#ShareTheJourney2018: Hawkesbury Wellness Day
Content Warning: This article contains discussion of PTSD symptoms, suicide, grief and depression.
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Isn't it interesting, how the entire Hawkesbury seems to collectively sigh with relief together when it finally rains? We all watched the sky for so many months, looking for that promise, listening for a damp wind.... searching the evening air for the faintest scent of rain. Smiling a toddler's smile at the sight of scurrying ants and darkening afternoons. Even better - waking up the following morning to the sound of passing car tyres on a wet road, and the industrious trickle of water pouring into the downpipe. All our efforts to buy bales and fundraise with chocolate slice culminate in Facebook photos from local farmers so overjoyed to see puddles forming on their properties that they post photos of muddy puddles and soggy sheep that would seem like such a drab photo in many other countries, but to us is a shared joy.
Weather is one of those inevitable things - climate change aside - that you know will fluctuate. One way or another, you know that it will change from day to day. Lightness, darkness. Seasons undulating, promising even after the longest drought that rain will someday return.
Have you ever experienced a mental health drought?
I've been listening to a lot of "wellness" podcasts lately.
In the spirit of the hashtag, I'll get right in there and share a little of my journey.
You might not know that people who have PTSD can really struggle with concentration. I'm certainly a great case study in the issues with attention and memory that arise after trauma, and you might not be aware until now that PTSD can affect peoples' everyday lives in such an everyday way. PTSD certainly isn't just restricted to veterans of war. In 2018, it's not like those guys with "shell shock" in the movies, although I do have those well-known symptoms such as insomnia, flashbacks, anxiety and startling at anything that goes bump in the night. However, the most "annoying" daily thing that comes from PTSD is a huge problem with attention, learning and memory. I do have a brain condition that already challenges me somewhat with comprehension and memory, but it was manageable before PTSD. Since the worst trauma of my life changed my brain, I no longer have the ability to read for long stretches at a time, or stay "tuned in" on a conversation for extended periods. I have become a master of guessing what was just said for the past twenty seconds, and "tuning back in" again without detection. For someone who adores books, research, uni, thoughtful conversation and great stories, that's perhaps the most cruel joke of all. That said, I'm one stubborn cookie, and in the last few years I've found that I can fulfil that constant yearnin' for learnin' by listening to podcasts or recordings, which somehow work better for me than reading endless paragraphs of text.
In the last few weeks I've really delved into podcasts that explore the concepts of "self-care" and "wellness", and from all over the world. The other day I listened to a podcast out of San Jose in California that looked at realistic ways to "check in" with oneself throughout the day; a mental "toolkit" to ensure we take that moment in our day to care for ourselves. That regular self-check can happen even if we're in a super-hectic job, inside or outside the home. I find things like that really helpful; real skills and actual tools for maintaining mental health and wellness.
On the other side of the "wellness" coin, however, is the amount of tacky, confusing sales-talk surrounding the terms "wellness", "health" and "wellbeing", and how harmful that pseudoscience can be to people who need effective and evidence-based care to remain well. You don't have to look far to find someone trying to sell you a product that purports to be the key to "wellness" for you. It even happens at the end of the podcast linked above, where someone tries to sell you their essential oils or cashew nut butter (I know! What the?!) after having a more ethically-balanced chat about mental health. That kind of thing can be really damaging, and on multiple levels.
Strip all that silliness around the health and wellness "industry", just for a moment, and let's talk about being well. No matter who you are, you have a brain, and a mind; you have traits, and states, and family and friends. You have work, occupation, relationships, ages and stages, abilities and strengths and weaknesses... and most of all... you're subject to the great inescapable march of time. Whether you're someone who readily uses phrases like "mental health" or not, you are a human being who needs things in your life to be well.
I had a great chat recently to my mate Diane Russell, who you may remember from my videos about her event, The Hope Walk, which brings the community together for suicide prevention. Diane has been working with Hawkesbury City Council recently to put on an event just for you on October 9, to get locals connected with services and encourage us all to take a moment to think about wellness. It's called "Share the Journey: Hawkesbury Wellness Day", and it's all part of Mental Health Month. The phrase on everyone's lips for this is "Share the Journey", and you can follow the hashtag #followthejourney2018 to stay in touch with what's going on.
Diane says, "We recognise that there is a need here and we wanted to connect some services to people of the community. We're going to have our community centres like Bligh Park and North Richmond there, as well as Headspace. Hawkesbury hospital are going to be there with the community counselling team. We've got the Aboriginal Health Bus that's going to be there. We want all these services just to be there in a comfortable environment and interact with people, so they can find out what's available. We're also going to have a stage that's been provided for us and people can get involved with meditation and yoga. We will also have some music, so we want it to be a really relaxed environment but also recognising that there is a need. It's a way that we can connect with people. That's why it's called 'Share the Journey'; it's a sort of continuation from 'RUOK' Day. There are a lot of things out there that people aren't aware of! All these services are ways we can help someone, and if we can make a change in someone's life with mental health and wellness, it would be absolutely wonderful."
SHARE THE JOURNEY: Hawkesbury Wellness Day
Tuesday 9th October