It was a lush day being a tourist amongst the thousands of tourists at Buckingham Palace with my friend Claire on Saturday. The State rooms were amazing! We also visited the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery where there was a Japanese exhibition on. Another Royal Residence ticked off and it was great to see London tourism booming post pandemic. I did wonder whether we’d ever return to normal during the dark months of lockdown..
I booked these tickets in 2019 and we finally got to see Michael Buble at Bath Royal Crescent on Friday! It was such a great venue and the weather was stunning; we got so lucky.
I still haven't read Reasons to stay alive; that note at the bottom there reminded me.
This book is a collection of Matt's thoughts and feelings which is a really interesting way to write and publish a book. The first quarter of the book made me feel quite anxious - the worry upon worry upon worry about the state of the world and the people in it - but then I got into the rhythm of it all and picked out some gems I could remember for my own mental health battles.
I used to have the constant worry (which I now know is anxiety) about the world, but this dissolved when I hit my teens and the depression sank in all of a sudden, completely throwing me off course when I was about 13. I now have what Matt describes in the chapter "Crash" where my mind feels cluttered all of the time. I guess this is still a form of anxiety.
I also like the chapter "A note from the beach" and the ending of that chapter "Just be. Just beach." I try to remember this when I'm feeling overwhelmed with work or house projects. The other thing I try to remember is that I am everything and nothing. A single moment and all eternity. Matt talks about the universe and how it is so much bigger than us. He talks about the sky and just looking up and staring at it to anchor himself. I think about both of these things when I'm trying to combat anxiety and when the situation I'm in is making me feel trapped, but really it isn't the be all and end all, it just feels like that in the moment. This too shall pass as my therapist always says.
What a treat to see Dame Judi Dench in conversation with Gyles Brandreth this past Sunday. Again, I've waited a long time to see this one - 2 years and 2 months later...
It was well worth the wait. Listening to them reminisce about their old theatre days in the first half and then talking tv and films in the second. There is something really special about being in an intimate setting with like minded people watching one of our idols in the flesh! Time just whizzed by. It was also lovely to hear Dame Judi talk about her husband Mikey and how they met and what it was like to work together on A Fine Romance, and then of course when she talked about Geoffrey Palmer and As Time Goes By, one of my all time favourites. Brilliant writing and acting and beautiful gentle comedy. Really good for the soul when I've been feeling unwell.
It was such a joy to finally see Mrs Brown's Boy D'live Show The Musical. I bought the ticket in December 2020 for June 2021, then it got rescheduled that month for a year later - and here we are. Although I miss Rory and Deano, it was great to see the rest of the cast on stage. I would've hung around to try and get some autographs afterwards, but I had to get down to Eastbourne for a wedding the next day. We stayed in an air bnb in Pevensey Bay which was delightful and right opposite the beach. Such a great location! That was my first time in an air bnb aswell. I was very impressed.
It's been another busy week of my car going into a different garage to attend to a different repair, lunches with friends, extra shifts to pay for all this car debt, decorating the spare bedroom and spending time with family and finally going to see the latest Downton Abbey film, which I loved!
In between all of this, I am getting one side effect in particular from Aripiprazole. Honestly, you can't win with mental health meds - you find something that fixes your mood, only to have it cause this irritating restlessness instead. The CALM app is becoming my saviour. I'm using it most nights to meditate before bed and try and calm my mind and body.
This past week I've been doing a 7 day practice to soothe pain, narrated by Oren Jay Sofer who is one of the CALM app's meditation teachers and authors. It's been about finding balance with emotional, physical and mental pain. It is so easy to get tangled up in pain and discomfort to the point it takes up a disproportionate amount of our time and energy. This practice is learning how to soften the intensity by redirecting our attention. I think of people walking on hot coals here, although they choose to do that!
My takeaways are sensations, compassionate awareness, investigating and visualisation. I'll explain..
In one of the lessons, we had to focus on the sensation of our breathing and then explore physical sensations (like touching my lips together) to distract ourselves from the pain whilst meditating.
Another lesson was about compassionate awareness. Connecting with the warmth and kindness of a favourite person. Putting a hand on my heart to practice receiving self compassion. And imagining a younger version of myself that I could send compassion and empathy to.
A good reminder was investigating my pain. Notice the sensation. Where is it? How big is it? How does it feel? Then we would take a break and return to neutral reference whilst continuing the meditation.
I've always struggled with visualisation as a concept, but I liked the suggestions when using it for soothing pain. They made sense to me. Visualise the feeling of compassion like a weighted blanket - and I love my weighted blanket and rarely meditate without it. Another lesson - visualise a warm, golden light stream filled with soothing, healing energy flowing through your whole body, bringing ease and relaxation deep into your bones. Allow your body to rest in this light. When you're ready, allow the visual to fade. Let the light dissolve into your body. For some reason, this one worked well for that restlessness and for the constant fibro pain in my back.
The whole series just got me thinking about things in a different way and that's what I like about CALM.
Unfortunately I was working Friday through Sunday, otherwise I would've been in London for the whole 4 days soaking up the atmosphere on the Mall where history was being made. I am so proud to be British!
The weekend before, I was in Windsor with a friend, taking a tour of the Castle. This is part of our ongoing touring of all of the Royal residences. It was wonderful to be in the Queen's hometown enjoying the sunshine and the build up to the festivities. There was a definite buzz in the air!
My favourite part of the Castle was the Waterloo Chamber room where we learned that behind all of those pictures, there are paintings and drawings from the Queen and her sister, as they used to put on plays to the rest of the family in that room. I also loved listening to the choir in St George's chapel and lighting a candle and learning that 10 kings are buried there. So much history, it's truly amazing!
I'm finding Aripiprazole leaves me a little restless in the evenings, so it's been difficult to settle down to watch some tele on the sofa after a hard day's work. My body says I need to move whilst my brain is exhausted. That being said, I am loving my Friday night's triple bill of comedy and satire with Here We Go, Have I Got News For You and then The Other One (and before that, Not Going Out), all on BBC1.
Well, as May and mental health awareness month draws to a close, I've been thinking a lot about the things that have helped me this month. This has probably been my steadiest month for over six months in terms of stabilised mood and actively taking care of my mental health on a daily basis. My mood has been rock steady even though I'm flying at work with hitting targets and this would usually send me into a tailspin of reckless activity. I've used the CALM app religiously to help me get off to sleep and for meditation, and their monthly chart with a daily mindful focus has helped me take one day at a time. I put together a folder of the people who influence me in a good way and I also displayed my old writing files in my study so they are easily accessible when I need some inspiration. I did the monthly MIND activity they popped through my letterbox as you can see from the photo above. I decided to print and display some of my favourite pictures from the last 18 months. I've been slowly working towards my goals for the year and keeping in regular contact with my therapist and GP, knowing that the virtual Safe Haven is only a phone call away. I hope to be discharged from the Community Mental Health Team soon. I think I have the medication situation under control now. I've decided it's best for me to take it in the evenings, even though my psychiatrist insists it's better in the mornings. I find I get even more restless early on in the afternoon if I take it in the mornings and I feel an increased anxiousness. I'd rather be asleep when my body wants to attack me like that! I do think the benefits of Aripiprazole overrule the negatives at the moment, although I am fully aware how this can flip.
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.