Actually, I'm not OK

(On simple things to keep your head above water...)

For the first time in a very long time, when I think about the future, it doesn’t look certain that it will be better than now. Inflation, cost of living increases, energy prices soaring, war in Ukraine, everybody shouting and challenging and lying on Twitter.

While the whole place seems to be falling apart over her in Blighty, Our mop-headed buffoon of a leader talks about buying a new kettle to solve the problem of potential £3,000 gas bills. The political party who are supposed to be running the joint, can only focus on choosing their next leader, while working people visit food banks and homes and businesses become more and more terrified of what’s coming. We’re told to wait, it will all be ok, something is around the corner. Jam tomorrow.

No compassion, no understanding of the actual man or woman in the street’s concern. Arrogance. It’s sickening.

Added to that the summer holidays are over. I always feel pensive after our August bank holiday, that things are cooling, darkening. Soon autumn and winter will be coming. A feeling of anxiousness. Even without the current news cycle doom. I don’t mind cold. But the grey days, lack of light, that does get to me.

And getting to me, is exactly what is going on right now.

So what to do?

Well there are a few things that I’ve noticed can help a little. And I’d like to share them with you in case they help you too. They’re not perfect, but they do sometimes help me to just keep going. To just put one foot in front of the other day by day, or even hour by hour.

Exercise, outside. When I drag myself out, put on my running shoes and go, even when I’m not really in the mood, it gets better. Not straight away, as the first minutes always make me think “What the hell am I doing! I’m so unfit, this hurts…” but after a while I settle down. My mind has time to wander and I realise it’s just me and the trees and animals about me. Simple, just living and breathing. And after I’ve done my run, the endorphins kick in. I feel tired, achy but alive.

Be OK with not being OK. I’ve stopped having a go at myself for being less than 100%. Being kinder to myself as I would be to someone else having a tough time, took a while to get. But now, as I’ve gotten older I feel less and less shame. Sometimes I am not ok. Quite a few times this week I have been not ok. And I’m ok with that. You should be too.

Cut the booze. Yes it helps numb down the feelings, but the next day you feel just a bit more anxious. And you rinse and repeat and it’s not getting any better. You feel worse about yourself. You’re not sleeping as well. You feel old and stiff and achy. You know what? Take a few days off, or more. Notice how that makes you feel. Break the habit for a bit and go to bed earlier, to read a good book with all your faculties intact. Rest.

And finally, what started this essay, that photo ☝️up top. Journal.

Write in a journal, add photos. This will help you to clarify thoughts, to talk to your most understanding confidant who never shares what you say or judges you. Who can remind you of good things, or how, actually, you have improved or healed.

Case in point. What you see up top is from the last two days. On the left, I decided to stick in a photo of my holiday accommodation the previous week. A beautiful, quiet cottage in the middle of nowhere. My shadow shows I’m there. I can still see my hounds left and right. Blue skies, peace. A clear and happy head. Above the photo I wrote what had been bad that day. Below, good. Of the good, a note about how I began my day with a pre-work run, with my son riding his bike beside me. A moment to savour. The day was not all crap.

So I did one good thing today” is humbly written on the right. There’s a photo of a hard drive. The day was another one where, for most of the day I felt low. But, the big but, I did one thing to be proud of. I managed to repair our broken PVR by replacing the hard drive myself. Never done this before. A punt, but one that paid off and saved a hefty repair bill or replacement. Yes, I fixed a bit of technology and that’s the best thing I recorded all day. Not much, but a lot for me.

Above this journal, two photo’s ready for sticking inside. Me and my son wearing matching garish orange t-shirts. A running joke in my family about my poor choice of top colour, shot as a twin selfie to be sent to my wife and recorded in posterity for future smiles. Being a dad and having fun. Again small things but little lifts to my mental state.

The second photo, a bunch of tiny Dahlias that I grew to then cut and bring to my wife to say “I love you.” Photographed and printed off to give to her to stick in her journal.

Just writing all this, and looking at these journal entries, instantly makes me feel a little less crap. It lifts my spirits just a tiny bit. So when you’re not ok, maybe the things I’ve shared may help you to feel just a little bit less crap too.