A Thin Line Between Sanity And Depression

Photo By Lechon Kirb

I posted this two years ago and sadly it is still relevant.

When I was at University, one of my friends was falsely accused of being in an occult fraternity which led to an investigation that cost him two years of his education. After a long drawn out battle, he was acquitted and was able to return to University. It was at this point he came to visit me; to share his story. He said a lot of things but one comment stuck with me ever since:

I almost lost my mind. I discovered that there is a thin line between insanity and sanity.

He was in his early twenties at the time. He was lucky; he had his faith and supportive family and friends. Nonetheless it was the loneliest time of his life and he led life as a recluse over those two years.

Today, we learnt in the news that the suicide rate for middle-age men with mental health issues has risen by 73% since 2006*.

When my friend was sharing his story with me, I remember thinking how incredibly brave he was. Not just coming through it but for being open about it and sharing his vulnerability. This is not how society generally socialises men to be – vulnerable. Certainly not in Nigeria where I grew up.

We know that today, men, particularly middle-aged men, are more at risk of taking their own lives.

I’m not a mental health worker nor do I profess to be an expert in any way. However, one thing I’ve learnt, after 10 years in pastoral care; is that people, men and women, need an opportunity to be honest and vulnerable without fear of stigma or reproach. People need to be able to share their pain, sorrow and fears and know that it’s O.K. People need a support network to help them through tough times. Before any recovery, there must be the space to be real with themselves.

Too often men are held to very high standards of masculinity and within that strata, there is very little room or respect for vulnerability let alone crying. We socialise our boys from an early age to adopt a false sense of masculinity. We ask them if they are girls when they cry or tell them to man up. We teach them at an early age to stifle their emotions and it’s little wonder that they grow up not learning to deal with them or ask for help. Clearly, this has to change if we want men to be sensitive to the state of their mental health.

Mental health is complex and there will be many issues to unpick in today’s news as to why men are at a higher risk of committing suicide. However, you and I can start by giving boys and men a break from machismo and let them just be.

Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 (24-hour national helpline)

* University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness

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Death Is Instructive

In light of recent obituaries in the press, this old post came to mind.

I have been to too many funerals in the last few years than I would care to experience.  They have been for family members; older friends and much younger friends; some children; colleagues and close friends; wives of church leaders and congregation members; parents of my friends, my own estranged dad – so so many than I would care to count.

I cry at weddings so it will be no surprise to discover that I weep at funerals whether I was close to the person or not. However, no matter the relationship I am always struck by two main things.

  1. Whenever tributes are read I am sometimes struck by how little I knew about the person who I was weeping over. How is it that I never knew x,y and z about this person – especially if we were in close proximity?  Like how didn’t  I know they were so caring or so giving or so wise or so funny or so weird or so interesting?  How is it that I spent so much time ‘around’ them but never know that?
  2. Regrets. If I had known that would be the last time I saw that person, I would have called.  I would have visited more.  I would have gone to that party they invited me to but was too tired to make.  I would have invited them to my home for dinner.  I would have told her I loved her.  I would have thanked them for being a great friend or supporting me through that tough period.  I would have spoken more from the heart and not had superficial conversations. I would have found out how they were really doing.  Were they happy? I would have made our last moment together count.  I wouldn’t have spent so much time being upset about that time they spoke to me in a funny way or how I felt they had treated me.  I would have kept in touch.  I would have taken more of an interest in them.  I would have ……..

Death is instructive

Indeed death is very instructive.  A funeral or a graveside is a great place to start if you want a reality check on how you are living your life.  There were a few successive years when it seemed like the only social functions I was attending were funerals.  I learnt a great deal about myself and the sort of person I wanted to be over those years.

Relationships are crucial to humanity. Even for introverts like mysel,  I willingly admit that I need relationships to keep me alive. The tragedy of life is that we take people around us for granted.  For some deluded reason we seem to think we will always be around; we will always have each other.  We take life for granted, that its electrodes will always course through our veins.  We all live in the eternal hope that we will be sustained with long life.  And so we treat each other like we will always meet tomorrow. However the reality is you never know when good bye means see you on another shore.  And so:

