. The day he died he was on the sofa as the vet injected him with what would be his end. Pavarotti played on the radio. After he (Rico, not Pavarotti) had been wrapped up in his favourite blanket and given to the vet for cremation I closed the door, entered the living room again where he had just been alive, 10 mins earlier, and suddenly from the radio came a triumphant ‘Hallelujah’. It was as if Rico, my best friend since I was 11 until I was 28, was telling me that he was happy he was no longer in pain. Despite the devastation I was experiencing,I felt content. 
The following week I continued on with the rest of the Replenish workshops. 

For the following weeks I did numerous mental health talks, workshops and felt completely and utterly in awe of the response and demand of Replenish. I felt I was serving my purpose in this life. There’s nothing like that feeling of fulfillment. Nothing at all. 

Saturday 27th May

A dream came true this day. 
For years, since I can remember, I have been listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses. They soothed me as I would slide down my bedroom wall in the midst of a panic attack, and became the soundtrack to the best summers of my life. So, I hoped, for equal amount of years of listening to them, that they would reunite despite having broken up long before I was born. 

On that Saturday, I saw them reunited and play in Slane. I paid over €300 to stand right under the guitar riffs of Slash and the swaying hair of Axl Rose. I went on my own. Like, I didn’t know of anyone else who would pay that money. I didn’t know anyone on that same level as me. So, I stood, on my own, completely immersed in the dream that was now a reality. I was paying homage to my ultimate therapist. The therapist who was there long before anyone else was. 

 I’ll never forget that day for as long as I live. Some of the best moments are spent alone, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Sunday 18th June

I was in Bombachsee, Germany in the lake and ‘Supping’ (Stand Up Paddling). Germany, in its reliable nature, gives the most beautiful summers. The Sun almost melts away my mental health 'errors', like a brand new anti-virus on a backed-up computer with corrupted files. 

Tuesday 27th June

By this time Replenish was on its third cycle of workshops in Derry and just started its first cycle of ‘Tackling Anxiety & Depression’ in Letterkenny, Donegal. From here I would gain the greatest of friends who would come to be integral to the success of Replenish. It was like realising that the isolated island that you'd be on all your life was actually full of people, just like you. Glorious!

Tuesday 13th July

For two weeks I went to the Portuguese sun. Had a dose of the anti-virus again, you could say.  I spent every second restoring my levels of Vitamin D and letting the Sun doctor my mental health. Eating well, swimming in the waves that inspired the birth of Replenish and lying on the sand, a lifestyle I hope to cultivate on a more permanent basis.  A paradise of sorts. 

Thursday 27th July

I held the first session of the Replenish workshops in Sligo. I travelled to Sligo every week, some days a little anxious than others simply for no reason at all; to be expected of course when living with an somewhat unstable mind.  In the Sligo workshops I gained what I can only describe as a sisterhood. A sisterhood I’m very, very grateful for and in constant awe of. 

Monday 21st August

Replenish was in full throttle and I had given over 10 talks to schools, workplaces, events and this Monday marked the day Replenish had its first meeting with a company that it would later result in a fruition of collaboration. I could hardly recognise myself. I was exceeding my own expectations, surprising myself with strength I didn't even know I had and becoming more and more unapologetic about my authenticity. Replenish too, at this point, surpassed all my objectives, targets and expectations. 

Saturday 9th September

I was standing at a podium in Dublin speaking at the Endometriosis Association of Ireland. I didn’t consider this as another ‘talk’. It was so much more. It was a divine privilege to be invited to speak to women, dealing with a crippling condition, from a mental health standpoint.  
I was also preparing for the biggest event in the Mental Health Calendar, World Mental Health Day (October 10th).  Among having University Students, private clients, workshops running in Derry and Sligo, I went to Madrid. Naturally! 
You see, being in a long-distance relationships means committing to meeting up. For Stephen and I, we meet every three or four weeks either at home in Derry, Germany or somewhere we’ve never been. So I was making sure I was still making time for my relationship. Stephen was working in Madrid that weekend, so I met him there and sat under the Madrid sun and worked on Replenish’s first ‘World Mental Health Day’.  I enjoyed the sites of Madrid too of course when work got somewhat all-consuming. Regular breaks are needed to keep the stress levels at a minimum. Pre-existing mental health issues and stress are a poisonous mix.

