38. The World’s Strongest Man.

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What have I done for my mental health today?

We know, because we’ve had it rammed down our throats by well-meaning friends, family and professionals what we should be doing every day.

We know we should be exercising, getting outside, eating properly, keeping busy, taking our meds, seeing our therapist, doing yoga and meditation. We know that we should not be drinking too much, not procrastinating, not overthinking, not hiding in our beds waiting to feel better, waiting for the exhaustion, panic and anxiety to fade. Frankly I’m panicking just thinking about it all.

But these are just words, words that are so easy to say and yet with these endless lists of things that we should and shouldn’t be doing it’s no surprise that it all becomes overwhelming, anxiety sets in followed hot on the heels of procrastination and what then happens? Zip, nothing, nada. Back to square one on the Snakes and Ladders board again. See post Snakes and Ladders.

Frankly …… Arghhhhh!

Now apparently, the current worlds strongest man is a British fellow called Eddie Hall. He is the only man able to deadlift 500kg under strongman rules. I have no clue what the rules are, and frankly I don’t give a stuff, because that’s half a bloomin’ ton … That’s lifting up a horse or a cow with two hands.

An incredible feat! This surely shows how strong the body can be, but also how mind-blowingly more powerful the mind actually is. His body was screaming at him, but his mind overruled it. (Until he had a nosebleed and passed out, but that’s beside the point!)My point to this is that when a wee Eddie popped into this world, I daresay his mother had no idea that in 30 years time her son would be picking up the equivalent of an Angus Cow for pleasure. But more importantly, he wouldn’t have been able to have done this the moment he appeared. His physical and mental ability has taken years to grow and perfect. He started out small. He learned what his limits were, he worked, he strived, he increased his limits both mentally and physically.

And that’s absolutely no different to us!

We start with baby steps. Steps so small they’re akin to a little hamster. Yes, I’m warming to my theme …. Hamster steps, a little scuttle here, a little scuttle there. A stop, a twitch the nose (not strictly necessary), a little regroup to evaluate where we’re at, a look around, and then off to do another little scuttle.

And we grow. And our scuttling becomes more confident. We start to walk. We start to walk with our head held high. We stride. And we grow braver, bigger and stronger and able to do more and more, just like Eddie Hall. We practise, we work, sometimes we fail, but we just get back up and try again. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but someone somewhere had to start laying the initial few stones.

So remember when you’re taking those first little baby steps, that once upon a time our mate Eddie Hall, the World’s Strongest Man, was once just like us, a teeny little nose-twitching frightened hamster.

Kx

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34. No Clean Socks!

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Yesterday something completely new, novel and rather bizarre happened. I certainly don’t want to jump the gun, count my chickens before they’ve hatched or continue spurting any other idioms for that matter, but I’m nervously excited. Little butterflies of trepidation fluttering inside me ….

Please forgive the very basic simplicity of this, but this is the level that I’m at right now! But I am wondering if anyone out there (she ask hopefully) has similar thought processes …

The Situation aka The Fact

No clean socks in the drawer for sport.

Previous/Usual Thought Processes and Actions

Panic and stress, leading to upending all the other drawers in case sports socks have walked by themselves into t-shirt or knicker drawer. Heart racing. Mental beating with large pointy stick whilst berating myself for being so disorganised, utterly unprepared and useless once again. I wonder how The Colonel can possibly want to be married to such a pathetic creature. I have reinforced that no, I am not a domestic goddess however much I’d like to be. Anger followed by despondency kicks in.

Previous solution

Wear previous days sports socks? Noooooo, that’s grim. Can’t stoop that low.

Wear non-sport socks? No, they slip inside my trainers and besides then everyone will know that I’ve not got clean socks to wear and have had to resort to this…. oh the shame (despite the knowledge that others have been seen playing in jeans and espadrilles because they forgot their kit.

Final decision

I won’t go and play tennis today. I’m in such a bad mood anyway that I’ll play badly and this mood is infectious and nobody wants to catch that. Cup of tea and turn on iPad.

Summary

All negative! What a surprise … not.

YESTERDAY!