  • We talk to each other without listening because tomorrow we will talk again.
  • We go to bed angry, because tomorrow we will make up.
  • We are unkind to each other, because tomorrow we can make amends.
  • We withdraw our love from each other, because tomorrow they may hurt us again.
  • We do not sacrifice our time to spend it with someone because we can always go there tomorrow.
  • We do not pick up the phone to call because we will have more time to speak tomorrow.
  • We do not visit that person in hospital because tomorrow they’ll be out and we can go and see them at home.
  • We do not say sorry, because tomorrow we can be friends again.
  • We do not say thank you now because tomorrow ……………..
  • We do not say I love you, because they should know and tomorrow ………

I am not looking to score brownie points or fulfil some sort of sick righteousness, but because if, God forbid, I ever have to attend a funeral of someone I care for again, I do not want to regret not knowing them or experiencing a tangible relationship with them.  And so I call or text when people come to mind.  I ask if they are happy.  I say thank you for being there for me.  I laugh with them, cry with them.  I listen even when I feel they have not even thought about how I’m doing – I listen.  I travel longer distances now to share precious moments with them.  I reach out even when they haven’t asked after me in ages.  I bake them a cake to say I care. Just because – just because you never know if tomorrow will come, I’m trying to treat my relationships like there is no tomorrow.  Trying – it is an ongoing personal challenge.

One trick I have learnt, particularly when I feel I have been wronged by someone; I think, what if you hear tomorrow that this person has died, how would you feel?  If I feel remorse or regret and then I know, it’s not worth being upset over. Let it go.

Indeed death is instructive! Learn from it.

Thank you United Nations. You Shouldn’t Have

Imagine my surprise when I got the news that the United Nations (UN) had chosen me to be an ambassador for women and girls around the world. I am honoured. So honoured but really they didn’t need to. Seriously, they shouldn’t have.

 

On a serious note, I can only imagine the meeting where this was being deliberated. Where some wise person said, “You know what? It would be wonderful for woman and girls around the world to have a universal role model. Let’s put our suggestions in a hat.”

  • Maya Angelou
  • J.K Rowling
  • Beyoncé
  • Kim Kardashian
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Michelle Obama
  • Amy Poehler

As each name was called out, there were grimaces, or nods, or smiles or vehement hand signals waving frantically – no way. I’ll leave you to match the reaction to the relevant name.

It’s no surprise to me that there are protests against this.

Do women really need a mascot? I mean are we living in a Disney movie that we need a dressed up super hero to encourage us?

I can totally understand why they chose Wonder Woman. They discovered that there is no such thing as a universal role model. As they struggled to find one woman who could represent all women, they discovered that such a woman only existed in fiction.

We are all wired differently. For each of the women listed above, I can assure you that there are women round the world who would sooner renounce being a women than accept one of them as a role model. For EACH ONE, I promise you.

And that is fine.

Women don’t need to identify with one person. Heck men don’t need to. What women need is to be exposed to a plethora of women who have done extraordinary things. From pilots, to scientists, football players, coaches, doctors, activists, philanthropists, artistes and so many more. What young girls in particular need is to know that they can be and do anything they set they heart on. That there are no limits or ceilings. What we need to know is that we can.

Of course I am ecstatically happy they chose Wonder Woman. I understand it and get it. Within every woman is a wonder woman. I get it but this was ill thought out on so many levels too political for me to get into. However, I wonder if the UN has noticed that men and boys don’t have an icon. Just wondering.

Time and money would have been better spent say on featuring women who have smashed the glass ceiling in their respective careers over the last decade or so; or a focus on women in STEM careers; or even better a woman or women living out the core actions on their website. Why did there have to be one anyway?

Women round the world, ordinary, everyday women are achieving great things. And they keep inspiring us daily. We don’t need to look very far for role models. They exist in our communities. They might not have celebrity status but they are real and they exist all around us.

I am actually quite tired of the elevation of celebrities over everyday people. And now you are telling me we have to contend with fictional characters????

I’m telling you, there is no better time than the present to redefine Wonder Woman!

International Day of the Girl 

​The day I had my daughter my world view changed.

I knew that I was her first example of what a woman could be and I found that scary.

I didn’t want to grow up or be responsible for such an onerous role. But I have no choice because I don’t want her to ever feel that she shouldn’t work hard; or that she needs a man to make her complete; or she can’t be sporty and girly at the same time; or be anything she wants to be.

So I straightened up my life so she could be  a Wonder Woman too.

Every girl deserves to know that all things are possible for them should they want it.

We’ve just got to keep punching through that glass ceiling wherever we find ourselves so that the next generation doesn’t have to.