When I arrived back to Ireland I began filming for our short film ‘Unfiltered Water’ that would be screened on the day of our World Mental Health Day event.

Tuesday 10th October

We had an event where many professionals came together to give talks, presentations and advice on how mental health can be managed. We had Yasmin our Occupational Therapist, Riadh our Nutritionist, Michelle our Pharmacist. We then had Counsellor Natasha, Financial expert Emma and Trainee Mental Health Nurse, Dee on a very interesting panel. We also enjoyed Yoga with Sophie, Exercise with George, Complementary Therapy with Megan and Massage with Foshie.

Tuesday 17th October 

I started the Replenish workshops in Limavady on Tuesday evening. The following day I was in Antrim giving a talk to a hall full of business owners in the construction industry on Mental Health in the Workplace. That evening I was back in Derry beginning the 5th cycle of Derry workshops. These workshops were different this time because they now involved ALL of the professionals who were involved in the Replenish 'World Mental Health Day'.

Wednesday 8th November 

By now I had just come back from my 4th trip of the year to Germany and was straight into giving another talk for the Donegal Youth Service on 'Body Image Initiative'. I used to work with youth in my previous jobs and so it's always a territory I feel natural in, and of course honoured. 

Friday 24th November

I was on my way to Dublin to meet my boyfriend who'd be flying in from Germany. This would be the last time I'd see him before he'd come home for three weeks on December 19th. During this weekend we explored Dublin in a different way, this time through the eyes of Jame Joyce. We then enjoyed a vintage cinematic experience in the beautiful Stella theatre in Rathmines. Of course, I met The Makeup Fairy, who'd become a good friend. Finding friendship in people who you'd think would never want a friendship with you soothes all the insecurities of the inner 12 year old who always thought she was incompatible with everyone because she was a little peculiar. 


As you can imagine December lived up to its reputation of overindulging, dinners, sweets, open fires, presents and visits. I had a lovely December. Minimal stress.It marked the 8th month since I had become vegetarian. I had the most beautiful vegetarian Christmas dinner too, in case you were wondering. On the evening before New Year's Eve I felt that old familiar pang of fear, leeching anxiety and drowning mood. Why? Well, I don't know. Like I said, mental health illness will do that to you, simply remind you that it's there, watching. 

I allowed myself to feel like this. Not fighting it and not judging myself for feeling like that takes the emphasis and importance off it; less attention. When you consciously refuse to give something attention and focus on something else, it eventually pipes down. I got up, even though I wanted to lie in a heap, drove to my friend Natasha to have my brows done and came away yes, with beautiful brows, but also a lifted mood, invigorated feelings and concentrated gratefulness for having a my tribe; A tribe that I wouldn't know unless I had 'acted' on my mental health. 


January 1 2018

And now I sit, in present time. Nothing has changed much since we welcomed in 2018 with close friends.  I don't believe in a 'New Year, New Me'. I believe in a New Year a more mentally strong me, a more emotionally intelligent me, a stronger me. I wouldn't change who I am, I've worked too hard on becoming who I am. However, I do want to tell you that I will embark on 2018 with a little bit more appetite for victories. 

So, why do I consider my 2017 victorious when there will be people reading these dates and thinking "what is so 'victorious' about all of this?"

So here's why:

I did ALL of 2017 whilst living with a mental health disorder.
Those days started with me taking my usual three tablets along with a few vitamins for what the 'World Health Organisation' considers the "tenth most debilitating disorder in the world."

During the dark days, the days where I didn't want to get out of bed, or when my hormones made my O.C.D spike and more unbearable than usual, I still made my dream a reality. 

I felt fulfilled in my work, my friends and my entire existence.
I disciplined myself. Exercised, ate well, took time to myself regularly, introverted, became more unapologetic in my authenticity. I grew in all aspects of mind.  I acted on my mental health, the tagline of 'Replenish'. 

I also took a lot of self-care. A LOT! If I didn't then I wouldn't be able to work in the way I wanted to. 

