Some days are harder than others. Some days your mental (and sometimes physical) energy is just drained by all the meaningless, pointless tasks that just had to be done.
It’s mind-blowing the amount of time we waste on little and not so little things because of others, either because they are disorganised, ‘last minute’, ‘idea but not action’ people and so on, or because of… well, life, chores, responsibilities, expectations.
On those days (Monday often is one of them), what matters is, to find the strength to do at least the bare minimum, if you can, so you keep up with what’s really important to you.
I used to be horrible at this. I gave up too easily and when I felt like that, I just wanted to lie down on the sofa, staring at the ceiling, but lately I tap into my newly discovered persistence to not let nuances interfere with what I really want to do and not allow anything to keep me down.
For example, although I love running and yoga, some mornings I wake up exhausted and I feel I barely have any energy to walk, let alone exercise. But I still do it, I might go slower, run for less time, do an easier yoga session, but I get it done. I also love reading, so on a busy, stressful day, when I don’t have much time left before bed to read, I try to read at least a page or two, so I feel I’ve had a few moments for myself to do the things I truly enjoy.
Same goes for these Mental Health Mondays posts. I hoped I’d be able to write every single Monday, and I soon realised I couldn’t, but I still post every now and then,to show that it’s OK to just do something, as it’s always better than nothing(but don’t confuse this with time to rest, relax and do nothing, that’s different, and ESSENTIAL).
January is tough enough as it is, life slowing down after the hype of the Christmas holidays, but this January was just… overwhelming.
It started badly, well horribly actually. On the 4th of January, our beloved family friend Doros was beaten to death, brutally murdered. I’ll write about it when I get the chance and I can handle the emotional pain that takes to describe how we this wonderful human being, an angel on earth, had a truly horrific tormented death.
After that, a combination of really cold weather, which caused my knee muscles to hurt when I ran, so I stopped running for a few weeks (I miss the mental clarity and hype I get during and after a run, and the sense of achievement), running low on money and confidence, going through a stressful period at work, leading to tough realisations I need to deal with soon-ish, and an overall feeling of mental exhaustion made January hard to navigate.
Of course there were a few positive highlights. Yoga with Adriene’s January 30 day yoga kept me going, even on days I felt I couldn’t possibly make it, and my Surviving January calendar, with little every day activities to do to cheer me up, as well as precious time with friends, family and loved ones.
I also started a daily journal, in an effort to help myself remember what I do, since anxiety can literally erase memories, I have huge blanks from previous years because of it.
We are now in the middle of February, and there’s a lot going on, I’m working on a few things, building up my confidence, and pushing hard for a better future, whilst also finding my feet again. I continue my yoga, my daily journal, and a few other things I’d like to write about like my lean in circle powerful, inspiring ladies, and the Women Fit 4 Business programme I got in, I just need to make time to sit down and write, and get back to running again, because both of them are vital for my mental wellbeing. I also haven’t played the guitar in months, which saddens me and makes me wonder whether why, since I loved it so much, and I still do, but I never seem to find the energy or the mood.
There’s a lot of issues I need to explore, but my primary aim for this year is to keep raising awareness about the importance of mental health for all aspects of our life and to also help in practice as much as I can. So cheers to that!
I don’t really know how to start this blog. I find it hard even writing about it.
Last Monday, our baby dog of 13 years, Oscar, who would sit next to us and comfort us when we were ill or sad, who was a genius when it came to stealing food (including opening the fridge!) but would let other dogs bite his nose off, the family’s favourite companion, who’d do anything for love and affection, died.
He was old, I knew that, we all did, but as much as we kept reminding ourselves, we didn’t want to believe that he might die soon.
Even in his last couple of days, he didn’t want to overburden or cause any more pain to my parents.
On Monday morning, my mum messaged me, whilst I was at work. Oscar hadn’t been eating that much lately (his teeth were not in the greatest condition due to his age), though he’d still eat anything he could chew, but on that day he ate almost nothing. And that wasn’t the worst symptom. His legs gave up and he couldn’t move at all.
At this point, I felt that it might be the end. My heart kept beating faster and faster, I felt my blood freeze, and I could barely keep it together. I told my mum to let my sister Stella know, and take him to the vet.
Stella took our baby with my dad to the vet. She called me an hour later. ‘Are you on your own’? She asked.
As soon as she said that, I realised what happened.
He died in her arms, just outside the vet’s office. As the vet poignantly noted ‘You brought him to me when he was a puppy 13 years ago for the first time, and today you brought him back for the last time’.
Needless to say, we were and still are devastated about it. We all loved him to bits and we are trying to deal with his death each in our own way. His passing inevitably triggered painful memories of other loved ones’ deaths over the years, which makes it even harder to deal with.
I keep replaying what happened on Monday, in my mind, until my brain accepts the fact that he died. Some days I feel more sad than others, other days I’m just forgetful and irritable.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to grief. And it makes no difference whether a human or a dog died, or whether you grieve the end of a relationship, friendship or any other end.
Oscar for us was a member of the family, who we love more than a lot of other humans.
We feel grateful and blessed we got to enjoy his unconditional love and affection for 13 years, and his death was as less traumatic as it could have been. My parents were worried he might die at home, my sister Stella worried that he might get gravely ill and she would have had to make the horrific decision whether to euthanise him, and my little sister Anna was worried he might have died as soon as she had left for her studies a year ago. Thankfully none of this happened. He loved and cared about us until the very end.
We love you our lixi (‘greedy’ when it comes to food, in Greek), now and always. Thank you for making our life more fun and colourful, thank you for all your cuddles and all the adventures we’ve been together. You will forever be the 6th member of our family.
I’m at the local park, getting ready to take part, with a few more hundred (mostly professional level) running enthusiasts, in the ‘Eurolife, Run the Park with Us’ run. My other half, who’s been training for a triathlon for the last month or so, went to find his coach and do a warm-up and I went for a wander, to check out the setting.
All I could focus on was the trained bodies, the muscles protruding around me and the pro gear most had. I even felt undedressed, if that’s ever possible.
‘What on earth am I doing here? Why did I decide to run the 10k? I don’t belong here.’
That’s what was on my mind ever since I switched from 5k to 10k. I had only run 10k twice before that day, and I felt I could probably do it, depending on the route, but I was worried I’d come last. That was my biggest worry actually until probably a few days before the run. I decided to embrace my worries and fears though, and go for it.
What’s the worst case scenario? What if I do come last? Why does that worry me that much?
It comes down to our innate tendency to avoid situations that might make us feel vulnerable, exposed, hurt, physically or mentally. So I knew I had to fight this urge.
I had recently rewatched Brene Brown’s infamous Ted Talk about vulnerability and her recent Netflix show ‘Call to Courage’ (I highly recommend both!) and I reminded myself that unless you push yourself to feel vulnerable, then you can’t really show courage and you can’t go far in life.
You need to make vulnerability part of your everyday life, get used to that uncomfortable feeling of showing your emotions, looking for a better job, asking for a better salary, being completely honest with your loved ones, letting people see your true self and above all, your feelings.
So I went for it. For a while I thought I was last, I couldn’t see anyone behind me, but I didn’t pay any attention. About half way through I bumped into an ex-colleague who kept cheering me on. That boosted my morale, as the route was not easy (but it was really beautiful, amongst trees and plants, and panoramic views). So many hills, up and down, and running on hills is not my favourite! Towards the end I thought I was lost as I couldn’t see any signs on where to go, but after probably the toughest hill of the route (they saved the best for last!) I finally heard the presenter at the finish line.
I almost burst into tears. My mum and my boyfriend were there, waiting for me, cheering me on. I did it! And apparently I didn’t come last, not that would have made any difference.
A few days later I decided to sign up for the Larnaka 10k route of the Marathon, which was two weeks later. If I could make it through the hills of the park, I can make it on a flat surface.
The 17th of November was an incredibly hot day (for November) and we ran at 10am. Needless to say I had a migraine for the rest of the day, but oh my, it was worth it.
I ran alongside professional athletes, blind runners from Israel, a woman running in memory of her son, young people, older people. I was in great company.
I wasn’t sure I’d make it, I never ran 10k in those temparatures, but running with others is motivating on its own. I can’t accurately describe that feeling. You have to experience it, to fully understand.
I almost cried when I high-fived a kid holding a sign, near the 7th kilometre, which was one of the toughest.
The route was beautiful, especially the second half. The last part of the run was by Saint Lazarus church and then alongside Foinikoudes beach, which was just gorgeous and it definitely helped me going.
I’ve now signed up for the 7.7 mile ‘Stelios Kyriakides’ run at Nicosia Marathon in a couple of weeks, which is around 12km. That will be the longest I’d ever run, so I just hope I can make it.
This push and dedication, powered by vulnerability, also helped me in my personal and professional life. In the last few weeks I felt more like myself, the closest I felt in years, and awakened my feisty spirit. I feel more inclined to speak up, and I believe more in myself and my abilities.
So, today’s message: embrace your vulnerability. It’s tough, and painful, because it inevitably means failing over and over again, but it also lets in love, light and above all, courage.