Day 845

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The art of pottery has held my fascination for as long as I can remember. It is my secret dream to be a master potter, someone who creates magical ceramics that can hold the world in them.

This evening I happened to watch a pottery programme on TV. It featured 7 highly talented potters. Some of their creations brought tears to my eyes. Watching them make these artful objects step by step from scratch was a real treat. One thing they all had in common was that if the clay on the wheel went wonky in any way, they would start all over again. They made no attempts to fix the broken, damaged, warped, marred, misshapen, spoilt, wrecked potential pots. That clay went straight from the wheel onto a waste heap. However, it can be reprocessed, kneaded and made ready for the wheel again.

I identified completely with one of those accidentally wounded pots, even in the hands of master potters. No fresh clay is needed.  I just have to refashion this existing clay into a divine vessel that lovingly cradles the world.

Day 842

A Psychiatrist recently expressed his point of view- “If I take everyone who tells me they want to end their lives seriously, I would have to admit almost everyone I see to hospital. What we need is for people to be able to verbalise how they feel rather than dash straight to a perceived solution.” I suppose he means it would be helpful if everyone had an emotional vocabulary, a way of describing how they feel – happy, worried, excited, frustrated, scared, wretched, rotten, hopeless, angry…  a process that ideally should start when we’re kids. Just like we learn to identify objects and name them, we should develop the ability to identify our feelings and name them.

“If you’re happy and you know it…clap your hands.”
“If you’re happy and you know it, hug a friend.”
“If you’re sad and you know it, cry a tear – “boo-hoo.”
“If you’re mad and you know it, use your words “I’m mad.”
“If you’re scared and you know it, get some help, “HEEELLLLPPP!”
“If you’re silly and you know it, make a face, “BBBBLLLUUUUHHHH!”

“A large and more complex feeling vocabulary allows children to make finer discriminations between feelings; to better communicate with others about their internal affective states; and to engage in discussions about their personal experiences with the world”
– Centre on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL)

Adults can proactively teach young children to identify their feelings and those of others. Through stories, modelling and role play they can pair an emotion with a coping strategy, for example, taking a deep breath when angry; requesting a break when annoyed, talking to someone when sad. Positive emotions may need to be regulated too.

When I was young, feelings didn’t get much attention. They were often set aside, ignored or suppressed. They didn’t seem to be important. They came and went and changed all the time. So, it was easy to not hang on to them. Doing, behaving, achieving and knowing were important. They were tangible and afforded rewards. So, it was easy to focus on them. I didn’t have an emotional vocabulary. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I didn’t know many people who had it. Now I am learning.

Ref:

The feelings song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsISd1AMNYU

On Monday when it rained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOhwGmxDPl8

http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules/module2/handout6.pdf

Day 841

His bathroom has 3 lights, one on top of the mirror and the other 2 on the ceiling. The switch for the mirror light is just underneath the mirror. The switch for the ceiling lights is outside the bathroom door. I sometimes found the mirror-light switched on, on the way to his room even when he wasn’t there. I would tell him off for repeatedly forgetting to turn the light off after use. Now, it is my bathroom. I still find the mirror light on sometimes when I go upstairs, even if I haven’t been there for hours.

It is so easy to forget to turn the mirror-light off. I know that now.

I would arrange mail-order deliveries for the times when he would be home. Sometimes he would be in his room on the second floor and fail to open the door for them, especially if they came very early in the morning. We would then have to go around chasing our parcels. Again, I would get a bit annoyed with him for missing out on the deliveries.

Now we sleep in his room. One morning last week, I almost didn’t hear the deliveryman’s knock on the door. I thought I heard something like a knock in my sleep but disregarded it, believing it to be a dream. An identical sound came again and nudged me out of my slumber. Had the man not had enough patience, he would have left us a note and gone to his next destination. But I did manage to bundle myself up and roll myself down the stairs in a semi-comatose panic to get to the door just in time.

It’s so easy to miss a delivery. I know that now.

 

Day 837

NSPA Conference: Part 2. Suicide Prevention: the changing conversation.

4. State of Mind Sports Charity (http://www.stateofmindsport.org/) made a dazzling presentation about how they promote positive mental health in sportsmen and women, fans and wider communities, thereby preventing suicides. Danny Sculthorpe gave a moving account of his dark times when his brilliant rugby career was seriously threatened by a very painful back problem.

“I just felt like I had lost everything and that nobody cared. After a couple of months, I couldn’t afford to pay the mortgage, and because Bradford were denying any responsibility for the injury, I had to try and find £3,000 for the physiotherapy I needed to give me any chance of getting back playing. At that time, all I could think about was how I was unable to support my family, that my career was over and that the only way out was suicide.”

Sculthorpe found help after opening up about his feelings to his parents and through support from the Rugby Football League. He now works for the State of Mind charity, which established a partnership with the game after it was rocked by the death of Wigan and Great Britain hooker Terry Newton in 2010.

Their resounding message is: “We are all one big team.” So true!

5. Professor Tim Kendall, National Director for Mental Health, NHS England presented the 5 year forward view. He appeared rushed, ill-prepared and unempathetic to a room half full of people whose children had died.  Considering he was the most powerful person in the room, he was most disappointing.

6. Counsellor Richard Kemp has been a member of Liverpool City Council for 30 years. He is passionate about providing good housing, community centres and parks for the well-being of people. Ironically he also seemed to think the suicide was a relatively small problem. Interestingly he got this insight from a  psychiatrist. However, I strongly agreed with this statement he made – “We need fewer guidelines and more vision.”
We can’t have a speaker from Liverpool who doesn’t mention the Beatles – All the lonely people, Eleanor  Rigby, Father McKenzie… This song was well used to speak about the widespread problem of loneliness.

