Ecotherapy

” Exposure to nature and the outdoors as a form or component of psychotherapy “

Full springtime immersion, feeding spring lambs and poking my fingers deep into their already thick fleecy head.

Local walks stolen between school drop-off and the various obligations of the day. Over the grimy crossroad and away from the the chip-shop stink. Tripping down concrete steps littered in broken plates ’til I reach the river path. The quiet. The wild place right on my doorstep. Coming nose to nose with buds and blossoms. Feeling the tickle of the catkin pollen and fur on my cheek. Pressing my ear, my chest into the thick trunk of a tree. Guessing the things it’s seen. Whispering in it’s scaly ear… thank you.

Rare child-free weekend away. Decadent in both it’s fine hostelry and it’s long fell top walks. Hours spent drinking local ale in a cosy pub and talking, talking, talking. Baths for no other reason than the time to do so and a really large claw foot bath that needed filling with hot lakeland water. Afternoon snoozes. Books. Poems.

Muddying boots and roseying cheeks and gritting up bitten fingernails with wet moss as I scramble and scrape my way over rocky fells.

Heart thudding, breath heaving, boots marching. Up. Up. Up. Relentless. Telling myself to just keep putting one boot in front of the other and I will get there.

I will.

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Happy Things #8

So many things this time around, and this isn’t even the fully up to date version. Lucky me!

My birthday was in February. We spend a gorgeous very early Spring day at Flamborough Head, visiting the Living Seas Centre run by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. For a tiny wee cabin it offers loads to do and I definitely want to go back and tag along with one of the guided walks along the shores. Rock Pooling is one of those romantic concepts that enchanted me as a child. It must have been Enid Blyton, or maybe something out of the Sunday supplements in the summer holidays. Or maybe it was just that Lancashire beaches are not particularly rock-pooly – favouring long and broad sandy sealess expanses. Ergo, rock pools were possibly the height of pre-teen geek exoticism. Whatever it is, I am just desperate to uncover an anemone, or a fossil or a live crab. It’s gonna happen. It will be a dream come true when it does.

It is HERE. There are blossoms, and burgeoning shoots, all turgid and expectant. And colour. At this time of year the colour is so precious, every shade standing proud against a background of black earth, grey sky or saturated grass. Before it’s rarity is lost amongst the brassy extravagance of summer.

Leaving February and into March, I was feeling the come-down from my birthday and was starting to get a bit shitty and fed up with all the grey. (Why? I don’t know, clearly I forgot to review my photo library – case in point above….) A long weekend in the Lake District was an absolute saviour for all of us. I didn’t know how much we all needed it until we arrived. It just felt like that was the place we all need to be, right at that very moment. All of the shitty just faded away. And how can you… just how, can anybody fail to be revived and jolted into happy by the sight of rainy north west mists rising up over the tops of those mountains? Some people are wary to visit the Lakes because of the reputation for rain. But honestly, it hardly rains as much as you plan for. And it moves and changes so much, the blue sky is never far behind. What glory. What drama.

So, there you have it. Until next time, adios amigos 😉

Happy Things #7

Here I shall represent in pictures, a stubborn refusal to yield to the blues of the season.

They were pretty on their own, but then this happened and my heart went POP!

Hugging trees and snuggling up the ivy. I know – such a cliche… but you will find no apology here.

Hot choc dates with my girl in cafes with steamed up windows and free books.

Trying to run again. Or at least be active more. This particular run was fun. I got lost and had to run through a boggy stream. Both of which I feel are essential for a sound mind.

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On full blast, while dancing alone in the kitchen! Need I say more?

It’s all working by the way. Black dogs may bite at my heels but none of those fuckers are getting any where near my shoulders!

Habits for My Wellbeing

2 days in to reducing my antidepressants and I felt irritable, angry, just generally het-up. I’m not sure if it was the medication change or just other stuff. The news for example. Trump – say no more. Brexit – what a bloody cock-up. Theresa May makes me feel sick. Trump makes me want to hang my head in despair.

