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Make a ‘To Be’ List

Posted on 4 December 2019 by Iain under Thinking Out Loud

Just another ‘cheesy’ positive thinking cliché right?

I don’t think that the problem we have is with the validity of a positive affirmation, well written poetic truth or simply a nicely worded sentiment, but in the frequency with which we are bombarded with them through social media, which let’s face it is many multiple times a day! Sure, we might like or retweet the odd one that hits us in a timely and poignant manner, but for most of them, we will simply respond with a somewhat desensitised inner sigh and move on, very rarely spending any energy on seriously considering the meaning of benefit of possibly adopting the attitude suggested or promoted.

What made me so aware of this desensitisation that I think may have impacted most of us at one time or another is my recent relationship with depression and anxiety, neither of which I have ever suffered from before in my life, and so when they hit I had never learned any coping mechanisms to use and they seemed to hit hard…

I have always been a positive person, I choose to see the silver lining in every cloud, the opportunity in every challenge and I have always worked hard to make sure I am thinking in terms of the solution(s) to every problem. I have also always tried to do this in a realistic tone and approach, as I can’t stand the overactive positivity that exists in some people that tends to make you think that they must be on drugs of some kind or have a chemical imbalance of some sort.

Much as I loved ‘Winnie the Pooh’ when I was a kid, I knew even then that Tigger and Eeyore would both get on anybody’s nerves after only a short while because they operate at the extreme opposite ends of the attitude continuum. Good reminders maybe, but certainly not where anyone would wish to spend too much time by choice.

Realistic, pragmatic, reasonable and measured positivity as always been my personal choice and inner mantra, but for the first time in sixty years of life I had lost it as a natural reaction, and I had a stomach full of knots and a brain full of fog – horrible!

Having been to the docs and asked for some help that didn’t involve tablets (I have a thing about tablets, I don’t even like taking Paracetamol unless I have too!), I was pointed towards an organisation involved in well-being. Having spoken to them and ascertained that it was either one-to-one counselling or some form of group therapy, I decided that the one I would be least comfortable with would be Group Therapy (I am something of an introvert), and therefore in order to stretch my comfort zone and get the other side of this horrible way of feeling and thinking, this is the one I should do… and I booked into the seven-week course, which started last Wednesday evening from six to eight pm.

I had in my mind that it would be helpful to me if I heard and supported other people who were having a tough time, as helping others has always been something that both motivates me and fills me with satisfaction – good feelings I wanted to invoke in the hope that they could overwhelm the crap feelings and thoughts I was having…

As it turned out, it was a PowerPoint driven training session on how to manage anxiety. Not only that, but it was also two hours of someone putting bullet points up on the screen and then reading every single bullet point out as well Grrr!!

My reaction to this may not be the normal one for most people, but having spent many years training people on how the brain works and enhanced communication skills, amongst other things, the many sins committed in terms of how NOT to use PowerPoint was driving me slowly insane. Add to that the two other key things adding to my sorrow. 1. The trainer we had in the first half had never had any instruction on how to project her voice, so it was incredibly difficult to hear her! 2. The main context of the training was about the physiological impact of the body having its ‘Fight or Flight’ mode activated. Yes, interesting, but this is one of the training areas I specialised in and so brought me nothing new…

Then I had an idea, I thought I would put myself forward as a volunteer and maybe I could help with developing some better training materials and feel that sense of helping others which I knew I would find rewarding and uplifting. So at the break, I approached to two young ladies who were obviously running the show and asked If I could put myself forward as a volunteer, and was told politely & concisely that they do not take volunteers. This didn’t then lead into any discussion about how or where one might do that as I way of helping oneself or any other suggestions or questions of any kind, just a smile to complete the answer and signal an end to the conversation… Which sadly means to me that although presenting as caring people on a mission to help those of us struggling with such mental issues as depression and/or anxiety, they certainly don’t actually walk the walk – so disappointing!

I have written three books which are based around the training I used to do and the contents of these are things that I live by and do, rather than simply things I might talk about or suggest to others. I have always believed that I have no right to suggest something to anyone else unless I have actually experienced it myself.

I am not trying to sell my books here, I am honestly just referring to them so that you can make sense of what I am saying.

These books contain years of training, coaching & psychological experience in the field of how we choose our attitudes and change our thinking, and they contain tried and trusted methods and approaches, which I know work as I have used them for years and they will be the bedrock on which I create my path back to full mental health.

So since having my hopes somewhat dashed by last weeks experience at the ‘Group Therapy’ session, I have been revisiting all my own words, thoughts and beliefs and trying my best to turn them on and up so that I can beat this horrible thing called depression. And although I haven’t won yet, I promise I will, and when I do I am going to see if I can put a course together for people who want what I was expecting and needed because I am sure there are many who it may help.

But in the meantime, I am still feeling overwhelmed, anxious and so very sad with a terrible sense of hopelessness to be honest.

Yesterday I was sitting at my computer and actually writing a shopping list, whilst feeling as if I was just going through the motions and confused about the fact that getting out to the shops would at least be doing something, whilst at the same time wrestling with the fact that the thought of actually going out where there could be loads of people seemed like torture, when this popped up on my Facebook feed having been shared god knows how many times by who knows how many people…

This stopped me writing my list and made me think what a simple and yet powerful truth was in front of me and yet it was mine to own if I would just (mentally), reach out and take it.

A ‘To Be’ List – how simple is that.

This depression has me focused on what I have to do, what I need to do, what I don’t want to do and what I don’t feel capable of doing…

But what if I started to focus on what I wanted to be, what if I did that and I got my mind thinking about those things instead, could that make a difference. More importantly considering how crap I feel at the moment, is it possible that thinking like that might help me make THE difference that will help me change things…

The answer is that I don’t know, but what I do know for absolutely certain is that I am going to find out. I am going to write my ‘TO BE’ list and I am going to read it to myself out loud every day, and I am going to keep reminding myself throughout the day.

Do you know what else I am going to do… I am going to complete every one of the ‘Group Therapy’ (I use the term loosely), sessions on Wednesday Evenings in Loughborough and I am going to wring every ounce of benefit I can from them and see if I can find somewhere to volunteer and help.

But the most important thing I am going to do is never quit, even though I feel like it at times. I am going to beat the hopelessness with helpfulness wherever I can. I am going to beat the anxiety with learning to better control my ability to relax my body and empty my mind of negativity.

The hardest thing I find about all of this though is doing it alone, and even though I have wonderful kind and caring friends, I spend most of my time alone. But alone doesn’t always mean lonely, so that is also a state of mind or attitude that may need my attention.

If you are struggling too, then why not try a ‘To Be’ list too – what have you got to lose?

Feel free to get in touch on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or drop me an email via the website if you want to talk, maybe we can help each other…

Best wishes

Iain Merchant

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