The Situation aka The Fact

No clean socks in the drawer for sport.

Brand Spanking New/Most Unusual Thought Processes

Ahhh, it’s because I’ve done two lots more tennis this week. Crikey that’s great. Well done me! Metaphorical patting and slapping on the back. Big smiles. Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling a bit chirpy this week? No shit Sherlock …

Instant Solution

See if I have any drying on any radiators around the house, or borrow a pair from The Colonel or wear a pair or two of normal socks and if they’re a bit slidey, well heck, it’s not like I’m playing at Wimbledon! (Snorts of laughter ensue, followed by some serious day dreaming of me on Centre Court looking fabulous in a tanned and blonde sort of way playing the most unbelievable shots leaving Serena Williams looking baffled …) Back to earth …

Final Outcome

Put on two pairs of non-sports socks, patted myself on the back, again, and as I’m leaving the house, find a pair drying on the kitchen radiator. I am a domestic goddess! Think if I’m going to continue playing so much tennis, I might go and buy some more socks … oooh I see a shopping outing in the offing! Yay! Double yay!

I sit quietly in the car. I have never felt this before. This momentary feeling of having no anxiety. The light and relaxed feeling of thinking ‘What does it really matter? It’s just a pair of socks’. Is this the endless CBT that I was so convinced was nonsense and couldn’t possibly work for me, actually beginning to infuse into my brain … Is there some sort of osmosis going on?

This is a new sensation and it’s glorious and I want to hold onto it. I want to hold on to this wonderful, lightness in my mind for longer. Is this how other people think? How utterly, utterly liberating. I don’t want this feeling to leave me. But surely, if it’s happened once, then it can happen again? Can’t it?

One small but impossibly heavy link on the chains that holds me down in my murky sea has just crumbled beneath me and I’m gently moving upwards towards the light. I can see it, I can almost touch it. Please, please don’t let this feeling go.

Kxx

32. Procrastination!

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Is it just laziness?

According to the experts, apparently not.

I’ve researched, googled, contrasted and compared, and the consensus is, that ‘Procrastination is the habit of delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead. It is different from laziness, which is the unwillingness to act’.

Excellent! I am not unwilling to act. I do a multitude of different tasks, (not the one actually required) therefore I am not lazy. I will do anything, from making (yet another) cup of tea, to organising the cleaning products under the kitchen sink (how sad), to having a little chat with Albert the Amaryllis sitting in its little pot on the table. (Even sadder. However I must tell you, looking more glorious by the day, clearly due to our endless chats.) Whilst in the meantime, the main, and only job that I actually need to do remains festering in my mind whipping up increased anxiety, with its friends, stress and guilt following hot on its heels. But apparently this means that I’m not lazy … Phew! The experts have concluded that I’m not bone idle!

To be honest, however, given half a chance, I wouldn’t do all those other little, more enjoyable tasks, but something deep within me prevents me from lying on the sofa with yet another cup of tea and a packet of chocolate biscuits whilst watching endless re-runs of The Graham Norton show. That something is my conscience. Double phew! …. I apparently now have a conscience too. A good start. Perhaps I’m not completely flawed after all.

However in ‘Psychology Today’, procrastination reflects our perennial struggle with self-control. Ahhh now that I know, is one of my failings. Self-control, discipline, lack of good habits and abundance of bad habits is something very close to my heart, as I am becoming increasingly aware that this is the basis of so many of my problems.

What I have found is that the feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety that occur while procrastinating are 100% worse than the actual performance of doing the task in question. The anticipation is so very much worse than the actual event. The problem is not in doing the work, it’s simply starting the work. Once I’m doing it, whoop whoop … it’s a doddle! Once it’s done (and more often than not, without any of the pre-conceived problems that have been building in my head) I feel glorious! I’ve achieved! I’m a super hero! I am Wonder Woman, complete with shield and sword, but minus the dodgy shorts.

Studies show that procrastinators are often perfectionists, as in, they feel that if they can’t do something perfectly, then they back off from the task, rather than not being able to do it ‘with perfection’. At the other end of the scale, (more like me) there are those who don’t have any confidence in their abilities, so that then leads to the task being deserted completely.

