Blooming Together

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“We are not meant to do hard things in isolation.” Elizabeth Johnsen

This is a realization that has dawned on me in the last few weeks as I’ve been living through another challenging situation.

By ‘another’, I am referring back to my mental illness this time two years ago. Last Wednesday was the two year anniversary of my being taken into hospital under police guard. Yup. Humanly speaking I really messed up back then! I ended up spending a month in hospital and seven weeks in total away from my three precious children. While I recovered fairly quickly from the manic episode, soon after moving back in with my children (my husband moved out on my request), the realities of my life caught up with me and I realized that I had lost almost everything that was important to me.

The love and security of marriage (I thought I wanted to get free of my marriage), my home of 35 years (New Zealand), my established friends in New Zealand, a relationship with my biological father (because of my words and actions in the course of my mental instability), financial security and more. I had thought I was surrounded by friends, and yes, I was, but not to a deep degree. There were wonderful people who were there for me in the ways they could and they helped me to get through that time, for sure. However, as I look back I realize that in comparison to the strength of my connections now, I was really quite isolated two years ago.

On the 28th March this year I recorded in my journal that I was noticing similarities with what happened 2 years ago. In the month that followed I gradually noticed more and more similarities and I became worried and sometimes fearful that I was going to have another episode. My sleep patterns also changed and while I tried so hard to counteract this by having lots of naps (and putting the need for them down to the fact that I am now 40 years old!) it still wasn’t enough. Enter a stressful situation on the 27th April and….

It was enough to push me over the edge into another psychotic episode. HOWEVER! This time most things were different! This time I called my husband Stuart and asked him to come home early. My amazing friend Chantal called Stuart too about what she was observing and he made an appointment at the local doctors surgery. My whole family gathered around me and went with me – which felt amazingly supportive. Yes, the next day I had to leave the comfort of my home and be taken to hospital by ambulance, but my husband had been there to observe my manic state and offer his support throughout.

Last time my family was fractured and separated. This time we are stronger together than we have ever been. Last time my children were at risk, this time I made sure they were safe. Last time I couldn’t get them to bed, this time I made sure they were tucked in for the night. Last time I left my house in a mess, this time it wasn’t too bad. Last time I felt incredibly confused and lost and alone. This time I started coming back to me within 48 hours of flipping out. And the very next day (Monday) I noticed with amazement that the journal entry I was writing was neat and made sense.

Last time I had people to connect to and to visit me, this time I had people telling me and showing me that they love me. I had 5-8 very special friends writing to me, phoning me and video calling with me – AND THIS WAS THE KEY to my speedy recovery! After putting the phone down after a call on the Monday or Tuesday I literally felt physical healing flooding my body! Amazing. So one thing I know for sure about myself is that I need deep and meaningful connections with a number of people in order to be truly mentally and emotionally healthy. I felt so surrounded by Divine love, so supported and held and provided for.

I continued to recover very quickly. The staff at RP Hospital were fantastic and I was there from Saturday to Thursday, then I was transferred to a hospital closer to my home, and the one I was at 2 years ago. I wasn’t even there 24 hours before I was allowed to go on leave for the long weekend. I returned on Tuesday last week to be discharged. The Dr was wonderful. He explained that while initially they were talking about bipolar, if it was I wouldn’t have recovered so quickly. He says instead they believe it was an acute stress reaction. Whatever it was, I am now pretty much back to myself,older and wiser and with even more understanding of myself.

Through my experiences since May 2016 I know that I need to honour my body’s needs AND I need to honour my soul’s deep need for connection. I was doing these two things very well this time round. I now know I need to add two other things to remain balanced. The first one is that it’s okay to ask for help with getting sleep. For now I’m taking a sedative and every night my sleep quality is improving. The second thing is that I need to trust that in doing the three things above I will remain healthy.

All in all, as I’m sure you can understand from above this recent experience has actually been incredibly healing for me but also for my family and my wonderful friend. I’m beyond grateful! And I’m also very aware that it gives me a unique opportunity to speak up for other mental health patients – because I have been there on the inside. In fact I met some amazing people there – there were about 5 of them that I felt were like sisters. They were each incredible in their own way. Courageous young women who are doing their best in the situations they’ve found themselves in. I honour them and I send them my love.

