Monthly Archives: November 2016

PAWS. Rest. Repeat.

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Tackling any sort of long term problem or issue can often feel like a lonely business, especially if it involves making a decision that sets you apart from the pack. There are a huge number of online forums and places of support that can help, one of them, Hello Sunday Morning, has been a constant in my ups and downs for years, as I clambered onto the wagon, lay down, exhausted, got my breath back then promptly (and sometimes after a while longer) fell off again.

I posted recently about the fact my depression has been rearing its head and my disappointment that my abstinence hadn’t ‘fixed’ or at least lightened this a lot; I was convinced that the two were intertwined almost to the point of being one and the same. Not the case. I described in my post how I’d been feeling, my frustration at feeling frustrated and anxious. My inability to see things logically, my snappiness with the boys and crippling guilt afterwards.

A long-term connection on HSM asked if I had heard of PAWS, or Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. When I looked into it I was incredulous. It described exactly how I’d been feeling and explained why. It makes so much sense to me. Reading about other people’s experiences, just knowing it is NORMAL makes the most massive difference. An extract:

‘It is important to remember that symptoms of PAWS come and go. The vast majority of people do not experience excessive fatigue or anxiety for months or years on end, without a break. Instead, these symptoms fluctuate, lasting days or weeks, and are separated by periods that are symptom-free.’

PAWS is a normal part of the recovery process from unhealthy dependence and addiction.’

So I am not doomed to a life feeling miserable, angry and incapable of change, I am just riding the wave, an unexpected part but one I’m coming to know better now. To know your enemy is to be able to work out strategies to defeat her. I am re-visiting strategies I’ve worked on in therapy and am reminding myself to live with ahimsa, or compassion, towards others and myself.

Just after I had discovered PAWS I did an incredible workshop with Cora from Slow Yoga. I had signed up for this because I love Cora as a teacher and it seemed like a nice place to be on a Sunday afternoon so it was spooky how well it fitted in with my decision to accept this part of the journey and look after myself.

If you ever want to see just how quickly two hours can open your heart and help you find peace, do this! The combination of delicious yin poses to iron out the body’s kinks and deep yoga Nidra leaves you feeling clean, rested, refreshed and at peace – yes, all at the same time! I also felt a determination to try and carry this into the everyday, this slowing down, taking everything one step at a time.

Another thing that popped into my inbox just at the right moment it seemed was an email from Holly Whittaker at Hip Sobriety. She is one of my gurus in sobriety, her words reach me, describe me, inspire me. She is running an initiative called The Mantra Project and as soon as I read about it I knew I needed and desperately wanted to do it.

Meditation is something that helps me immensely but something I sometimes struggle to fit into my day. To have a reason to get up, to read what the mantra is for today, then to light candles, sit with the words for a while, give myself peace and time for myself before the inevitable craziness of the day begins feels like absolutely the best kind of treat. One I love and one that is enriching me, helping me heal and grow. I feel stronger, more capable of tackling the demons, keeping them at bay and becoming the me I want to be.

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Love ❤️

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Many of us feel as though we are living in some sort of awful dream-state, when in fact we are learning the hard way that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

I have indulged in my fair share of Trump memes, hilarious while I believed that his election would be an aberration. And now it’s happened. There is such strength of feeling on show, people have shouted, and continue to shout, their fears, masquerading as beliefs. For it is fear that drove the result. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of the unfamiliar. Haven’t we all known that feeling at some point in our lives? My six year old felt it yesterday doing something for the first time; my eight year old every time there is a storm; my ten year old has to work hard not to shut down at the prospect of change. We all, to a greater or lesser extent, know that feeling, that fear.

But to play on those fears, to use them for political gain is, to me, despicable. It is politics. Admitting your fears out loud is the ultimate act of vulnerability. As adults, it is too much for many, for most. The election gave a voice, and an action, to those deeply-rooted fears.

It is easy for us with the skills, the comfort, the knowledge to dismiss the vulnerability. Far easier to be incensed, shocked and angry. But to react with anger and hatred will play into the hands of those keen to maintain the divide.

Far better to try and react with love, with understanding, with an effort to share these qualities, hope the light wins over the darkness.

I spent yesterday morning at Yoga Sivana surrounded by beautiful souls whose hearts collectively expanded as we listened to the Venerable Lama Tendar telling us his story; it is one of exile, uncertainty, imprisonment. And yet.

And yet he teaches compassion. Compassion to all living beings, even, perhaps especially, towards those we don’t immediately connect with or understand. We looked to him for healing, for guidance. Tolerance, understanding, compassion, love.

It is up to us to be brave, to have the courage to go forward with our hearts and minds open, to love freely and without judgement. 

Namaste ❤️

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Shame

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Yesterday I read the report of an inquest into the death of Karanne Hollow, a British solicitor who chose to end her life six weeks after being arrested for drink driving. It stated that, following an argument with her boyfriend she ‘downed’ two bottles of wine and later crashed her car into a hedge at 3am without injury to herself or anyone else.

The coroner’s statement goes on to say she was embarrassed by her consequent arrest and questioning by police a week later. One newspaper report suggested she had previously been treated for depression.

The thing that leaps out at me is that this was a young woman who was clearly struggling with life and who must have felt she had no other choice but to escape the pain permanently. Perhaps she had exhausted all avenues. She must have felt as though there was no one who could help.The last thing she did though was to send a message to her sister; she had people who cared, who would almost certainly have done anything they could to help.

As is tragically borne out by statistics, far too many people find it impossible to reach out; to admit to their struggle, to ask for help. There has to be some onus on friends and family to stay vigilant when someone is not coping; desperation can turn into decision all too quickly.

There should be no more shame in talking about mental health than physical. And yet digestive health, sports injuries, allergies, you name it, all seem to be acceptable conversation material whereas depression and anxiety are hidden away, couched in shameful language and feelings of inadequacy. In this day and age of oversharing (and I put my hand up as a guilty party), that people feel there is still a stigma is unacceptable.

The days of being expected to pull ourselves together should be long past. There are so many wonderful organisations out there, so many souls willing to help; it should never come to it that people feel they have no alternative but to end their life.

Shame around drinking is real, we all know ‘the guilts’ but, gut-wrenching as they are, they do pass, until there is a habitual problem. Then come admissions, bigger decisions that have to be made, ones that will have a lasting impact. Those decisions need bolstering, shoring up with love and with kindness from within and without.

If it all sounds somehow obvious, or easy, I apologise. We all know it is anything but. The tricks the mind can play are infinite in scope, whether it is well or not. It is only by exploring with honesty, by sharing, by talking that the maze can be navigated.

Lifelife Australia – Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention 13 11 14

Samaritans UK – 116 123

Beyond Blue Australia – 1300 22 4636

AA Australia – http://www.aa.org.au/

AA UK – http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/

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