Routine

What does having a routine mean to you?

Do you find routine boring?

Do you find it comforting?

Do you feel it’s holding you back? 

Do you find it a necessity? 

Do you desperately need it for your survival? 

For someone like me who suffers badly with anxiety, having a steady routine and therefore knowing exactly what I’m doing, is vital. A solid routine helps me to feel safe. That being said, even I like to mix it up from time to time and recognise the importance of doing this. Staying in your comfort zone is all well and good, but if I stayed in mine all the time, I’d never leave the house! Pushing yourself a little further, allows you to experience so much more and ultimately lead to living a more fulfilled life. I know all this to be true, but it’s still easier said than done.

Having an element of routine and the structure that comes with this, seems to me to be the sensible way to approach life. But I’ve always been an excessive planner, even before my mental health issues. I’m the sort of person who likes to know what’s around the next corner, both literally and figuratively speaking. Where as some people might enjoy the element of surprise, I deeply fear it!  Some might see this as a tad obsessive but then again most of you don’t have an anxiety disorder to contend with. Obviously much depends on what hardships you’ve faced in life and how many mental scars you’ve been left with.

Sports men and woman can be extremely obsessive with their routines. Some of their superstitions can seem ludicrous to most of us. Anything from having a lucky pair of socks, to lining their water bottles up in a precise order. These acts might seem odd, but we all share in having  little idiosyncrasies- perhaps to a lesser extent. Lets take an every day thing like having a shower. Without even realising it, you will automatically do things in a certain order, and it would feel strange to do things any differently.

When I get out of the shower I always start by drying my feet first and then working my way up my body, eventually drying my chest and arms, and finishing with my head. Many people may think this to be extremely odd, they may in fact do it in the completely opposite order to me. It might make more sense to dry your hair first to stop it dripping everywhere, but I’m bald on top, so don’t have that problem! Anyway what ever your preferred method is, I bet you’ve done it exactly the same way for as long as you can remember. If you try altering this routine, even slightly, it will completely throw you out of sink. It might even ruin the whole experience! The fact is we all take comfort in routine to a certain degree.

You’ve all heard of the saying,practice makes perfect’ . Having a repetitive routine can be used as a legitimate learning method, as the more you do something the more automatic it becomes. Bruce Lee puts it perfectly when he says ‘Don’t fear the man that knows how to do 10,000 kicks, but fear the man who knows only one kick but has practiced it 10,000 times’  

I’m striving to be the Bruce Lee of table tennis! I already have a half decent backhand but my forehand is slightly weaker (some might say much weaker, but I’m going to stick to slightly!) When the ball comes to this side I’m constantly having doubts about the shot. Is my technique right? Am I letting the ball drop to much? Is my bat angle right? Are my feet in the correct position? Through repetitive practice routines, my shots are improving and becoming more consistent. Hopefully one day they will be automatic and effortless, just like my backhand.

Driving a car is a good example. Most drivers would tell you that in their first couple of driving lessons, nothing felt natural, everything was like an alien concept to them, and they couldn’t imagine ever being able to drive on their own. But then, with much  perseverance and repetition, what seemed like an impossible feat, not only became possible, but soon became second nature to them. This exact same mind-set can be applied when facing any challenges. Like I’ve already said, I use it in table tennis to try and improve my game.

It’s also about taking one manageable step at a time, as apposed to giant unrealistic leaps! This is especially relevant if you have a mental health illness and you’re in a vulnerable, unpredictable state of mind. A friend of mine, who’s battled her mental health all her life, told me that when the illness is at it’s worst, her daily challenges can involve simply getting out of bed, and getting washed and dressed. I can appreciate this, as depression tightens it’s grip over you, even the simplest of tasks can take great effort. You can’t see the point of doing anything anymore- including washing and dressing. But it’s important to keep challenging yourself, however small and pointless these challenges seem. This same lady is now able to travel the country on her own, giving inspirational talks in rooms full of  people, she continues to spread much needed awareness and fills me with hope for my future. She has proven to me that anything is possible, but who knows if she’d have ever reached this stage, if she hadn’t continued challenging herself, even in her darkest hours. Somehow I doubt she would.

