In late 2015, at age 39, I hit a wall – physically and mentally.
For a number of years I had been juggling work, raising our three boys and being the carer for my wife with anxiety and depression. Forgetting to also look after myself properly over this time, I allowed my own physical and mental health to suffer. Just a couple of months after beginning to seek help for significant anxiety symptoms of my own, I had a stroke while at work. Fortunately it was a mild cerebellar ischemic stroke, which I recovered from fairly quickly. My anxiety and the stroke were my twofold wake-up call.
I realised things couldn’t keep going on as they had. For over five years I had diligently and selflessly made caring for my wife and kids my main focus, to the point that I often ignored and dismissed my own needs and left little room for other important areas of my life. I have come to the conclusion that while caring for my wife and sons is very important, caring for myself is equally so. I need to slow down, relax, take care of myself and rediscover what gives me pleasure in life.
I wish to make time and space, each and every day, to stop to breathe.
I set a goal to make this my primary focus in 2016 – beginning to implement and consolidate enduring changes in my life to rebuild and strengthen my mental health, and to regain a sense of enjoyment and calm.
My blog, in a sense, was intended as a journal of this process throughout 2016 – a way of putting myself out there and staying on track with this goal.
I didn’t keep at it throughout the whole of 2016, in terms of weekly posts to year’s end, but my focus on building and maintaining renewed mental health never faltered.
The title of this blog is both literal and metaphorical: making time each day to engage in breathing-based mindfulness relaxation, while in the larger context ensuring I regularly engage in activities that breathe enjoyment and life into my daily experiences. I know that by starting to look after myself better, I’ll also be able to be a much better dad and husband.
Despite having been a Christian all my life, initially I didn’t allow a lot of room for God in my recovery plan. To be honest, I don’t think there really was a lot of room amid the frenzy of anxious thoughts. But God, in his goodness, is patient and he bided his time.
As I started to regain my health, found greater stillness within and took time to breathe, there came a time when I felt prompted with a question: “Where does God fit into all this?” I invited Jesus to take the lead in my recovery soon after.
Since then, my mental health and faith have become inextricably linked. I consciously worked hard over 2016 to become more physically and mentally healthy. Yet it was when I rested confidently in my identity as one of God’s children, and really laid my burdens on him, that the biggest improvements in my mental health came.
My journey’s not over. Mental health is a continuum and we’re never stationary on that continuum.
I still fall into old habits and thought patterns that are pretty unhelpful and sometimes excessive in their severity given the situation. But I catch them sooner, respond more surely and right myself more effectively. I pray that trend continues.
Post-2016, this blog is evolving.
I don’t feel compelled to write regularly, just when inspired.
I intend to share my experiences and reflections on life, faith, health and happiness. I continue to stop to breathe, seeking calm and stillness – but now also actively seeking the voice of God in that stillness.
I considered recently what I really want out of life, if I boiled it all down to essentials. I want to experience a life characterised by:
- A sense of meaning and purpose
I’m sure most of my content will be somehow linked to those.
If you’d like to follow my journey, I invite you to subscribe to this blog and comment on posts as you’re inclined.