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On Flourishing
October 10, 2014
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On Flourishing

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A quick flick through my Instagram feed this morning revealed a host of posts dedicated to world Mental Health Day*, as designated by the Mental Health Foundation. The glorious, warm, supportive community of my Instagram tribe reminding us that where there is life there is hope, and support, and love.   It’s made me want to write this post that’s been hanging around on the fringes for a while.

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I’ve had my share of mental health issues in the past, acutely enough for me to receive help in the form of drugs and therapy. Exhaustion from 10 year stint in a career that stifled my creativity and sapped my soul, with a potent chaser of pregnancy hormones, catapulted me into a severe depression. It was all a long time ago, but anyone who has ever suffered depression knows that the fear of its return hangs heavy, and can even inhibit long term wellness. For the last 15 years I’ve explored ways of staying well- no, more than that. Flourishing. Just being OK is not good enough. I want to thrive. Doctors and psychotherapists have an invaluable and undisputed role in the diagnosis and treatment of depression. Heaven knows I couldn’t have done without them in those dark days. But what happens when you are clinically ‘better’? Is it enough to languish in the doldrums between clinical depression and the promised land of happiness and fulfillment? No! But how do you move up that path once the doctors have done their thing?

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Dr Phil Hammond puts it beautifully.

“Working as a doctor is like camping beside a river. People float downstream and we dive deeper and deeper to pull out those who are sicker and sicker. And we’re so busy and exhausted that no one has time to wander upstream and look at what’s pushing people in. Depression is one of the biggest challenges facing us and the treatment desperately needs to move upstream.”

(From Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression by Miriam Akhtar)

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It was this book that introduced me to Positive Psychology several years ago. I was so influenced by it that I connected with Miriam on Twitter and subsequently attended a training workshop with her. I can honestly say it was transformational and, together with some hard work on developing my own self awareness and self acceptance, has influenced the way I live my life since.
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Positive Psychology is the science of what keeps us mentally well, and happy. It’s largely common sense (my Gran was an original practitioner, though she didn’t call it that!) but with a gritty hard core of scientific evidence. It can help in treating and preventing depression, but much more than that it can build self esteem, vitality and resilience, and ultimately, real happiness. One of the most important ways I practice this is through creativity, in myriad forms. Self-expression and self-exploration through creativity is, I believe, a vital part of any self-care plan, and a vital habit for a happy life. And anyone can be creative, and everyone can be happy (clue- it doesn’t matter if you can’t draw!)

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I’m not a therapist but I think I do have a role in helping people thrive. I have the experience of what has worked for me, and that’s too valuable to keep to myself. I’m not sure how that will look, or how I will contribute, but if I can share my experiences and express what I’ve learnt in some arty, expressive projects, I’d love to know if you’d be interested. Maybe you’re sometimes-sad; prone to over worry; unmotivated; fatigued for no good reason; a habitual over thinker, frazzled, unfocused or just plain fed up. Maybe you just want a break from the daily grind. Maybe you want to learn tools and grow habits that play to your strengths and help you grow your resilient skin. I would urge you to (and I know you have an open mindset and are awake to the possibilities of creativity, ‘cos you’re reading this!) embrace your creative gene as you would make healthy food choices, exercise regularly, sleep well and so on. I’d love to know what would help you tap YOUR dormant creativity.

Thanks for listening – do leave a comment for me if you think I’ve struck a chord:)

Maz xx

* I know that this years Day is dedicated to schizophrenia, and my post is mostly about the journey up the sliding scale from depression to flourishing. It was just that the awareness of this important day prompted me to write the post, is all.

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10 Responses

  1. Michaela

    I relate to what you write. I believe in the transformative power of Art and in its ability to heal. I am an Rt therapist andArt journaling is new to me. I find it very powerful.
    How do you deal with creative deadlocks? With not liking what you do?
    I hope it is ok to ask.
    Thank you.

    1. Maz

      Hi Michaela, of course it’s OK to ask- I’m so glad you did. Actually someone else asked the exact same question a short while ago. I feel a blog post coming on on just this! Not saying that I know all the answers, but it would be great to share what I have learnt! x

  2. Maz,
    Thanks for this inspiring post. You are flourishing…I can see it in your beautiful work and I feel it in your words.
    Thank you for sharing all of it!
    Cheryl

    1. Cheryl, that’s so kind of you! I do feel I’m beginning to flourish and it’s great if you can see it in my work :)
      m x

  3. Hi beautiful Maz… I finally got around to reading this post! I love the passage you quoted from Dr Hammond. It’s a very true metaphor and one that is used a lot in mental health circles. We need helpers to congregate all around the river, not just downstream. You don’t have to be a therapist to care, to offer support, a safe space to explore and express and most importantly, to model hope and recovery. In fact, modelling possibility in terms of recovery is a very important role to take and one always calling to be fulfilled. I hear you answering to that call Maz. <3

    1. Maz

      Thanks Amanda, I really appreciate that. It’s taken me a while to understand that although I don’t have any qualifications in counselling or therapy I still have something to offer. I love ‘modelling possibility in terms of recovery’ – I’m gonna write that down 😉 x

  4. Ditsybird

    Oh my, you are most certainly flourishing…in your art and home, in life…anyone with an interest in finding and photographing the beauty in the everyday, as you do on IG, must be in tune with their creative and curious side. Or it appears that way to the onlooker who is reaping the rewards of said photographic beauty!
    Marvelling at the timing of my message to you and this post…if I’d waited a day longer, I may not have needed to send it – or would it have merely prodded my subconscious need to fight my way out of my flatness, even more strongly?
    The final paragraph from the first “maybe…” pretty much sums it up at the moment for me, but I am making in roads through picking up my dip pens, and switching on my music – simple methods for creative therapy for me, but far, far too easy to ignore at times.
    I’d be very interested in anything you are planning on offering within this whole area – from blog posts to creative retreats, or even one on one advice. I am determined not to be beaten as I’m not sure how long the situation causing my slump will continue for (as long as possible I hope, oddly, due to the nature of the cause), and I don’t want to carry on as I am doing, and I most definitely don’t want to get worse.
    I’m very keen, and have been for years, to break into art journaling…break being the operative word, as I can’t seem to get started without feeling hugely self-conscious about it. Any tips on this area would be great!
    Looking forward to more posts on this matter, and enjoying your art and life through your lens.
    Sarah
    x

    1. Maz

      A very big MWAH, friend :) It could have been me writing this, a few months back. Just please, be kind to yourself, and know that your evident self-awareness will prise you form your slump in good time- when, in fact, you’re ready. With regard to ‘breaking into’ art journaling; no need for any breaking, just start. You are exactly where you need to be right now, and you have all the skills you need. Join the Facebook Group ‘A Stand for Art Journaling’ for lots of support and inspiration. I’ll see you there. xx

  5. This is a stunning and moving article. I am honoured to have played a part in your transformational experience :-) Looking at your art I can see how you’re flourishing.

    Look forward to seeing you at Part 2 of the Positive Psychology Masterclass and for anyone who’s interested in attending the one that Maz attended, we’re running one on Nov 17-18 in Bristol
    http://www.positivepsychologytraining.co.uk/training/positive-psychology-masterclass/

    1. Maz

      Can;t wait Miriam! See you in November. ANd thank you for your kind comment on the blog x

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