Change – A 5 letter word, but a massive concept
‘Celebrating Change’ is the theme for Self Management Week 2017. Sitting here today in the ALLIANCE office as a volunteer with the Self Management Team, I’m reflecting on some of the changes that have happened in my life in the last year and how my lifestyle and self management has had to change and adapt accordingly.
Change for me is a big word to swallow. As someone who will confess to having certain “issues” shall we say around control, I find change difficult. But in this last 18 months, life (as it does) has thrown me some real curve balls and change has been inevitable. But that doesn’t mean it has been easy. In-fact it has been by far the most difficult period of my life to date. Battling with depression, anxiety and complex trauma has been exhausting. Trying to parent whilst experiencing mental illness has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. There are times where I have felt that I was literally on my knees and there was no getting back up – but here I am today.
So what happened to bring me from my knees to being here today? I changed lots of things.
- The first thing I changed was my attitude.
- I accepted that I needed help to get out of the dark hole that I found myself in.
- I accepted that my health conditions are actually long term health conditions, and not things that I can just sweep under the carpet and ignore.
- I accepted that my conditions require me to take medication to feel well as party of my self management and I commit to taking it regularly.
- I accepted that my long term health conditions required me to change my career (that was incredibly painful).
- I accepted that I was genuinely unwell and needed to take an extended period of time to rediscover myself.
- Then I changed my lifestyle.
I engaged with regular psychology for the first time ever. It’s been 18 months now and it has been one hang of a journey. But it has been the catalyst for many of the changes I have made – especially the acceptance of many things.
I made changes to my home life. Difficult choices but ones that were necessary in order to move forward in a way that is supportive of my health & well-being.
I started to regularly do things for myself. This totally went against the grain for me. Although I would always emphasis the importance of this to others – I rarely managed to find time to do it for myself. Now I see it as one of the most essential parts of my self management.
I started to engage in regular exercise. 20 months ago I could not get out of bed, and today I go to three different exercise classes a week and I swim twice a week. I cannot begin to describe how much this has positively impacted my physical and mental health – but mostly my mental health.
I have significantly changed my diet and nutrition. This has also had a very significant impact on my physical and mental health.
I engaged with Mindfulness, which I have to say has completely changed the way that I manage my challenges. I’ll be honest and say that at the start I thought “this is a pile of cack” – but I persevered and it is now something I use every day. I am now embarking on a mission to become a Mindfulness Teacher to help others living with long term health conditions to manage them using Mindfulness. Then I set to work changing and updating my WRAP plan. This is my self management plan that I have been using for around seven years now. Once again I realised the importance of keeping it up to date and changing it as life changes. Everyone involved in supporting me now has a copy.
If I’m 100% honest – the biggest change has been in how I view and think about myself. I held a deep rooted belief that I always needed to do more, to be more, to help more. That no matter what I done – it was never “enough”. Today (thanks to the support of an excellent psychotherapist), I am at the stage where every day I wake up and go to sleep saying “I am enough”. It’s not just that I say it (as I have been saying it for two years now and not believing it). I genuinely now can see that I am enough just exactly as I am.
Life can still be hard, of course it can. Self management isn’t about everything being perfect and rosy. To me it is about being able to manage the good times and the bad. Now I take my self management one day at a time and I remind myself that every day may not be a beautiful one – but there are beautiful moments in every day if you look for and notice them.
Donna, Self Management Team Volunteer