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.
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?
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.”
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.
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!)
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:)
* 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.