Sunday, 28 June 2015

Keeping positive to maintain good mental health

This is the extended* column that was printed in the York Press on Monday, June 1st, 2015. Due to staffing reductions at the York Press, there is not a link to the the column...yet.

At the end of April we drove to the village of Muker, high up in the Yorkshire Dales. This is a favourite time of year, with ‘spring bustin’ out all over’, as the song says. We revelled in the scenery as we drove across from the coast. 

In Muker we enjoyed a delicious pub lunch, purchased a woollen jersey and rambled gently through the fields and over a beck. At one point we leant on a field gate, taking in the magnificent view of the hills and fields with new-born lambs. 

Breathing in the fresh air, we counted our blessings. We reflected on our decision to have no regrets about the health problems which nowadays restrict our walking activities, having explored the breathtaking Yorkshire landscape when we were more able. 

I said, “we must concentrate on what we can do, not what we can’t” I recalled being told about a local man, who, through illness couldn’t sail his single-handed boat anymore. He had been unable to come to terms with this change in his life and was only dwelling on what he couldn’t do anymore. As a result, he was sinking into depression.

Thirty minutes after leaning on the gate, we returned to the car. I twisted my back, pulled a muscle and was in acute pain. The previous time this had happened I’d been travelling on planes and trains and had to keep moving. This time, I was initially grateful for remaining still in a car driving home, but sitting for two hours was the worse thing I could have done.

Arriving home I could barely move and was in agony. Adrian said later, that it hadn’t been a good day. I remonstrated strongly. Until 3.30pm, the day had been perfect and that’s what we should remember. My back injury couldn’t change those idyllic moments or the memories of them.

Dosed up with painkillers and moving slowly, I despaired. It was Bank Holiday and I couldn’t see the chiropractor for several days. The garden needed attention, I couldn’t watch the Tour de Yorkshire pass locally and had to cancel a trip to London to see friends the following week.

From experience, I knew I had to keep moving, staying still for too long is not an option for bad backs. I remembered what I’d said at the field gate. I had a choice. I could either dwell about everything I couldn’t do and become downhearted or put my mind to what I could manage instead. 

So over the next few days, I did jobs that wouldn’t have been done at all. While I stayed standing, I completed tasks that were at eye level or higher. The wardrobe was de-cluttered, tatty and broken jewellery discarded, bookshelves sorted, kitchen cupboards tidied and cakes were baked. I felt a sense of achievement against the odds and the back slowly improved.

* Three weeks ago I was in London to look after my five-year old granddaughter all week, pre and post school, while the rest of the family were away. I was looking forward to enjoying my home city every day, visiting old favourites and taking in some new ones.

Two days before I went down, I received a text from my son, to tell me that Addie had chicken-pox. She was covered from the top of her head to in-between her toes. Though not unwell, school was out of the question and so was spending much time outside home.

Yet again, I was presented with a life event that meant I had to follow my own advice! 

“You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude’ Eleanor Roosevelt