If you read all those diary extracts again, but this time imagined yourself doing all that I've done with a huge stone in your shoe whilst doing it, then you'll have a new found appreciation for the lives I, and others in similar situations, live despite the mental pain we endure. 

In my work in Replenish I endeavour to become an example of how mental health doesn’t define or acts as an obstacle.The people within Replenish are my tribe because they do walk their daily lives with that same stone in their shoe. Somedays it wears us down more than other days, but we keep going because it's  exactly those kind of harsh days that condition us to become more compassionate about the people we want to work with. It drives us to go into 2018 with a great force to break the mental health stigma. We don't come from a place of business, but from a place of passion and that has made all the difference.

Act on your Mental Health in 2018 with Replenish and join 'Steps to Self-Care' Workshops

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Christmas, When it's Not So Calm and Not So Bright

The Christmas of 2013 was not only the worst Christmas of my life, but the worst time of my life.
Months prior I had come off my mental health medication a little too quick and in November, a few days after Hallowe'en I had a major relapse. It was if my brain went into shock from withdrawing too quick. So there's the first lesson, don’t come off any psychopharmaceuticals without guidance from your Doctor.

I’m writing the following guide for you, not so much from a professional standpoint, but from a mental health sufferer warrior experience.

So here it is, a raw insight to how I got through the worst months of my life.

✷Disclaimer: There may be some triggers in the following content

Sadness & Loneliness

Christmas is a time for all families to reunite together from wherever they may be in the world. Sure, that’s lovely. However, it’s also a huge slap in the face to those of us who have lost family, whether it be through death or estrangement. That indescribable feeling in the pit of our stomachs; that heaviness on our shoulders.

It doesn’t just take death and absence of loved ones to make us feel lonely because, for some of us, our mental health has a tendency to make us feel lonely in a room full of our nearest and dearest. Sometimes, we feel sad and we don’t know why.

Feeling sad and lonely is O.K. It’s a normal human emotion. Sometimes we know why, sometimes we don’t know why. Either way, it’s important for you not to judge yourself for feeling these emotions.You’re human, It’s not wrong to feel sad, but it is unhelpful judging yourself for feeling so. Don’t try to push away or ignore your feelings. Taking time to yourself amidst the chaos of Christmas will give you time to identify why you’re feeling sad, nostalgic and lonely if you can’t actually figure out why. Oftentimes, there is an underlying reason, and taking time to reflect will often unveil the reasons. You can empower yourself to do something about it. Whether it be a lack of Vitamin D or unresolved grief.

If you’re lonely and by yourself, you don’t have to be. There is ALWAYS somebody who wants to help you, to listen and to be your friend.

If you’re dealing with feelings of despair, panic and terror remember these feelings will rise, peak and then drop again. They won’t last.

Becoming part of our Replenish Official Facebook Group is an easy, free and helpful way to taking steps to dissolve those feelings of loneliness.

Suicidal Ideation

For me, during that Christmas, I was on diazepam and sleeping tablets whilst I started taking my antidepressants again and waiting for them to take effect (This takes 4 weeks minimum).

I was very unwell. I didn’t think I could feel normal again. I didn’t think I could get past the thoughts my O.C.D was shooting me with. The thought of going on living was agonising and I didn’t want to prolong that agony. I didn’t have active plans of suicide, but I was wishing something bad would happen to me, like an accident or illness. I know this sounds terrible and very disrespectful because I know there are people fighting for their lives right now, but at that time I wished I had a terminal illness. Anything, anything instead of being inside my own head. 
As Sylvia Plath once said Is there no way out of the mind?”

I didn’t want to die, I just wanted the pain to end. It was like running up a steep hill, in excruciating pain, exhausted and sore but with no option to stop. Nowadays, when I actually am running up a steep hill, the pain is nothing near that to living with the mental torment during Christmas 2013. When I run, I smile to myself remembering my victory of learning to love life again after wanting it to end.  
Because, the thing is, you will learn to love life again. The darkness brings you to a place where you have a greater appreciation for all is that beautiful. So that’s why people who have been through the hardest times, have the greatest appreciation for the small, often overlooked and beautiful things in life. We need people like YOU to help people dealing with similar experiences. It takes somebody like you, an expert by experience, to really make a change in mental health awareness because you know what it's like and you know what it takes to help somebody.

