My mum always reckoned accidents and bad luck came in threes. That’s certainly what it feels like of late. In the last six weeks I have fallen from a ladder injuring my hip; my arthritis has flared up; and now I have suspected tendonitis in my Achilles heel. These niggles and pains mean I have plenty of reasons to be irritable, not least of all due to the endless ibuprofen and icepacks! In the midst of winter the dark shroud might have engulfed me but spring sunshine makes it easier to focus on life’s little pleasures and celebrate what my body can do. Here’s a random selection of “little things” that are preserving my sanity:
- miles of golden gorse on the long train journey to Aberdeen;
- a few days with my toddler nephew, full of auntie cuddles and his wonder-filled eyes as I walk him round the garden, read him stories or crawl around on all fours to play with him;
- the cherry blossom trees on my street;
- lustrous soft British wool in my hands as I slowly knit a cardigan, stubbornly defying the arthritis in my wrist;
- the first pea pods in my tiny back garden-cum-vegetable-plot;
- evenings of music making with a learner ensemble, with me clinging to the score for dear life, playing notes I’ve not formally learnt yet and leaving exhausted but delighted at having played a whole (admittedly very short) symphony;
- lunch with fellow knitters when I happen to be in their town;
- the smell of freshly baked bread, made with the help of the old-fashioned Kenwood mixer that Mr M bought me nine years ago and that has seen almost weekly use since;
- flowers springing up in the most improbably places;
- the slightly gritty feeling of recycled clay that I manipulate with the help of the centrifugal forces from a potter’s wheel;
- cuddles with my gorgeous Dante, who half the time looks at me as if I’m stupid and the other half snuggles up like a soppy cat in search of visceral companionship;
and, of course, meals with Mr M with local seasonal produce and conversation!
This post is inspired by Mental Health Awareness Week. Celebrating small things is one of my strategies for keeping pain-induced depression at bay, as is setting myself small feasible challenges and remaining curious. But there’s no blue print to coping with mental health issues. What works for one person doesn’t necessary work for another. The key to supporting friends, families, colleagues… who are struggling with the Black Dog is to be aware it can take different forms, allow people to tell their story (no matter how fumbling and contradictory it may be), recognise and nurture what practices help their wellbeing but don’t feel you need to have a solution. Just listening and even gentle silence are often a great help.