Managing mental health in work

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This article was published on celebrity Niall Breslin’s A Lust For Life website, a movement for mental health and well-being.

I dreamed of connecting with a wider community through writing for A Lust For Life on previous occasions, and this is my third article on the site! Why did I want to connect? Because my experience of bipolar disorder was a lonely existence for a long time. I was fed up with how restricting depression and low mood could be; I was intensely uneasy and agitated; I was troubled with how elation and overactivity lifted me from off the ground; and I absolutely had it with the total disconnect of mania. In short, I needed people and perhaps they needed me too. Continue reading

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Bursts of loveliness

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I was comforted by the words of a Sensei (teacher) during a Zen retreat at the Dominican Retreat Centre in Tallaght, Dublin over the weekend. She invited us at the beginning of the retreat to ponder the “bursts” (or opportunities of ‘bursting’) in our lives. In Buddhism, we often hear about enlightenment and we are told that when a person becomes enlightened it is as if heaven and earth crumble before their eyes. There is a sudden burst of newness that can transform the person’s life for evermore.

But the Sensei was suggesting that we can experience many little moments of enlightenment too. I rejoiced at dinner, for example, when my perceived cold mince pie turned out to be crumbly hot! I was grateful when my sudden drop of blood pressure during meditation re-awakened me with what seemed like a mild electric boost. Even the potted ‘Christmas Cactus’ in the photo seemed to want to burst out in praise in the midst of winter. Continue reading

Loving my support network

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I wrote a reflection recently on how I live with others, which was essentially about navigating the many webs of relationships in my life for optimal mental health and well-being. Living with bipolar disorder means that I need to remain vigilant to the potentially severe changes and challenges of mood which are characteristic of the illness. However, I want to shift the focus to how others live with me for this blogpost. I include here a number of reflections from important people in my life and I respond to each while being mindful of their needs. I am sincerely grateful to them for agreeing to publish their comments which I hope will resonate with readers.

Friends

There was only one time when you were different than usual over the past year. You were talking very quickly and loudly, and we were both concerned. But you were still able to express yourself. We checked in with you on that occasion and you were fine the next day. As far as your low mood is concerned, we don’t notice anything unusual about it.” Continue reading

The intent and way of tea

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I met with a meditation group called Deeper Space on Sunday, 4 November in the town of Newbridge, County Kildare, just an hour from Dublin city. We, an intimate group of three, finally settled down for a cup of tea in a local café after a spot of lunch elsewhere and a walk along the river.

Over the last year or so we have tried to create a ‘deeper space’ at different places by reflecting on themes such as living in the now, sacredness and intuition. We paused for a few minutes of silence and shared our thoughts and feelings with each other. Recently, we thought it would be good to try something new. Tea or coffee drinking had always been part of our meetings, so why not simply meet for tea – a daily ritual – and make this our meditation? Continue reading

Cross-legged with Zen

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While my mind is often filled with noise in the form of thoughts and feelings, silence is no longer threatening to me. When my mind calms down, I experience a soft sound that draws me into greater depth and meaning. I no longer perceive the voice of ‘God’ as harsh, annoying and judgemental, but kind, peaceful and loving.

An inner hunger

On a whim of inspiration, I booked myself into a Zen Buddhist retreat last weekend in Dublin. I knew little to nothing about it, but my inner being was hungry for something ‘more’. It consisted of hours of silent, sitting meditation interspersed with silent, walking meditation. My legs and back ached as I tried to find the ‘sweet spot’ in sitting. I tried a sort of knee sitting, cross-legged sitting and chair sitting. Continue reading

Being truly human

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When I rush, I scratch my watch, I break its strap, I knock into another person’s shopping, I talk too quickly, I hinder my breathing…

For a person like myself who desires a contemplative lifestyle, I have to laugh at such rushing. I used to be struck by people who would comment on the intentions of mental health professionals – saying they were doing their jobs for their own purposes. “I became a psychiatrist because I was looking for a cure for myself,” said my uncle. Perhaps I want to become a contemplative for similar reasons.

The contemplative way

I am not that different from others. I have my own motives for doing things. I meditate because it keeps me sane. I pace myself with work tasks for it maintains my energy and direction. I unwind at night with a book because it helps me to sleep. I have the same basic needs as others. Continue reading

Smile when they frown!

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As I arrived home in Dublin after my holiday in Canada, I got an abrupt reminder that people have the potential to pull me down and take away my happiness.

A taxi-man who mutters

Right outside the airport, a taxi driver muttered and frowned when I gave him directions to my house. After 17 hours of travel, it caught me off guard for a moment. I asserted that I was perhaps better off getting another taxi, but in the end I took the lift. He muttered something again, and I gave him a short response and stayed quiet. On the road, I suddenly smiled with the realisation that the interaction didn’t have to ruin my day. We chatted for a little bit after a while and departed with less tension. Continue reading