Peer support is a great self management tool. Sharing experiences with others who have had similar journeys makes you feel less alone.
Stuart is 50 years old, a former employee of Verizon. Stuart’s work was very demanding, but he was driven, committed and career focussed so embraced the challenges it asked of him and welcomed moves to London and Los Angeles.
In his twenties Stuart was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Stuart also suffered flashbacks to a painful time in his childhood which was later recognised as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It wasn’t until 2005 when Stuart was forced to recognise his mental health problems after suffering a breakdown, when everything finally caught up on him whilst he was living in the United States.
Although Stuart was exhausted and felt broken, he was aware that he had always had the symptoms and feelings associated with his younger self’s diagnosis but had kept himself going by supressing these parts of his self.
Having participated in treatment in America Stuart felt lonely, so returned to Edinburgh. However, this made him feel more isolated as he became reluctant to leave his flat in case he bumped into anyone he knew. So his mental health progressively worsened.
When Stuart moved to Perth, where he now lives, he was referred to a psychologist and began to come to terms with his mental health. He was introduced to mindfulness, which, with much perseverance, is now a self management technique that Stuart finds very useful. The real turning point for Stuart was attending Mindspace, an organisation which offered him a space to feel connected in and learn through peer support.
What self management means for Stuart
For Stuart, self management is accepting that achieving good mental health and positive well being is something he is going to have to work at daily. This involves practising self management techniques such as mindfulness which allows him to take some control back and not letting a long term condition dictate his life.
When Stuart was first diagnosed he participated in one-to-one therapy, however he found the real progress in his recovery to be ignited by peer support, finding a community of people who could relate to how he had felt, was feeling and hoped to feel.
In order to manage Stuart’s anxiety he concentrates in finding a state of calmness, ‘a neutral’, not to develop any feelings about his next activity regardless whether it would be fear or excitement. Finding a neutral means that it prevents any stress – it stops Stuart from dreading or not looking forward to activity and just taking it for what it is in the present, which is much less daunting.
“It is important to take the skills and techniques introduced to you by professionals and practice them in an environment where you feel comfortable and can trust. This allows you to distinguish what is really beneficial to you, allowing you to be in the driving seat – deciding what works for you.”
- Once you have a good understanding of your condition, you can use that knowledge to put practices in place that help you to live well and get on with your life.
- Peer support can be a great tool to aid self management – sharing experiences with others who have had similar journeys to yourself makes you feel less alone.