Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps!

Having seen the tributes to Captain Tom, what touches me was his determination in the face of a crisis. His simple dedication to make things better for others. And the sense of humour and love with which he walked, a really long way for someone of 100 years old!

As with many people, I’ve had my fair share of personal obstacles. Being made redundant. Being sectioned. Being bereaved. Being rejected in multiple situations – love, friendship, job applications. As a result I’ve recited this song in my head a number of times and ‘dusted myself off, brushed myself down, and started all over again.’ It takes strength, sometimes guts and often an energy and resilience you just don’t feel inside.

Particularly after being psychotic and sectioned, I’ve had to restore various situations (personal and professional) after bizarre behaviour, ill-advised comments and embarrassing events. Here’s what I know as a result. Sometimes you just have to face it head on, apologise, explain and request understanding. In every case, this is exactly what the other person involved has offered to me. Phew. And miraculous in some instances…

I’ve chosen to go public with my mental health for good reason. One to support others, the other to preempt the need to explain to past or future employers. By being transparent and open, and to acknowledge I have not always been up to par, helps to reassure colleagues and friends that I still have a contribution to make. I am capable, motivated and perhaps more able to understand the challenges of others as a result of my experiences. Hopefully, being open has helped resurrect my work reputation and given me room to advise through real life experience of what helps and what does not. Psychosis is still the lesser know side of mental illness, and still conjures up images of straight jackets and padded cells. The reality is a long way from this. It’s more about drinking tea and watching TV! I’m pleased that my blogs have helped others disclose, created a better understanding in employers and given a better picture to relatives of those who suffer extreme mental health episodes.

In having to recreate my life after being knocked down multiple times, I have one core piece of advice. Do the work and think about what went wrong. Reflect on what choices made the situation worse and who turned out to be your true friend under duress (nd of course who did not).

It’s useful to look honestly at what will help fastrack your route to a better future, and what will definitely not help. In other words, while ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’, take time to look at the details. Take time to reflect on the unwritten requirements of a new job, new relationship or new opportunity, and be explicit about where your limits are. Be ruthless about what you will and will not accept. In my life since last year, my deal breaker was preventing tiredness. It undermines my ability to parent properly and function in a balanced way. I was absolutely obstinate in this decision, despite financial consequences… And I feel much better for it. Plus I now know a few things about loss and offer you the biggest lesson I have had to learn.

If you feel you have lost everything. If you feel you have nothing left for you. Remember, there is always something left for you to rebuild. One friend with a listening ear. A useful book. Your ability to bake for others. An idea for a business that you never got round to doing before. A message about an unexpected source of support. Whatever is left, there is always something you can use when you seem to have nothing. Just be brave and start with that something. Be creative. Be determined. And be gentle with yourself when you feel down. There is always tomorrow left to try again, and often someone or something turns up to help.

My thoughts are with you if you’ve hit such a wall lately. Lots of love to anyone facing difficulties beyond what you feel able to cope with. It’ll be alright, Ruth x

P.S. Here’s my blog on being sectioned if it’s of interest: https://wellthoughtthrough.com/2020/02/06/being-sectioned-timetotalk/

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