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Hi there and welcome to the penultimate part of my blog story; thanks again so much for the fantastic feedback, it does mean a lot to me and your continued messages here, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Messenger are all fuelling my output, so here goes.
Having imploded a year ago as outlined in my opening post, we had a serious word with ourselves in part two and did the very best we could on our own, in short, we realised we needed help.
I needed help, and whether it’s now or at some stage in the future, you may need it too; so this week I will be reflecting on all of the important people who have helped me in the last year in the hope that my experiences will help us all; everyone deserves some help from others and by reading this, you too can help.
As humans we are programmed to believe we can identify, self-diagnose, treat and rectify any potential healthcare issues that threaten the smooth running super-efficient machine that is our body and soul; sadly, where mental health is concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.
You place a huge amount of stress on yourself, day in day out; to be 100% perfect in every way, to keep up with the pack, to possibly be something you are not, to live a life, to weave the dream, to spin the plates, to make ends meet; and sometimes you are your own worst enemy, but you don’t even know it.
That is the problem; you can’t actually trust yourself to identify there is an issue, because you are indeed part of the problem – and an important lesson I have learnt is, you cannot solve this on your own, you may not know it yet, but you will need others.
Putting your hand up is the single most important step to getting help.
Don’t feel guilty or inadequate for asking for some help; even if you think you don’t need it; you need to get it out, you need to share your story; you need to speak about it – you need other people to help you right here, right now, whatever stage you are at on the journey.
And they can only help if you cross the line and let them in. So put your hand up; you owe it to yourself, and once others see the ‘open for business’ sign on the door, they will be forming an orderly queue to play their part.
This last 12 months experience has been truly humbling for me to realise just how much people do care; so, my intention here is to share some links and experiences from both professional and amateur helpers alike; from the consultant psychologist to the complete stranger; these are the souls that have surrounded me in everyday life and helped in such big and small ways; they can help you too, if you let them.
Start with your partner, your siblings, your parents and your offspring; all is not lost if you don’t have any of these, but if you do have some of them, then make the most of them; ask three people who love you to write down 5 characteristics that you have that they admire about you. I did this and it was extremely powerful, I still treasure the texts and notes that made me realise that I was perhaps not the basket case I thought I was, it is fantastic to see real support in the form of words characterising your inner strengths – and that is just the start, your family can help you in so many ways; but they are not mind readers, they need letting in.
I know I have been very lucky to have a hugely supportive partner of thirty years who’s primary objective has always been to promote my own health and happiness; anyone who really cares for you will always put your health first, whoever that person is for you, when the mentalist bell starts ringing, you need to be honest with them, they will help you.
As will friends who have known you a long time and work colleagues who have integrity; these are the people who you can open up to, these are the people who know you and these are the people who know how to listen; it’s not about them telling you how good they are, or how they tackled some stress when they had it; they invest time in you, they drive miles to visit you, they check in on you, they send you cards, they buy you lunch, they have two ears and one mouth; they don’t judge, they just care.
And then there are ordinary people outside of your bubble that were always there but you ordinarily would never have met; you don’t need to share anything with these people, but you will want to, because unfamiliarity and anonymity brings a comfort blanket of safety, shared experiences will help you realise you are not alone, and that is a great feeling.
One thing I did quite early on was go to some group ‘Healthy Minds’ sessions run by the local NHS IAPT team, a room full of people from all walks of life suffering with similar issues getting some cognitive behavioural therapy, everyone dreading being there, but coming away thinking ‘that was all right actually’; after week six we were all hooked.
On to the professionals; those whose job it is to help; they do this for a living, when you need them, you realise they are doing this job because they are bloody good at it.
Let’s start with the doctor; from complete stranger to super-hero; I saw him every Wednesday for the first few weeks, ten times in the first 3 months and then at regular check-ins up until the half-year mark. It started with him listening, a brilliant bedside manner; some face time, a sick note and a promise to go back the next week; it became the best bromance of my life.
Then there was the clinical psychologist, after the initial few weeks we wheeled in some proper expertise; a Doctor in Psychology, specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psychotherapy, Depression and Anxiety Disorders. For me this was somebody who could help to get inside my head, scoop out the contents and work with me to pop them back in part by part. You may not need this lady, but I found our weekly one to one sessions, something to really look forward to, somebody willing you to tell your story, real therapy, real useful help for a better life.
Talking to a Mental Health Nurse is a wonderful thing, I found myself undergoing numerous online and telephone assessments with NHS IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) Professionals, they helped me monitor progress using GAD7 and PHQ9 tests that calibrate how your mind is doing; they will listen and they will help, you are on a journey that they understand, in fact they know every bend in the road.
These people will be available in your area and I have included some links in my reading list.
Of course, one last living being who has helped me as much as anyone is Öve the working cocker spaniel, more about him next week in my final blog.
My point in summary is this; you are not alone; to improve your mental healthiness and wellbeing you need these people to help you – one of them, some of them, or even all of them.
And help you they will; but only if you let them.
A year ago, I was suffering serious psychological impairment that was diagnosed as being likely to improve with the passage of time. That time has passed, and I would like to thank every single person who has helped me and continues to help me with that journey.
Anyhow that’s enough about me, let’s talk about you; what do you think about me?
Reading list will follow – I promise this weekend!