Mental Health

my happy bank

Everyone has good days and bad days.  Whether you’re naturally a very happy person or prone to being a bit blue. Everyone has good and bad days.  As someone who has suffered with some form of depression for most of my adult life, I have accrued my fair share of bad days.  When I was younger and unaccustomed to having them I didn’t cope very well, I just didn’t know how.  I would hide away under my duvet and try as hard as possible to shut everything and everyone out.  After a while though I began to understand my ‘illness’ (I’m not really sure how I feel about it being referred to as an illness, but for the time being we’ll stick with that) more and developed tools and mechanisms to make myself feel better.

Don’t get me wrong, these tools don’t magic away the darkness, but they do distract me from it, even if it’s just for a little while.  Every time I find something new that distracts me or makes me smile, I put it in what I refer to as my happy bank.  My happy bank is where I keep all the little bits that make a bad day more bearable. These are a few of the things that are inside mine.

a song

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Those closest to me will know this is my ultimate happy song, and is the one I go to first to lift my mood.  I have often woken and realised the day was not going to go as I had hoped and listen to this while I’m getting ready for the day ahead, whether it involves work, seeing friends, or just chilling at home.  There is not  a single time this song has failed to make me feel brighter whilst playing.  Music is powerful in terms of emotion and mood and I collect the songs that make me happy or bring back happy memories for the times that I need a boost. Anything that makes me want to dance or sing is usually a good’un.

a memory

Occasionally, if I’m really struggling to be in the present I find the best thing to do is visit a moment in the past that brings me joy.  One of my favourite memories in the world is from when I’m much younger, I’m not sure how old exactly but between the ages of 6 and 8 perhaps.  I am at my Grandfather’s cottage and it’s summer.  For some reason we are on his boat, which is usually moored outside the pumping shed and we are slowly making our way up the canal.  I am sat at the very front and I am so close to the water that I could reach out and run my fingers through it.  It’s hot and I can feel the heat from the sun on my face.  The sun is bright and makes patterns on the water as it trickles down through the tree branches above us, and every so often disappears as we glide under a bridge.  There are summer sounds all around, insects, birds, fisherman on the banks and voices from other boats that pass us.  It is a perfect day.  Even at such a young age, when life was uncomplicated I remember feeling overwhelmingly content.  It is a memory I visit often and long to return to if I could.

Another is more recent and still makes me smile.  I met Shane for the very first time in a loud, over packed bar.  It wasn’t very romantic but we were drawn to each other regardless. The second time we met a few weeks later is one of the sweetest memories I have.  We sat and spoke for hours, about everything and anything and the whole time it was through the biggest, most uncontrollable grin. I was smitten. He was the most handsome man I had ever seen and had eyes that made me forget myself. Our surroundings and the people around us faded away and if the bar had gone up in flames around us I’m not sure we’d have noticed. It is still a night we both love to talk about, and I think it’s one of his favourite memories too.

a  film

Like music, films have the ability to transport us somewhere else.  To another time, another land, another universe even. Closing the curtains, grabbing a big mug of tea and a warm blanket (or person) and tuning out for a while can sometimes be the best remedy for a dark day. I find the best movies are those than don’t require a great deal of brain power but make me laugh or even cry.

My favourites are – Aladdin, Frozen, Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat Pray Love, Love Actually, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pride and Prejudice, Flashdance.

(Do not judge me on my choices, I’m not claiming they’re life changing but they do make me happy!)

a place

For me, having a place I can go to get away from it all is really important. I call them my safe places. My ultimate safe place is my Grandfather’s cottage, and when I was a teenager I even ran away to hide there. My Grandfather hasn’t lived there for a very long time, but it is a place I have so many happy memories. I always felt calm and content there.  I haven’t been there for years, and sadly probably won’t ever go back but for a short time, it was my little piece of heaven.

I don’t have a safe place in my new home town which is something I’m working on. I’m lucky enough to live close to the beach and whilst many choose the ocean as their remedy to soothe the soul, I’ve always preferred somewhere a bit quieter. I love to be in the company of trees where I can listen to all the creatures and insects of the woods around me. I’m hoping I discover a new place soon, maybe when it gets a bit warmer perhaps.

an activity 

Okay, so when I say activity I don’t mean a rigorously planned schedule of things to do but something enjoyable. Painting my nails, going for a walk or dancing around the house (Shane even dances with me around the kitchen when he knows I’m not feeling my best). It’s so easy to fall deeper and deeper into a dark hole if I let myself and sometimes it’s really simple, silly things that make me feel less blue.

My happy bank is what I go to when I am struggling.  After years of struggling I have developed little ways of coping on my bad days, however there are days when none of these work. There are still days when feeling happy feels next to impossible. But when I have a good day, when I laugh and smile my way through despite the little black rain cloud looming over my head I appreciate them so much more.

Maybe a happy bank is something you could incorporate into your life for when you’re struggling, what would be in yours?

 

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