Today I started my new role as a volunteer here at the ALLIANCE. I know this will be the next step on my self management journey.
This morning I woke up as usual the voice in my head said “Nope – not today Donna. This is a bad day” This is a thought that pops into my mind more often than not as I am currently recovering from a particularly difficult episode of both physical and mental illness. Many times I have been asked to describe my experience. I would describe it as I feel like I have fallen apart and smashed into 100’s of pieces – and I’m currently working on putting myself back together.
Some people would describe what I have experienced as a breakdown, I like to see it more as a breakthrough. Thanks to the help of an amazing team of people who I have around me, I have been supported and enabled to see that this time is a great opportunity for reflection, learning and personal growth. And of course, an opportunity to re-engage with the many self management tools and approaches that I have at my disposal and like many people – got so caught up in work and life that I was forgetting to use them!
My journey back to a positive sense of health and well-being has been a long one and there have been days where I have thought I will never make this, I will never feel well again. On those days, I work hard to remind myself that this is a journey and that it’s not about reaching a final destination. I remind myself that although there may be bad and difficult moments in a day – there are also good moments. Sometimes even beautiful moments to be found amidst the darkness that I so often feel. Mindfulness has really helped me with this – I’ll tell you more about that later.
Living with long term health conditions is a challenge – especially when your illnesses are invisible. As I left the house today I’m sure that I look OK. I have made the effort to have a shower, do my hair and even put a lick of lipstick on. People will comment that I look good. What they don’t see or hear is the battle that I currently fight every day inside my own head. But today I feel like I have taken another step in this journey back to being me. The me that is driven, passionate, ambitious, creative, innovative and generally fun-loving, happy and content.
Today I started my new role as a volunteer here at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE). Having worked alongside the ALLIANCE in the past I am passionate about the work that they do in the field of self management. It made perfect sense that as part of my own self management journey I chose to come and volunteer here and start to re-engage with the world again. So here I am!! As someone who has always avidly promoted the benefits of volunteering for self-management, I know without a shadow of doubt that no matter how hard it may be to get myself here – when I am here it will help me to feel good.
The Mental Health Foundation published a piece of research which highlighted the many benefits of volunteering for positive mental health and well-being (this link will take you away from our website). One of the benefits of volunteering that was highlighted is that volunteering brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation. Today I would have been sitting at home probably ruminating and/or overthinking. But I’m not – I got myself up and into the office and I have had a lovely cup of coffee, a chat and now here I am writing this wee blog.
Another benefit that was highlighted was that the more you do for others – the more you actually do for yourself. This rings so true for me. I encourage you to think about this and think about the last time that you did something for someone else. Think about how it made you feel. Quite possibly it made you feel good, reminded you that you are a lovely person and that you have skills/qualities and attributes that can help make the world that we live in a better place. Maybe you could consider volunteering too? I know that here can be many barriers in place for people considering volunteering – and I will touch on that in another blog. As my wee Nana would say “where there is a will there is a way”.
Volunteering – I know, will be the next step on my self management journey towards finding myself again. I know that no matter how loud the voices are in my head telling me that I have nothing currently to offer the world – I can challenge them and answer them back by saying oh yes I have – you just watch me!!
So I look forward to seeing what this journey brings for me – and I hope that you enjoy being on this journey with me as I blog my way through it.