Was it other factors? We were all tired and run-down and Mister had a horrible cold. Girl child is not going to bed when we want her to and basically runs rings around us all day long (so it feels sometimes).

Am I missing some other purpose? My voluntary role has been pretty all consuming for the last year, but recently, things seem to have finally fallen into place. I have an enormous sense of satisfaction from this, but now that we don’t have weekly (daily…?) crisis meetings about one thing or another, I feel a bit bereft. I miss my committee buddies, and my messenger app pinging all day long and the sense of camaraderie that brings.

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Aside from these more general observations, there are four areas I have decided to prioritise.

Meditation & Mindfulness

I have practised these on and off over the last couple of years, but I know that to get the most from it, I need to practice everyday, so I treated myself to a Headspace subscription while it was on special offer. The mindfulness practice fell by the wayside in a sense, as I wasn’t scheduling, or following a program. Yet, I realised recently, that I do practice it. It’s just more spontaneous, more nuanced than following a set of instructions. I’m quite pleased to think that it has evolved into one of my little coping mechanisms. If I feel myself getting monkey-minded, I’ll focus on my breath for a minute, or watch the birds in the garden, or just close my eyes and listen to the sounds around me. Funnily enough, I’ve spent a lot of time since my mindfullness program, wondering how on earth to incorporate it into my life as a Mum. But the truth is, it’s tiny fragments of mindfulness throughout the day, rather than a big set aside block. And thats actually more beneficial for me.

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Sleep

Really, really, really, trying not to go to sleep during the day. I know lack of sleep (at night) exacerbates my low mood. However I am also guilty of confusing tiredness with low mood and heading for a lie down, thus beginning a vicious circle. My current experiment is to try and stay awake during the day, with gentle pottering and faffing. In CBT terms this is the thin edge of the ‘behaviour activation’ wedge. I think. I’m no pro…

Exercise

When a friend was having difficulties last year, I suggested we go for a walk, because I knew that the fresh air, the exercise would help her to feel better. In doing this I realised that I NEVER practice what I preach! Its so hard to motivate myself. That is my biggest challenge when I feel down. Several times a year I “resolve” to be more active and really make exercise a habit in my life. If I’m honest with myself though, what have I really done? I haven’t really made an effort. I have not made any sacrifice or overcome any hurdles to make it happen. I allow the barriers to stay just that, and make no attempt to break them down. I know from my CBT that the motivation does not come first in depression. You have to act first, even if the motivation is not there.

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Writing it Down

Hello WordPress. Hello lovely notebook. Hello note taking app. By the end of my recent therapy sessions, I came to the conclusion that it was essential for me to get my thoughts and feelings out of my head. Talking therapy is great, but comes at a cost. If I could afford it I would just go once a month and just have a big brain dump on somebody, but I can’t, so I have to re-commit to regularly writing things down. I’m not going to worry about where, or how good it is. I’m just going to do it. I KNOW from past experience that writing it all down, helps me to detangle and see things as they really are.

 

Wish me luck!

p.s. Sorry for the crap title….

…..and the mixed-up tense’s…..

….and any spelling mistakes…..

The Midwinter Pause

It’s here. The bit we didn’t get last year, because, rain. 


These days between Christmas and new year. I used to find them an unbearable waste of time between key nights-out where there was a void filled only by roses chocolates and end of year review shows. 


Now they are blissful days of deep midwinter, and I relish the lack of plan, and the empty days. Days to nest, days to read, days to catch up, days to make plans. To potter and to faff. 

Of course there are people to see, clothes to launder, jobs to do. It can all wait. Just one more cup of tea…

Shall I?

Shall I start this again? I asked myself loads of times over the last year. By ‘this’, I mean this thing that you are reading now. This blog. Whoever *you* are. So I suppose the question has now been answered because here it is.

This time last year was a flurry of activity. Girl-child had just reached the point of being really engaged and motivated to make stuff. To create. So we got messy and covered in glitter and went out collecting things that we could stick either together, or glitter all over. It felt wonderful. Quiet, gentle hours spent at the kitchen table together, creating.

