I saw a good friend the other day, a lady I have nothing but respect for. Within five minutes of entering my house she had gone off on a tirade about Syria, the threat of war, Chinese kids getting their eyes gauged out, and other horror stories she’d be reading about on the Mail Online. Slow down I said, why on earth are you filling your head with nonsense from a dirty rag like that? The answer was simple to me, although probably not to her. This woman has been through the mill in the past few years, and is still battling life’s dramas with a husband who refuses to seek help for his many and complex troubles at the root of his depression. This means all the weight of responsibility falls onto her shoulders. Parenting, running the house, working full time, with bugger all help from him. Suffice it to say she immerses herself in current affairs so she doesn’t have to think about the issues inside her own four walls.
In my opinion, this is a dangerous game to play. Most people are simply not capable of ‘dealing’ with a life of dysfunction or hardship without professional help. Eventually an unhappy past will catch up with you – whether it’s triggered by having a baby, working too hard or getting sick, a breakdown is usually inevitable. It seems arrogant to me that you wouldn’t want to get better when so much help is on offer.
Another friend has been in a bad place for years. She grew up with a mother who picked holes in everything she did as a child and clearly favoured her younger brother. Unsurprisingly my friend has very low self-esteem, which has led her to make terrible decisions over the years. I’ve been talking to her about the merits of counselling for as long as I’ve known her and she’s always found excuses to not do it. The Xmas before last she discovered that her fiancé had been having an affair and called off the wedding. Five minutes later this woman was living in her old house, pregnant with the baby she longed to have. Understandably this chain of events propelled her into the depths of despair, and finally she started seeing a counsellor. Although she resisted at first and hated it, she is now a self-proclaimed evangelist and cannot advocate it enough! She’s always worked hard in her job and has recently secured a promotion at work which involves moving to New York – a dream of hers since she was at uni. She realises the break up, although horrendous, was the best thing that could have happened and she now has the confidence to go off and start a fabulous new life. What an amazing turn of events. She learnt the hard way, through years of thinking she could cope with the ingrained negativity, that actually there was no shame in admitting that she couldn’t.
When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was very messed up. Haunted by a dysfunctional past I would get totally hammered and a night would often end with me crying about things that had happened to me – essentially reliving the trauma every time. Through counselling, self-help books and a lot of support from the poor long suffering guy that calls himself my husband, I am no longer that person. I truly believe it is possible to get through just about anything life has thrown at you, as long as you are willing to put in the hard yards and help yourself. For me the first step to getting better was learning to control my thoughts, ultimately I knew if I didn’t they would end up controlling me.
In a crazy fu**ed up world I have little control over what happens, so I choose to focus on what’s important in my own world instead. We don’t have a TV in our house, and I actively avoid reading the papers. Don’t get me wrong we still watch films and telly on catch up via the laptop, and we keep an eye on the big important news stories. I sign lots of petitions against things I am anti and join campaigns, but I don’t get obsessed by them like I did in days gone by. I use my energy in a positive way, and when the dark clouds loom (which they do every now and then) I think about everything that is great about my life. By focussing on the blessings to be counted rather than the misery that is going on in the world, I am a much happier me.