Showing posts with label The Red Dutchess. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Red Dutchess. Show all posts

Monday, 26 June 2017

Letting Go...


I lay in my bed and stared at the prismatic colours on my wall that were coming through the blinds. I was trying to figure out whether or not this meant the sun was shining.

5 minutes earlier a dead silence woke me up. An unfamiliar calm, a heavy stillness. Submerging from my unconscious, I remembered.
Just like I have been remembering every morning for the last two months.

He’s not here anymore.


What was once a bed not big enough to hold those who lay in it, was now a bed that felt vast; A large tombstone with the memory of weight and expired dreams engraved upon it.


It’s been two months since he left my life, my dog.

Yes, a dog as opposed to a human. Loyalty as opposed to betrayal. Unconditional love as opposed to conditional love.  Comfort as opposed to hostility.

My dog gave me everything that humanity couldn’t.

I looked down at the bottom of my bed, and in place of where he slept for the last 17 years was a little wooden box with his name emblazoned on it. ‘Rico’, it read. His ashes.



For 17 years ‘Rico’ was the name that echoed off the walls. I would shout it loud, to rival his playful bark. Now his name is whispered, to match his silence.
 
Forever, that’s how long I’ll love him.
Someday, is when I’ll see him.
Never, is when I’ll let him go.

I’ve let go of his body, but the memory remains. That is enough for me.

To hold on to him, to his memory strengthens me.
To hold onto other things, weakens me.

After meditating on my love for him, I got up from my bed and I started.
Something in me starting buzzing, an enthusiasm, a motivation.

I started to clear away.

I de-cluttered, I deconstructed, and I declared that everything must go.
I pulled every irritating piece of clothing off the clutches of its hanger, threw it in a bag and continued on my rampage of evicting every piece of fabric whilst the quiver of the now bare wooden hangers were the soundtrack to my epic mission.

“Don’t think about keeping it anymore, just let it go” I murmured to myself as I held up a dress that had been worn a couple of times too many.

Of course I had many brilliant nights, and yes perhaps that dress was a symbol of my young, wild years.  Now I choose to enjoy the memory, but don’t cling to it.

We cling to the times that were good. In our older years we find it hard to let go of the social life we once had, and will never again have, for it was our youth that made it so. So maybe it’s not letting go of the short dress that is the problem, perhaps it’s what letting go of the dress means.

We struggle to let go of the notion of what we think our life should look like.
A wardrobe full of good-intentioned dresses for the much fantasised glamorous parties will not serve us well when we have to get work done, or run to get to the bank before 1pm on a Saturday.

To let go isn’t to forget, it’s to allow room for change.

Change is what we fear.

Why?

It’s because we’re afraid we won’t be able to ‘cope’.

We are not just one person. We have many ‘selves’. Like a Babushka doll/Russian doll we are made up of different versions of ourselves. These versions of our identity can adapt to new environments and situations, we just don’t realise that we’re able to because we don’t expose ourselves to change. We hide from it. We stay within the confines of our comfort zones.

But, change is necessary. To be human means to grow and to grow is to require change.

Put it this way. We outgrow our clothes and yet we find ourselves hoarding them and keeping them for what they signify. Time outgrows us, and yet we cling to everything that is reminiscent of that time.

But holding on to an expired time weighs us, and stops us from the process of change. Holding onto worn clothes takes up room, and inhibits expansion of our developing style.

We shed our clothes, and we shed our skin. Yet, we throw neither away.

Change is inevitable. We can choose prepare ourselves, or we can choose not to.
Either way, it’ll come. And whether or not you want to, you’ll find yourself adapting to this change. So why not embrace it?

Like trends in fashions, change comes in cycles.

To change is to let go.


The future scares us because it means change.  We fear that who we are not is not able for the future. However, who we are now will develop, grow and transform into a person who can deal with the inevitability of the future. It’s hard for us to comprehend that person now.

But we can’t be our future self if we don’t let our present grow.

And to do that means letting go of expectations of what you think life should be, de-cluttering your life of everything that was once important, but no longer serves you.

Clear your space of old reminders and it’ll clear your mind. Shed your skin and it’ll shed your old perspective to reveal a fresh perspective, ready and ambitious for change.


Let go of all that once was, and embrace what is yet to be.



Friday, 2 June 2017

Where it began...


I stood there, crying whilst I stared at the frayed laces on my little black-patented shoe…

It was the same every morning before school. I’d spend an hour pulling at my laces to ensure they were the tightest they could be. If my shoes felt ‘just right’, then I believe my day would be good. God forbid if they didn’t. Have I mentioned I’m a redhead? Redhead is synonymous with fiery tempered.

Little did my parents know that their flustered little four-year-old redheaded fuse box was actually showing signs of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D.)


You see? O.C.D isn’t about contamination or cleaning! 

It gets worse. Let me tell you how.

At this young age of four I knew there was something wrong with me before I even knew some words. My innocence was my refuge. I would be singing every moment of the day when I was a child, despite my morning ordeals.

It wasn't until age 21 that I was diagnosed with O.C.D, just after I had graduated with my degree in Drama.
The most liberating day of my life was the day I got my diagnosis. It meant more to me than any degree or qualification could.
I sat on my sofa moments after ripping the letter from its envelope, in the most untidy and riotous way may I add, and cried with relief. ‘So I’m not mad?’ I thought to myself.
‘There’s actually a name and help for these thoughts I have?’


Yup! It’s O.C.D and the World Health Organization will tell you that it’s the TENTH most debilitating disorder in the word.

Yes, you read that right. “O.C.D is in the top ten most debilitating disorders IN THE WORLD.”

‘What?!’

Why was I only hearing about this now? I could have been helped long before I was.

Ah, but you see. That’s stigma for you!

My parents weren’t able to detect that my claims of “I’ve that bad feeling again” as something to be concerned about. They, like the generations before them, didn’t recognize ‘Mental Health’ as something separate and just as important as physical health.

Nobody wanted to acknowledge that they had this ‘bad feeling’ that my young self would often murmur about.

With the history of ‘mental asylums’ and ‘lunacy acts’, it’s no wonder it was something that we all pretended we didn’t have. Even the innocent ‘ringing in the ear’, that we now know as tinnitus, was a sure sign of ‘madness’.

Panic and anxiety were my shadows. Every thing that was bright in my life was soon in overcast with the darkness that loomed by, always at close proximity. As if watching me, and ready to sweep in to consume me, if by chance, I were to enjoy myself. I began to forget what it was to be a child, whilst still a child.

“It’s all in your head” my Mother would say to me, repeating what my Doctor had just said to me seconds before as I sat in a bleak G.P’s office with two sets of bewildered eyes staring at me.

They were right, it was all in my head, and it was festering.

I had stopped singing.

Innocence lost!

As I got older the thoughts came.  Sick, vile, twisted intrusive thoughts would stab my brain every second of the day. I would obsess over why ‘I’, Caroline, would have such disturbing thoughts.

“Maybe you are twisted for thinking this” harked the enemy that resided in my skull.

“Maybe you think like this because you are like this!”
 
Logic didn’t stand a chance in my head.

Panic would claw at my neck, and the thunder would roll in my head.
My mind was like a stampede of wild animals caught in a storm.

My body, frozen with fear, duly responded to danger and prepared my body for flight. Nausea to lighten the body for faster running, pumping heart to carry oxygen to my brain quicker, heightened senses to scan for further danger. Sorry body, it’s my brain lying to you again. My brain fooled my primitive safety mechanisms.  I wasn’t in danger, it was my thoughts that were the threat.

And like Silvia Plath herself said “Is there no way out of the mind”

Nope, there certainly is not. Unless Descartes was spot on, in which case I wish someone would let my brain out of its vat already! Maybe steep it overnight beside the peas. Mushy peas,  mushy brain. Quite fitting!

As I grew up, so too did the complexity and severity of my ill mental health.

Like every teenager I knew, a pro at something; skateboarding, chronic laziness, I was a pro at living a life with anxiety on my back.

I love my rock music since day 1, and enjoyed a little Hennessey or two as I got older…O.K maybe three.

I was wisdom’s soul, in youth’s body.  The frequent storms aged me.  Weather-beaten.  I could have sung you songs of experience!
I got older, the drink and partying became less. Not by choice. Why would a 21 year old choose to give up drink and partying?
I had no other option.  My mental health, that was once an unsteady freight train was now derailing.

My sister had her first child premature, and this stressful time for the family sent me into a spiral of stress-induced, O.C.D laced, anxiety riddled, mental health breakdown.

“I DO EXERCISE, I EAT HEALTHY. I NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP”. I said through gritted teeth at a nonchalant Doctor with an annoying tie, a lazy eye-blinking tempo, and too-tight trousers that even my own disturbed mind couldn’t handle.

Of course I was in my local. The Doctors!

For the second time that week I made a point of going to the Doctors for help for my mental health. My usual Doctor was unavailable and so I had to begin all over again, describing how I do exercise and all the ‘helpful’ things but still weren’t working.

Of course, I left feeling deflated.

I couldn’t get help, anywhere.

Panic had me sliding down my bedroom wall, and crutched down into my habitual fetal  position.  Submissive to my mental health that ruled over me.

Again, I tried.

Subdued, tired and hopeless, I said to my usual Doctor “I need help!”

A few weeks later I had an assessment in ‘Adult Psychological Therapies’.
I broke down. I cried. I vented. I verbalized my most disturbing thoughts. I pleaded for help.

More weeks passed.

Little did I know that the familiar sound of the post-man that morning signified the turning point in my life.

“After consulting with the psychiatrist…

                                                                         …O.C.D…

“…a common disorder…
 
                                            …treatable with medication and therapy…

…your Doctor has been informed…

      …begin on 50mg and up it to 200mg…

                                                  …C.B.T waiting list…”

I held my very own winning lottery ticket.
I held my first glimpse of hope, and it was glorious.


Yes, the waiting C.B.T waiting list was long, yes the medication had some side-effects, and yes I made some lifestyle changes, but I was free.
A medical diagnosis of a mental health disorder and a prescription for a hefty dose of S.S.R.I’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)- anti-depressants to the common tongue, is not something one would feel joyous about.

For me, it was everything!

It was an answer to every question.
It was a reason for the anxiety and it was a to end every panic attack.
It was the logic to my illogic
It was the stamp of approval on my existence. FIT FOR PURPOSE.

It was a lifeline.

So what did I do with my new found freedom?

I went to Queen's University in Belfast and trained in the therapy that my O.C.D was being treated with, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (C.B.T)
I then went and trained to become an Integrative Mental Health counsellor.

My redheaded spark burst into a flame and I became unapologetic about who I was. I became vocal, honest about my mental health, and I wasn’t holding back.

I created a blog.

Georgiana, the Dutchess of Devonshire in the 17th Century was an unconventional woman of her time. She surprised many by ignoring social etiquette, defied authority and was her unapologetic self.  I found instant similarities.










                                         With an ode to my fiery temper, I became The Red Dutchess.



And so I took to social media, ready to conquer the unchartered territory of mental health awareness.

Whilst I would have modelled and did some quite lavish modelling jobs, I knew that people would assume that my life was carefree and easy.
People were surprised to watch my first 'Mental Health Monday' You Tube video and find out that I had dealt with mental health issues since I was four years of age.


So when I shared my experience on You Tube I showed people exactly how easy it was for someone to have misconceptions about mental health issues. The general assumption is that mental health has a certain 'look'; someone who looks how they feel.
The shock surrounding my disclosure brought people to empathise with me, to disclose their personal struggles with me, and telling me how my honesty made them feel less alone now that they knew someone who described exactly how they felt.

I couldn't believe the sense of relief I sensed off people, never mind myself.
I knew there was potential in this method and way of de-stigmatizing mental health through social media.


So I started to do more and more specified mental health You Tube videos, posts and help. Then the idea of Replenish was born.

Replenish is my mental health wellbeing programme that invites people to learn about mental health issues such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (O.C.D), Anxiety and Depression through creative therapeutic techniques, in an non-clinical and relaxed environment.
I've developed Replenish in response to the lack of awareness and stigma surrounding mental health, and a alternative to intimidating therapy processes.