And then came Christmas, and the flood, and multiple house moves and here we are one year later. Also, I got busy again. Like I was in the beginning, when D was a baby. This time, not nappies, purees and breastfeeding though. This time I volunteered, and in doing so, I entered into a commitment that is at once stimulating, rewarding, frustrating, time consuming and more responsibility than I ever thought possible for an unpaid role for parents. So I suppose I’ve concluded after a couple of months of feeling stressed, that I am missing an outlet. So in the absence of loads of time to get stuck into a visual project, the easiest and most flexible thing to do for me, is string words together. Again.

Already the pages of my private journal have started to fill up again after a very long period of nothingness. Because I missed having the little details of life to look back on, and becauseI miss this sense of untangling and perspective that comes from writing down my worries. In fact, I have been having some therapy again recently, which always helps with the untangling. Sometimes, as I leave the session, feeling lighter and surprised at my own realisations, I wonder if I shouldn’t just carve out one hour per week to scribble and save myself the money (not that I worry about that – it is money well spent) Carving out time is easier said than done. There are distractions outside of the four walls of the therapy room and reasons to let myself down, which don’t apply when I know somebody is waiting for me to turn up.

Showing up for myself is hard.

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Jumping Puddles.

Let today be the day the girl child had her first full day at playgroup by herself. She jumped in puddles and got her socks wet, “played and played and played” but at what or with whom she cannot say. She required a full change of clothing due to wee (bottom half) and general water messing (top half). She blagged her way into the kitchen and tried to charm an extra yoghurt from one of the staff members “mmm… that smells good…!?” Despite it only being her first week, in a room full of settled-in boys and girls, she has, I’m told, got her feet firmly under the table, as if she has always been there. No tears. No emergencies.  

Up until now, I have mainly been on childcare duties interspersed with phone calls and internet research, with Mister being at the house, sorting out the dirty hands-on flood stuff. Today we both tackled it. I got emotional about the sausage butties and tea from the phenomenal Fossy’s Flossy’s voluntary food wagon. Because I get that. Food. That’s what I want to do in a crisis – feed people. So to be fed by somebody who doesn’t know me, and who isn’t getting paid, with donated food, while they freeze to death in their little wagon. It gets me. Then there was the visit to Homebase, and the sight of people nonchalantly browsing sale items to beautify their homes. And me, in my bright yellow waterproof trousers, blue jacket and bright pink Wellies. Although admittedly, I selected the Wellies for sheer comedy value. Because if you can’t look like a clown when you are cleaning shitty water off a hula hoop, when can you?

 
The skies over York have been a talking point, tonight. At sunset, the most beautiful golden light bouncing gloriously off panes of glass, hanging low on the horizon, beneath the strangest cloud formations. Truly ethereal.IMG_5367The first tentative murmurings of Spring can be found fighting their way out from the mire today, including the first snowdrop in our garden. Its clean white bud swinging delicately over a puddle. Hope.  

 

After The Flood.

Christmas Day 2015 was the best. Ever. Then it was Boxing Day.

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1 // The water creeping up the garden. You can see the River Foss just over the fence. It’s never breached the back fence before. Not while we have lived here at least.

2 // Preparing for the worst – thinking it might end up being a bit of a faff seeing as we’d have to come and put it all back the next day.

3 // View from across “the river”. The bottom of our from door is 4 steps up from the level of the road itself. We had only remarked a couple of days before Christmas “if we flood the whole of York will be under”

4 // After the flood. Filth everywhere.

I’m surprised I haven’t cried more at this point. It’s not really the things that need replacing as much as the inconvenience of it all that bothers me the most. I got upset about the thought of the original fireplace and surround which will have to go, because I felt sad for the house, and all the people who had lived here before us. I felt sad about it being the two rooms that we had put so much of ourselves into creating – the lounge and the kitchen. The builder friend of ours who had built it and done such an impeccable job of every last detail. I was sorry for his ruined craftsmanship. The emotional impact of the constant lists whirring around inside my mind. Things not to forget to do. Trying to keep things on an even keel for the girl child. Sleeping in a different bed, waking throughout the night. Strange dreams, the by-product of unsettled times.