Another major cause of procrastination is poor decision-making. If you can’t decide what to do, you’ll likely put off taking action in case you do the wrong thing. (Hello, and welcome to my world). Personally, I’m not good at making decisions. In the past I have made bad ones, which simply goes to reinforce and confirm that I shouldn’t make decisions because I make bad, rotten ones. So simple solution, I put off making the decision hoping that some poor soul will do it for me or I’ll be forced into a decision being made for me which usually has a worse outcome.

We also know that ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression are associated with procrastination. Bit of the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario there … which came first, the depression and anxiety, or the procrastination? I don’t know and frankly I don’t think it makes much difference. I just need to end this habit. Because that is what it is. Procrastination is a habit – a deeply ingrained pattern of behaviour that I need to fight daily in order to break it.

So, in real terms, how do I resolve this ‘non lazy’ procrastination problem of mine?

Well I’ve rather taken matters into my own hands and have created a short list of my plan! If however, anyone has any other suggestions, fill your boots … I’d love to hear them!

  1. Make a to-do list each evening for the following day. No more than 5 things and in priority order. It will be simple and short thereby not making it too daunting and scary.
  2. Anything that can be done within minutes of the first morning cup of coffee touching my lips, I shall do. This is pre 8am so it’s ambitious but I do know that getting all the bad stuff done before you’ve had time to start overthinking it, takes the pain out of it. A bit like eating the nasty things on your plate first so that then you can relax and slowly enjoy the best bits.
  3. Do not deviate from The List. Only in extreme circumstances may I do other jobs. Extreme, as in husband needing a lift to Accident and Emergency because he’s hurt himself, and there is blood everywhere, thereby creating another job of clearing up to go on The list. It would be counter-productive not to drive him to hospital. More cleaning and he may suggest divorce. Negative outcome.
  4. Do not find easy little tasks (looking at stats, making more coffee, nattering on the phone (with sister, friends, mother-in-law) until The List is done, crossed off and ripped up and thrown in the bin with flourish and gusto.
  5. When The List is in said bin, have a huge pat on the back, followed by a treat. Chocolate in any form, feet up, blog writing, checking stats, reading, whatever floats my boat at the time. Put simply, a reward.

In time I understand, that ‘praising the good behaviour’ (which is slightly akin to dealing with a small child), will become less necessary as the sheer happiness, relief and delight of having got the jobs done will be enough. I still need however to be treated like a child even on good days, and frankly will never say no to chocolate.

So in answer to my fellow blogger who challenged me to put a Just Do It poster on my wall and incorporate it into my blog, I hope I have exceeded your expectations and gone the extra mile by dedicating a whole morning and a bit, to Procrastination! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading up on this and coming up with a plan. Of course I haven’t got much else done today, but then again, apparently my to-do list doesn’t need to be written until tonight, so there’s plenty of time ….

😘

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30. The Pot Plant

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I’m a gardener. That’s what I do. Gardening is how I have earned enough money to keep the children in food, clothes, cinema tickets, Jack Wills and/or Hollister hoodies (usually and), followed later on by the inevitable laptop (“Durr Mother … I need it for school.” “Does this mean your grades will improve?” I ask in response, and am promptly granted a withering look) and of course, mobile phones (“Double Durr Mother… In case we’re abducted by some axe-wielding madman” … Hmmm, best not answer that one). Most eloquent, my children.

Gardening is what I love to do. Transforming bland areas into a places of beauty with a few seeds, cuttings and a whole lot of hard graft. Total therapy …. mindfulness to the nth degree and even better when it’s not accompanied by horizontal rain and gale force winds. There’s nothing worse than cold water seeping in through your collar, working it’s way down your back and finally reaching your knickers. I really do dislike a cold, soggy bottom, but then I am a soft southerner.

However, indoor plants are quite simply not my thing. I may have RHS qualifications and experience coming out of every orifice, but indoor plants … no. Indoor plants require attention … they are needy, demanding. Only room for one individual with those traits in this house (no prizes for guessing who).

