My aim for myself this year has become a simple mantra “to be the fittest and healthiest I can be physically and mentally”
I’ve had breakdowns before. That’s multiple. Considering the definition of insanity, you see that I’ve not been completely sane over the past decade or so. I can say that about myself but wouldn’t about another. I don’t consider myself an expert on mental health, but am becoming an expert on MY OWN mental health though.
It’s now almost an annual occasion that I cycle between over performing and overwhelm. Overwhelm leads to anxiety and too much anxiety leads to mental exhaustion and depression. I do too much and haven’t rested properly, I know it, people around me know it. Yet I still do too much, I suspect that this is caused by a combination of Imposter Syndrome, ridiculous expectations of myself and not creating the space to take PROPER rest seriously and get back in balance.
So I’ve tried many new strategies to create space and not fill it, to repair, to heal and be balanced. I’ve been doing a lot of running recently, more of that later, so I understand the importance of physical rest. We can hear our body when it screams “I’m knackered” so why don’t we hear our mind saying the same? Maybe we SHOULD listen to the voices in our head, it’s possible they actually make sense.
I thought to myself a thousands of times “I just need some more time, some space” but inevitably when we do make time we often fill the space with crap; Facebook, Twitter, TV, Netflix, Wine, games, apps, surf the web for random shit which is totally irrelevant to our lives. Is it more time we need or more space?
Architects, Swedish and Japanese
I’ve learned a little from architects recently, my son is studying to be an architect so I’ve been meeting and speaking with other architects. I now see the parallels of buildings and our lives. So if we are the architects and designers of our own lives, doesn’t it make sense to create some space? Space to reflect, to recover, to rest and not to fill it with pointless crap?
Lagom (LAHgum) a rough Swedish translation meaning enough is enough, just the right amount, in balance. What I find ironic is that there is no direct English translation. Maybe English don’t understand what balance means in our lives and are compelled switch between boredom or depression and overwhelm or anxiety. In the absence of space, how can we be in balance?
Wa, Ba, Tokoro and Ma are 4 Japanse words for space. All with slightly different meanings about harmony, co-existence and balance between people and things. Again proving that we native English speakers have a one-dimensional interpretation of space which doesn’t include finding balance. I’m drawn to Ma as it represents negative space, I used to think that space was nothingness, a void, a vacuum but space is actually a thing, to be appreciated which creates the balance in relationships in life, people, nature and in my case with myself.
I Hated Being Alone
Without space in my life, I constantly cycle between the 2 unbalanced states of anxiety and depression. So I’ve forced myself to be comfortable in my own space. I concluded that I didn’t like space because it meant that I was alone with myself, with my thoughts and physically alone. This I associated with isolation and paranoia. The reason I hated being alone is that I honestly didn’t like myself. The person who I saw in the mirror, the toxic thoughts in my head. So when I was asked “Who would you like a better relationship with” I realised I had to be comfortable being me and being in my own space. I wanted a better relationship with myself. The only way I can spend time with me is by creating space and regaining balance.
And that was the realisation. There’s too much crap in my head and in my life to deal with. Too many things to be anxious about, unproductive thoughts, pointless ideas and relationships. So this year has been about eliminating “stuff” from my conscious thoughts. After much reading about happiness, I learned that being happy can only happen in the absence of anxiety. So I set about removing things that trigger anxiety in my life.
Make Space – Time for a MAJOR Clearout
Out went the car – my beloved Alfa. It looked beautiful and drove like a thoroughbred but it was so expensive to own. Constant warning lights on the dashboard and the need to thrash the engine to make the twin spark come alive meant it was too stressful for me to own. Now I drive a (yawn) Peugeot SUV, it’s reliable, comfortable, economical and important to me, stress-free.
Next, I resigned from a Director role. I had dreamt for a long time of being a director or NED. Having the opportunity to be a part of a motorsport company was so exciting and to be employed as a director was very welcome. However, all my spare time I was spent researching the industry and how to support the team. It became a part-time job, not a passion and eventually, I fell out of love with my relationship with the role. I resigned to create more space in my life.
Then a ghost from my past appeared. A member of my family who I felt I had been let down by, who had disappeared when I needed them the most when my parents died and I was at my lowest point. I had spent many hours trying to understand why someone who I adored and idolised as a child would walk out on me. However, most of my adult life I became anxious and I felt uneasy around them. We spoke, I listened to what they had to say and questioned their absence. I heard nothing to convince me that this person could or would ever care for me as I had cared about them. So I asked him to leave my house and leave my life. An incredibly difficult decision considering that family is so important to me.
3 Big Changes, 3 Big Decisions and Much Less Anxiety. Now, What Next?
My reaction was to fill the space with something positive and to appreciate the space, to recover and heal. I decided to start running, well I was actually challenged to start running. Those who know me will understand that I just can’t say “no” to a challenge. I had told myself I didn’t have time for running. So many people speak about the mental health benefits of running, I now get it. Although I had hated running, after all, it’s boring, isn’t it? All you can hear is your own breathing and mostly it’s done alone in your own space outside, plus it’s a lot of effort. But you know what? I bloody love it now.
So far this year I’ve run 700km and almost 80 hours, to think and be alone with myself, befriending myself. I’m more balanced than ever. I use my running time to contemplate, it’s a kind of meditation, space not to be filled with pointless crap or being addicted to my smartphone. I’ve learned a lot about myself, I can think and focus again, raised over £500 for charity and awareness of mental illness through my 18 in ’18 challenges.
I made a commitment to myself “to be the fittest and healthiest I can be physically and mentally” that meant no anti-depressants but make lasting lifestyle changes. I hope the cycle is now broken.