Sleepless in Sydney

Do you ever get those nights when you can’t sleep? When your mind is buzzing or your body feels like it’s burning? This Sunday night seems like one of those times for me. Despite feeling tired and sleepy by 7pm I have managed to switch my brain on with internet research. Rather than it being the much talked about blue light that stimulated my brain (I had the special night mode on), it was instead my searching that had done it. Be warned there is some ranting, a lot of cynicism and a healthy spattering of swearing below.

My recent reading material (The Four Tendencies) had cemented something in my brain that I have long known, I will never be happy. Now don’t get me wrong this isn’t meant in a fatalistic end of days speech writing moment. I mean that when it comes to work and things that I care about getting right I will not be happy with the outcome. It’s part of my makeup, the perfectionist part of me. It’s the bit that says, “yeah this job you’ve got is pretty good and you are getting paid well, but you aren’t saving lives mate. Ya selling bloody phones.” It’s frustrating. But it is what it is and acceptance is a large part of handling it. Meditation and alcohol seem to help too.

So I am writing this because it makes me feel better. “It’s good to talk” said Bob Hoskins in the old BT adverts. (The links are for anyone that doesn’t know of Bob Hoskins) But in my life my real talking comes in my writing. Not that I don’t feel better after a good venting, coupled with some productive conversation. But this is the tool for dealing with the day to day. The moments when I think “what the fuck is wrong with me?” To all those who don’t have the foggiest what I am talking about I can tell you this, it’s a tool for thinking more rationally. The trouble is it is a slow release thing, so I may not be that rational straight away.

Recently I was emailing a teacher friend of mine back in the UK who had reached out after reading my rant the other week. If you haven’t read it and want some entertainment then just look back a couple of posts. Within his emails he’d talked about the mental health struggles of the kids he works with. This is not something new and in my opinion it won’t ever go away without providing young people the necessary tools to manage their minds and bodies. We are brought up by parents who have to figure out the best for us, hoping that they are doing the right thing, reading books by “experts” and juggling their own shit at the same time.

In my experience school was a fucking minefield of emotions, bullying and mental warfare. Let’s face it, kids are fucking pricks. They know what buttons to press from the moment they wail in the cot until they (hopefully) become self aware and mature enough to grow out of it. In truth as adults we still know how to press people’s buttons for our own gains, but that’s a deeper conversation for another time.

Anyhow school is mental and then you are expected to concentrate and study. But don’t worry because when you get home you can rel... oh no there’s three hours of homework. Plus don’t forget you’ll need to study to pass a load of tests that have no real meaning in your later life. Cheers!

Look I have my gripes about school and I didn’t do as well as I could have if I’d tried, but it is a tough place for people growing up. Adults seem to forget that. Once you’ve “grown up” and garnered your own identity and self confidence you forget how little you had in school. Yes you might have been “the sporty one”, or “the geek”, but they probably weren’t identities and more convenient labels for all but you. What’s needed more than anything during those adolescent years is to learn something valuable for life. Whether that be meditation, creativity or honest conversation there has to be a better way to help young people to help themselves. They aren’t bloody stupid, but there’s a lot of confusing information about and not enough open talking about mental health. Christ if there was then we wouldn’t have such a stigma in the adult world. Can you imagine if we talked openly about mental health like we talk about the bullshit on TV or what some Z-List celebrity has done.... “Mate you should have seen me on Tuesday, I was like, all over the shop. I had such bad anxiety about doing well in these exams. I drank a quarter bottle of my Dad’s vodka and then spent the morning throwing up so that I could get out of my History test.”

Yeah if we talked openly about anxiety and depression, feelings for fuck sake, then maybe we could actually be adults and help each other out. We could be an ear for each other, ask some rational questions and reduce the feelings that drive young and mature people to self harm, addiction and suicide.

Right on a positive note you fuckers here is what I have been enforcing as a healthy habit this last week. I’ve been using an app called HabitShare suggested by my good friend Dane. Essentially it is a social habit making app that keeps you accountable by involving friends. I’ve set some simple habits that I had been doing before, which helped massively with my overall mental health. These were in order of importance as follows:

1. Meditation

2. Writing

3. Reading for 15 minutes

For the meditation I follow the “Three Minute Breathing Space” from a great book called Mindfulness: Finding peace in a frantic world. I go by the KIFSS approach (work it out), so that if I set a low goal I will achieve it frequently and can build from that foundation.

For the writing I follow Tim Ferris’ advice (which he got from another author) of “write one crappy page a day”. Once you get the rubbish out your brain has space to work, both creatively and in a normal healthy way too.

Reading is obviously laid out simply. I actually want to spend this 15 minutes reading fun stuff. Previously I have had several books on the go at once and often some brain working stuff on psychology. This habit is to get me to focus on one thing and for it to be a pleasure rather than a chore.

So I will leave you here and probably get some sleep now that it has turned into Monday morning. But please check out the links provided and remember to set yourself some enjoyable habits as well as developmental ones if you are going to try what I’m doing. If you do get on habitshare then let me know and I’ll add you to my list to offer my encouragement through the apps chat feature.

To all those struggling I send you a large bear hug and the offer of a random unknown and non-judgemental ear if you are in need. I can tell you this. My depression has developed from feeling the weight of the world from my teenage years and through my twenties, to feeling numb and without purpose as I’ve got older. As I’ve come to really know myself over the last five years I’ve realised that through consistent action and learning, I can control the grey matter knocking around inside my noggin. As difficult as it may seem now, let me assure you it will be ok.

Bon nuit mes amis!

Tom :)

#Mentalhealth #Writing #habitmaking #creativity