There has been a lot of talk lately on radio and tv and a lot of written articles on mental health issues. I heard Tony Bates yesterday http://www.rte.ie/radio1/marianfinucane/tonybates.html talking to Marian Finucane about our attitude to depression and mental health issues. I love listening to Dr Bates - he is intelligent and empathetic and I always read his piece in the Irish Times medical supplement on Tuesdays. I have found myself in much of Dr Bates' work - he has an uncanny knack for making me see myself, accept myself and move on. His new book is called 'Depression:A Common Sense Approach' and I highly recommend it to anyone who either suffers from depression or lives with someone who is a sufferer.
Those of you who know me well know I have battled with depression and mental health issues for decades. I'm now thankfully at the stage where I manage my illness well, recognise it coming and I haven't had any serious bouts for a number of years. I used my own experiences in writing 'The Heron's Flood' and living with depression is a thread running through the book. Ironic that that most awful of feelings rewarded me creatively in the end - mind you I'd prefer a no depression no writing life - or would I? Are we ever fully content and accepting of ourselves?
In recent years I have used both meditation and mindfulness as a way to keep myself in the present moment - trying not to worry about the future as I can't influence it or dwelling on the past which I cannot change. My mother's' favourite prayer was the alcoholic's one (she used to say 'why do they get all the good ones!)
'God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
To change the things I can change
And the wisdom to know the difference'
Whether one believes in a God or Higher Power is irrelevant. It is really a prayer to self - a promise to at least try to be peaceful, loving and wise, to walk away from inner turmoil and accept what comes our way. Surely something we all could strive for on a daily basis. Combine that prayer with half an hour's meditation or mindfulness - daily if possible - try Jon Kabat-Zin You tube link here to get a flavour http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nwwKbM_vJc.
Dr Kabat-Zin's work is fantastic. When I discovered mindfulness it gave me back myself. After twenty years of medication and psychiatrists I finally found the answer, the 'why' of my depression. There is no why - it just is and it is within me and only I can lift myself out of it. And that can only be done if I accept myself as I am, acknowledge my bad points and try to let my good self win, and breathe.
Above all mindfulness can be done at any time and in any place. If you are feeling stressed or anxious -or even if it is only people getting on your nerves-just stop. Stop for half a minute, breathe, in out in out,breathe, be in the moment; befriend your mind and let it work unflurried by anything other than what it has to do in that moment.