I underwater them, I over-compensate and then overwater them. Over, under, over, under. I forget about them on their windowsills. I forget about them in sitting room, the kitchen and they hate my inconsistencies. They become flaccid and droop, yellow from chlorosis, turn up their toes and die, invariably then finding their way, with a helping hand from yours truly, to the compost bins….. Never having flowered, produced seeds and and therefore never even having been allowed an attempt at reproducing. Imagine going to the grave, never having had sex …. A life badly lived.

Now, I mentioned a few weeks ago that a friend of mine had very kindly given me a box containing an Amaryllis, complete with plastic pot and appropriate compost, and yet my heart sank. Oh God, the pressure to keep it alive! To make matters worse, she is a neighbour who often pops in for coffee, a chatter, a natter and a general putting of the world to rights. Would I have to hide the evidence of one flaccid Amaryllis and it’s impending doom? Should I not allow her into the sitting room perhaps? She was bound to ask … And I am supposed to be The Gardener. She who knows all. Clearly not the case after all.

So, I made a decision. I would treat this plant as I am now treating myself. I would nurture it. I would nurture it with love, consistency, routine and structure (and a teensy bit of Baby Bio if things got bad). I would water it as per the instructions and not deviate. I would feed it also, as per the instructions. I would take my orders and do exactly as I was told. For those of you who are beginning to get to know me, you’ll know that this is not my forte, however, this is the new me and I’m really, really trying.

If it died, then the penalty would be to go and purchase a brand spanking, shiny new one, complete with flowers and pot and costing about the same as two packets of cigarettes or two bottles of wine. And finally, I would have to confess all to my friend. Ha! The deal has been struck and hands have been metaphorically shaken. I have a job to do.

Weeks have now passed. And as I sit here in the warmth of the sitting room with the January sunlight streaming though the windows, I glance over to the table where a tiny miracle of nature has taken place. An Amaryllis standing proudly with rich and succulent green leaves is just, just starting to flower. The swollen buds are no longer tightly closed, but instead are unfurling, opening gently and slowly, revealing the luminous purity of the beautiful white petals within.

A sense of peace and pride is washing over me as I realise that everything needs nurturing, but more importantly, nurturing with consistency. We need it, our relationships need it, our children and even, a silly old plant.

Kxx

28. Baking … The Best Therapy?

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When I arrived in Scotland, I started to cook. Not just the run-of-the-mill hearty stews which I now discover are a necessity as the weather is dire, but something more ‘fiddly’ to prove to the Colonel that I have many undiscovered talents simply waiting in the wings to be unleashed …

The other reason for this new activity, is because yet another radiator has decided to pack up, meaning that there’s only one way to keep warm, and that’s to keep active whilst I wait for the teeth-sucking plumber called Trevor.

Trevor is not a happy man.  Trevor has to be plied with two cups of coffee before he can start work.  Trevor is hard work. Trevor also likes to discuss at length how his ex-wife ran off with a tree surgeon called Marc (that’s Marc with a ‘c’ he likes to tell me). If I ever want a drink more, it’s when Trevor arrives. “Think kind thoughts” I repeat to myself.

So whilst I wait for Trevor, I begin to bake.

I started with ‘Miniature Victoria Sponges’ (sound a bit like fairy cakes so not that testing surely?).

Admittedly I forgot the baking power and had to sprinkle a random amount into each individual cake after 7 minutes in the oven hence the somewhat erratic size and shape, but a bit of sawing off of a soggy bottom here and a burnt top, there resulted in a not too bad end result …

Secondly, chocolate ice cream – I thought I was being bit too adventurous with this one, but actually it was nothing short of a doddle (and delicious, if you can cope with the knowledge that a cardiac arrest or at the very least diabetes is only round the corner …)

And strangely, I enjoyed making them. It was calming, soothing even and faintly therapeutic because you have to give it your full attention, no minds wandering into dark places when there’s ice cream at stake. You read the recipe (… properly), you follow the recipe and ker-ching! something sweet and delectable to nibble follows – what’s not to like?

