The Retreat

I recently went on my first meditation retreat – it was intense! Very emotionally difficult, but so healing. I decided to write a poem to document what I went through there, so I could remember what I had learnt there. Hope you enjoy! x

The Retreat

First Night

There are so many stars in the sky!
I am a long way from home.
My mind, just as busy.

 

Day 1

Exhausted.
Leaving old habits behind
Nowhere to hide
From feelings that haunt.

Alone at last,
I let my stress overwhelm me
I feel it entirely
For some moments it is everything
And then, just an echo
Ever dimmer
Til gone.

 

Day 2

Feeling angry, different
And alone in a silent crowd
Of compassionate strangers.
My compass, broken.
I wonder if I’m in the right place.

First feel of heart’s centre –
A blinding fear
I sympathise with myself, perhaps for the first time.
It is agony.

Second feel of heart’s centre
So badly neglected that it holds
A hoard of pain.
Tears flow, slow, silent.
Long-lost brothers
of the lashing rain outside.

I promise myself it will never happen again.

But these glimpses are safe, contained.

Night falls.
I hover outside my room
But the darkness calls me.
I walk into it
Without knowing where I am going
Or what will happen next.

 

Day 3

At least I know blood flow is real
I can feel it
Like these endless tears
Sparked by stories of hope and redemption
Awakening my grieving heart.

I opened myself up tonight, just a crack
To let someone see inside
Only a little of my inner self.
And although he was kind,
And my details, few –
It was agonising, worse than my own heart-tending,
Like putting your numb, frozen feet
Into steaming hot water –
It’s what is needed,
But oh, how it burns!

Turns out I am not the first
To watch my life burn to the ground
And start again.

 

Day four

I realise
My differences
Are just a story
I tell myself to stay safe from others
To justify my fear.

The rules I grew up with
And needed to survive
No longer apply.
I must learn a new way of being
To thrive.

A simple body ache
Allows me to see
I am free now.
My mind just tricks me.

Leave a bird in a cage all its life
Then open the door.
The bird won’t move –
It won’t even see that the door is open.

But I see it’s wide open now.

A new way
To keep me safe;
Know my mind heart and body every day.
But I need to be free to make this choice
To realise that it is a choice.

It’s hard.
But I keep trying.

Struck by the beauty of the morning mist, clearing
I realise
I have changed.

This time
Tears of relief,
Gratefulness.

 

The last day

I leave with new hope.
My mind, clearer.
My heart, thawing.

By Andrea Twist, January 2014

My positive self-potrait

postive self potrait

As part of the work I’m doing from my Self-Esteem Guided Journal I put together a positive self-portrait. It’s a combination of the best of my physical, mental and interpersonal attributes, as well as compliments received from others. I used Wordle to turn it into a pretty word-cloud.

Starting to feel better about myself already! So often I am obsessed with what’s wrong with me, and completely ignore all the things that are right with me. Will try to keep these things in mind.

 

Affirmations

Affirmations

I don’t believe I’m strong, capable, confident, lovable, kind or valuable. But a nice lady told me that if I just say these things to myself repeatedly each day, I will grow into them, and become them. I hope so.

The way I see it, years of abuse from my family and ex-partner was like growing up in a cult, and you were brainwashed to believe that you were worthless, always to blame, invisible, stupid, incapable, nothing.

So now I need to enter a re-education camp, brainwash myself the right way. It helps that there is no one around to abuse me anymore…though a large part of that is just that there is nobody around.

I will keep reading (good) self-help books, attending workshops, going to therapy, exercising, meditating and being around good people, and hopefully I will emerge fully free from the cult of abuse.

Do you have an affirmation? Comment or tweet @andrea_twist

This poem saved my life

At my lowest, when all I could think about was killing myself 24/7, I would drown out the thoughts by repeating this poem over and over in my mind, like a prayer. It is the only poem I know by heart. It was the only thing that made sense to me at the time. It saved my life.

Is resilience a helpful model for recovery?

I was recently introduced to the concept of promoting resilience-building to help improve the lives of people with mental illness.

I think resilience is a great model for promoting recovery:

  • It’s positive – it focuses on how a person can cope better with life’s difficulties, rather than what is wrong with that person that is making it hard for them to cope.

  • It’s inclusive – it applies to all kinds of mental illness and trauma as well as your average Joe. It demonstrates mental health as being part of a spectrum rather than ‘us’ and ‘them’.

  • It’s practical – it’s clear in how certain skills will help you to cope better, giving you certain steps to undertake rather than abstract theories or analysis.

However –

There is a danger of using the concept to put too much responsibility on the person who may be severely mentally ill or have gone through terrible trauma. The danger being that the person is judged for not being ‘resilient’ enough. Like the old ‘you just need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ which many people suffering from mental illness (depression in particular) have been unfortunate enough to hear. Spoiler: it doesn’t help.

Overall resilience is a great and helpful concept to promote recovery, but use with caution.