Reconnection: A prescription for depression

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I’m curled up in a cosy cafe this morning thinking, reading and drinking chai. I’m thinking primarily about two people I’ve been in touch with recently who were seeking coaching, except I had to gently explain that based on the information they had given me, it was my view that coaching was unlikely to be an appropriate intervention for them at this time. So I signposted them to their GPs and various resources, explaining why they might first need to seek some clinical or psychotherapeutic help to support them in coping with daily life.

If someone is in need of therapeutic intervention, it’s important for coaches to recognise this and be clear about their ethical remit. Once someone is receiving the right therapeutic support, however, coaching can be a useful adjunct to support them in reaching specific goals in the present (focusing on achieving potential and improving performance, rather than the more coping-oriented nature of therapy).

I’m finding this book interesting (Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope, by Johann Hari). The blurb on the back talks about a ‘radical new way of thinking’ about depression and anxiety, but I’m not so sure – it strikes me as common sense to uncover and address the underlying causes, not simply seek to treat the symptoms. It’s why, in my coaching work, we focus precisely on some of the ‘prescriptions’ Hari writes about: meaningful work, meaningful values, and reconnecting to others and the natural world.

Perhaps, though, it’s been my own journey through and out the other end of depression that has taught me these things. So I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you, even though I am only on page 46.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

I’m Fine

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The thing about mental health is that you can never really know how someone is feeling simply by looking at them. People put on all sorts of masks every day – to feel safe, to feel normal, to stop people telling them to cheer up, it might never happen. I’m fine!

Well, sometimes you’re not. It won’t last forever, but while you’re in that space, it can be very distressing, and sometimes frightening.

Check in on your friends and family. Take time to really listen, to go past the small talk and make a genuine connection. Don’t judge or jump to conclusions. Be kind, and gentle with other people’s hearts. We need that more than ever the way this world seems to be going.

What does “doing your best” mean to you?

IMG_8618“Good, better, best, never let it rest – till your good is better, and your better best.”

Let’s be clear, striving for improvement is important. Putting in good effort is important. Not allowing yourself to give up as soon as the going gets tough is important. It is however all too possible to go way too far in the opposite direction and work yourself into the ground.

Doing your best does not equate to sacrificing your mental or physical health. It does ask that you try to cultivate a spirit of optimism and an attitude towards ‘failure’ that recognises that if you have tried hard and you have learnt something, then you have already succeeded. It is a journey towards realising that your value does not depend on your achievements.

So by all means keep striving and learning. Just don’t forget that you are already worthy. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Emotional boundaries

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I can’t stress enough the importance of self-care and establishing good boundaries. There is always an internal cost to expending emotional energy and you need to know when to step back and respect your own boundaries. It isn’t selfish; it allows you to decompress so that later on you can continue to give. It’s a bit like putting on your own oxygen mask first so that you can make sure you’re able to put on someone else’s.

Take care of yourself, ok?

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Words to myself, at 10, 15, 18, 21, 32 and 35

IMG_8161I am really proud of how this little girl has turned out.

If I had the chance to say something to her at the age of 10, I’d say things get a lot better. The days won’t always be so dark. You won’t always be bullied and this is making you much, much stronger.

If I had the chance to say something to her at the age of 15, I’d say that you are incredibly beautiful, and strong, and perfectly enough. You have always been perfectly enough. Let those who love you support you.

To her at the age of 18, I’d say this relationship is not good for you. Know that others love you so much and the world isn’t going to end if you break up with him. You will learn to value and love yourself and how to stand up for yourself. You’ll learn how not to be emotionally blackmailed.

To her at 21, I’d say that others don’t love you because of your grades and your achievements. Truth be told, these things matter quite little in the larger scheme of things. People love you just because you are you. No matter what.

To her at 32, I would say that you don’t have to be a perfect mum, wife, daughter, employee. You don’t have to be perfect, full stop.

And to her at 35, I’d say you’ll hit rock bottom, but the only way is up. And what a fabulous journey it’s going to be. I promise. Things won’t always be easy, but you’ll finally have learnt to love yourself. And it’s then that you will truly be able to give, give, give. God had a plan for you after all. And you’ll be filled with gratitude.

Looking forward to whatever’s round the corner. This world is so big and so full of promise.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Beat

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I’m supporting the #sockittoeatingdisorders campaign by @beat.eating.disorders.

I was anorexic (and briefly bulimic) the year I turned 15, and I still remember the trigger which was a throwaway comment from my gymnastics coach about how I’d put on weight. I lost nearly 20% of my body weight over that year, could no longer sit without pain as I had no fat left, and my hands could encircle my waist. I recovered and avoided hospitalisation through lots of love from family and close friends. I am no longer anorexic, having learnt to actually love food while at University and in the intervening years to finally love myself too. Which is a good thing, because a few years ago someone in the queue behind me at work commented quietly about me, “So she does eat after all.”

Beat provides support, tackles barriers to desperately needed treatment, and challenges the stigmas around eating disorders. Education and understanding is important – a thoughtless comment in itself might not normally have much significance, but when you’re already battling several psychological factors, sometimes the combined heft is enough to push you over the edge.

So everyone, please be aware, be kind, take care with your words and don’t be afraid to be there to support people when they fall.

You can support Beat in this important work too. If you’re in the UK you can easily donate directly from your mobile phone by texting the code UAUA05 followed by your donation amount to 70070 – for example, to donate £10 text: UAUA05 £10

To anyone who’s battling right now: talk to someone. It’s possible to recover and you are worth the fight.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Time to Talk Day 2018

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Too many people with mental health problems are made to feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. Time to Talk Day is a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.

I’ve written several times about my own struggles with mental health. I’m in a good place right now, but I remember all too vividly the worst days – the uncontrollable crying, the inability to get out of bed let alone leave the house, the nearly irresistible urge to just run away from everything and disappear.

What I have decided to share for the first time, however – because I think I should walk the talk about being open – is that anorexia and body dysmorphia also form part of my history. I thought I should mention it because to me it feels more taboo than depression. That in itself is reason to talk about it. I find this interesting. Why should it be so? Maybe it somehow seems more superficial, despite my knowing that this is worlds away from the truth.

Wherever you are today, tonight – start your own conversation about mental health. Be kind, always. Choose your words carefully. Try not to judge. You never know what battles a person is fighting.

And if you’re battling right now, I wrote this poem for you. Hang in there. It gets better. I love you.

i looked at you today
when you were contemplating alternatives
to semblances of normal; stiff upper lips
and the notion that if it’s not ok, it’s not over

you were wearing your usual colours
blue, grey, black
— like a bruise, blooming
you turned to me, and i had a fancy

i could smell salt; you spoke
under your breath, soft,
as if navigating some provisional distance
to get to anywhere but here

and i wanted to wrap you up
in a cocoon
as if to say don’t touch, not ready
tell the world you’re tired

you’ll come out when you’re ready
i know you’ll come out when you’re ready

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd