Living with a chronic physical and mental illness had led me to spend a lot of time managing feeling poorly and struggling. Having spent time in hospital, including a year as an inpatient on an eating disorder ward, I learnt a lot about self care and soothing myself when things are hard. Gradually I realised that I could come up with an idea that combined my love (and the boost it gives to my wellbeing) of craft, vintage and reading to come up with something that might help others who are going through a challenging time. #DateWithABook was born and it has continued to grow from there onwards.
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me– C.S. Lewis.
Illness can lead you to feel really isolated. You can face days where you are really limited in the amount of energy you have, or motivation to do the things you would love to be doing. This was one of the starting ideas for my book dates. I wanted to reach out to people who might be finding things tough and offer them something to help them through that moment. I’m a lover of everything old and vintage and the idea of rehoming a beautiful old book felt like the best way to go. Giving these books a new lease of life whilst helping others just seemed perfect! The idea is that a book date is a way to reclaim date night and rest and rejuvenate with a hot drink and a cosy homely coaster with your set.
We read to know we’re not alone– William Nicholson, Shadowlands.
So, what do I hope to achieve with my little book dates? Well… quite a lot! I believe that sharing a #datewithabook can be a huge act of kindness, offering someone who is struggling a piece of calm, distraction and an excuse to have a night off. Or it can be a perfect piece of self care for yourself, to help with the stresses that we face day to day. A date with a book can be a way of reconnecting with someone who needs some extra love or showing you care when you can’t ‘fix’ a situation someone is going through.
Praise for #datewithabook
I absolutely loved recieving my date with a book parcel in the post. Kate made one up based on my likes for me to enjoy on maternity leave. Good value for money and such a wonderful idea for a treat to yourself or for gifts to others. Will be ordering from her again in the future.- Jenny
I received my date with a book yesterday and it’s wonderful. I almost didn’t want to open it as it looked so pretty. I’m currently about to sit down and start reading. I will definitely be using you again. It is such a lovely idea.– Lindsey
Fantastic idea. Love this. Date with a Book. Something really different, original & unique. Brought for a friend, who Loved it to & has been showing friends. Whole thing arrives Beautifully packaged in soft tissue paper. Makes a Wonderful gift for Any occasion. Or No occasion at all.. Just to say, Thinking of you. Hello. Etc.– Annette
Such a unique idea! It was very exciting to receive the package as you don’t know which book you will get and I was not disappointed! I received a book from an author who I’ve never heard of, and I cannot wait to read it! Prompt delivery too!!– Bisma
There are lots of different #datewithabook sets available in my Conscious Crafties and Etsy stores. I’m just in the process of a big restock to make way for a beautiful array of Christmas gifts, ideal for the person who has everything. Use the discount code BLOG10 to get 10% off any orders over £10. I also have a #datewithabook advent calendar full of literary themed items.
When you’ve been in some sort of treatment for a mental health condition for a number of years; it can be rare to be presented with a new idea that you’ve not seen before. This isn’t to sound arrogant as if I’ve had all of the treatment there ever was… not at all. But rather, there are some similar ideas and techniques that come up more often than not. Whilst a lot of these traditional, go-to ideas are great, it can feel a bit hopeless if you’re just being given the same old. I’ve always had a belief that if what you’re doing isn’t working or really helping, then you need to keep trying until you find something that works! Sometimes it feels this is a real weakness of community mental health support. There’s a limited scope for overstretched teams to provide care that’s tailored to the individual and it can feel like professionals try and shoe-horn you into their own method of working… and discharge people who don’t progress within the parameters of what’s available.