We live in a westernized flow of discontent, and it’s hard to break free of that restricted style of living. We restrict ourselves from being our authentic selves, for fear of being marginalized and we deprive ourselves of gaining insight to ourselves.
What we can do is replenish our way of living by re-evaluating and re-appreciating our lives with a different perspective and understanding. Therefore, Replenish is aimed at bringing people to regenerate their outlook and approach to life by learning  understand that the drive for ‘happiness’ is unattainable as it’s as temporary as a fit of anger. Happiness, like trends, come and goes. It’s contentment that we seek, and contentment comes from looking around you with gratitude.

My gratitude comes from the hidden motive of my mental health illness. All along, its torture was its lesson and I’m bringing that lesson with me and sharing it with every single person I meet.

There have been numerous cycles of Replenish workshops that have already happened and there are demands for the workshops to be held in Sligo, Dublin and even as far as Cork and Wales.
Replenish is a new way for our society to understand mental health, to not be afraid of it and to educate the masses on how they can help themselves AND others by becoming informed.

Mental Health awareness is my passion, and I won't stop until it is acknowledged that it's O.K to have a mental health issue and there is always hope to be held, even if it is a diagnosis. 

Today? I'm the person my four year old self needed. I'm damn proud to be her.



More information on joining a Replenish workshop:

Book Online -- Replenish




Monday, 23 January 2017

Our Lives are in Constant Motion...


I always feel like I’m on a unicycle, trying to gain
a balance in my life; learning and studying what moves it takes to gain that balance. Yet, it’s the very process of ‘finding’ the balance that consumes our lives...

We as individuals have a diverse set of conditions by which we live. These Conditions of Worth are set by those around us and ourselves. Most of the time these conditions are not talked about or simply not consciously acknowledged, but they are palpable in every household, society, school, etc. 
For Example, I always thought that 'I will not be content and successful until I graduate and have my graduation photograph on the wall between my brother and sister’s graduation photographs.' 

However, that being said, my parent’s never once put pressure on me academically, they always told me that my best was enough. It was myself from which the pressure came.
It’s surprising how we measure ourselves against the Conditions of Worth we set ourselves because most of the time these conditions manifest from what we see others doing.

People live and work within superficial mind-frames that only focus on how they can be better than others, rather than just bettering themselves. This is because they’re trying to find that balance within themselves, even though they’re not conscious of it. 
We would benefit from thinking about what it is we want, what part of us needs fulfilling.
I find that people yearn for substance in their life, and they think that alcohol and societal status, material gain and wealth is the answer. But it’s not.
I am a girl who loves her clothes and shoes and makeup, and I love shopping, but the feeling of buying something new is short-lived and the ‘buzz’ soon wears off... I know some people can identify with this, whether they like to admit it or not.


"Stand up in the midst of the turbulent water of life and regain our balance."


What I do find fulfilling is looking inward and listening attentively to what my soul and mind needs.
It’s important to attend to your holistic health, because when you tune into your mind and body and soul you will then begin to master the art of balancing your life and you will realise what matters.
Our balance depends on our values, adhering to them so that we know where we stand in the face of adversity and trial instead of being consumed by thoughts of ‘what will I buy when I get paid?’. 
Our values affect our goals, our decisions, our beliefs and behaviours. It lets us become more self-aware, to nurture ourselves and to understand ourselves so that we can rejuvenate.


Stephen Cox, the writer of the blog Balanced Existence, writes that “the waves come in, break and recede. Then they roll on in again. Instead of fighting and being tumbled painfully ashore, feel the waves coming and ride them out.”

So let me ask you to think of something...

➜Imagine yourself standing on the shore of the ocean, faced with the constant motion of our lives (the waves), and think of the waves as the changes of life.
Some may be small and others will come and crash into us, changing our position  and setting us off balance. To regain that balance we must be strong in our mind, our soul and our body. 
Being holistically strong and aware of our values, allows us to stand up in the midst of the turbulent water of life and regain our balance.


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