Friday, October 14, 2011

On noticing beauty

Sand moved heavily beneath my feet, making me conscious of every step. The roar of the waves was so loud I could hear nothing else. The wind was blowing so strong that I could not help but breathe the fresh salty air in deeply. It felt like the air and the noise and the waves were washing me as I walked, blowing through me and refreshing me.

I felt alive. It was beautiful.

These past few weeks have been extremely dark for me. Possibly some of the darkest I've ever experienced. But I feel compelled to wade out of my own darkness and write because October is Mental Health Month, Monday just gone was World Mental Health Day and I am someone struggling with a chronic mental health condition.

Last year during October, I picked up this great little free postcard created by the Mental Health Association of NSW. 10 Tips To Stress Less. Some of the suggestions were predictable. But one caught my eye.

Notice something beautiful.

As someone who had struggled with depression and anxiety for many years, I had heard pieces of advice such as 'remember to get your zzzz's' and 'talk about your troubles'.... but never 'notice something beautiful'. So I decided to become intentional about noticing and appreciating beauty in my days.

When sitting outside, I tried to notice the signs of life around me, instead of thinking about how my allergies were playing up. I listened even more earnestly to music, trying to hear the intricate beauty in clever instrumentation or lyrics. When I sat down to a fresh-brewed espresso I noticed how beautiful the smell was. I sought out poetry and stories and creative writing to inspire myself. I begun to cook more creatively and savor the wholesome beauty of food. And the more I opened myself to see beauty, the more beauty I noticed.

Then earlier this year when I suddenly dropped into a episode of Major Depression and Anxiety Disorder, noticing beauty became even more important... and harder to do.

On days when there feels like no end to the darkness, sitting in the sunshine and noticing the beautiful warmth it brings is a powerful antidote. On days when I feel there is no hope, taking time to stop and listen to my favourite cd's, noticing the beautiful rhythms and melodies, the poetry, begins to fill me with hope. And on days when I feel like I can do nothing right, creating a pot of hearty winter soup is nurturing for the soul. These things might seem very mundane, but noticing beauty in the mundane has saved me in so many ways these last few months.

This is how, at the end of the darkest of months, I stood on the beach and felt alive last week. I was able to see beyond the fog and darkness of my pain... and notice something beautiful.

Struggling with a mental illness is not easy. There are no quick fixes. Many don't understand or see what is happening to you. It feels isolating. But there is beauty in this world... And there is hope.

Take time to notice.

*If you feel hopeless, overwhelmed and unable to make sense of your thoughts, please talk to someone. Seek out help. It is there. If you don't have a friend, teacher, pastor, doctor or someone to talk to, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can also check out the following websites for advice and encouragement:
Beyond Blue
Mental Health Association NSW
Inspire - ReachOut