Recently, I worked with a locum practitioner who gave me some new ideas, things I’d never tried before. I was a bit dubious about some of them, as they were out of the normal CBT based ideas I’d been given in outpatient treatment. The number of times I’ve had to write a food diary, compare it to my meal plan, write down my thoughts and then counter them with alternative thoughts; is probably too many to recall now! For so long, that has been the treatment. There’s been very little creativity. I’m not criticising the professionals I’ve worked with… totally… but I am saying there could be a little more variety in the kind of work offered to outpatients regardless of the understandably challenging lack of resources. So, back to my locum practitioner. One day we were talking about the importance of having my weight monitored. It’s something I’ve always hated and battled against. Partly due to OCD rituals surrounding getting a perfectly accurate comparative weight (yes… something I know isn’t really a real thing but that’s not the focus here haha). So being a regular argument had with the team, we began for a moment to have the standard backward and forward about being weighed. I was told why I needed it done and promptly replied with all of the counter arguments I could. It wasn’t really going anywhere and it was reminiscent of conversations already had.
So she stopped us and pulled out a piece of paper, telling me we were going to think of a different way of tackling this. I was anxious and stressed and not very receptive to a new idea. She told me that we were going to write a list of thirty reasons why it was good to be weighed by someone from the team. We titled it in a positive way, not limiting ourselves to it being ‘ok’ to be weighed but going fully for it and using ‘good’ and specifying it would be done by the team. Already my brain was feeling a little frustrated that loopholes were being firmly avoided! It was a challenge, I definitely protested that there was no way I could think of one reason let alone thirty. But gradually with a little persuasion, the list began to take shape… the options could be sensible, off the wall or completely ridiculous. Here are a few we came up with:
- People will stop nagging me to get weighed
- Meg and Bert (my labradors) get weighed at the vets and enjoy it, so I can too
- I can smash my scales into a million pieces because I don’t need them now
- It’s just measuring my relationship with gravity
- Good to give my scales a break/holiday/weekend break
- Maybe I’ll enjoy it
And so on…
The list turned out to be a powerful tool. By the end of thirty reasons, I had been through fits of laughter, completely relaxed and actually if I had been weighed straight away… I probably would have been fairly relaxed about the whole situation. By finding thirty reasons that it was good for it to happen, I had a whole list of evidence to counter the negative thought processes that were going on in my head. I had a list of reasons that were quite motivating and I had something that could make me laugh and remind me that perhaps the whole process wasn’t too scary after all. I’ve realised that writing a list to counter my fears can be used in any situation that I’m worrying about or anything I’m struggling to be able to do. And the best thing… if at thirty you still feel anxious, you can always write thirty more.
It feels like a lot of people are growing frustrated of limited mental health services. There always seems to be unnecessarily specific criteria to be seen, and even if you are, the waiting times and the treatment available is often really limited. I’ve found that using my creativity has been really beneficial for my mental health and helped me in my recovery journey. I’ve often joked with friends and professionals that people with eating problems often seem to be really creative, recently I laughed at this and said it was probably because we don’t have much choice when we are restricted in our normal activities!
I’ve wanted to do a series of blogs for a while, and a lovely friend finally helped me to see the theme and work out how they could all fit together. I’m going to write a series of blog posts that look at lots of different creative ways to support recovery from a mental health condition. I’m a firm believer that there is a way for everyone to recover and improve their mental health and unfortunately, current mental health services often don’t allow for this. There seems to be a current system where, if you don’t show improvements with whatever treatment you are given, it can feel like you’re ‘given up on’ and discharged. Rather than the services stopping and thinking… what could we do differently to support this person, it often feels like a one size fits all approach is offered and if it doesn’t work for you then sadly there’s not much else they can do.
Of course, this is a fairly simplified view that doesn’t take into consideration the areas in the country where there are some really fantastic resources and the professionals who pull out all the stops to offer you the treatment that you really need. But it’s not a view that appears to be uncommon amongst individuals I’m in contact with who are experiencing first hand the issues with cuts to mental health services. Unfortunately, it feels like services are often doing the best they can on minimal budgets, but the patients are the ones who suffer. Often they are left feeling hopeless and beyond help and resigned to the fact that perhaps they will be unwell forever. It’s not a nice place to put people, especially when treatment can be littered with threats of discharge if you don’t ‘comply’ with the support that isn’t really helping. It feels like it’s a bit of a mess really.
But alas, I could continue to rant and vent about services. Or I could share some ideas for some alternatives methods that might help with recovery. Some of these will be ideas I have used and had from wonderfully helpful professionals, some are from across the internet and some are ideas I’ve come up with along my own journey.
As part of this mini-project, I’ll be starting a new recovery art journal and a bullet journal and sharing any progress or ideas I get from these! I’ll also share some bits from my old inpatient art journal and my relapse prevention work.
If you have any ideas or thoughts… or you want to share your attempts at some of the ideas, please get in touch through the comments or my contact page. I might even think of a hashtag if I’m feeling really technically minded!
Remember that these ideas aren’t a replacement for professional and medical help, it’s important to be under the care of health professionals who can help monitor your condition and support you in whatever way they are able to!
Hope is a strange thing. It can be the motivation to keep going when things are hard or the idea that things may one day be different or better. Hope is a hard thing to hang on to, it’s not exactly tangible and it can be easily shattered. But even the tiniest amount of hope can be a really powerful thing. I’ve frequently been told to hold on, with the hope that it will get easier. But I guess I want to be told exactly when that will be… easier said than done I guess.
Perhaps, certainly in recovery, it is much easier to identify and manage if someone has lost hope, rather than working out how much hope they have! Martin Seligman found that if animals were subjected to difficult situations that were out of their control, then became helpless and passive; not wanting to try and escape the situation they were in. Perhaps demonstrating what happens when you lose hope in a situation. For people lack of hope can manifest in many different ways such as; depression, anxiety, lack of motivation or self destructive behaviours. It can be a bit of a downward spiral where hopelessness leads to individuals not wanting to try and change, and therefore the negativity is perpetuated.
Hope is not pretending that troubles don’t exist. It is the hope that they
won’t last forever. That hurts will be healed and difficulties overcome. That we will be led out of darkness and into the sunshine.
Sometimes taking the first step, especially when you feel hopelessness, can be the hardest. If you don’t believe things can change, then it’s totally understandable that it feels impossible to get started and find some hope.
So how can you find hope and break unhelpful spirals?
- Break it down a little- sometimes hoping to be ‘recovered’ can be a very tall order. It can feel like you’re trying to get from A-Z without any real idea of how to get there. It’s important to try and allow yourself you work through the process, taking measurable baby steps to find your way. It’s also completely ok if your goal changes, it can be a fluid process which in itself may give you hope.
- Show yourself compassion- once you begin your steps, you make have to reevaluate and take a different approach if it doesn’t feel like it’s working or going smoothly. Of course, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but if it’s too hard you won’t reach the other side anyway. You may just need to change your goal posts and aim for slightly simpler steps. A headteacher once told me that when you write a to-do list, you should start with 2-3 things you’ve already done or know you can complete straight away. Giving yourself the immediate satisfaction of completing something can then spur you on to manage the rest.
- Start a gratitude list- I am fairly certain you’ve already achieved a lot in your life. If might not feel it, but think about the little things you have achieved. Reminding yourself that you are in fact pretty amazing can help you to feel hopeful about the future.
- Find Inspiration- this could be from people you know, famous people or celebrities, quotes, stories or anything really. Surround yourself with your inspiration and re-visit it daily to help move your mindset on to one of hope.
- Find hope by letting go of negativity- starting to let go of negativity, anxiety or depression can set you up to find space for a little more hope in your life.
- Think your way to hope- think about the way your life is now and the type of person you would like to be and what kind of life you would have if you were that person.
- Gain support from others- if you’re feeling hopeless, sometimes you need someone to help you find hope again. This can be from friends, family or even professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Look after yourself- once again, self care is really important here. Looking after yourself can build your resilience and help you manage when you’re feeling hopeless.
- Help others to help yourself- sometimes getting a little perspective can help you find hope again.
- Be brave- ultimately, don’t give up. You’ve got this, you can do it. Maybe not right now, but you will be able to.
At the end of the day, all you need is hope and strength. Hope that it will get better and strength to hold on until it does.
Sometimes other people can say it better than you can… for today’s#SelfCareSeptember blog I wanted to share Scott Hurtado’s awesome motivational video. He’s so right… in life we only get one shot at it, you might as well make use of the time we have… live it doing the things you actually love!