Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
William Shakespeare , Source: Sonnet XVIII.
May has been a month of highs and lows but in my head I have been in a good, content place. It`s a long time since I have felt a level of tranquility in my life since my marriage split and it`s a good feeling.
I potter round my home and enjoy the fact it is my little piece of sanctuary and countryside. I watch my poultry wander round under the trees and cuddle up in the evenings with my little dog or sit chatting nonsense or debate with my Son.
I think part of this new sense of well being is due to my new self worth. I have done well on my psychology course and enjoyed it, and am now awaiting my final results on the last TMA. I no longer feel like a free loader, now I can say to people: “I am studying for a degree in psychology” and I see peoples perceptions of me change, especially as the wheelchair is the first thing they see. I have just started a new course, this one is Counselling: Sadness and fear, and it is so useful for my volunteer work as a mental health be-friender as most have depression and anxiety. Though I don`t counsel them, it helps me know how to help them talk, etc. Some of their stories touch me, some are recent, some go back as far as unresolved from childhood and all real and touching every aspect of their daily life, relationships and physical health.
It makes me so angry and sad that we live in a society where a pill is handed out as a miracle cure, when it isn`t always the answer. Some people just need to know that someone is there for them, that society cares and hasn`t forgotten them; they need support, kindness and most of all not to feel alone in their troubles. Instead they wait weeks to see a Dr, swallowing their pride they feel embarrassed, ashamed and stigmatized for feeling unable to cope with life, and then they are handed a piece of paper to get some pills! Often these pills have side effects or are not suitable for them, leaving them feeling worse and thus the cycle of pride swallowing and more pills offered continues.
I have suffered with anxiety, agoraphobia and panic attacks since I was eighteen, but I count myself lucky that I am a strong person. I do have the ability to dig deep, and If I learn to understand something It gives me the strength to cope with it; not everyone is like me and I want to help them cope just by being there for them. I now understand where my problems stemmed from and why, that has helped me face them and deal with them and cope as much as I can. I know what I can deal with, what I can`t, and what I never will be able to, and so I set myself boundaries and carry on. Touch wood I haven`t suffered with panic attacks for a long time, I rarely get anxious and I can control my agoraphobia as long as when I go out I stick to my boundaries, IE: No busy places with crowds, etc. However not everyone is in a good place and not everyone can move on and cope, and this is where I can come in and help by just being a friend on the phone and at meets.
I enjoy the meets, I have met some lovely people and see some as friends now. They are from all walks of life, and each story is different. There is a lot of kindness and it`s not a case of sitting around talking about their troubles, few do in fact, though occasionally someone will want to offload that day for support. We simply feel an acceptance among others who understand and won`t judge. We drink tea or coffee, have a quiz, laugh and chat and enjoy each others company for a few hours. I have seen the various stages of depression in these people and the worst cases are tough to see, they have struggled to get out of bed that day and their pain is etched in their silent inability to interact socially. If I have learnt anything it is that mental health, to me, is a far harder harder battle to overcome in every aspect than a physical disability.
As a disabled person I have learnt to break the ice first, to make the first joke, to show people that mentally I am as normal as them and this gets me accepted in social situations. Mental health still has that fear factor, social stigma and different age generations cope with it differently or don`t cope at all. It`s this battle that still makes mental health a tougher battleground to conquer.