So how did I come out of this darkness?

I didn’t have any quick-fix solution. I persevered through the agony. I didn’t believe my thoughts of “they’d be better off without me”. I knew these were negative, false thoughts. I decided to live. I chose to live. When I wanted to lie in bed, I actually made myself get up, get dressed, show up and never gave up. Getting up and getting showered may seem like nothing to the average person, but as Bryony Gordon said about her depression “it was like walking through treacle.”
Yes, due to the nature of our unique minds, not everyone will really understand the sting of your anxiety fuelled feelings, your sinister O.C.D thoughts and the depths of your depression. But do you know what? And this is for people who feel frustrated about feeling helpless when seeing a loved one suffer with their mental health:

You do not have to be a psychiatrist or a psychologist to help your anxious friend, or depressed cousin or grieving partner. All you have to do is be there. To sit with them, hug them and comfort them with kindness and support.

My Mother and Father, and the rest of the world for that matter, will never really understand my O.C.D, and they don’t have to.
During that Christmas all my Daddy had to do to help me with my mental health was light the fire everyday. I tell this to everyone in the Replenish workshops, to illustrate how something,like primal act of building and sitting beside a fire, can really have a therapeutic benefit. All my Mother had to do was sit beside me and talk to me about light-hearted things.  They didn’t have to know C.B.T, and they didn’t have to anything other than be there.
Let me say, the mindset that you may be in now isn’t going to be the mindset you’ll be in for the rest of the year. A few bad weeks, heck even months, aren’t a determinant for how the rest of your life will be, as much as it feels like it’s never going to change. It will. I’m proof of that.

During Christmas…

During Christmas it’s important to remember that when you see happy, perfect scenes on social media it isn’t how it actually is. Every photograph is choreographed and strategically formed, and NOT true to life. So remember that before you compare your situation to the false ones you see online.

Take it easy. Just because everyone has a party to be doesn’t mean you have to. Go ahead if you want, but don’t feel obliged. The best thing for me was to take very small steps. I would get up, have de-caf tea (caffeine is to be avoided when you’re mentally unwell), shower, put on a little makeup, put on loungewear and sit and do something creative like making Christmas cards. I’d then watch a movie, have a sleep and then have some dinner, sit with my parents, watch another movie and then go to bed. This may seem like a ‘lazy’ routine, but it was what I felt only able to do. Everyday I got stronger, i’d leave the house for an hour, then come home feeling accomplished. I’d go a walk the next day and then visit family. I slowly built myself up again at my own pace.
Do not feel an obligation to be happy. Focus on YOU.

Recovery and self-care isn’t about one solution as much as it’s about small actions. For me, building myself up a little bit more as each day progressed resulted in me then, exactly a year later, strong enough to travel to Australia on my own to visit my brother. Again, this may seem a trivial pursuit to the average person, however remember how unwell I was a year before. A small victory for many, a huge victory for me. Therapy, medication, exercise, creativity, diet and planning are all aspects of my wellbeing that sustains me and something that you can avail of this coming January when Replenish begins its 'Steps to Self-Care' workshops.

This Christmas you deserve to be relaxed. You deserve to de-stress. You need to take time to yourself, to take self-care and to build yourself back up to your strong self, because that version of you already exists, you just have to take the journey to meet yourself. It won’t be easy, it won’t be smooth but it’ll be worth it.

If you find you’re in distress this Christmas, please see the emergency numbers below:

  • Telephone: 0808 808 8000

The Samaritans

The Samaritans offer a 24-hour telephone helpline:
  • Telephone: 028 9066 4422 (local call charges apply)
  • National telephone:116 123 (this number is free to call)
  • textphone: 08457 90 91 92
Email me:

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Core of Me

A time traveller from as recent as the 1980s upon landing in the almost 2020s and finding us having a non-reciprocal conversation with our phone screens would propel him to scurry back into the 80s in whatever format he arrived in. Only after I hustled him for his retro Adidas slippers, of course. Oops, capitalism sneaking in there and I haven’t even got to making that point yet. Anyway, there I was, on snapchat; surpassing my recommended daily intake advised for a healthy social media diet.
I stood there trying to justify why I wore more makeup than usual. I know how it looks when somebody, who aims (and claims) to live their life ‘authentically’, says so whilst wearing a full face of makeup.  So I’ve decided to let you in on understanding the guilt I feel as a privileged, westernised girl (I’m 29 soon, and yet I don’t feel calling myself Woman is a force I can lay upon my emotions just yet)  whose mind extends beyond the shores of the capitalist regime of well, the world. Not because I feel you should know about me, but because it may lead you to understand your own internal struggles. Unless you’re not a complex thinker as I am, to which I will say ‘I bet you’re glad’.

The Journey to the Centre

This post isn’t so much about getting you to understand me as it is for me to understand myself. So, to set the context for the journey to the centre of my mind, let me share my deep, core beliefs. Simply put, we all have ‘Core Beliefs’ which we are unconscious of.  Tell me go into therapist mode here for a minute and explain just exactly what core beliefs are, and the strength of these beliefs. In ‘Cognitive Therapy’ these core beliefs  drive our thinking, emotions and behaviours. They’re formed when we’re young and quite impressionable. They mould our perception of ourselves, people and the world. To illustrate this point further let me take you back to 1999 when I was 10 years old. I had just moved house from an estate where we were closer as a community and our dogs all ran mad around the street. Frankly, therein lay the best days of my life and the essence of my childhood. I moved to a more private estate, excuse us!. It was basically a huge change for us all, my dog included. So a couple of weeks after having moved, my daddy and I took my dog out a walk in our new surroundings. Being an absolute hallion we let our dog run loose, much to the detriment of well, the rest of my life because Tandy (the dog) ran out onto a busy road upon seeing another dog and getting hit twice. To cut a traumatic long story short, the core belief that would dictate my life formed on the very spot, in that very moment where I stood in dry shock having seen and heard my dog getting killed. I AM RESPONSIBLE!

To be clear, I didn’t consciously stir up this Core Belief, it was my unconsciousness at work because somewhere in the Mines of Moria of my mind the Balrog was stirring. (That was a Lord of the Rings reference there for you otherwise Harry Potter fans).

Nobody had told me it was my fault, nobody told me she died because she wasn’t on a leash. It was the nerve, literally, of my brain to form that conclusion.

So how do I know that my ‘Core Belief’ is “I am Responsible” if we’re meant to be unconscious of them?

Well, the formation of this core belief on that night in September 1999 led me to develop a crippling form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D) which had to be managed with C.B.T therapy. Ironically, I was training in it whilst receiving it for my newly diagnosed mental health disorder. O.C.D is a condition that there is no known cure for, so we’re roomies for the foreseeable future, it and I. It knows not to drink out of my cup or sit on my bed, but it’s a shapeshifter because when I think I see myself in the mirror it’s actually my O.C.D presenting itself as me, telling me I’m the worst thing in the world. And it’s easy to believe it, especially when it’s your own reflection telling you so. O.C.D feeds off your identity. You can never really tell when your mind is your own, or the O.C.D at play. That was a metaphor, by the way. O.C.D is a on the neurosis end of the scale, it's not psychosis. My reflection doesn't speak back to me. Just to be clear.

So I take certain tablets to break us up, to keep it somewhat restrained. It still stares at me, from across the room it is not paying rent for in my head. Sometimes, if I shift my gaze, it can attack. It tries to attack often.

So, when you have this knowledge that you’re ‘responsible’ as a result of a tragic situation where you were irresponsible would you change it? No! Because for me it drives me to behave in a way to be responsible for others when they themselves can’t be. So there’s why I work in mental health. I don’t charge what I could charge for my services. Why? I believe mental health care and support should be very cheap if not free. So I don’t want to be responsible for somebody’s ill health because they couldn’t afford therapy.

So that brings us to why I feel I have to justify my actions and behaviours. The more privileged I am the more guilt I feel for those who don’t have warmth, food, shelter, love. I feel responsible for what I have and for what they don’t have.

