In Honour of World Mental Health Day

Did you know that mental illness is connected to physical illness? Depression is a brain disorder that leads to emotional suffering. It can lead to a lot of physical problems that affect everything from your heart to your immune system. Changes in how your brain function can have a big effect on your body.

You will surely agree with me that life can be stressful. Sometimes you may feel so stressed that you cannot work out what to do as your brain is overanalysing. You might feel constantly tired and achy.  Your appetite for food and sex might decrease. You might have insomnia, or you might sleep too much. Whatever it is, I am sure you will want some explanations but will not find easy answers.

“Our life is shaped by our mind for we become what we think.” – Buddha

It is not easy to fit in with the crowd and we all want to feel accepted. I have known those who would do anything, from cracking silly jokes to saying ‘yes’ to every person. And when they fail to integrate, they feel unloved and misunderstood. They lose their identity and become depressed. They turn in on themselves and become a recluse.

Depression alters your brain structure. Your whole life is turned upside down. You experience fear and loneliness. You feel unmotivated. You become increasingly bad-tempered, snap at people and then feel guilty afterwards. You might bear someone a grudge for a long time even though you do not know the reason why you did it in the first place.

“Even though I walk through the dark valley of death because you are with me, I fear no harm. Your rod and your staff give me courage.”- Psalm 23:4

There is no fairy godmother with a magic wand to fix your life when you are going through your darkest moments. Some people, when they are suffering, sometimes draw closer to God and others walk away for good. Whether you are alone or surrounded by people, you have the choice to follow your own path. If you feel unsure, you can try to correct it with another choice and make it right. But it is up to you to take hold of your life and take charge of it.

You might say that it is not easy to do when you feel your world is crumbling. You will need help and support to change your attitude and create a more regular routine. Do not compare yourself to others, especially on social media. They only share the good things that happen to them. Reach out to those you trust and express your feelings. You might be surprised to find that you are not the only one who is feeling down. One phone call, one text message might make someone else feel less isolated.

“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” –  The YogaMad

Learn the art of self-care and self-love and stay positive. Fill your time with things that you enjoy so you feel less lonely. Dance or exercise to music, moving your body to the point of losing yourself. It will lift your mood and take your mind off things. If you want something more calming, try meditation. Join an online community or support group. Just keep busy.

Take advantage of free online courses. Learn something new that you have always wanted to do. Join a choir or an art class and discover your hidden talents. Travel the world virtually and explore. Go on a tour of foreign cities and discover new languages and food. No matter what you choose, you are the driver of your own destiny.

Nothing lasts forever

Everything has a time limit – good and bad things.  No matter how bad something is in your life right now, it will not last for ever. You must accept there will be things at which you are not successful, but you will learn to become stronger with each failure. Buddha said, ‘Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.’ So, if things do not work out today, sleep on it and try again tomorrow!

What is a Friend?

What is a friend? According to Aristotle, it is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. Hmm … is it like a peanut? I dig into my imagination and I picture a box of Maynards Bassets Liquorice Allsorts.

Friends come in all sorts of shapes and colours. Unlike with family, I can pick and choose who I want to be my friend. Friends are supposed to be people who make you laugh, support you when you are going through tough times and encourage you when you have given up. Shakespeare agrees with me with this quote:

“A friend knows you as you are, understands who you have been, accepts what you become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

No one forces their friendship on us. We go into this relationship with our eyes wide open. We look for someone who we find it easy to talk to, someone who enjoys the same things in life and at times someone who we can depend on. There are no strings attached and we are free to walk out whenever we want, no love lost. So, why does it leave a sour taste when things go awry?

As with every relationship, “give and take” is a must. If there is no real connection the friendship becomes forced. Who has not had a “fake friend” during their lifetime? Real friends can go years without communication. You will not be ostracized, as you would with a blood relative. When the friendship is genuine, that person leaves an imprint on your life which neither time nor distance can erase.

There is a bunch of Crazy Ladies whom I call friends. I have not seen most of them for over 25 years. We are no longer schoolgirls and have ditched the green uniform a long way back. We live different lives in different countries, yet Facebook has made it possible for us to reconnect.  Though we have changed as individuals, as a group we have easily settled into this renewed friendship and filled in the gaps along the way.  

Social media prevents the ember of friendship from dying but can also leave bittersweet memories. Everyone brings a different trait into this relationship: good listener, loyal, trustworthy, supportive and funny. We invest more if we feel comfortable. As adults we are no longer carefree. We are more polite and demand respect. We keep one another updated without going into details.

“Always love your friends from your heart and not from your needs” – Buddha

We do not have to hang out to consolidate any relationship. Everyone has busy lives which makes it difficult to spend time together. A strong friendship can keep two people together if there is honesty and trust. At a click, we can ‘like’ those friends or ‘delete’ them from our lives permanently. Sadly, friendship can still last without any depth or closeness … more robotic than being alive.

In my opinion, if there is a lack of mutual respect, non-judgement, understanding and support, then the other person is not worthy of my friendship. I can easily walk away, guilt-free. Oh yeah, I am that ‘biatch’. I am past the silly game of bitching and negativity. If you want to be my friend, then assume your role, otherwise, beat it mate!

A sweet friendship refreshes the soul – Proverbs 27:9

I nurture friendship with those I call “true” friends. When my friend Annie asks how I am, she waits to hear my answer. Though she knows my weakness, she shows me my strength. There is more value in a friend who understands why you are crying than those who wait to join you only when you are laughing. Genuine friendship is like a rare pearl, cherish it when you are lucky enough to find it.

“The only way to have a friend is to be one” – Ralph Waldo Emerson