There must be something wrong with me…

There must be something wrong with me… if you think this way, some facets of society will readily agree, adding further weight to the bag-of-rocks perspective dragging you down. A couple of weeks ago my employer asked me to take leave (on the basis of their duty of care) and has organised for me to attend a medico-legal assessment with a psychiatrist to determine my fitness for work. The source of this action was my own transparency around my health. To be precise, my mental health. While I am a strong advocate for people, especially men, to explore connections and solutions regarding their health and well-being – I have learned now that such intentions and actions can be the beginning of a cascade of events with the potential for further stress and uncertainty.

A number of people including my GP (doctor), a couple of different psychotherapists, and close family and friends, while questioning the reaction of my employer, have also questioned the way I view my health. These people have suggested various ways of framing my health, relationships and choices. They have pointed out the normality of what I often see as the source of problems, namely my capacity as a parent and partner. Some mindfulness practitioners would agree that parenting is a challenging choice of mindfulness path! (This is a theme I will certainly be exploring further in this blog.)

Here are some helpful words from Francis Cook (quoted by Karl Duffy at mindfulbalance.org):

‘Mindfulness practice, as it deepens, is a practical way of relating to thoughts, of working with difficult emotions – especially as they present in body sensations – and finally, and maybe most crucially,  a way of relating to our sense of self. One way this may be helpful, in a pragmatic way of dealing with the up’s and down’s of each day, is to continually define ourselves in a fluid, on-going, non-fixed sense, understanding life, as it were, as always being born in each moment. We try to bring attention to these continual little births, seeing how an event or moment gives birth to a new emotion and is followed by a new thought (or more likely, a re-hashing of familiar, old patterns of thought). Rather than allowing that thought take hold, identifying with it and making it part of our story, we can let it pass through. Rather than attaching some of our identity to these moments, and the narrative that accompanies them, we can hold ourselves lightly, not limiting ourselves to the moods we experience or the judgmental thoughts they generate. In this way we can develop a sense of ease as we no longer feel the need to defend the “self” created by them.’

And so I continue to hold to the breath as a foundation for my mindfulness practice, grateful for the flexibility and gentle non-attachment this attention generates (please see Jon Kabat-Zinn quote in previous post regarding the breath in mindfulness practice). After all, as long as you are breathing there must be something going right.

‘…mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing

in and out. Life so far doesn’t have any other name
but breath and light, wind and rain.

If there’s a temple, I haven’t found it yet.
I simply go on drifting, in the heaven of the grass and the weeds.’
(Mary Oliver)

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This entry was posted by Simon Williams.

7 thoughts on “There must be something wrong with me…

  1. Thank you for your willingness to share your heart and struggles with us today. Your transparency is wonderful. You seem like a very kind, loving, gentle, and thoughtful man. Yes, I have often thought there is something wrong with me. There is. I have a brain that doesn’t work quite like others. BUT, I am perfect as I am.

    Mental health…we want to have a healthy brain and minds to think healthy thoughts. It’s difficult for those who don’t have mental health issues to understand. It’s difficult for those of us with mental health issues to think logically at times. Sometimes we don’t realize how fragile we actually are. That is not a bad thing. It’s always good to get checked out and have professionals give advice. If others are questioning, maybe it’s time to take a deeper look. How is your life being impacted by your mental health? What does your wife/partner have to say about how it is living with you? Does she agree that something is amiss? Parenting IS the greatest joy along with the greatest challenge we experience in this lifetime. I have 4 kids, now grown. The early years were difficult especially when I experienced deep depressions. I am thankful for a husband who took our marriage vows seriously…”in sickness and in health”. He has stuck by me for 31 years. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost 3 years ago was very hard on us. God is good. He helped bring us through.

    Mindfulness is a wonderful way to stay in the present. But, sometimes it does take more (meds & psychotherapy) to help get things back in balance. I still struggle many days. I have to do many things and use many tools to stay in my ‘right’ mind. God puts the right people and the right situations in my path to help me stay healthy. I practice meditation and mindfulness daily in my quest for mental health and stability.

    Ultimately you get to choose how you live your life. I wish you well.

    I love mindfulbalance…I reposted his blog post today on my own blog.

    p.s. Your son is beautiful 🙂

  2. I’m at a conference this week which I am very much enjoying, I love being able to share ideas with other educators who have similar ideas to me about education. YET, in the breaks, the lunch times etc I feel different, I struggle to cope with those times. I have learnt to cope over the years. I used to think I was odd but now I celebrate my difference and rejoice in those times when I do feel connected. So many of us cover up our feelings and pretend and so we struggle even more. Only in transparencey can we really move forward with courage to understand ourselves and the world around us.

  3. I’ve watched a documentary about depression recently (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUh76xjQPjQ or maybe it was in one of the other parts) in which there was a woman who is a famous tv presenter in the UK and Australia, Trisha Goddard, saying “normal is a cycle on the washing machine”. When I heard that, I realised that I had been raised being told that there are normal and there are mentally ill people. Either or. No wonder I had been fighting against myself for a long time then! Unfortunately many people still think this way. You’ve been very courageous to open up about your issues. I hope your employer is aware of that, and that the assessment will be done by competent people in a constructive way. Remember that there is a lot that is right with you!

  4. Hey Simon, transparency is the jewel in the prophet’s toolkit, and it needs to be used judiciously, and that’s hard for a prophet, wired for truth telling. Mental health is the new leprosy, mindfulness or self-protectiveness here, ain’t no bad thing. Prophets were messengers driven by divine ecstasy now it’s a mental illness, keep exploring judiciously. Jung had his crisis, he attended to work and family for grounding and explored his mental crisis creatively, and alone, before surfacing with a coherent narrative. You can do it. Boudi.

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