In closing I would like to encourage you to reach out to the empathetic people in your life and push a little deeper into heart-to-heart connections with them. If you are not sure what that looks like, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Living in the Present Moment

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My life is full of challenges at the moment. Here are a few:

  • Due to the situation surrounding my breakdown in May I am still separated from my three lovely children.
  • The above is also because I’ve chosen to separate from my husband of nearly 14 years. This is not a decision I’ve made lightly, in fact it has been excruciatingly difficult and the emotional stress this has caused contributed to my mental breakdown.
  • I’m living in a bedsit on my own. It’s lovely and light, but my children aren’t here and every time I spend time with them and then have to leave I find it really hard.
  • One of my children is particularly troubled by all that’s happening.
  • I have many hours to myself and when I don’t have much booked I’m find having so much free time can be lonely!

I’m managing fairly well by learning to truly live in the present. A friend of mine recently posted this quote and it’s really stayed with me.

7012f24f9828f81e813341418dbd2a80I am learning that I can be at peace in every moment even in the midst of all the hard. I have an underlying peace and knowing that I am enough, I am loved and I am and will continue to be okay.

This way of living in the present moment is truly amazing. If I feel upset, or angry, or sad, or joyful, or frustrated…whatever I’m feeling I know it’ll pass. It’s okay and very healthy to be feeling these emotions considering all that is happening. Sometimes I need extra help to get in touch with these emotions and so I’m grateful for my relationship with my therapist, in particular.

I’m also very grateful for friends who are choosing to be available to me during this time. The majority of these are local and fairly new friends seeing we only moved to the UK 10 months ago. I’m amazed and blessed. I make sure I reach out and ask for contact as I know that I will get through this season much better with their support.

One revelation that has been really consolidated through my breakdown experience has been The Power of this Present Moment. If we really slow down we will realize that in each moment we have everything we need. In this moment, even though I may not feel it, I have everything I need.

I have everything I need within me. You have everything you need within you. We don’t need to go looking outside of ourselves for validation and proof of our worth and value. We are enough and valuable just because we breathe.

Relationship breakdowns don’t mean that there is something defective within us. I have said I cannot stay married, but this doesn’t mean that I am a failure. In fact, as I’m learning, being able to say that I choose not to continue being in a relationship that does not nurture my soul is actually a sign of courage. It takes courage to be honest and say when a relationship isn’t working. It takes courage to leave.

I’m not even sure if my ramblings in this post make a complete post, but I offer it up in hopes that it’ll touch someone out there. I know I am far from the only one going through this brand of hard. And so, dear reader, if you can relate and are going through something similar know that you are not alone. Reach out if you like as I’d love to hear from you. I may be a blogger, but my life is far from perfect right now.

I take heart knowing that it will get better.

Love and blessings,

Elizabeth

P.S. I have a small but growing group of women in a closed FB group where I am trying to post most days. If you’d like to come and check it out and it resonates with you I’d love to have you join.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1082731435124092/

It Takes Courage…

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings

I’m needing some courage as I continue to face the challenge of settling into my new life. Perhaps I’m dealing with delayed culture shock? Or something. I’m going with it for now, choosing to believe that things will get better.

We all want certainty, don’t we? I’d like to know that my husband will get a job in the next few weeks. I’d like to be sure that I’ll do well on the counselling course I’m starting soon. I’d like to be able to tell my daughter that she will soon have a great girlfriend or two. But the fact is that none of us can be certain about anything. We don’t know how things will turn out.

And so I’m trying to rest…in the midst of all this uncertainty. I’m endeavouring just to be, to be content in the now. I’m finding it’s not easy. I’d rather be on cloud nine, ecstatic that everything in my life is perfect. I’d rather not feel like I’m under a cloud…especially when I have such clear memories of being really happy (the happiest ever) not that long ago.

I know I’ll look back on this time in the future and better understand the lessons I’m learning now. I’m choosing to believe that I’ll get through this challenging patch. I’m choosing to hope. And I’m thinking that being okay with things not feeling okay is part of growing up.

How about you? Are you in an easy patch right now? How do you get through challenging times? Do you agree with E.E. Cummings’ quote? What does it mean to you?

Elizabeth