Alternative christmas message

Alternative Christmas Message

I’ve always loved christmas. It helps that I’ve got such a close knit family. As much as it’s an alien concept to some, we actually all get on with each other! It also helps that they understand my mental state and how socialising can be excruciatingly difficult for me, even around people I like.  This being said, I appreciate christmas can be a hard time for a lot of people and I wanted to do this christmas message as a reminder of this. christmas message

For some people, as all the festivities are taking place around you and everyone seems to be having so much fun, it’s almost like they’re rubbing your nose in it and you can be left feeling trapped and more lonely than ever.

The christmas period is a time for reflection on the year just gone, and contemplation about the one to come. For someone with a long term mental health illness, this can be an exceptionally daunting prospect. I can soon get overwhelmed when I think to far ahead. And when I think about what little I’ve acheived, compared to what I view as the average person, I can get on a major downer. For those people like me, I strongly advise that you try to keep in the present. It’s pointless living in the past or in the future. You can’t change what’s been, and you can never guarantee what’s still to come. The only thing you can remotely control, is the here and now. You need to be kind to yourself, stop beating yourself up and having unrealistic expectations. This of course is easier said than done and even harder when you have severe depression. My christmas message is  one of hope and optimism, but also one of realism.

I’m still a work in progress. I still have long periods of time when it’s hard just to get out of bed and face the world. My anxiety disorder is still debilitating to say the least, but being able to talk openly about my illness and avoid bottling up my emotions, has made a huge positive difference to my life. With more and more people coming forward to seek help for their mental health, It’s important to remember what it was like for you and If you’re not a sufferer, try to imagine, and treat others as you’d wish to be treated yourself. In short we need to give them the compassion and support they need.

How many people make pointless new years resolutions that prove to be unacheivable and are usually broken with in a matter of weeks. It’s important to keep challenging yourself, but I do this by setting small managable goals, irrespective of the time of year.

I understand why people view the new year as an opportunity of a fresh start, but I would suggest not putting so much emphasis on it. If you take nothing else from this christmas message, remember every morning the sun will rise on a brand new day. You can choose any time of year as a chance of a new start.

I’d like to finish my christmas message by sharing some of the good news  that has happened throughout 2017. With all the doom and gloom on the news everyday It’s easy to forget all the remarkable uplifting stories that take place. Thanks again to all those who continue to support me by reading this blog and sharing it with friends.

JANUARY

christmas messageRussian firefighters saved 150 piglets from burning barn. Pigs given a new temporary home in a neighbouring farm.

 

 

A sixth grader named Jackson, shaved his head to show support for his cancer-stricken grandfather. His classmates made fun of his new look. The principle taught all the students a valuable lesson of acceptance by shaving his own head in an assembly in front of the entire school.

FEBUARY

A homeless man in Manchester has been reunited with his family. A woman known as Bev noticed the man sleeping outside in the cold.

christmas message

 

She gave the owner of a near by sandwich shop 15 pounds to provide the man with breakfast and warm drinks for the week.

The cafe shared the act of kindness on their facebook page and the story went viral. within days he was reunited with his family.

 

MARCH

Fearless diver Joshua Eccles helps injured shark. Joshua was diving in the ocean when the shark approached him and kept nudging into him. This was unusual behaviour and the shark was in obvious discomfort. He managed to remove a large hook from it’s belly and the shark stayed swimming around him for some time afterwards, almost as if showing gratitude to his new friend.

Formerly abused rescue dog Peanut, saves 3 year old girl she found naked and shivering in a ditch. Peanut began crazy barking and yelping to alert her owners.

April

London marathon runner gives up on his own race less than a mile from the finish, in order to help exhausted athlete to cross the line.

In America, stranger drives past and notices a women struggling to support her amputee husband up the steps to their home. Not only did he stop and help the couple, but he also returned the following day with some friends and built a disabled ramp right up to the front door.

MAY

7 year old Elly Neville raised £100,000 for the cancer ward at Withnybush hospital, after they had saved her dads life. She origionally intended on £500 which is still a large sum to a 7 year old. Her remarkable fundraising still continues.

33 circus lions return home to Africa after 18 month rescue effort after spending their entire lives being misstreated and abused by their owners. They get to spend the rest of their days living in peace at Emoya Big cat sanctuary.

 

 

 

 

JUNE

5 year old saves his 3 year old brother from choking on a meatball. He uses techniques he learnt from a first aid lesson at school.

JULY

80 beach-goers form human chain to rescue family caught in rip current off Panama city beach. The family were fighting to stay afloat and this self-less act which showed human nature at it’s best, almost certainly saved their lives.

AUGUST

Former royal marine Matthew Goodman, who served in the Iraq war, sells war medals to help pay for a little girls cancer treatment.

Paralised woman Riona Kelly from west yorkshire, found love with the personal trainer who helped her to walk again.

SEPTEMBER

8 year old boy rescues people from the sea in New Quay Wales. Stefan Williams noticed the 3 tourists stuck on a rock. Fetched his rubber dingy and then towed them back to shore! He’s hoping one day to follow in his dads footsteps and join the sea rescue team.

Merkez restaurant in a small turkish town, invite those in need to eat free of charge.

OCTOBER

Having seen a homeless man trying to sleep on a bench, 3 teenagers bring him aid in the form of a blanket and tuck him in.

Anti poaching brigade are saving elephants in Mali. Since setting up at the start of the year not a single elephant has been lost to poachers.

NOVEMBER

Iranian weightlifting champion Kianoush Rostami, sells olympic gold medal to raise money for earthquake victoms in western Iran.

 

DECEMBER

In Las Vegas, a homeless man called Anival Angula, rescued 2 young children (a ten month old boy and 3 year old girl) from a burning building.

 

 

There’s always hope

Two years ago I came perilously close to taking my life. Its hard to explain the pain and mental anguish I was experiencing at this time but lets just say I was in an extremely dark place.                                                               I didn’t fully understand why I was feeling this way, which made it all so much worse. Even though I’d been seeing a counsellor for some time Asking for help on this was not an option, I was far to ashamed and didn’t feel deserving of it. I felt like I’d become a burden to everyone important in my life. I genuinely believed that killing myself was the only option left. And so I began putting plans in place for after I’d gone. I wrote personal letters to each of my loved ones, cleared my debts and left enough in the bank to pay for my funeral. I even put a list together of telephone numbers my family would need to contact after my death. I really gave it a lot of thought and attempted to cover all angles.                                 shortly after this I took myself to the spot I intended to do the deed, a nearby quarry with a big drop, easily deep enough to do the job. I wasn’t sure if today would be the day or if it was just to be a practice run (as ridiculous as this must sound!). Anyway it was a cloudy but fine day, I cant remember much of the walk up but I found myself stood on the edge. I closed my eyes and thought about how easy it would be. One simple step forward and my problems would be over, the pain would finally stop. I had just about convinced myself that today was going to be the day when a strange sensation came over me. I was suddenly greeted by a warm breeze against my forehead. It felt good and strangely comforting. I opened my eyes to see the sun breaking through the cloud and lighting up the whole valley. What a stunning view, I cant believe I hadn’t noticed it before! I broke down, overwhelmed with emotion. Today wasn’t to be the day after all.

Later I confided in my counsellor, sharing my entire plan with her. At this point She made me get the extra help I needed. I was still adamant I was going to end my life and put it down to cowardice that I hadn’t done it already. She also helped me to see that not taking my life was actually the bravest thing I’ve ever done. The help that I’ve received since that day has been invaluable.                                                                                                The reality is I’m nowhere near recovered, I may never be. But I have learnt to manage my illness much better. Some days I find myself very down and too anxious to leave the house on my own, it feels like I’m surviving at best! But all this aside I no longer wake up in the morning dreading the day, instead I find myself looking forward to things to come. In fact every day feels like a bonus and this alone is a huge step for me.

 

 

FEELING USELESS

One of the main characteristics of having depression is constantly putting yourself down and I am a great exponent of this! You can soon become fixated on everybody seeming better than you. You think of yourself as totally useless with very little to offer. Your self-esteem is very low and suddenly even the simplest of tasks becomes a challenge, as self-doubt starts to take over.

‘Everybody’s an expert, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking its stupid’

Above is one of my favourite quotes by Albert Einstein. To me it highlights that everyone has things they excel at and equally things that they’re not so good at. If your taken out of your comfort zone anyone can look foolish. A good analogy is that of a penguin. when on land penguins can appear extremely clumsy, waddling along, tripping and sliding on their bellies in the most undignified of manner. But then all at once a magnificent transformation takes place. Suddenly they’re gliding through the water with elegance and grace as they show off their skills.                                     I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone who’s not good at something, It’s just easy to forget this when your battling with your mental health.

Take a leap of faith Adelie Penguin
Pygoscelis adeliae
Jumping off iceberg
Paulet Island, Antarctica