Well these are truly exceptional times. It does not matter where in the world you are reading this, things have changed. We are hearing so much in the media about how isolation and COVID-19 are going to have a detrimental effect on our mental health. It is undoubtedly challenging, to say the least. Worries are amplified, routines disrupted, social connections severed and uncertainty is the new norm. For many it may have a lasting financial impact and people will lose loved ones. But can we find ways to grow from this? Our worlds are shrinking, but can we find space to expand and grow? I am by no means wishing to gloss over the difficulties or bury my head in the sand and pretend this is not happening or that it will not have some negative consequences for me and the people I love, but we hear enough about the hardship and I want to talk about growth.
Every day in my work as a psychotherapist I work with trauma and difficulty, either real trauma that has happened to people, or the internal trauma of living with mental health troubles. And every day I work with people to help them grow. To accept and acknowledge the difficulties but work towards making the best of life and be their best selves. People who have lived through trauma can and do recover and grow. In fact, we know that some people who live through trauma actually experience post-trauma growth, a lightbulb moment that makes you shift for the better. A disruption to our norm forces us to reappraise. People who have had near death experiences often shift to living more in the moment and making every day count. After a diagnosis of a life limiting condition people write bucket-lists and set about making the most of life. Even in the absence of trauma sudden changes make us reappraise, those of you who are parents may have experienced this when your child-free lives were uprooted by the arrival of a new human being, you cope with things on 2 hours sleep that you would have never dreamt possible, priorities changes overnight and you adapt. Can we work at making positive change from lock down and COVID-19.
So, whilst very much holding in my mind the difficult times we are living through, I am going to write about growth. I am going to pivot away from being fixated by the trauma and being stuck with thinking about the difficulties, losses and sadness and shift to looking at the growth, light and gratitude. Each time I write I will focus on an area for growth that you may want to join me in working on, or that may inspire you to set your own area for growth. My next post will be about growth in our gratitude.
Don’t forget you might find it hard to do this alone and that’s ok. If you have people you can lean on, lean on them and ask for help. Alternatively, you might want help from outside of your network. NHS mental health services are still taking referrals and working remotely by phone or video link. You can self-refer to most NHS therapy services, for under 18’s you need CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and people over 18 need their local IAPT (Improved Access to Psychological Therapies). All of these can be found with a Google search for your local area. Lots of private therapists, like myself, are also working using video link. There are also support lines such as Samaritan (telephone: 116 123) and Childline (telephone: 0800 1111).