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Finding Balance Through Mental Ill-Health with @HansomHealing

Hi all - my name is Frances and I am an Energy Work and Reiki Practitioner, teacher, workshop and retreat guide all round helping hand at The Pink Room. As we come into Mental Health Awareness Week I thought that I would share with you a little of my own journey with my mental health and what has helped me find more balance in my life. ... The first time that I sought out professional help for my mental health, it was not really a term that was used much in day to day life. This was back in the 90's when I was a teenager that struggled with an overwhelming tide of emotions and had found myself self-harming and abusing substances to alter my mental and emotional state. I had the early stages of disordered eating and an eating disorder and I felt deeply overwhelmed by what was happening to me. I remember walking into the GP's office and telling them I was depressed and being told that sometimes people think they were depressed, when really they were not (*in case you guessed, I received no pastoral care that day). Fast forward nearly 25 years later, one full mental-breakdown, chronic panic episodes, bereavements and stage 4 blood cancer, training as a mental health first aider and trying almost every type of therapy I could think of, I thought I would share my run-down of the things that have helped me find the equilibrium needed to become a therapist in my own right and hold space for others (*of course these are subjective suggestions and should not be used as a professional guide to looking after your mental health)

  • Talking Therapies - I have tried most of them at some stage. 1:1 sessions, grief counselling, psychotherapy, group therapy and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). I got something significant out of all of them and they helped me to release the thoughts and feelings that were otherwise pent up and causing me distress. Talking therapy gave me the space to share the shadowy parts of myself or explore traumatic experiences that I did not feel comfortable sharing with my loved ones. I did it when family members and friends passed away and when I was being diagnosed and recovering from cancer and it gave me structure and stability in those times. I know it is scary to open up to a relative stranger, but there is such freedom and release in exploring things in a totally confidential space with a highly trained expert.

  • Creative Therapy - I used to attend weekly creative writing workshops with Mind charity and did art therapy with one of my counselors. I also do anything creative that I find fun and which results in that special alchemy of turning one thing into another to look after my mental health. Whether I am planting in my garden pots, cooking interesting food or drawing it all has the same flow and power of release and mindfulness that I crave.

  • Specialised Therapies - I do a practice called TRE (Tension/Trauma/Stress Release Exercises) which is a simple and potent exercise that helps to re-activate a natural tremoring mechanism in the body. Because this is what is known as Somatic healing (i.e looks at what trauma is stored in the body) you don't need to revisit any stories or talk about anything that you don't want to. This has been a therapy that has been an absolute game changer for me and I do it everyday in one way or another. When I was trying to work through some PTSD following a bereavement and cancer treatment, I also did EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which does mean that you talk about the event and then rapid finger movements in front of the eye are used by the therapist to help relocated this therapy in the brain.

  • Alternative Therapies - I have tried and loved a whole host of alternative or complementary therapies when I could afford it. From EFT (Emotional Freedom Tapping), to massage, breath work, menstrual cycle tracking groups, Reiki, Shamanic healing, acupuncture, reflexology, homeopathy, cupping, nutritional therapy, tarot readings, spiritual readings and Rites of Passage and ceremonial activities etc the list goes on. I could write blog post after blog post on each of these things and the ways that I enjoyed them and felt the benefit but they really all had a part to play in helping me explore some form of self-development or healing.

  • Joy Seeking - this is a complex topic and one that is hard to encapsulate but seeking out joy has been so key for me. Gigs, silent discos, meditations, bloomin long walks outside, reiki swaps, good food, being with friends, swimming in the freezing cold sea, blasting out 90's indie on the treadmill at the gym, yoga, camping, reading, sleeping ... all these things have brought joy back into my life and with joy came meaning. I started having Suicidal Ideations when I was extremely young and as a result I recognise that an absense of joy was also an absence of hope. And an absence of hope was where despair crept in.

  • Meds - I have been on and off different prescription medications since I was about 18 and again these helped me in different ways and for different reasons. As a person whose relationship with spirit, the divine and energy healing is pretty clear to the outside world, this may be a surprise, but you gotta do what ya gotta do! I have tried many other supplements and forms of things to assist, (*which I still do) but at present I take a low level of an anti-anxiety medication to help with PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and things like Magnesium, Vit D and Cod Liver Oil. If you are drowning, you sometimes need a metaphorical life jacket to be thrown to you, and for me that is what medication represents. You are trying to get your feet back on solid ground and there is no shame or guilt to be carried about the ways that you manage to do that.

I also do the maintenance things of reducing my sugar & alcohol intake and staying hydrated and getting lots of sleep. Our nervous systems are like a row of flowers that we have planted. They need the right environmental factors, food, water and soil in order to grow and thrive. What I would also say is that "what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander". Some people hate massage or would rather eat worms than have to talk about how they feel with a councillor. Considering mental health does not mean that you feel unwell, but it is just like considering your physical health i.e where is it on the imaginary temperature gauge in your head. The bottom line is that there are so many overlapping, cross-pollinating, multi-faceted elements of our lives and experiences that blend into what we consider to be our mental health and therefore there are so many overlapping, cross-pollinating, multi-faceted ways that it can be managed. We don't expect the sun to shine on us 24hrs a day 365 days a year, and we should also not expect that we will feel happy and ok constantly. Considering and tending to our mental health is a lifelong practice that will guide us through all of the temperatures, seasons and events of our life. And also a final thought, it is never just all on you. I know that thinking that looking at your mental health feels like a load too big to carry and that if your mental health is not great, then it is your fault that things are intense but that is just simply not true. There are teams of incredible people out there who are doing things to help hold your hand and make sure that you know that you are never alone. Leeds Mind - charity that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing Leeds Samaritans - offering emotional support to people in the Leeds community for over 50 years Forward Leeds - free confidential alcohol and drug support for people in Leeds Battlescars - supporting anybody affected by self-harm Trans Leeds - supporting the Leeds transgender community Mindwell - MindWell is the mental health website for adults in Leeds NHS Leeds Crisis - website detailing emergency Mental Health care in the city SARSVL - support after rape and sexual assault Leeds Leeds iAPT referral form - Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service self-referral form (can also be done via GP). Waiting lists will be in place for the correct service

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