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The 13 -19th May 2019 marks Mental Health Awareness week here in the UK, and whilst it’s not like me to post a time-appropriate blog; bringing awareness to my own mental health this week has organically brought me here.

Mental health is not new! But it is thankfully becoming something we are starting to talk about, blog about and even sing about.

It’s perhaps one of the greatest invisible illnesses and can be the biggest killer, especially amongst men.

There is still so much stigma attached to those two little words, ‘Mental Health’.  Just by speaking them we often get subconsciously divided into camps for the weak and the strong; falling subject to ignorance, judgement and even other people’s unprecedented fear.

Yet through my personal and professional experience of working for many years within health and social care, I know that it actually takes incredible strength and self-awareness to say the words ‘I’M NOT OK‘.   In fact, it’s an admired vulnerability I am still trying to master myself.

Mental health doesn’t fit neatly into a tick-box as it resides on an ever evolving subjective spectrum, nestled somewhere deeply within a very personal healing journey.

It doesn’t always come with a diagnosis and it’s so much more than the commonly labelled and experienced ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety.’

It’s not something that always needs medicating, is a long term issue or inevitably leads to suicide.  It doesn’t belong to a certain pocket of people or age group, as it does not discriminate.  It doesn’t always present as someone crying in a darkened room as it can equally be the tears of insecurity behind someone’s beaming smile.  And above all else, I can guarantee you that it’s something we will all have to work hard to manage at multiple times during our lives.

For some, that battle of course will be a daily occurrence and none of what I say here is said to discredit that very reality.

Mental health is no doubt the increasingly recognised and experienced conditions of depression and anxiety, which given the age of social media show-reels, the filtered selfie, our environmental crisis and political poverty, it’s no wonder so many of us are finding it hard to process our feelings and to cope.

Mental health can be an eating disorder, an addiction, a hormonal imbalance, low self-esteem or poor body image.  It can be something experienced temporarily following traumatic experiences, grief or major life changes.  It can be something that intensifies with transitional birthdays and age brackets, spiritual awakenings, or even something that just runs alongside the relentless impact of a chronic illness.  It’s quite simply anything that becomes all consuming, disabling, life-limiting or keeps us locked into our unforgiving head-space.

But mental health is so much more than a handful of labels, as we are complex beings with an array of emotions and coping strategies.  We naturally fluctuate in mood and the ability to ‘soldier on’ inline with our own journeys, our hormones, our environments and the very cycle of the moon.  We all have endurance limits.

Like many people I have lived with my mental health demons largely behind closed doors, through an on-off love affair with anti-depressants during my adolescence, and going as far as attempting suicide in my early 20’s.  I’ve tried the orthodox route to managing what feels like an overload of emotions at times and have gone running down the alternative corridor, only to find that now the time calls for balance somewhere between the two.

I grew up with depression and would say that I am prone to periods of it even now.

Being bullied throughout the whole of secondary school took it’s toll on my already low self esteem and I have battled an underlying eating disorder and poor body image my whole life.

I was always told I was ‘difficult’, ‘loud’, ‘needy’, ‘intense’ and the best of all ‘too sensitive’ for as long as I can remember, which led to having friendships and relationships with people who just reinforced those negative beliefs.  Struggling to find where I would ever fit in the world or feel ‘enough’ took a long time and is still something I question on my darker days.

I remember wanting to change the world from a young age, feeling ‘different’ somehow and like there was so much more than the life I was living or the God I was told to believe in.   I was no doubt an energy sensitive soul and an indigo child, but sadly I spent too long seeing my suppressed and misunderstood gifts as my weaknesses.  Where I also fell short on changing said world was that until recently I thought it could only come from being anyone else but me!

Since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) there is no doubt about it that my mental health has required more effort.

Some like to put you in said tick-box and just say that depression and MS go hand and hand, but for me I don’t think that’s true.   Past partners have even used this as an excuse for their own shitty behaviour.  But I don’t believe I get depressed because my brain ‘is not wired properly’, but because living with a chronic and largely invisible illness is exhausting and I get down about it.  It limits my dreams and it effects my ability to have fun, to work and to have relationships, so sometimes I am human and I feel resentful of that fact.

Furthermore, since awakening my inner Goddess and empath the journey to good mental health has been an even bigger battle, for I hear the cries of the land, the turmoil of the sea and the sufferings of a collective as if they were happening to my very being.  I am not energy numb.

My healing journey has also unearthed a deep rooted and unhealthy relationship with food, which is an addiction and journey I am  trying to understand and overcome.  Add to that a personal struggle with accepting my sexuality and you have a toxic cocktail for low self-worth and poor mental health!

But all this aside, I would say I am in a good place now.  The very fact I can reflect on my journey so publicly and without shame or fear (thank Agrimony Bach flower) says it all really.

I share some of my story during this week of awareness as I am reminded this week just how hard I have had to work to be where I am today.

I do feel lost and I do get down at times.   I feel an overwhelming guilt and responsibility that I cannot do or be enough to change the world.  But today I treat myself with kinder eyes as I concentrate on how far I have come, not how far I still have to go.

How did I do it?

It’s taken facing my pain rather than projecting it onto others.  It has taken a shed load of Bach remedies, regular therapies, long periods of isolation, kissing A LOT of people I shouldn’t and finding a best friend in Audrey the Yorkie!  And above all else it has taken incredible effort, strength, resilience and personal sacrifice to walk away from anyone and anything that doesn’t serve me, and to dance unapologetically to my own tune.

I do not see myself as a mental health advocate or that my biggest battles are all in my head.  I am not trying to jump on any bandwagon or to say that I am a mental health expert.  But I do see myself as being lucky enough to have a public platform that I can use for change and awareness.  Together with my social work foundations, and now being the owner of a business that is fundamentally set up to support those on a journey of self-discovery, it feels crucial to be amongst the people bringing awareness to this week of wellness.

Through this personal and rather difficult journey I am the person I am today.   I am the healer I am today.  I am the channel and intuitive I am today.  For I can resonate with the shadows as much as the light and I will always turn my pain into empathy to support rather than to tear down.

Be kind to yourselves this week and always.

Yours in love and light,

 

 

 

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Agrimonia Eupatoria is better known as Agrimony and this perennial plant grows tall, bearing small Yellow flowers along its single stems.

Agrimony grows widely and wildly along roadsides and in meadow-land, and the remedy was first prepared by Dr Bach in 1930 in Cromer, Norfolk.

It’s often been said that you can learn a lot about why you might take each Bach remedy by studying the plant that inspired them.  For me this is especially true when looking at Agrimony.  In short, Agrimony is the remedy for those who hide their worries, fears and unhappiness behind a cheerful façade.  The plant grows in a way whereby the Yellow petals reveal themselves in stages, from the bottom up, which to me is what those needing the remedy may well do; try to hide what’s really going on for them, revealing the bare minimum of their struggles when they are perhaps confronted by others or having difficulty hiding them.  Growing in clusters, its bright Yellow appearance creates a visionary carpet of joyous sunshine, which can’t help but make you smile when you are around them.

Agrimony’s will often be the life and soul of the party; the ones first on the dance floor or providing all the laughs when you’re in their company.  The ones who cheer everyone up with a friendly face, a general good nature and funny one liners.

They are often the colourful characters of the group who appear to not take life too seriously with a carefree nature, finding the humour in most situations. Sometimes you may never even be able to tell an Agrimony is feeling stressed or down and whilst they may let you in a little, they will perhaps control how much they share or to the extent of pain they are in.

When I was studying for my practitioner exam we were told to associate each remedy with a celebrity so that we would remember the characteristics of each remedy easily.  Agrimony for me has always been Robin Williams.  A beautiful man who made his fame from making others feel good about themselves by making them laugh.  He was a natural entertainer and it’s clear that he was born to be a comedic star.  Through his cheerful characters and witty public persona, I think most of us were nothing short of shocked when we heard he battled depression and this later contributed to his suicide.  I’m not saying that Agrimony necessarily leads to suicide, but what I am trying to convey is just how much pain an Agrimony can be in, whilst still portraying to the rest of the world that they are a happy go lucky kind of person.  In fact it was Robin Williams who said:

 

“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile and they will never notice how broken you are”

 

Agrimony’s feel the need to put on a brave face and the sad reality is that they will often be lying to themselves in many ways just as much as they are deceiving those around them.  It can be hard for Agrimony’s to do the internal work needed for them to be free from their demons and in turn their addictions.  They often fight such painful and silent battles, which at times can be nothing short of mental torture, not to mention they can feel as though they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.  This living nightmare can understandably be something they wish to escape from or avoid, hence the go-to reaction of fun, humour or addictive tendencies.

The pressure Agrimony’s put on themselves to struggle in silence can mean that they often find equally abusive coping strategies to manage their fears and worries.  Like everyone, Agrimony’s need an outlet to cope with life’s stresses.

It’s not uncommon for Agrimony’s to have addictions such as alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, sex or food or to use crutches of escapism such as binge TV watching, creating hectic social lives, working longer hours, going from one failed relationship to another without adequate time for reflection in between, or just generally avoiding spending time alone and quiet.

Agrimony’s prefer to be in the company of others and find it hard to be alone for prolonged periods of time, even meditation or relaxation may be difficult for an Agrimony as this will require them to be in their own heads and to break the cycle of self-avoidance.  Agrimony’s may have trouble sleeping, often having periods of insomnia, as they can be kept awake by their worries or struggle to switch them off.  Sometimes this isn’t even conscious, the mental churning can just become such a background white-noise or way of life that they have come to accept, masking it with whatever their chosen coping strategy or addictive weapons of choice may be.

Agrimony’s will keep their cards close to their chest in terms of playing down their struggles to others and often going as far as to add a joke to the proceedings or perhaps downgrading the severity of the issue.  Agrimony’s can find it hard to face up to their troubles.  This isn’t a sign of weakness, and in many ways a sign of their strength, for they will carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, a lot like Atlas in order to ‘cope’.   The problem of course comes when inevitably this mask slips, as no one is invincible and no one can carry such troubles alone all their life without needing some help and support through difficult times.

However, like with every remedy of course there is a scale, and sometimes the Agrimony behaviours may not be quite so extreme and the battles and coping strategies can be less obvious.  You don’t have to tick every box to welcome the positive aspects of the Agrimony remedy, for this  list is just a characteristic summary and by no means exhaustive.  It’s also very ‘English’ to keep a stiff upper lip and to feel the need to deal with things alone, keeping up appearances in a way of not wishing to bring others down or show any sign of weakness.

Humour is a common defence mechanism and a way in which many people deal with pain and difficult situations.  The key to Bach remedies and in this case Agrimony, is to always remember that there is a scale and that you don’t have to experience the extreme end of the scale to benefit from taking it.  The layer effect of the remedies will also mean that you will inevitably have to revisit Agrimony as varying tendencies and characteristics exhibit again.  As the layers of an Agrimony peels, some layers will inevitably be harder to deal with, as this mask may have been worn as far back as childhood.  But as the spiral of healing towards our authentic core continues, there can be many variations of Agrimony indicated and many ways in which it can be the remedy for solace, especially for those who may have this as a ‘type’ remedy.

Taking Agrimony can be a difficult decision to make for some, as the very realisation that we need to journey within in order to get the freedom from behaviours/addictions we crave, can be a daunting one for many of us.

Facing up to the need to break cycles of self abuse, addiction and indeed ‘masking’ problems can be the exact reason why Agrimony’s need this remedy, therefore admitting this need to themselves and in turn finding new ways to cope can be a very frightening prospect.  I find that there can be a real resistance around Agrimony, due to a common fear that their joie de vivre will diminish in some way, leaving them vulnerable and losing their ability to make others smile.    But this isn’t the case.  Like all remedies, Agrimony works subtly with the sole purpose of simply bringing balance to our emotions and characteristics.  Agrimony is there to allow the tears of a clown to sometimes be seen, when appropriate.  It will allow you to share the load a little more, to offload some of the burden in a way in which you are able to work through what’s coming up and generally ask for help before it’s too late.  Not only will it enable you to remove the mask so that humour becomes more organic and less draining, but it will also lessen the need to mask these feelings with unhelpful addictions or destructive behaviours.  There is a level of real liberation and freedom to Agrimony I feel, but I also personally understand how scary the thought of taking this remedy can be.

The real beauty of Agrimony remedy is that it restores the balance.  The necessary need for there to be a happy medium between sharing a problem, seeking help for an addiction or indeed facing up to our demons, whilst still keeping our natural ability to be the social butterflies and jolly beings that we are.  It brings about an inner happiness, allowing us to be vulnerable when needed and to lessen the load so to speak.  Agrimony can help to reduce the reliance on addictions and abusive patterns, but this will vary from person to person and will depend on a commitment to taking this remedy for perhaps a prolonged amount of time.

It’s time to cut yourself some slack now Agrimony’s.  Turn your caring nature and ability to help others to see the funny side of life onto yourself.

This is such a beautiful remedy, which no doubts can be hard to work with, but is so utterly rewarding and freeing when you do.

Yours in love and flowery light,

 

*NB: I would always recommend having a consultation with a Bach Foundation Registered Practitioner (BFRP) to ensure that you get the most from the Bach system.  Dr Bach advised that blends be bespoke and BFRP’s teach their clients how to use the system effectively.  These monthly insights are offered as a guide to the remedies, but are by no means exhaustive and guidance is always advised when using the remedies for the first time.