7. Panel discussion at the end had representatives from – Public Health England, Champs, Grassroots and Mental Health Foundation. They discussed finding the ‘seat-belt’ of Suicide. May be there isn’t one. We should work with the information we have in addition to continually looking for stronger evidence. It is important to identify protective factors and talk about them too. Policy makers need to embed these into schools and colleges. Staff must be educated to enable them to spot the warning signs of suicide in a young person and to keep them safe.

Overall, it was clear that the conversation is changing, even though  there is plenty of dead-wood around. It is apparent that the motivational level of charities is much higher than the government. There are big questions about the funding of government plans. GP training is still something that is not being addressed as it should be. Somehow there is a level of denial around it, even when it is clear to many of us as an area that needs serious attention.

The drivers of these changing conversations and policies should be survivors of suicide and those bereaved by it. Lived experience is an invaluable source of a wealth of information on the lessons that can be learnt and the changes that are required.

Ref: http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/2015-07-24/the-only-way-out-was-suicide-former-rugby-star-speaks-out-about-case-over-sacking/

Day 833

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According to Vedic science, there are 7 centers of energy in our body, called Chakras. The Heart Chakra sits in the centre of the chest at the confluence of physical and spiritual energies. In Sanskrit, it is called ‘Anahata’ which means ‘unstuck’ or ‘unhurt’. It implies that underneath the pain of past experiences lies a pure and spiritual place where no hurt exists. It is the seat of healing.

The heart chakra is home to 3 things: Love, Hate and Fear. If divine unconditional Love resides there, then there is no place for Hate or Fear. Similarly, if it is consumed by Hate, there is no room for Love or Fear. If Fear dominates, then neither Love nor Hate can thrive. There are examples of all these scenarios around us.

All over the world, Fear and Hate are being driven into people’s hearts mainly by the way things are interpreted and reported in the mainstream media. Nations are choosing their leaders and their futures based on Fear and Hate. There is no place for Love. Is this the world of our dreams? Is this our vision for our future generations?

When the heart chakra is open, we are flowing with love and compassion, we are quick to forgive, and we accept others and ourselves as we are. A closed heart chakra can give way to grief, anger, jealousy, fear of betrayal, and hatred toward yourself and others.

Sometimes it is easier to remain in a state of suffering than to choose to be happy. Vedic sciences say that as the energies rise upwards through the chakras, we approach a state of awareness and bliss. The downward movement of energies causes inertia and stagnation.

Today I met a healer who introduced me to the concept of ‘loving your guilt away’. She said, ‘Have as much love and compassion for yourself as you have for others. Open your Heart Chakra.’

Ref: http://www.chopra.com/articles/open-yourself-to-love-with-the-fourth-chakra

 

 

 

Day 832

The hospital where we went when he was ill is just down the road from where we live. It is 18 minutes by bus, 10 minutes but car on a quiet day. The Emergency department is on the left. The Mental hospital is on the right. There is a visitor’s car park in front of the Mental hospital. That is where we parked the car. That is where we waited for a couple of hours to be seen by a psychiatrist. That is where I had to make my own way that day because Saagar refused to have me in the car with him and his father. That is where he should have been when he was severely ill a few weeks later. That is where he could have been saved.

That is where I went this afternoon to watch a play called ‘Hearing Things’, a play co-produced by patients and professionals, based on insights derived from 6 weeks of workshops involving actors and people with a mental illness, offering both an opportunity for expression, transformation and co-creation. Through a cast of 3, we met people of different races and age groups. It was about challenging assumptions. It was about the empathy and personalities of patients. It was about ‘the system’ and the dynamics within it, mental well being of health care providers and role-reversal. It was about giving people a chance.

“I am off now to be mad and I don’t have to be sectioned for it”, remarked one of the participants as drama gave him the freedom to be who he is, without fear of judgment. It was about the possibility of being ‘re-assembled’. It was powerful and moving. It did not mince words. I spoke loud and clear. It was accessible, funny, clever and heart-breaking.

One young person describes his experience of drama:

“…after you do the drama you get this feeling…it feels as if whatever was bothering you went away and you feel light and can do whatever you want around you, it makes the day simpler and you can concentrate on your activities, it makes you feel better, like at the end of the day when you come home from work tired and you want to put your feet up, you don’t feel guilty relaxing as you have done a hard days work. I wanted to understand the person and put myself in their shoes.  At the end of it I felt good.  150% happy!”  

 It was about creating a new paradigm of relating to people suffering with mental illness.  It was all heart.

Ref:

http://playingon.org.uk/hearing-things-2016-2017/

Day 824

What brings you enjoyment?

This was on the list of questions being asked of young doctors at an interview skills practice session for their upcoming promotions.

One of the young women enthusiastically told me not only how much she enjoyed her work but also the stories behind how the interest started and developed and then narrowed itself down to a specialist area, the places her aspirations took her to and the inspiring people she met along the way. Her eyes shone like sparkling diamonds as she spoke and her smile beamed. Towards the end of her answer, there was a brief mention of tennis, friends and cycling.

90% of her answer was her work. Her honesty was clear.

That was me. My work has brought me great joy over the years. I have spent far too many hours at work. It gave me self-esteem. It was something I could hide behind. It gave me meaning and purpose. It made me look and feel successful. It was fulfilling and satisfying and everyday was challenging and exciting. I loved it.

It took away all my energy and I came home spent. It took up a lot of space in my head for many long years. It made me loose my balance. It sucked me in so completely that I couldn’t see the aspects of it that were draining me dry. It deprived me of sleep for years and it drove me crazy. Yet, I loved it.

If I could go back and change what it meant to me, would I?
No.
But I would cut the number of evenings and weekends I spent away from home. I would conserve more energy for home. I would say ‘NO’ more often. I would claim some of my life back.