Breaking the Ice …

toddler wearing purple sweatshirt
Photo by Achilles Demircan on Pexels.com

Yesterday I joined a wonderful class and being the first introductory meeting there were ‘housekeeping’ rules to discuss; where the loos and fire exits were, if a fire alarm was to go off to treat it as genuine as no practices were scheduled, no bad language allowed etc etc.

Two minutes in, the fire alarm goes off, the lady sitting next to me jumps up and exclaims, “Oh Fuck! It’s a fire!” clutches at her knickers, declares an ‘oops’ moment in her excitement and runs, semi crossed-legged out of the room. I’d say it was a pretty good icebreaker.

Katie xx

Ps. To reassure you, it was the toaster in the next door room that set it off! How we laughed! What made you laugh today or yesterday? X

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Scuba Diving … With Anxiety … Really?

 

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I’m sitting here with a large fresh juice, on a ridiculously comfortable sun bed on a ridiculously beautiful beach feeling as though I’ve simultaneously conquered Everest, become the next JK Rowling and saved the human race from drowning in a sea of plastic. In a nutshell, I’m feeling a teensy bit pleased with myself.

I have scuba dived, or is it dove … frankly I don’t give a hoot.

I was a mermaid. I was a mermaid for forty minutes on a coral covered reef surrounded by every imaginable and remarkably-coloured, shaped and sized species of fish, darting here and there, feeding, playing, whatever it is that fish do, whilst they were apparently oblivious to the presence of a couple of visitors in their habitat.

I knew it would test me. Suffering from anxiety, I knew there was a strong possibility of a panic attack or six. I knew that a panic attack under water would most probably be the end of my career as a mermaid. However, on a more positive note, if I was able to control this, I would indeed have conquered my very own Everest, to say nothing of being a superhero.

A video, a lengthy instruction in the pool, lots of information later and before I know it, I am perched on the side of the pitching boat, and being expected to just drop backwards into the sea. I understand that I am safe. I know the logic, I know the drill. But dear God!

It’s like that horrendous game where someone stands behind you and you have to fall backwards into their arms with the belief and trust that they will catch you. I’ve never done it and never will do it, trust not really being my forte. However, I am now having to believe in the knowledge I have been given, the experience of having done it in the swimming pool and I simply have to have faith in myself. Flippin’ marvellous.

Ordinarily, this would have been the perfect situation for a minor meltdown. However my instructor ‘buddy’ was waiting in the sea, my husband (aka the Colonel) was watching with a look of delighted anticipation and the other group of divers were waiting for me before they could go. No pressure then. I took one final look of unadulterated terror at the man helping me, and closing my eyes, holding my breath, (both completely unnecessarily of course) and dropped backwards into the heaving dark water.

Its quite a surprise really when you think you should be dead and in fact you’re most definitely alive. Kevin, my French (and alarmingly good looking) instructor was there, as promised, and I was apparently unharmed, also as promised. Quite extraordinary.

Together French Kevin and I made our way slowly down the line into the depths, with much stopping, starting, squeezing noses (well, really just mine) and sorting out of ears refusing to equalise, alongside trying to keep the emotion under wraps. Despite the multitude of shells with goodness knows what creepy crawlies living inside them and some rather slimy seaweed all attached to the line, I was not letting go. I was beyond getting squeamish over a few beasties … I was so out of my comfort zone I’d need a train, a plane and a bicycle to get me back, for I had bigger fish to fry … I had Betty the Demon to contend with.

Finally we reached the bottom where Kevin had previously explained that we would just sit for ten minutes to adjust. Without the task of equalising to focus on, the panic started almost immediately, roaring around in my brain wanting to take over. Betty the demon is screaming with laughter, heart racing, fear taking over, fear winning. I need to escape. I need to get up, get out. I am afraid. I am desperate. Panic has successfully gripped me by the throat and my shallow, fast breathing is making me nauseous, faint, hot …

Kevin’s hand touches my arm. I hold onto it tightly. He understands. He holds me and with his free arm indicates for me to look into his eyes and mimic his breathing. It is slow, it is controlled. In slowly, out slowly. Repeat. In slowly, out slowly, repeat.

His unwavering stare is reassuring, but odd because it’s not the Colonel’s and he’s awfully close, but hell, right now he’s lucky I’m not sitting on his lap and clinging to his neck like a limpet (thank God for small mercies). My breathing is copying his rhythm, the panic is subsiding, Betty is stomping off, muttering obscenities at a lost opportunity to come back into my world and my head is starting to nod that all is getting better and I finally manage the O.K. signal.

I start to look around, I start to see the wonderful underwater world around me. And the more I look, the more I relax, and the more the breathing becomes normal. We head off, everything is slow and peaceful. Together, we point out the weird, the wonderful, the unutterably beautiful. We share the experience and though this is a normal event in his day to day life, he clearly expresses delight in showing me the glory of this unexplored world.

