Way back when....
In 2019 I wrote a blog called What Attitude? which was based around the wellbeing trend of having an attitude of gratitude and just how much I despised it.
In 2011, at around the same time as this practice increased in popularity, I was dealing with continual thoughts of ending my life which I felt wasn't going to be sorted by such a whimsical practice. In fact I often felt the desire to cause physical harm to those who popped up, waving some embellished hardback from their last John Lewis visit. The more the trend grew, the more we saw these journals and diaries appear in a variety of shops from stationers to supermarkets.
I called it the 'pink and fluffy brigade'; a group of people that believed that feeling better was as simple and as easy as being grateful and just changing your mind!
I recall the anger I felt and the shame that built up, for if it was this easy then why hadn't I already done it? Why hadn't I saved my family and friends all the stress and anxiety by ' just doing it?'
At the time I was carrying enough shame and guilt and recognised it was time for me to act. It was time to stop waiting for someone or something to save me and apply myself 100% to finding my own wellness formula.
My moment of clarity!
I couldn't be grateful during those torturous months. I felt too lost, too detached and too damned angry to be grateful! I wanted answers and was getting nowhere. It felt like my life was somehow wrong for this world. Maybe I had been born to the wrong time and place, where the help I needed had yet to be discovered. Why did I have to suffer? Why couldn't I be well? Why was everything so bloody hard? WHY ME?
I wasn't completely sure what my wellness formula was but having accumulated so much information by way of books, studying therapeutic approaches and others' lived experience, I started to believe I could find the answers I needed.
I began to challenge the idea that I was broken. I didn't have anything to put in its place but I challenged it. I challenged the thoughts that my illnesses were because I had displeased God or my family. I challenged the idea that I was always going to be this way. I challenged the thought that only the medical profession could save me.
It was in these moments of conflict that I began to hear my own voice. A voice that had become so quiet that it was no longer considered.
Along with challenging my thoughts and feelings I opened my eyes to what was around me. In fact it was the beauty of a butterfly that inspired my book Mood Manager - your yearly joy diary.
I was miserable, afraid and forever waiting for the next horrendous panic attack to hit. I was in my flat exercising, when a butterfly landed on the flowers growing on my balcony. For the briefest of moments I was totally lost in the beauty and wonder of this delicate creature. How on earth did it survive when it was so fragile? If this wee beasty could survive then surely I could too? I was in awe.
During that moment I forgot how terrible I felt. I forgot how exhausted my body felt. I forgot the nausea that resided in my gut.
It was this 'forgetting' that gave me the idea of writing down these moments, however fleeting.
I wasn't ready for gratitude but I was ready for the moments that made me smile or made me forget myself. Before bed I would write these moments in my diary and read them the next day to remember the good feelings they stirred.
This quickly became a habit that evolved and grew into my own Joy Diary, an idea that I wanted to share and did so.
How's the attitude now?
Well, you may not believe it but I now own a gratitude journal!
Yes it is shocking! I shall give you a moment to gather yourself!
So how did I get here?
I guess this is proof that we can change and we can evolve. I used a Joy-Diary for many years , probably ten or so. Everyday I wrote down my joys and noted my mood out of 10 and even got to the point of nearly coming off antidepressants altogether but perimenopause changed that. ( I aim to be off them in the next coupe of years.)
I found I didn't need as much information as the joy diary records so stopped my notes altogether. All seemed well until my family life took some knocks. Let's face it the world seems a fairly depressing place to be right now and if you're not careful it can drag you into the depths of despair quite easily.
I knew I wasn't struggling in the same way as before but I recognised the weeds of negativity were doing their best to strangle the joy out of my healthy mindset. I sometimes call myself a mental health warrior which implies that I fight. Although I am not confrontational when it comes to protecting my mental and physical health I am fierce!
I was surprised when the fighting force chosen this time was a gratitude journal. I don't take hours to write in poetic verse about all my blessings but rather a few minutes before lights out at night to remind me of what I am grateful for. Just as in the Joy diary, it is about the true feelings and not the things I feel obligated to be grateful for. These feelings are a powerful source, an energy that really can change your mind!