It’s the first of June and it’s a bright sunny morning down here in the South West. With the long days, the warm weather and the blooming of nature, winter currently feels a long way away.

For want of a better, more pleasant phrase, the winter that has just gone ripped me a new one. I went to a wedding in Ireland back in early January and things just did not feel right. The ensuing months were very challenging. I’ll leave it at that.

             5 months later I feel well into my recovery. What does recovery mean in regards to mental health? According to Rethink mental health recovery ‘means different things to different people.’ For some people it might be being completely free of their mental health symptoms, to others it may be managing them better and accepting that they may always have mental health challenges. Personally, I always remember an old colleague, whilst I was working in mental health, stating that hope and taking responsibility are key to recovery, whilst simultaneously recognising that we need the support and encouragement of others in our support network.

             Recovery is an individual thing and I believe we all need to come up with our own personal road map. Like when deciding to travel to a destination, some of us might choose to drive on the motorway, others might prefer to take the country lanes, others might cycle or walk. Ultimately, it’s up to us as individuals to decide our mode of travel that will support us to feel better.  Also it’s important to recognize that everyone’s individual circumstances are different. I can bang on about my experience but it comes from a privileged position where I’ve been able to take time off work and still have access to money to pay rent, buy food and access things like yoga classes and gym memberships. Most people are not able to do this.

             In attempting to recover I have tried a mixed bag of various weird and wonderful things. One morning I found myself going along to the local methodist church with a friend. At the time I felt like divine intervention was required in order to feel better. Whilst a miraculous overnight recovery did not take place, spending time singing hymns with a small group of largely elderly people and listening to the priests sermon gave me a warm feeling inside and helped me get outside of my neurotic brain.

             Singing has always felt therapeutic for me. For about a year or so I’ve had a go at playing the guitar. Playing and singing in the evenings feels like a good alternative to scrolling through my phone and feels like a soulful activity. Back in April I even found myself having a go at a local open mic night. Whilst it required some dutch courage, it felt good to do something that I’d been banging on about for a considerable period of time. I also think that breaching out of our comfort zone in one area of our life can encourage us to do so in other areas.

             Learning guitar also feels like a way of making progress. For me getting a sense of momentum and forward movement feels important in recovery and also recognising the fact that recovery is a squiggly, messy, multi directional journey rather than a liner one. In terms of learning, I’ve also recently started a life coaching course. So far, more than anything it’s got me reflecting upon my own life and in particular my desire to learn how to surf. This is something that I want to learn to do for learning’s sake. Being in the sea, playing around, falling off and looking like a prat feels like something that has intrinsic value. Indeed, for me, sport, exercise and movement have always been good for the mind.

             As has getting outside into the outdoors. In recent weeks, I’ve found myself volunteering at a local community growing project. I think for the first time in my life it’s got me properly thinking about where my food comes from and I’ve bloody loved getting my hands in the soil.

             I guess it’s also felt like a way of contributing, which is often seen as a core component in terms of supporting us to feel better. I think for me this is also a work in progress as I assess what I can bring forward into the world, or in less grandiose terms, how can I help.

             Through contributing I think we also connect with others. In recent months I’ve had to rely on the support of others and I’ve been privileged to have some cracking friends and family.  

             Indeed moments of connection feel super important whilst struggling. What are we without others? A Maori proverb asks the question ‘what is the most important thing in the world?’ He tangata, he tangata, he tangata’ is the suggested answer. ‘It is people, it is people, it is people.’ Maybe they were onto something.

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