The corals, the constant movement, the peeping of eyes from deep within a crevice, the darting movements of the fish alongside an overall slow waving motion of the current moving everything in its path and of which one has no control, during which all you can hear is your breathing.

In slowly, out slowly. Repeat. In slowly, out slowly.

This is mindfulness, this is real breathing, this is living in the moment.

The grinning Colonel was waiting for me. In truth, I don’t know which of us was the more exhilarated, the proudest.

And now the sun is dipping down over the horizon, the light is changing and the fishermen are moving slowly across the water in their narrow boats. What a day. Yes, what a day.

Katie xx

Have you scuba dived?

How did you cope? Did you find it easy or not? Any tips?

P.R.O.M.I.S.E.

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Make this promise every single day.

Make a commitment to yourself, your mind and body. Make a promise to put on those rose-tinted glasses that you once, where the world was a wonderful and happy place.

What have YOU done for your mental health today? Can you make this promise to yourself?

P. Prescriptions

If you need them, take them. If they’re not working, change them. Your doctor is your friend – your job is together to find what works for you. And if the doctor doesn’t work, change them.

R. Re-setting The Thought Patterns

Go to therapy, talk to a psychiatrist, talk to a psychologist, learn about CBT and practise, practise, practise every day until your brain starts to ‘unlearn’ the bad habits and learn the good. It works.

O. Outside

Get outside, get some fresh air in your lungs and find the light. Just to let you know, bright moonlight gives you 1 lux, normal living room lighting gives you 100 lux, but being outside on a sunny day gives you 20,000 to 100,000 lux … monumental difference and we need it more than most.

M. Mindfulness

Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, whatever you need to practise daily to start to control the anxiety .. Nb Don’t do the audio cds in the car. I nearly crashed I was so relaxed, and they keep telling you to close your eyes … enough said.

I. Instil proper eating habits

Invest in your body. Think you can live on processed food and feel good? Cooking is for everyone, for you and your family. If your own parents have brought you up on Macdonalds, crisps and ice cream, shoot them (Nb Yes that is a joke) or better still, educate them. If your mind and your body is out of sorts, it’s going to be even harder to get back on an even keel. (Ginger nuts don’t count as long as the whole packet isn’t eaten in one sitting.)

S. Social Interaction

Have a proper chatter and a natter with at least one other human being every single day. The dog does not count, neither does talking to yourself.

E. Exercise

Whatever floats your boat as long as it raises your heart rate and gets the endorphins and dopamine kicking in. Find something, anything that you’re going to stick at.

Make the promise that you’re going to do this every single day and see through those rose-tinted glasses …

Katie x

“And The Sun Shineth …”

 

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London is bathed in the comforting warmth of the spring sun and whilst the pavements are a multitude of light and dark stretched and tangled streaks from the dappled shade of the budding trees, the air is still. My son and I are walking towards another coffee shop to find somewhere to tap away the rambling nonsense which fills the fluffy void between my ears; I am feeling a wonderful sense of being able to breathe and relax and enjoy just this very moment in time.

The world isn’t perfect, parts of my past are black and painful, the future is of course unknown and yet …. and yet … at this moment I feel happy. I am loathe to point out the stain on my character for all and sundry to see, however, I must confess that it’s odd to feel happy when my default setting is the polar opposite.

“Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth”

(As stated in the government Ministry Paper 28 relating to the Jamaican flag.)

The gold recalls the shining sun, black reflects hardships, and green represents the land. It was slightly altered in 1996, but for me, the simplicity of this statement sums up my state of mind … yes, there are hardships and troubles to endure, but the world is good right now and the future I hope is as rosy as it can be.

And what of you? Is your mind akin to the Jamaican flag or am I just barking mad?

Katie xx

Time …

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My late mother’s beautiful clock was broken on our previous move, and despite a lengthy stay in the clock hospital, it never recovered. However, as I sit around the boxes stacked up high, I can hear a gentle ticking. And every half hour the beautiful ting, ting, tinging chime of mother’s clock can be heard from the depths of one of those boxes. The fact that it has got the hour completely wrong is immaterial and merely receives a raised eyebrow from the Colonel following a glance at his watch, and a smile from me.

Just the familiar sound of ticking is comforting. I have missed it, and the gentle, regular sound takes me back to my mother’s house and the peace and serenity that prevailed there. The safety and reassurance. The complete quiet, except the ticking of the clock.

So this is mindfulness! …. At last I understand it.

In a troubled world where nothing is certain and the future is a fictional imagining based on what we’ve worked for, what we hope for and a smattering of luck, sometimes the constancy and familiarity of a person or even a silly old clock ticking along in the background is not only soothing, but part of the multifaceted foundations essential for a balanced life.

Katie