And yet, life continues. We deal with the insurers, and builders and whoever else we need to deal with. Taking it day by day.

We are lucky we have somewhere safe and dry to stay.

We are lucky that the efforts of yorks voluntary army have been so strong (particular gratitude to the men and women serving hot food and tea in our neighbourhood).

We are lucky that we have our families and friends to lean on. The offers of help and good wishes are countless.

We are lucky we managed to save most of our possessions. And also amazed at how much stuff we don’t really care about 😉

We are lucky we had the money to pay our insurance premiums.

We are lucky we have a 3 year old to make us laugh on a daily basis.

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Autumn

The garden is damp. The plants have flopped over, or been battered down by the rain. The earth has tilted, so light becomes scarce. There is a 4ft sq of light that spans the edge of the garden and the hedge, and it creeps silently along that one edge of the garden from morning until mid afternoon, when all light is gone completely. I don’t love my garden in Autumn, it has to be said. The grass never dries out, the dew sits on the branches all day, quietly dripping onto the humus below. There are glimpses of joy – fat garden spiders hanging out in their copious webs, the leaves on the potted blueberry, which turn all the colours of autumn. The magenta stars of the asters, and the small blue flowers of the borage that has self seeded itself in the bath. The bath, which I planted earlier in summer to be a sensory seat – chamomile, lavender, thyme – is gushing forth, still. And the birds visiting the fat balls and peanuts we put out together. They peek their little heads out gof the hedge first to see if the coast is clear, then out they flutter for a nibble or a drink.

Generally though, I have to go a bit further afield than my garden in order to enjoy the splendour of the season, and so far I haven’t. I’m not sure why exactly. Mister and the girl child have – but I’ve opted to stay home and nest. To be alone, pottering, listening to podcasts, gathering my thoughts. It feels right somehow.

On a bright day, I have sat on the bench outside the back door, with steaming tea, breathing in the wet air, and I like that. When the heating comes on, and we must enshroud ourselves in restrictive layers and coats, those damp micro-droplets in the air feel so thirst quenching to my skin and my lungs. Maybe I will take off my shoes and socks and spread my toes out in the wet grass. Yes, I should do that.

In the meantime, here are some photo’s. Fat berries and luscious light *sighs*

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Did you see the little hairs on the Borage? In my lightless garden… Hmmm – insert meaningful Pinteresty quote here _____ (or below…?)

Bye for now – hopefully I will not leave it as long between posts this time!

Happy Things #6

  

1 // Reading. On my bookshelf at the moment I have ‘Sane new world’ by Ruby Wax and ‘The Jewel Garden’ by Monty and Sarah Don. Knowledge is power and, as it happens, out of my three years of undergraduate Physiology, neuroscience was the most interesting module to me. As a Physio too, the physiology of pain fascinates me, so this was never going to be a tricky read for me… If anything I’m left wanting. Recognising there is a physiological process contributing to my low mood is helping me to accept it and move forward. The Jewel Garden is inspiring me to get my hands dirty to cleanse my mind.

2 // The garden is looking lovely, as I’ve already posted. Since then, the French lavender and our dusky pink aquilegia have exploded bringing some very definite floral focal point to the garden. 

3 // The first of the summer swallows arrived and I feel hopeful in my heart just thinking of lying in the garden looking up through the trees to watch them swoop and dive for flies. 

4 // Cow parsley and Lilacs frothing over the edges of our nearby cycle track, and Hawthorne blossoms filling the air with summer scent that reminds me of childhoods playing in the fields near our home. 

5 // Bringing some regularity and importance back to my meditation and mindfulness practice. Ruby Wax proving some practical tips in her book, Headspace guiding me in my meditation practice and Lotus Bell app reminding me to breathe and take a mindful moment at random times through the day. Discipline is all my own. 

What are you happy about or grateful for this week? Any recommendations for further reading…?!