However, on putting the ice cream in the freezer and seeing that we had run out of ice for the Colonel’s gin and tonic, new wife here and wanting to please, I called Trevor to let him know I’d leave the keys for him and drove to find bags of ice.

I collected said ice, registered with the local GP (Nb they don’t hand out pills unless you’ve had the afore-mentioned cardiac arrest – tough bunch up here – begging does not work I also note), but, they do spend over and above the usual allotted time to discuss their family (photos included) and expect the same detail from you – it might be considered rude not to, and one doesn’t want to offend and one does want the drugs … suffice to say, by the time I arrived back at the car, my ice was not ice, but a wobbly, leaking bag of iced water on the heated leather (gulp) seat of the very new car.

I love a heated seat … A warm bottom when you haven’t felt your ears or feet for 3 days is something akin to a ‘heavenly moment’ – when ones nether regions truly believe that they have moved to the equator. So, the new car, the Colonel’s pride and joy and my mini equator, now somewhat soggy.

Visions of angry new husband …. visions of leather no longer stretched beautifully across seat, just a bobbly, wrinkled affair and a shockingly big bill … honeymoon period firmly terminated with no G & T to placate. Stress and anxiety roaring through me now.

Much mopping, swearing and praying … promises to always be kind to everyone for the rest of my life, including the children and even Trevor, if only the leather didn’t shrink, expand or turn into something resembling a prune.

I think God might have been listening, as an hour later the Colonel returned home none the wiser, his pride and joy beautiful, intact and still with taut leather, but his strangely exhausted wife curled up on the floor beside the fire, a socking great G & T at the ready with no ice, but an unusually smiling Trevor eating some rather oddly-shaped Victoria sponges in a very cold kitchen.

I shall try some more therapeutic baking next week when I’ve recovered.

Kx

27. Normal is Good

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On social media, everyone is seemingly very, very happy. All of them (apparently) enjoying a blissful existence of beautiful, laughing children on sun drenched beaches with parents exclaiming how they are having a ‘Proud Mummy moment’ (urghh!) as their daughter number one, two or three (or perhaps all) have been accepted to Oxford University, meanwhile their gorgeous hubby has just swept them away on an eye-wateringly expensive safari trip as pictures of distant lions are thrust into our inbox. Similarly in the press, flawless models and celebrities pose outside the popular London nightlife haunts, with glowing perfect skin, no cellulite (God forbid), spots or a muffin-top to be seen. Everything looks so darn perfect and so darn predictable.

However, we also know, that this a totally air-brushed version of what the truth is. And yet, when it’s constantly thrust down our throats, we do start to believe it.

It’s human nature and it goes without saying that it makes us look at our lives slightly negatively. Jealously creeps in, slipping and sliding its way into our minds until the green-eyed monster makes us just a teensy bit dissatisfied and disappointed with our own lives. Our ordinary trips to the supermarket, our jobs, our daily mind-numbingly dull and endless chores of housework and whinging children frankly all seem just a little bit … meh!

Is it however to be expected and the norm to be wandering around in a state of euphoria? Of course not.  I don’t see the average person going around the supermarket or at work with a constant grin on their faces. In London they would be avoided like the plague. Up here in Glasgow they would probably be sectioned.

How many times do we say, “Everyone else is happy, why can’t I be happy? Why can’t my life be like that? I would be happy if my life was like that? Depression and anxiety suck!”

And yet, these people, these apparent friends of ours are simply wanting us to believe that their life is a constant holiday in the Caribbean.

However ….. What is the truth? The truth is that the husband has been having an affair, they both have a drink problem and child number three has just been expelled for selling weed. The safari holiday was a last ditch attempt to save the marriage, escape the mistress (who has now turned into a bunny-boiler) and in actual fact, those were the only two lions that they saw after seven hours confined in a 4-by-4 with three bellyaching kids, no WiFi and two of the three missed it anyway.

So now we know the truth. Now we can choose to either accept what is being thrust daily in our faces and believe it, or take it all with a little pinch of salt, give a smile, move away and instead, start concentrating on our own lives.

