Back in 2015, I found myself at an all time low. The story is long and heavily detailed so I'm hoping to give you an in a nutshell version so as not to labour the point. In the space of 6 months, just 6 months, I had sold my home, lost my prospective new home, put all of our belongings into storage, moved in with family members (which was very cramped with 5 of us in two rooms), had a brand new baby on christmas eve (who wouldn't feed properly or sleep for that matter!), put my eldest daughter through an operation and had her subsequent recovery to deal with, had my cat put to sleep due to a fox, and had to buy a new car. Phew!
My life during this 6 months period was fraught with stress, tension, anxiety and fear. Fear that I wasn't ever going to find a new home, fear that I couldn't look after my family properly, fear that I was a total failure. I was tired, suffering from postnatal blues, mentally drained and unable to find any time to look after myself.
We eventually found a new house, one that was vacant and the seller wanted a quick sale. We completed the sale with 14 days left of our mortgage offer. It wasn't ideal, it didn't tick all of the boxes, but it was our home, and I looked forward to moving in. I thought that when I got settled in my new home, I would feel better. But I didn't. My initial happiness started to fade away as I realised that life was still feeling hard, I was still sleeping badly, the 80 mile round trips each day to the children's three schools were draining me and I was struggling to pay the new bills. I had convinced myself throughout the last six months that happiness would be delivered to me when I was in my new house, then life could begin again. But that wasn't the reality. I realised with a thud that happiness certainly does not come from external sources.
I had practised being miserable for so many months, that I was now really good at it. My sadness was habitual and had become my new comfort blanket. My hair started to fall out, my eyebrows thinned and then I really came to see just how damaging these thought cycles were. They were now having an effect on my body. Was I depressed? Surely not! I hated to label myself as anything. I hated the thought of having to go to a doctor, to admit to my feelings, and then to rely on antidepressants, which is all they would probably prescribe if I did pluck up the courage to go. No, I didnt want to go down that route. I decided to try some self-help.
I immersed myself in self-help and psychology books and the activities that they suggest within their pages. You name it, I've probably read it! The greats, like Marianne Williamson, Matt Haig and Susan Jeffers. The classics, like Louise Hay and Eckart Tolle. I've read dozens of metaphysical texts, and even if I didn't agree with all that they preach, I was able to use some of their tools, such as affirmations and self love, to draw me out of my depression. The counselling and psychology texts, such as 'Counselling for Toads', drew out subconscious patterns from the depths of my mind that I barely even acknowledged existed. I attended meditation courses and learnt the art of stillness and silence. The more I read and studied, the more I began to notice that self-help books, metaphysical and spiritual tools, and psychological tools are all intertwined. They're often labelled differently but they produce the same results in our brains, in the way that we feel about ourselves and then ultimately how we choose to live our lives.
When I adopted mindfulness, I began to observe my own thoughts and became aware of my daily self-talk, I realised that I was my own worst enemy. I wouldn't talk to anybody in the cruel way that I spoke to myself, and yet I abused myself pretty frequently. Thoughts of what a failure I was, produced feelings of worthlessness. When I deliberately worked to love myself more, I began to pay attention to how different my emotions were. I felt lighter, less burdened. I was then my own cheerleader. When I meditated, I gave myself the space and peace to be able to separate my own thoughts from the ingrained beliefs that I held about myself. My brain was able to slow down, leave autopilot and recalibrate. I felt calm and well rested, despite having little sleep. I loved the way that mindfulness was able to blend so effortlessly with Cognitive therapy; the way that we could use the tools of mindfulness and the tools of CBT and merge them to work together to challenge my thoughts and behaviours.
The books still do and always will play an important part in my life. They speak to me like a best friend would, with kindness and motivation, inspiring me to realise that I am good enough, just as I am. That I am worthy of love and all of the blessings that life has to offer. I look at them less frequently nowadays though, as I've practised a new way of being for so long that I don't need a constant external source to help me feel better, I have learnt to go within to find my own strength.
Through my counselling training, work that I do with service users at a local mental health organisation, and teaching mindfulness in the community, I am priveleged to be able to share the tools that I have learned. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment, being self-aware in any given moment and not judging. When we look at ourselves mindfully we learn to value and accept ourselves for every single part of our make-up. When I see these lessons absorbed in the classes that I run, when I see the difference in a person over the course of the weeks, I know that they have woken up to being their own best friend. I know that they're on the path to recovery and that mindfulness is winning the battle.