Whenever I (Gareth) sit down to right these deeply personal blogs, I am always filled with a sense of dread, of embarrassment, of shame, of weakness – and those are the kind and polite words that spring to mind. I mean, here I am, the Co-Owner of a simply awesome Health Retreat in Spain and I feel like I can’t keep my shit together at the moment.
From the classes and group sessions we have put together to the meals we serve and share with everyone to everything we openly talk about. I guess you could say we have been doing it for so many years now that it is just something we take for granted. It’s how we turned our lives around from where they used to be and how we stay alive.
As someone who has not been very healthy in the past, being well was just something I wanted so desperately. I didn’t want to be sick anymore. I didn’t want to see my family worrying all the time. I didn’t want to live my life controlled be medication. I just wanted to be healthy but for some reason, couldn’t seem to find a way out of the drugs and drinking and self-harming cycle I always seemed to be in.
Friends used to just say “think positive because it will be OK” and many other encouraging words but no matter how positive I thought, the cycle still continued.
When I think back to those times, I get emotional for a number of reasons. A mixture of sadness, guilt, grief, and remorse coupled with relief, gratitude, humility and love. I see the scars on my arms and legs and am reminded of what life used to be like all those years ago.
I look around me now and I see some pretty amazing things – things that used to be words scribbled quickly in a diary and hidden away so that nobody could ever see them, just in case they agreed that I was crazy to think I could ever go out there and help people.
I worked hard. Harder than hard actually. I worked on myself as though my life depended on it because, well, because it just did.
Slowly but surely, as the years passed by, my “old life” became a distant memory whose only reminder lie in the scars on my body but more importantly, by the scars on my soul.
Everything I now do on a daily basis has become my routine – its something I do like brushing my teeth and taking a shower. It’s something I embrace fully and is truly something I enjoy doing. Kind of like making sure you put the right kind of fuel in your car because if you don’t, well we all know what happens then don’t we?
And because I still have days where I feel like shit, I have moments that are filled with doubt. I have moments where I feel like doing stupid things. I have moments where “they” get the better of me and I feel like the “crazy person” doctors told me I was so many years ago. It’s funny how their voices can come back to haunt you even after years of not going back there.
Living with Rapid Cycle Bipolar and Schizo Affective Disorder can be fun sometimes – I mean, you’re never really alone, it’s like being on a constant roller coaster and it is interesting to observe everything that takes place in your body. It’s also hard at times and over the years, I do my best to not feel ashamed about what I live with and to not let it control my life.
But the sad thing for me is this.
Every time I have those “bad days” I sit there and doubt everything that we have put together – because, like I said, it is how we live our lives. It holds me back from sharing what we do and it stops me from doing the things necessary to share what we have to offer with the world.
Because of my personal commitment to my own health and well being, I do have people that I turn to when the times are tough and over the last couple of days, have had chats with 2 of them. After all, it would be wrong to say something and not actively apply it.
And on both of these occasions, 2 people who have no knowledge of each other have offered the same words of encouragement as well as a reminder – a big reminder.
I don’t have any new scars to add to my extensive collection. I don’t have any empty bottles and pill wrappers lying around. I do have good quality food on my plate and Pi still has at least an hour of walking every day. I get out of bed and get dressed despite how I am feeling and I spend time allowing myself to feel whatever is going on in my body – regardless of how much I like it. I do tell myself it is all OK and I do believe that it will pass. I do smile. I keep going.
But what I learned today is this.
It’s OK. It’s all OK. It does work. And it is pretty cool. 14 years ago I couldn’t say that because 14 years ago – well, I am not going to go there.
I’m a human being with human feelings and emotions – a past and a future, the freedom of choice, a body that does things I don’t like sometime and a mind that wanders off on its own every now and then.
It OK to go through bad patches – it doesn’t mean that what you have been doing doesn’t work. On the contrary, it means it does work because you’re still carrying on. Just because you got through stuff in the past doesn’t mean that it’s never going to happen again. On the contrary, it means you have the tools to get through it – if you choose to use them.
I don’t have to pretend that everything is perfect and fixed or that I’ve got it all together all of the time.
Today, I’ll carry on carrying on. I’ll do my best not to doubt myself (a respected friend, who I deem to be hugely successful at what they do, posted something this morning that helped me with this too – thank you Shaa) and I’ll just keep doing my best to do my best. I may doubt myself every now and then but I’m not going to let that stop me from doing what I truly love doing – helping and supporting people to make changes in their lives.
And again, this morning I got a message from a friend who’s brother attempted suicide over the Festive Season. She was thankful he was OK and that they had managed to uncover what was going on for him.
It’s made me more determined to share. It’s made me more determined to be open about my journey and challenges. It’s made me more determined to be a voice for people who are too afraid to speak up just yet.
So will I sit back and listen to the voices that tell me this shouldn’t be shared with people?
Or will I just say “fuck it” and go for it because that’s the intention I set for myself at the beginning of the year?
Only time will tell but if you’re reading this right now, you’ll know which decision I made.