My View of the World

As a reluctant citizen of the Western world I’m in conflict between wanting to be successful and wanting to fulfil my obligation of being responsible, both of which are excruciatingly demanding. To have ‘effect’ in my world in mental health I have to be ‘seen’. I have to be ‘heard’, to tell people “Look, there is help”. But the modern method is seeking attention conflicts with my need to be authentic. If I don’t show that my backside is toned on Instagram, will I be ignored? How is my Ego being fuelled in all of this? Will I catch the attention I need to lead them to what I really want them to see? That real, genuine care that is overlooked if I don’t package it with a big sicker of myself on the front for the voyeurs that populates social media. My running thought is “how can I do something that attracts attention to the help I’m offering in a way that is alluring to the ‘superficial’ and ‘choreographed’  standards of social media, but authentic to me?”  Can you see how difficult it can be?  Can you begin to understand that internal conflict I, and so many others, deal with?

Because I understand certain people’s incessant need for validation from posting incessant photos of themselves, I begin to fear that if I do it then I will look just as insecure and drive my the need to inflate my ego. Let me go into therapist mode again. Whilst my main core belief is ‘I am responsible’, there are many of us whose main core belief is “I’m not good enough”, “I’m unlovable”, etc. So then, just as my behaviours are driven by the need to do things that keep me from being irresponsible, so too do the people who feel unworthy do things that stop them from feeling unworthy. So then we have those people who constantly post photos of themselves filtered to the eyeballs. They overcompensate for the ‘lack’ that they feel. Just like I feel guilt for being unable to help the people who are living third world countries. The result of my guilt is cynicism and disgust for the world I live in, just as the person’s incessant posting of themselves is a result of their feelings of unworthiness which is temporarily placated by ‘likes’. When that wears off, they post another photo and then another and another.

So to myself who feels responsible, you don’t have to be and you can’t be. You can contribute to change, but you can’t change the world by not wearing lipstick. To the person who feels unloved and unworthy, you are validated long before you take that photo and post it. You are enough without having to prove it. You are lovable in all your imperfect perfection.

The Authentic Self

My need to be ‘authentic’ doesn’t have to comply with this unrealistic demand upon myself to be responsible. My authentic self wants to wear makeup, it would be inauthentic to deny myself that. My belief of needing to be ‘responsible’ shames me into believing that wearing makeup is superficial in the bigger picture of a world full of suffering. So can you see why I felt compelled to justify my wearing of makeup on snapchat? I tread carefully. I deliberate over each photo I post, over my actions and my words. “Does it comply with my ‘authenticity’? Yes, I love makeup and it’s a photo of me wearing makeup! But are you being responsible? No, it’s superficial and there are people dying and here I am putting on makeup”. Yes, it’s exhausting.

The Destination does not Exist

Our pursuit for ‘Happiness’ is what drives our life decisions. However, our concept of ‘Happy’ is flawed, in regards to our culture which enforces it via advertising.
The Westernised concept of happiness is capitalised. It’s the new 4X4 jeep that can do your brows as you drive, or the Gucci bag made from the skin of your enemies. Happiness, in the West, is an obscure refraction of a much more simplistic and metaphysical value system.
Travel the world and you’ll find different concepts of happiness respective of cultures and religions. Our ignorant culture makes us sympathise for the “poor people in the East who can’t afford a wee Iphone”, whilst they look at us and think “poor white people have to buy an Iphone to feel happy.”

The road of life is not paved with happiness, it’s formed from ‘contentment’. Happiness is just the flowers we see on the way; not always there, but pleasant when we do come across them. The flowers cannot sustain us, it’s the hardy ground of contentment that we need more to keep us going.  Contentment is acceptance of the fact that you’re not the most beautiful, richest or smartest, but grateful that you’ve stability to keep walking through life anyway.

So there, a reflection of my mind in one sitting.
I applaud you if you’ve gotten this far.
If anything, the awareness in and of itself of how my mind and its internal conflicts are enough to keep me grounded, humble and conscious people other than myself. I could come to a destination where these conflicts no longer exist and I can make clear, constructed and conscientious decisions. But that destination doesn’t exist because it’s the very struggle of life itself that takes us from a piece of rock to a sculpture of our true selves that resides within. Life is the sculptor and we are its art.

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