Mental Health…. Ahhh I get it!

An insightful and thought provoking month.  Its been a hard one for lots of reasons and with a week left until Christmas I have found my self a little overwhelmed with life and have been struggling for a week or two.  I wanted to write about it for a few reasons; I have been open and honest so far and think its important to share the rough times as well as the good.  Also, I believe in talking about mental health to increase awareness and understanding.  Therefore, I offer you this…….

This used to happen a lot when I ran the Forest School but this is the first time that I have felt it since stopping.  The best way that I can explain the feeling is like drowning.  I feel like I am at the deep end of a swimming pool trying my best to stay above the surface but despite my best efforts I am gradually sinking.  I am usually a good swimmer and can stay afloat with ease.  In fact, I can usually do more than that and can move along at a good pace.  Sometimes though, I just don’t seem to have the energy, skills and resilience to even stay afloat.  I have learned to understand the process and also know how to look after myself while it is happening but this one took me by surprise.

Running the Forest School was the sort of job that required thick skin.  Challenges came from every direction and while my experience, skill set and resilience allowed me to tackle these challenges most of the time, every now and again I would start to struggle to manage them as I usually would.  The process could be started by a variety of things;  Too heavy work load, too much negative feedback and not enough positive, feeling powerless to change difficult situations, upsetting student cases, issues with the staff team and so on.  Each of them on their own was very manageable but sometimes they came in multiples and became overwhelming.  As every adult does, I had a variety of strategies to manage but they were not always enough.  This is when the sinking feeling came.  I knew if I just gave up I would sink the bottom quickly so I would try to stay afloat for as long as possible.  I would usually last about 2 weeks before I became pretty useless.  I would then get to the bottom of the swimming pool and be able to bounce back.  I really do mean bounce.  My recovery was very quick and I came back fighting.  I would then probably be fine for another 3 months until I would start to struggle again.  I have managed this for a long time as I think many people do.  It was one of the reasons why I felt like stopping the Forest School job was a good idea.  Well imagine my surprise when I started to struggle a few weeks ago!  I naively thought that it wasn’t going to happen for a year.

Here is the good news though….. At the moment I have the time to reflect on and understand my feelings.  It has been fairly easy to lighten my work load for a week or two, there isn’t a team of staff and 60 children depending on my actions.  For the first time I have been able to be mindful of the process and I have learned so much about it.  Through my work at Forest School and my degree I have learned a fair amount about mental illness, well the theory anyway.  I can talk a good game and know all of the buzz words that make other people realise that I know what I am talking about.  Today is the first day that I really get it.  It is just an illness just like any physical illness.  Some are really serious and can become life threatening and some are much less serious and just pop up when life is a bit tough.  I am pleased to say that I occasionally suffer from a bit of the later.  The thing is, we all do.

I think that the fairly recent push towards better understanding mental health is great.  For people like me though, I think the answer can be quite simple….. We need to understand OUR process and know how to support ourselves during it.  It needs to be ok for us to lower our expectations of ourselves sometimes while we get better and for us to be able to communicate this with others.  If we all started with this we would all be a lot healthier.

I won’t go into the details of what pushed me over the edge this time, you don’t need to hear that.  Nothing serious and nothing I wouldn’t usually cope with easily.  I bounced back off the swimming pool floor today and only have 2 more days of decorating to do and then I can start that Christmas shopping!!!!

I welcome any comments about this blog and your own metal health if you dare.

Merry Christmas



4 thoughts on “Mental Health…. Ahhh I get it!

  1. Richard, you are a good writer.
    All our lives ebb and flow. Some of us appear to have been born with resiliant personalities, who can withstand life’s troubles, where others would struggle.
    Living as I do, near a place where people choose to end their lives, I am struck by the apparent feelings of hopelessness of those who commit suicide. Without hope what is there to live for?
    If we know a friend or family member who is in low mood, and feeling hopeless, we need to be able to hold the hope for them, until they recover enough to take it back.
    Recently I listened to the 2 brothers whose father killed their mother and sister. They had led a life of extreme abuse by control. However they have survived all this, written a book, Operation Lighthouse, and are full of hope for a better future. Many would not have been so resiliant.
    I consider you to be a creative person. I am struck by the number of creative people who struggle with mood and thoughts. Maybe this is part of the creative process. Think of all the artists, musicians, poets who use their mood to be creative. Maybe we should celebrate these moods.
    Personally I find a good friend and a glass of gin is extremely helpful!
    We are all very complex and complicated. All part of the human condition.


  2. An interesting and courageous post Rich – giving me a few ‘ah ha’ moments of my own! Thank you. Most swimmers, however fit and accomplished, will sink if they carry too much weight. From your post, it seems the solution you have discovered is to learn about the weight and how to manage it – a bit like a diving course perhaps. Other possibilities might be to increase the buoyancy aids – friends, relaxation, more information, exercise, diet, sleep, solitude etc or decrease the weight (which, I guess is what leaving Forest School was about) but there will be other ‘heavy’ things too, like expectations (yours and other people’s), financial burdens, toxic relationships, pain (yours and other people’s), stress etc.

    Mandy’s comments about artists, musicians and poets makes me think that there is simply a price to be paid for everything. You have some remarkable gifts and maybe the occasional ‘drowning’ is the price you have to pay for them?

    Anyway, love you.


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