Life is a beautiful, confusing, mesmerising, challenging, satisfying, mysterious, awkward, joyful, stressful, sacred, messy, humbling, peaceful and all-kinds-of-adjectives-in-between rollercoaster ride of ups, downs and round-and-rounds isn’t it?!
I know personally for me, there are weeks when I feel like I’ve got it all figured out – when I’m feeling creative and inspired, confident and motivated, full of the joys of life, moving with my flow, living in my power and all that jazz. Then there are days, sometimes weeks where I’m feeling low, worthless, not good enough, invisible, unappreciated, unsuccessful. Weeks when I just think to myself: ‘You’re really not that great at this being human malarky’. That’s life isn’t it, a whole complicated mix of the good, the bad, even the ugly. Now, I know as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better at recognising negative feelings and low moods, that the rational side of my brain is able to speak truth to my insecurities. I can more often than not lift myself out of self-pitying ruts or help myself during sudden bouts of depression. As a Mum of 3 who has suffered postnatal depression on and off over the years, I know my symptoms, recognise them well as they bubble threateningly beneath the surface, but, I also know the things that help me. I know what my resources are and I know how to use them when I need to. Healthy food, exercise, solitude, being in nature, talking to trusted friends and family, reading, organising and decluttering – these are all tools that aid me in my darker days to move back into a place of light and lightness. Without tapping into these things I would struggle, I’d slide down further the slope of despair and eventually become lost and scared, anxious and lonely – a rotten place to find yourself indeed. It has taken time, many years in fact to build up my ‘armoury’ – it takes time to know what works for yourself as an individual, but it is without a doubt a very worthwhile endeavour to investigate what makes you tick and figure out what supports your mental wellbeing…it matters because you matter.
‘TREATING MYSELF LIKE A PRECIOUS OBJECT WILL MAKE ME STRONG’
– Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Recently, following a really challenging couple of days at work I was so grateful for some family time in the Mourne Mountains. I had been the recipient of some harsh, hurtful words and threats and while part of me wishes that I wasn’t so deeply affected by other’s words, I cannot help that I am. I used to see this trait in me as a weakness, but I’ve come to realize that feeling deeply allows me to be someone who can empathise with and support others. It’s part of who I am and that’s that.
So, anyway, some vicious words stung and I was feeling raw as we headed into the hills for the day. The mountains are always my go-to place, not necessarily to escape, but to reconnect, to ground myself and put things into perspective. They, along with my loved ones, are my sanctuary, my safe place, where I go to ponder, talk it through, shout about it, deal with it, cry about it, release it, let it go!
I have been preparing my body for an upcoming challenge I am planning, so I decided to hike barefoot on Sunday. As I walked, feeling the earth beneath me, chatting with my family, experiencing the freedom of time in nature, I was aware of my shoulders loosening, stresses and worries being unburdened as we slowly made our way up Hen Mountain in the Mournes.
As we neared the summit, I could feel tears on my face. The hurts of the previous few days being released. Hen Mountain is one of our favourite Mourne walks, its rocky torrs offering lots of little hideaways and viewpoints from which to marvel at the surrounding countryside and mountainscape. We quickly found a sheltered spot, because although bright and sunny, a strong breeze made it chilly to stand around for too long. My 3 boys and husband curled into me, offering hugs and silent comfort. They know me well and know that sometimes I experience reassurance in the quiet presence of others. As we snuggled closely for warmth, I heard a voice within gently say ‘Look up, Kelly. Look up’. I lifted my head and took in the beautiful mountain views. Part of me wanted to wallow in my sadness, but a better part of me wanted to be present, here, in the moment, awake and aware. I savoured the views, which forever inspire awe in me, and I looked at my husband and sons wrapped around me to show me how much I am cared for. In the midst of my insecurities, vulnerability, self-doubt, feelings of not being good enough, sense of worthlessness and so on, I was reminded that there is much to be grateful for, that there are glimpses of joy to be experienced if only we remember to listen to that still, small voice which softly instructs ‘lift your head’. While that wild landscape of the mountains has challenged me in so many ways over the years, scared me at times even, I never cease to be amazed at the comfort, reassurance and acceptance I feel when there. It stirs me to live each day with immense gratitude for this precious life and marvellous world, to know in the grand scheme of things that I am small, my life a moment in time, but all the while gently held, loved and valued. It’s the ultimate paradox when in the mountains that we can experience the vastness of nature and be made aware of our place in this world and in time, yet, it’s also the place where I personally feel most vital, present and committed to live life vigorously and beautifully.