Terms to use, terms to avoid.

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As I was taking to my Counselor last week, every time I went to say the words, “Mental Health” I found myself pausing for a moment before saying it. Thinking about it as I was still in our session, I realised I was trying to find a word or phrase to go in it’s place. I could think of nothing.

And then I began to think, why should there be an alternative phrase? Why did I want one?

Every time I thought of the word, “Mental” my mind ran through so many distant connotations of the word from my youth. I am 50 years of age, and in the 80’s, when I was a teenager, if someone was “Mental” it meant all sorts of things, from anger to lunacy.

In the 80’s there were too many meanings to the word “Mental.”

Today talking about one’s mental health is a positive thing. I think the problem is – or was, depending on your age – that no one really addressed Mental Health in the 1980’s in the same way as they do today. At least, I don’t think my Dad, who was in his late 30s and 40’s during the 1980’s would ever have thought it necessary to go to talk to someone about his mental health. I can hear him now saying something along the lines of, “Are you saying I’m Mental? There’s nothing wrong with me!” and so on.

My parents are on my mind a lot at the present time, as they self-isolate an hour away from me in another county. I’m not worried about them, but I miss seeing them, despite not seeing much of them when we are not locked down.

But back in his mid 20’s, my father went through a trauma that not many people go through. He lost an eye. He had been at a barbecue at a friend’s house and someone had set off a firework on it’s side. It flew horizontally like a proverbial rocket across the area where everyone was and hit him full in the left hand side of his face. The force blew the eye right out of its socket and cut his face quite badly. As a result, he lost more than just his eye. He has recently gained his pilot’s license and was considering making flying, his dream job, into a full career. After leaving the hospital weeks after the accident, his license was revoked. In the 1960’s you were not allowed to fly with one eye, your depth perception being an important requirement.

Today there would be counselling post the trauma of such an event. Weeks of talking to about your feelings. My dad was back at his family’s farm and wondering what he would do. He had lost everything and had no way of getting it back. You can’t grow back an eye. How does someone get over that kind of thing without counselling?

He did, though. He had family who helped him, people whom he could talk to, share his pain and frustration and they helped him back on his feet. A cousin who was also on of his best friends took him under his wing and brought him into his business as a market trader. My father worked with him for a while, then moved away and started his own stall, moved on to other markets and thrived. And he stayed strong. He kept going.

He’s still with us, 84 and going strong. My Mum’s with him too. They are still as in love as they were 52 years ago when they were married. Two stronger people, I have never met. Each is the rock of the other. They are amazing.

I still cannot imagine my father ever talking to anyone about his mental health, not that I think he needs to.

Anyway, towards the end of my session, I still was trying to find another term for my, you know, mental health. I ended up voicing my thoughts about the words to my Counselor. I think I was quite loquacious about the use of the words “Mental” in my teens. I stopped talking and after a moment or two of silence, my Counselor said this.

“…if it helps, try to see this as Emotional Health or Emotional Support.”

I paused, taking this in. “Emotional Support” is a far nicer term. It might not have the ring of “Mental Health” but the connotation of “Emotional Support” is very singular and has no negative connections from my teens.

I was thinking about my father this morning. I was also playing the conversation with my counselor through my mind and as thoughts swam together I realised that my father did get the counselling he needed back then, thanks to emotional support from his family, his friends. People close to him who were there for him, to guide him, hold him up when he needed it. It may not have come from a trained professional, but it was there. Emotional Support. Improving his mental health in small amounts every day, whether he realised it or not.

Times are hard right now. If you know someone who is struggling with the solitude and has anxiety issues, someone who has no one whom they can talk to with them, please reach out to them. Let them know that you are there. That you can provide a little emotional support. Even just a little helps.

Remember each call, each chat, each message, each drop of help amounts to a lake of support in the long run.

Stay Safe and smile a little every day.

Kinder Choirs – ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ (from lockdown!)

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This is the choir that one of my children was involved with until they recently decided education needed to take precedence.

She was in the choir for almost 6 years, travelling around the locale as well as performing for war veterans in Normandy. Kinder Choir has been active for a long time and has a thriving alumni.

However, as for all group activities, Covid-19 has all but closed it down. Or so I thought.

A while before these circumstances, a new tutor was brought on-board to help out the fabulous matriarch who runs the choir. A youthful, happy, forward thinking man whom all the children in the choir respect and love. And he is not the sort of person who lets a silly virus get in the way of singing, no sir.

So he contacted and then sent each chorister the lyrics and music for the above song, then each recorded their own voices and this amalgum is the result.

I love this choir. As an active parent involved in a lot of the back stage jobs and the ferrying around of my child, as well as others on occasion, it has always been a pleasure to be involved. Listening to this is a testament to the hard work and joy that the people involved put into everything they do.

I hope it touches your heart as much as it touches mine.

Lockdown Moments

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During the almost two months of safety isolation I have changed daily, and sometimes hourly, from mild complacency right through the trough of emotions all the way up to near fatal panic.

I think we’ve all done this. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you’ve not been a little bit worried, then you should be. Wash your hands! Sneeze away from me! Away from everybody!

Anyway…

The one thing I have sought out during my moments of concern is ways to surpress the urge to stop doing anything and curl into a foetal ball.

I already meditate, but when isolating with your family in one place finding a bit of time to do that can be difficult. I tend to do breathing exercises until my wife notices and asks me if I’m all right. Nope. Not all right, hence the breathing.

I needed something that would take me somewhere special. Find me a moment of euphoria in the midst of this madness.

And I found one.

I was playing a silly game on my phone to wile away a moment or two, when at the bottom of the screen an ad came up for, no surprises, another app. Normally I only glance at them for a second, but this one caught my attention as I recognised something about the app’s logo. It looked a little like the letter “M” if each leg was made up of two or more lines. It rested against black and I thought, “Why do I recognise that?” Then I suddenly had it. It was the International Space Station.

Before I knew what I was doing, I clicked on the link. Clickbait central, here I come.

Within 5 seconds I was redirected to Google’s App store and downloaded what was probably a scam to my phone, but the app had said the word “live feed” somewhere in the text so I thought, what could I lose?

The real truth was what I would gain.

The app is called “ISS Live Now” It has a few videos made by the crew of the station, including a tour, some other NASA information and, lo and behold, a real love feed from a camera pointed along its orbit. A camera that showed a live view of the surface. Of our planet.

I pressed the tiny button at the bottom of the screen and the small view went full screen on my phone, filling the 5inch by 2.75 inch screen with cloud, land and sea as the ISS flew at 27500 or so kilometres an hour around or planet. A 720p live feed of the surface of our homeworld. A slice of the blue marble travelling below the ISS, rotating towards the bottom of my phone.

As I watched, distant weather systems over the Pacific gave way to the coast of South America, a range of mountains spanning the screen from top to bottom drifting in real time.

I was transfixed. The whole world was there. Beneath my gaze as if I was flying high above it. It was, it still is, breathtaking.

So now, when I feel low, I open my phone and float up above it all to look down on the planet with the app. To see continents and clouds and sunsets and sunrises and sea and I breath in and out. And it is, for me, euphoric. And exactly what I needed.

It works for me and perhaps it might help you to.

The Google App store link to this app.