Thoughts: Mental Health and Wellbeing

Ok. We need to talk. I know I’m strong and resilient. I also know that I am severely impacted by the events of 2020 and now.

I know that most people are also impacted, and many people are simply unaware that they are impacted.

I work in a business that provides mental health support. I talk to people everyday about how to support their people, so I’m acutely aware of the world and also acutely aware of self.

I am not quite right. And this is Ok. It’s important to acknowledge. It’s important to be able to talk about it.

I’ve noticed a few things that are subtly dictating my behavior and how I interact.

I am struggling with going ‘out’. I can’t do crowds at the moment. For example, I lasted an hour at the Sky City 90’s party last week. The crowds sucked, Annie Crummer was cool. She’s still got it. Go Annie!

I have increased frustration with my friends. Plans made get cancelled or rainchecked at the last minute so there’s no time to make new plans. Therefore I end up staying home. I can’t take myself out solo to see the Viaduct. Side note: What the hell does one do solo in the Viaduct anyway? Especially when one struggles to interact. (NZ culture looks at single, middle-aged white men out and about with a certain unhelpful filter).

My self-diagnosis (note: I’m NOT a clinically trained professional) would suggest I’m not depressed. My day-to-day is fine. I’m not anxious. I’m just not that interested in being in the world.

I do have friends that care. I could have seen Russell Howard tonight (for example) but the idea of being in a closed room full of strangers? Nope. Couldn’t do it.

I’ve been invited to watch the SuperBowl on Monday with an American colleague. Would love to. But there are strangers there. I don’t have the energy. So I’ll stay home, make chilli and drink Budweiser, and watch it alone.

My tolerance levels have reduced. I get grumpy with friends who tell me about their fun evenings out (having not invited me) with people they’ve told me about, introduced me to, and then actively prevented me from getting to know. And then when I point this out I get ghosted for a week. So that’s cool.

It’s not all a self-involved whine though. Tomorrow will be a good day. I’m going to have fun with a new group of friends. And I’m actively forcing myself to lower my guards. Be open to new connections.

Mental health is a weird beast to manage. As we all have varying levels of physical fitness, we have varying levels of mental fitness.

The key for me is to recognise that I’m not 100%, to focus on what I can manage and improve, and to be kind to myself about the rest.

Oh… and happy Waitangi Day fellow Kiwis!

Thoughts: And 2020 is done

It’s done.

Looking back, I have to say that I have learned much about myself this year. I’ve had to dig deep – deeper than ever before. I understand my strength, my resilience. My vulnerabilities.

It has been a year where the sources of support I’d usually expect to be able to draw from were reduced or absent. It’s been a year where I finished utterly broken.

I’d love to venture into more detail about my work but that really isn’t a great idea. I can however say that in 8 days of recovery I’ve gotten from 0% to about 50% of where I need to be.

This has been a year of some significant milestones and achievements, and whilst I do take time to pause and reflect on these, my residual energy levels aren’t yet high enough to properly enjoy these moments. These accomplishments.

This year, my Christmas celebrations were muted. A few hours with my teenagers was great, but unusually for me – no decorations. No excitement. No anticipation. Nothing really to look forward to. Plans fell through. And so I’m doing everything I can to rest up and recharge. I’m doing everything I can to clear my head and my more importantly, my dreams. I have been replaying and revisiting work conversations which isn’t helpful. I can report that with the acquisition of a new pillow, my rest last night was full. No work dreaming.

I will be ok (I’m very self-aware) but it’s taking a lot longer to recover than the few days I thought it would take. Which highlights how much care I need to take.

So, what am I doing?

Focusing on gratitude is key for me.

I’m grateful for my few close friends who kept a watchful eye on me who this year. I’m grateful for my colleagues who checked in on me – and I checked on them. The mutual support has been so so important and so very good.

I’m grateful for the new people that I’ve met this year. I’ve noticed that people in my circle have slowly exited – through isolation, busy-ness and distraction mostly – so I’ve had to breathe and start again. It really is quite tiring getting to know people enough to trust them with ‘Simon-world’… but to those I’ve let in, thank you. Thank you. My guards are coming down slowly and you have helped me immeasurably.

I’m grateful that this year I’ve developed some better habits: regular walks, smaller portions. I cancelled my gym membership (after 18 months of only using their bathrooms). Perhaps 2021 will see a re-motivation… but knowing me it’s unlikely. Gyms really aren’t my natural environment.

I’m grateful that I’ve ticked quite a few things off my various life to-do lists.

I’m grateful that my teenagers have thrived and are succeeding. It’s good to see them happy.

Continuing the family theme, watching my adoptive parents having to deal with enforced change due to age in the last few months has been draining and impactful, but seeing their grace and dignity through these challenges is also inspiring. I do need to acknowledge the effort my sister has put in to help them through. She has definitely gone above and beyond. Being able to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary a week or so ago was great.

Seeing this makes me appreciate the time I have.

So here’s to the New Year. The trick is to recognise that it’s pretty much going to be more of the same. So I’m planning accordingly. I will continue to tick things off my lists. I will re-open myself. I will continue to explore. Explore nature, explore food, explore New Zealand. I will continue to Dad.

Thoughts: Friendships are Weird

So, here’s the thing. I’m a guy who makes friends easily. On the surface at least. But my reality is that my friendships are, for the most part, mostly really really great acquaintances.

