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

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

Time to talk hashtag

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

Pilgrimage

Hands clasped together
In May this year, my 9 year-old son and I walked the Sarria to Santiago stretch of the Camino de Santiago. It was about a year after I’d had to take time off after having had a mental health crisis and going on pilgrimage was a decision made as part of a new direction and a resolution to embrace new experiences.

This photo was taken just before our final day’s walk into Santiago de Compostela – pilgrims nearing the end of this stage of their journey, hand in hand and stronger for it.

I think life is a pilgrimage. We rise each morning, fulfil what we need to fulfil, and take rest so that we can rise again the next day. Part of the beauty of life on the Camino is its simplicity. It’s a lesson for us all in this ever-more-complicated and cluttered normality – we need much less than we burden ourselves with. You don’t need to go on a physical pilgrimage to commence the same journey of discovery.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Crisis, discovery and reinvention

rugby
2016 was a year of reinvention, sparked by a crisis that I’d been building up to since 2013. Hitting rock bottom can be the making of you, given time and space to heal, a little bit of determination, and someone to hold your hand.

One of the key things in my recovery was seeking out new experiences. We don’t figure out ways forward by sitting down and figuring things out. For me, some of those new experiences were joining a choir, going on pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, and starting to play rugby. I’ve just embarked on a year-long sabbatical to focus on what I have learnt brings me genuine fulfilment: helping people to reach their full potential through awareness, understanding, openness to learning, and action.

I like this photo because for me it epitomises doing things that you’d never normally expect of yourself. I’m often the smallest on the pitch, I’m far from being a good player, and I have loads to learn. But I’m going to get out there anyway, pushing the comfort zone (notably when it comes to tackles!), and remembering that you are often your biggest obstacle. You don’t need to be.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd