‘Remember yourself as a little girl? She is counting on you to protect her’ – This quote really drove me to look at how I was approaching my recovery. In my previous post I touched on journaling for TBI recovery, and in this post I share some journaling techniques informed by this quote, and helped along by my favourite wellness blogger Amelia Harvey (See her journaling prompts list here).
During my recovery I probably consulted google a billion times a day with ridiculous questions. Somewhere along the lines of ‘how do you look after yourself when you’re down?’ to ‘how to be happy when you’re ill?’ I waded through a lot of online guidance and wishy washy bullshit! In retrospect, I think that I had the answers to these questions inside me. Deep down…… somewhere in the bottom of my unconscious mind. I just repressed my feelings and emotions for so long, because we’re told to think with our heads and not listen to our hearts. I forgot how to connect with my true self, and my basic needs were not always prioritised.
One of the benefits to having a dilapidated brain, was that I couldn’t really use it, so I had to listen to my heart instead. Thinking with your heart, and really listening to it, is almost like listening to a child. Your inner child. Children often say how they feel without a filter, they voice their desires without contemplation. When you’re ill and recovering, I think it’s a good idea to listen to your inner child. What is she saying? What is she feeling? What is she wanting? These felt like good questions to meditate on at the time. But they were only a small part of the battle to feeling better.
Where am I going with this? Well- one of the BEST journaling exercises I did was to imagine myself as my own parent. My weak body and sad mind were my little child, and I needed to be a better parent to that child to help her get better. I began to use my journal to do exercises based on this way of thinking. I asked myself questions like- ‘if you really wanted the best for your child, what would you do?’, ‘how would you take care of her?’, and ‘how would you ensure that she is having a happy fulfilled life?’ I found this way of visualising myself incredibly helpful. The point of this blog post, is that I want to share this exercise with anyone suffering with depression, plagued by illness or recovering from a serious accident like mine.
I am going to share some of the things I wrote in my journal whilst doing this exercise below. Hopefully they don’t sound patronising, or condescending. Some of them are pretty basic, simple steps that I forgot to do for myself well before the accident. Some are things I couldn’t do at the time, but wanted to work towards. Others are probably a bit daft, but they worked for me nevertheless. So without further delay. Here’s the list:
1) Cook them nutritious and healthy meals (http://www.brainline.org/content/2010/12/feed-your-body-feed-your-brain-nutritional-tips-to-speed-recovery.html) .
2) Make sure they get enough sleep.
3) Make sure they exercise. Just small movements when they’re capable.
4) Ensure they have play dates with their friends.
5) Spend money on their education. Think of this as investing in a new skill, or going to the theatre, museums, galleries- think of education as ‘life education’ not ‘academic education’ and support the development of whatever skills they have.
6) Related to 5)- Spend money on developing/investing in their hobbies (music, dance classes, gigs, guitar lessons, creative writing courses).
7) Let them rest when they needed to.
8) Let them have a strop or be angry when they feel like it. Accept that the feelings will pass. Let them revel in those feelings if they must.
9) Similarly, let them cry when they’re upset. Hug them when they’re down. This could manifest as an evening in a warm bubble bath, covering yourself in body lotion and having an early night. Maybe going for a massage.
10) Encourage them when things aren’t working out.
11) Encourage them to try new things. DO NEW THINGS! For me, when I was able to go, I bought myself a gym membership. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever given myself. It keeps on giving. Plus, when I’m poor at the end of the month, it’s somewhere I can go to be entertained. Obviously, I am taking it very slowly and not pushing myself too hard. My favourite thing to do is swim an hour or 2 before bed time. Having to focus my mind on not drowning, whilst simultaneously moving my arms and legs kind of clears my mind of its daily worries.
12) Travel! Anywhere! Take a bus to somewhere you’ve never been before. Give yourself a change of scene. It blows away the cobwebs. I took myself on a yoga trip to Portugal recently. It was one the kindest things I could have done for myself. It gave me something to work towards, it was a light at the end of the tunnel. I learnt a lot about mindfulness and meditation, ate fresh nutritious food and moved my body with care. I realised I could rely on myself, alone in a foreign country. I will write about my experiences here in forthcoming blogs.
13) If all else fails, recognise you’re not recovering on your own and seek out professional help. Demand a counselling referral from your doctor. Luckily for me I live in the UK and we have the NHS. I can’t begin to thank them enough, from my hospital stay (aside from the awful horrendous food), to the follow up care I am receiving. I feel very lucky and privileged to have access to this care. This mind-set of gratitude really has helped me. Obviously at times I couldn’t see this, and didn’t want to accept it, because I didn’t ask to get knocked down and have my health seriously affected! I criticised the nurses during my hospital stay, and I was a miserable bitch. It took a long time for me to accept the accident, and that it was an accident. I wrote out all my frustrations in my journal, regularly, until I could make sense of them, and understand things on my own terms. Once I had written out the best narrative of events I could, I finally started to get over it!
Perhaps if I hadn’t had my injury I wouldn’t have found better ways to look after my health and wellbeing, or seriously think about the future I want.
So that’s where I am leaving this blog post today. If you’re having a shitty day, have a go at writing out your own list of what you would do if you were your own parent. Then, take one of your own suggestions, or one of mine above and go do it for yourself!