Bloom Where You Are

For some reason, I only have one or two roses that bloom every year at the same spot but I don’t know why. Happy to hear ideas from avid gardeners out there. My post however is thankfully not about my abysmal gardening skills. 

It took about four to five days after the bud of the rose above appeared for it to be in full bloom.

Really beautiful 😍😍😍😍 but it got me thinking about success. .

It only took a maximum of five days for this gorgeous rose to be in full bloom but how long has it been taking root? How long has the work that goes on beneath the surface been going on?

We all know there is no such thing as an overnight success but we sure wish in our case we would be the exception qualified for meteoric progression. Well I don’t know about you but I often find myself thinking where is the shortcut to the finish line.

Meteoric successes are an anomaly. Right now I can’t even think of one person who was an overnight success for often what we perceive to be sudden has been years in the making.

True success that lasts, whether it’s relationships, business, career, whatever – true success that lasts is line upon line, brick upon brick. It’s in the daily activities we do that further our goals.

You may feel like you are working very hard and you can’t see the blooming rose ( pun intended 😂😂).

Don’t give up. You are just taking root. As long as you have a clear vision, a plan to get you there and you are taking action consistently; you will bloom.

The truth is that the rose is the most beautiful part, the glory of the story. However, if it didn’t have a root, it would never appear. 

So here’s to taking root.

Goodbye Mary Berry: 5 Life Lessons

It was announced today that Mary Berry will not be a judge on The Great British Bake Off when it moves to Channel 4, whilst Paul Hollywood remains.

I got all sorts of lessons from her actions.

  1. Loyalty. Don’t forget the people who opened doors for you.
  2. Confidence. Don’t be afraid to stand out on your own. You don’t need to follow the herd. Make choices that are right for you.
  3. Courage. This might come with age but to be willing to make a sound decision in the face of pressure from viewers & all takes guts.
  4. Change. When one door closes, another door opens. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
  5. Focus. Stay in your lane. Whilst you may travel on this road called life with others sometimes you might part ways with them to create a new path for yourself.

We will miss you Mary. 😣😣😣😣😢😢😢😢😢

The Big Girl Pants Guide to Life!

You know, I’m all for motivational quotes. In fact I love them and I have created a few myself.

However, the thing is when you are down and out and so low, I’m not sure what good they do. I’m not really sure if they bolster you in any way. The last thing you want to see when you are flat on your back, as in I-can’t-get-up-you-need-to-use-a-crane-to-lift-me-up-down, is to see , “mistakes are the proof that you are trying“. I mean what good does that do???? They are just a bunch of words to the one that is down. You might as well say blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and oh yeah, BLAH!

You can overcome. You can be a winner. If you believe it, you can make it. But no one answers the question – how do I keep going when there is a huge gulf between where I am and where I want to be. No one wants to address that gulf. It’s almost like mad men taking over totally disregarding the reality of what they see and constantly placing airy fairy liturgy before you. But we are left with the gulf and and unless your words become a ladder, a bridge or helicopter (depending on how big the gulf is) move on. I mean seriously, move on.

So I’ve created the Big Girl Pants Guide (in honour of Bridget Jones)

bridget-jones-the-edge-of-reason-2004

  • It’s not you, it’s them. Life sucks sometimes. It isn’t necessarily a reflection of who you are. As in you don’t suck. Life does. We’ve just got to ride it out.
  • Don’t just sit there, do something. Anything is better than standing still because guess what? Standing still sure ain’t going to get you anywhere.
  • Be you. Is that one of those motivational quotes we don’t want to hear now? What I mean by that is keep playing to your strengths. Now is not the time to pretend to be someone else. Keep doing what makes you unique. Opportunity is attracted to authenticity.
  • Stop Moaning. Really, just stop. It doesn’t change anything.
  • Avoid talking to negative people. We may definitely not want to see another quotation, but you DEFINITELY don’t want to be talking to someone who sees everything as a doomsday advertorial.
  • Avoid talking to positive people too. You will only want to throw a book at them or punch them in the face. You are best talking to yourself.
  • Wait. You have no choice but to wait for something to change. In the meantime, keep doing the above.

Remember, this too shall pass (I’m ducking)

Ignore the Naysayers

Yesterday, my son and I were having a conversation about his impending match, which was today.

He had been telling his friends at school about the match and there was a plethora of opinions about the opposing team.

  1. They trashed J’s team and J’s team is good
  2. They are better than you guys, you can’t  beat them
  3. They are too good

So the conclusion was, you aren’t going to win. Don’t bother.

