Feeling Overwhelmed: World Mental Health Day

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This wasn’t planned. I just this second decided to write it after reading first Carol’s post about memories of her mum and then Gary’s post of his latest ‘sighting’ of Terry.* It won’t be long, I just thought I should put my hand up and say ‘Me too!’ (I lied about the ‘long’ bit, sorry).

So many of us suffer in silence when we feel overwhelmed. We try to cope, to carry on with our daily lives and not worry anyone else. I used to keep everything inside. I never talked about anything. It just built up and built up until I suffered a physical and nervous breakdown, my first aged 17, my second aged 19, my third aged 25 and on through adulthood. Once I had children, I learned to hide it better. When Dad died suddenly, I took up red wine! But I eventually recognised that it wouldn’t solve anything. When I was bedridden for 5 years, my children had gone to university and my husband worked long shifts, I was at my lowest and started writing poetry to stop me writing suicide notes. As I matured, I learned to recognise the signs and adopt strategies to get me through them. I took up creative activities, used aromatherapy, meditation and so on.

I haven’t had depressive episodes for a long time. Changing diet, positive thinking, keeping a gratitude journal and acquiring a couple of grandchildren led to improvements in health and a life to look forward to. There have been very low times when family concerns have caused almost unbearable stress and worry, but I got through them.

Recently, though, I have felt a head of steam building. My elderly mum needs a lot of attention – from a distance, this is extremely difficult – and we have taken on a lot of extra responsibilities which often require a lot of butting of heads against brick walls. At the other end, family members are struggling to cope with the fall-out from a rare condition, which also affects us inasmuch as we can do so little as so little can be done, and we have to stand on the sidelines and watch those close to us stretch themselves to the limit on a daily basis.

The upshot of all this is that on Saturday I found myself sitting in our local twelfth-century church with tears rolling down my cheeks. I have lived here 30 years and never been in this church. I had been to a nearby shop and on coming out, had turned towards home but something made me look behind and I saw the church tower. I have often meant to go in to have a look round. It was Saturday afternoon and I expected to see the trappings of a wedding going on, but it was quiet. I started to walk towards it, the main doors were wide open. I hesitantly stepped in the porchway expecting to see a congregation but again, it was quiet. I could see a couple of women attending to the flowers, so I stepped inside.

As soon as I did, my shoulders relaxed. Facing me was a notice inviting people to have a prayer said for someone who needed it. I am not religious. I just love old churches. I love the tanquility, the architecture and sense of history, and of all the people who have been there before. I like the peace to sit and contemplate. However, I stepped forward and wrote a card out for the young person and her children, struggling with the disease. I placed it on the table at the front of the church, sat down and let the tears flow quietly.

A flower lady came over and asked if I’d like her to sit with me. I thanked her and explained that I hadn’t realised how overwhelmed I was feeling or that I was going to cry and I just wanted to sit for a while and contemplate. She passed the message on to the others and they let me be. After a while, one of them saw me looking about me and asked if I’d like a guide on the history of the church. I said yes, thank you. It was absolutely the right thing for her to do. It got me out of my head. I walked around and took it all in.

Later, in the early evening, after 3 long calls and 2 messages from Mum I couldn’t sit still. I needed to go outside. I needed to talk to Dad.

I visited his tree in the local cemetery just down the road. When I had finished, I was just saying thank you when a squirrel ran by, a few yards in front of me. I stood and watched for a minute. Tears filled my eyes. I looked down and there was a white feather and a smile grew on my face.

The moral of this story is, talk to someone; whether it be a flower lady in a church you don’t attend, a long-dead parent or even a tree, share what’s going on. Find somewhere where you can be quiet, somewhere away from the causes of your stress, your worries, for just a few minutes. Take slow breaths. Then look outward, take notice. When things build up, we can spend too much time in our heads. I like to watch the birds in our garden, talk to the neighbourhood cats while I have the doors open and I paint or make cards. At other times, only loud music accompanied by raucous singing will do! And occasionally I rage against the world.

Just let it out.

Thanks, Dad x

*Voices From The Margins – Remembering

Another ‘Terry’ Encounter

Feeling Overwhelmed? You’ve Got Your Back!

Mind.org.uk – the mental health charity

The Samaritans – they have a telephone helpline for anyone to call when in emotional distress

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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25 thoughts on “Feeling Overwhelmed: World Mental Health Day

    1. Thanks, Brian. The first time it happened was several years ago when it was the anniversary of my brother’s death and I always find it a difficult time as it is the same week as my, my son’s and my mum’s birthdays. I went out for a walk – I always need to be outside walking when sressed or anxious – and found myself at the side entrance of the cemetery. This was my first visit, long before I had the tree planted. I was nervous about going in amd just stood inside taking in all the old headstones, the beautiful trees and feeling the tears start to fill my eyes. I asked him if he was with me. I asked him if he was ok. I didn’t physically feel up to walking any further but as I began to turn around to come back I looked down to my right and there was a large white feather. It’s mostly magpies, finches, crows, wood pigeons and robins that inhabit the grounds so this had a big impact on me. 😊💜

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      1. Thank you 😊 About to have my strength tested with visit from my mum. She has finally agreed to make the move to live near us (with caveats of course) and we’ll be taking her to see some sheltered accommodation round the corner from where we live. Wish me luck! 🤞🏻

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  1. What a wonderful way to support the aims of World Mental Health Day – by pulling aside the veil of competency for a moment as proof that NO ONE is immune and that, with self-care and listening to our own inner voice, we *can* get through it.

    I am sorry to read that this is another rough patch for you, but I so admire you for being brave enough to share it so beautifully and post a link to this week’s Salon. Especially on October 10th.

    I can relate to the trepidation, however. As a mental health professional I feel it too, and have many times, right before and especially after I hit send.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    Liked by 1 person

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