So now, instead of wishing for a perpetual smile and asking myself every day if I am happy, I shall ask myself, “Am I ok?”.  If the answer is yes, then that is good.  That is normal, and normal is good.

I will ride out the inevitable storms in the knowledge, that they will end.

I will relish and delight in those fleeting moments of total joy and happiness.

And for the rest, for the average day-to-day life of simply living, I will enjoy the feeling of peace and of normality. Because normal, is good.

Kx

26. Having a Hobby, or ‘A Thing’

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I’ve never much liked the word hobby. It’s always tended to conjure up images of groups of 80 year olds sitting in a draughty church hall doing crochet, undoubtedly wearing large polyester floral skirts with elasticated waists and discussing the merits of their husbands vegetable patch ……

I’ve had single girlfriends who have secretly joined Salsa evening classes, until a few weeks later they can’t talk about it enough. Worse still, they have tried to coerce me into joining them. Err, no thanks! Raving about the liberating joys of learning something new and meeting different people. Why on earth would I want to do that?

Why would I want to risk making a complete fool of myself, standing on the edge of a roomful of Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers, whilst nobody picked me to have as their partner. Oh nooo! Besides, I had friends. Why would I need any more? My own little random group of friends, strangely however from the same middle class background with the same dress sense, likes, dislikes and thoughts as me. Was this a coincidence or had I subconsciously chosen friends because as they were like me, therefore they were deemed safe and I could therefore trust them?

However, that was in the old days, the bad days. Those were in the negative days. To be honest I was not only just a teensy bit narrow-minded but also somewhat uneducated. I knew nothing! Not that I know an awful lot now, but perhaps I am slightly more open to ideas. And of course, this was before I discovered my ‘thing’ (autocorrect just put in ‘thong’ rather than ‘thing’ which has made me smile, childish I know … I’m sure I discovered thongs a long time ago!). I don’t have a hobby, I have a ‘thing’.

And tennis is my thing.

It’s my focus … for several hours a week, I think completely and utterly on one thing. I do something completely alien to me which is to concentrate! I’m pretty sure Roger Federer isn’t serving for the match whilst stressing over what to buy his wife for her birthday or whether Trevor the plumber is going to turn up that day. During those hours I have no negative or anxious thoughts, and that is becoming so regular that it’s becoming a habit. A good habit. Betty the Demon Depressive doesn’t get a word in. She is silent. I am not feeding the beast, so she is wilting. Simples.

It’s my sport …. it’s exercise which means endorphins, dopamine, serotonin start leaping into action, boosting my mood. They are real and they work. The exercise has helped my skin; it makes me drink more water which helps every organ in my body. I can wallop a ball with such force that all my frustrations fragment and disappear. Despite being a skinny bird, age is cruel thing and where bingo wings, muffin tops and love handles once were, muscles are appearing. This makes me more confident and the Colonel’s glasses steam up more … both of which are positives in my book. (The latter perhaps needing to be kept under control from time to time).

And finally, it’s a part of my routine and structure …. It’s one of my daily tasks. It gives me a sense of purpose and control with my life, mind and body. I need routine and structure more than most people. Without it, there’s always the fear that I really might end up doing nothing all day and hiding away in my little home, wrapping my bingo wings around me with nothing to talk about.

And finally, it’s my social interaction with the world. I have new friends. Friends who are different from me. Friends of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. I have no one to hide behind, no children, husband or alcohol. I have learned from them that being yourself is good. We talk nonsense mostly, laughing about nothingness. We laugh, we tease, we tell each other our woes and our joys. We put the world to rights. They don’t judge me and I don’t judge them. They are quite simply, fabulous.

So, if anyone out there is even just starting to think about having a new ‘thing’, then my advice (without being preachy … what right have I?) then don’t overthink it, just do it!

Don your very best floral, elasticated skirt, head down to the church hall and start doing it …. Crochet, tennis, salsa, Ethiopian basket weaving – whatever floats your boat. But you’ll end up with considerably more than just a new hobby. You’ll have a whole new part to your life. A very, very good part.

Kx