Way to encourage a friend! 

So I simply said to him, “it doesn’t matter that they beat J’s team, they don’t have you. So go out there and do your best”. 

For all I knew this team might be the spawn of Barcelona FC but I didn’t really care. You can’t acheive anything without first believing you can. You may not always win but you will most certainly lose if you give up before you start.

I asked what his response was and he said, “I told them I bet you I’ll win). *sniff snifff. Proud mama moment*

I don’t care how delusional I may come across. I will chose delusion any day over thinking I’m a loser before the game has even started.

Pssssh. Anyway, they haven’t met the son of Wonder Woman. He went, he scored, our team won. 

Life is in Seasons

A few months ago, my older sister and I spent a weekend together and we got talking about how life is in seasons.

We concluded that you can have all the hopes and aspirations you want; you can believe for great things; you can hope for a wonderful life but one thing that is constant to all people is that life will always certainly have highs and low. It’s the basic tenet of existence.

It’s a fallacy to believe that life will be a constant high. And a lot of us struggle with this because whether we say it or not, we have a sense of entitlement to a ‘good life’.

And don’t get me wrong, we do deserve a ‘good life’, whatever that is for you but it’s not an entitlement – it happens by grace.

The older I get, the more I am able to master the changing seasons. When I was younger, I viewed them as a sentence being meted out to me. I would often ask why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? Why does it always happen to me? When is it going to be my turn? Why, why, why, why, why, why,  why? However, after going through a fair number of seasons you learn to ride the waves – maybe even control their impact on you or your reaction to them.

I hope to God I do not become an expert on changing seasons LOL but I have come to understand that if you can be still in the storm, it will pass. If you can stop yourself from making decisions when you are desperate or scared, you’ll make better choices for yourself. If you can look at the season not as something being done to you but a process of refinement, then you might just learn something through the process. If you can try your darnedest not to see the season as a reflection of your esteem but see it for what it is – a bad time. And if you can yes, hold on for that ‘good life’ it will come – even if it does tarry (oh I sound ancient now).

The opening line of one of favourite songs by Maxwell is, “I was reborn when I was broken“. Only seven words, not a very long sentence, but they speak volumes to me. A different perspective perhaps to pain and disappointment. Lots of people talk about how they go through a tough season and come out of the other side a different person. The loss of a loved one, the loss of a home, redundancy, divorce, a betrayal, an unexpected diagnoses; so many different seasons we find ourselves in; often without warning. Can we be reborn as we pass through them? Perhaps the season may take a part of you and enable a different you to surface. I was reborn when I was broken.

Maxwell’s response is to “take it one day at a time”. Those sound like wise words to me. Maybe he’s walked through a few seasons too. The season always has a byline. It has a knack of revealing it usually at the end though. If maybe at the turn of a new season, we could learn to turn the volume down a bit, we may hear the whispers of the byline; the story it seeks to share. Then perhaps we too can we say, “we were reborn when we were broken”.

 

I am really determined to learn something new in every season. Almost like a do your worst, I’m-going-to-grow-through-this-sort-of-growl. As long as there is life, I can be stronger and say I was reborn when I was broken. I may cry a little but I will be reborn.

The Olympic Dream

The Olympics.

That moment in time when my children imagine they can be anyrhing they want to be.

They are swift to drop every activity and pick up a new one.

They want to participate in athletics, diving, swimming, fencing, archery and even shooting. No sport is beyond their reach.

The Olympics.

That time when everyone sitting on their sofa watching is a winner.

For in that moment, we overlook the dedication, blood and sweat of the past four years.

We can’t see the sleepless nights and the pains endured.

We can’t see the sprains, strains and daily jabs required to just keep a limb immobile.

All we see is the glory. The cheers. The winning. The gold!

I wonder if I explained to my children how much they’d have to give up to attain this glory, would they still want to?  

If I told that chocolate and crisps do not constitute the food of champions.
If I told them that champions don’t spend their moments winning on Nintendo, Wii or watching TV.

If I told them they would not have time for other activities, playdates or spontaneous days at the park.

Their time, an average of 6 – 7 hours will be spent practising their skill and honing their craft – every day.

I wonder if their commitment would be unwavering?

This is the power of the Olympic dream. We are only interested in the medals, not the pain.

The power of a parent however, is to allow them to dream but make sure they see through an activity they picked up prior to Rio 2016  before they jump onto something else.😂😂😂