People often come into my world and then they leave. Everyone has different journeys. We all play a part I guess.

I’ve always held the view that the Universe connects you with people for a reason. It’s not necessarily immediately apparent, but there is a reason. It could be years before the reason is revealed, because the Universe needs to lay the groundwork. Prepare the fertile soil. Plant the seed… (too much?)

Moving from acquaintances to close friends. The close friends I have are few, but intensely valued. The connection made is deep and timeless.

Which is why I found it unsettling recently when I learned that a friend, (one I consider being in the close, few, rare, precious, category of friends), told me that she’d been angry over something I’d said to someone else. From about 5 years ago.

And she hadn’t told me about it because “she’s not confrontational “. 5 years she’s held on to this. 5. Years.

This was, of course, quite upsetting to learn.

But it didn’t ring true.

So I went through years of recorded Facebook conversation (being the vehicle of said communication) and I realised that I had not done that which I had been accused of. Someone else did, and I have a really good idea of whom.

My problem now is, do I share and redeem myself, or just keep it quiet, thereby protecting the relationships that would be tested if the truth were outed?

I’m leaning towards the latter. I’m already the bad guy and I know I’m not so I sleep quite well at night. My friend has vented so she sleeps well at night.

Complexities indeed.

Friendships are weird.

^SD

Thoughts: Camping Pt 4

And we are heading back home to Auckland today.

It’s been a very good week. Spontaneous hugs and conversation attest to this.

However, yesterday started a bit weird. Declarations of boredom led me to take the kids to Craters of the Moon. This is a geothermal tourist trap North of Taupo. However, my daughter was not in the right frame of mind, was never going to enjoy it, and whined for 45 minutes. Horrific. My assessment of CotM is that it’s probably priced right but there really isn’t much there to see. In Autumn, Winter it’d be more impressive.

I have appreciated the hospitality of the locals here in Taupo. In the early afternoon, Miss 9 was whisked off for five hours of play with her new friend. She got to spend time with a family that isn’t tech-focused. “They have chickens“! And now she has someone that she will be able to write to.

I took the boychild to a place called Mind Junction. A slightly extortionate tourist destination that features puzzles, a maze, minigolf, a Lego display, a shooting simulator and much more. I thought it would be a bit lame but it turned out to be fun. We spent an hour poring over the Lego looking for specifics: “the mermaid”, “4 sticks of dynamite”, “the man in a chicken suit” etc. Very distracting.

On the way back to town we stopped off at Lava Glass – a glassblower factory and gallery. We watched a man craft a vase. Amazing. I can’t get my head around how this is done. I really do like learning about new stuff.

And now I’m waiting for the tent to dry. Why it had to rain on our last night…

Taupo Top 10 is a good campsite. The new pool should be completed by Easter 2015. My kids have enjoyed it here and are actually angling to return rather than try a new destination next year.

I do think that these places go a bit overboard in charging for everything that they can. Usually things that bored kids want to do. Still, I guess it’s their prerogative.

Once again, a successful adventure. These weeks I spend with my kids are so great and so important. They remember. They talk about them. They look forward to the next time.

^sd

Thoughts: Camping Pt 3

There are some things I am trying to encourage with my kids in their camping experience.

They have a fairly safe existence with their mother, and yes, I do keep them pretty close when they’re with me in our normal routine, but when camping I give them a much longer leash.

After last year, my son told me that he loved how I let them pretty much do whatever they wanted, on their own terms, in their own time.

Today, Miss 8 said that one of her goals this week was to make a new friend. This is challenging for her as she is a bit shy. She had a definite strategy though. A cluster of local Taupo girls arrived to have a birthday party and make use of the pool. My daughters idea was that she’d do underwater handstands until she was noticed. The handstands went swimmingly well, but the other girls were also a bit shy. One of the other girls, however, started doing handstands also. After 15 minutes and seeing a look of frustration arrive on Miss 8’s face at the lack of contact, I did ’embarrassing Dad’ and introduced the two. From that point on, sorted. A new friend, hours in the pool, and a play date for tomorrow (the Mum will swing by and collect my daughter for a Taupo day). I’m a bit proud.

Master 12 has also found boys to play with. Of course the dance of introduction is quite different. Bonding to the lyrics of ‘Spiderpig’ is somewhat less sophisticated.

As we needed to head out for supplies, I decided to risk it all and play minigolf. There is history here: Master 12 (who despite being smart, seems to have a complete lack of understanding of rudimentary physics) has a few issues with dealing with performing poorly on the course. He was prepared, warned and made ready, so in theory any chance of a tantrum was lessened. He really was on his best behaviour. Then I did something that, in hindsight, I should not have done. He’d placed his green golf ball, then went to see where the course went. I of course picked up his ball and hid it in my pocket. For fun of course. The outcome wasn’t what I expected. When he couldn’t find his ball, he saw a moving green golf ball at the hole we’d just completed, and grabbed it. Yes, it was someone else’s ball and the resulting embarrassment caused was a little too much to bear.

You’d think I’d know not to do such things, but… ya know??

I managed to talk him down from the precipice of despair, and we got through the game. It ended up being fun! Although I had to bribe them with Bakers Delight goodies.

^sd