Catherine Huntley

Mental Health Awareness Week – how I keep mentally healthy

18

Hi everyone. I hope you’re keeping as well as can be. Seeing as it’s a week for highlighting the issue of mental health, I thought I’d put fingers to keypad and share some of my own techniques for maintaining good mental health.

Like most of us, my family has been touched by mental health issues in some quite extreme ways, with my late father having undergone electric shock therapy back in the 1960’s during a seven year stretch of deep clinical depression and my late brother taking his own life when I was fifteen. There are very close members of my family whose lives are majorly affected by mental ill health to this day and the effects are far reaching. Like ripples from a pebble.

I, myself, am acutely aware of the need to safeguard against a bout of being low snowballing into something more severe and paralysing. I’d say I’m a pretty positive person who tries to always see the bright side but that doesn’t mean I’ve always managed maintain that happy outlook during difficult times. Anyone who is familiar with either self help/development will probably have heard the term “It’s a lifetime’s work” in relation to keeping one’s head above water during stormy weathers. A simple negative thought can trigger others until they all line up, one after another, and teeter over like dominoes, seemingly unable to stop causing great distress and overwhelm.

I’ve read many books on the subject of mental health as I’ve always had a keen interest in psychology and self improvement. From positive quotes saved as backgrounds on my iPad, phone and bedroom wall to listening to podcasts on self-belief I try to make use of resources outside of myself to reinforce positive messages to my conscious and subconscious brain.

Scenic views

I would say that, possibly, the most useful tool I have in my mental health first aid kit is the act of walking. ‘Walking back to happiness’ you could say. If I’m feeling a little out of sorts I find a nice, long ramble restores my equilibrium and recharges my spirit like nothing else. My Skechers and Fitbit always come along for the trip. It usually takes a walk of at least an hour to get me into that different headspace. The longer the better, though.

Feet selfie

I’ve mentioned, previously, my good friend at work, Veronica, who inspired me to buy a Fitbit after she achieved greater health using hers. We recently took a four and half hour hike together around Boxhill in Surrey. Beautiful countryside, lots of hills, wooded areas and wide open expanses of nature to feast the eyes upon. It was wonderful. V (as we call her at work) is very camera shy so just her feet appear in this blog but those are the feet of a remarkable woman who couldn’t be more opposite to me in many ways. She hates pink, she loves tattoos and heavy metal music and wouldn’t be seen dead in any of my clothes or make up unless it was for charity! She is of Welsh descent so we both share a love of Wales, the beauty of the great outdoors, putting the world to rights and walking for hours. I hope you like these photos of our day out together and, if you’ve not tried a long walk to throw the blues off kilter, I highly recommend you give it a go! To paraphrase the great Ghandi “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Physically true but full of metaphors for tackling any of life’s hurdles.

Fitbit

Something else I would suggest doing is to give yourself the luxurious treat of time. That could be a day at a spa if it’s within your means and ability but it could also be half an hour in a candlelit bubble bath or watching your favourite film snuggled up in your cosiest pj’s with a big mug of hot chocolate. Just do something you love that’s just for you. If you’re not sure what to do with that time maybe just give yourself fifteen minutes, without any distractions, to really ask yourself what you’d like to do, just for you.

Vegan chocolate cake

I love to cook. I also love to eat. Lucky for me, both of my children share these passions so cooking for each other is a real treat, too. We, generally, keep it pretty healthy with the occasional indulgence. There are many healthy, not too naughty, treats you can make for yourself, friends and family such as this vegan chocolate cake my daughter made yesterday for us! I think cooking is great as it focuses your mind and diverts your attention away from the thoughts spinning around inside your head and, at the same time, it can allow you to share with others and brighten their day, too.

I spoke of rambling in the sense of walking but I’ve also done it here in a literary sense! This is a subject I feel I could talk about all day long but, for now, I shall leave it there. There’s so much more to say and so many more ways to help ourselves but the Pixiecat and Popsiecat are waiting to be fed so my time is up!

Just remember that there is no need for anyone to suffer in silence in this day and age. Beyond the GP there are online services and charities who can, and want to, help. I applied to bevome a volunteer for The Samaritans but, unfortunately, my work shift patterns wouldn’t allow me to fit into theirs. If you are one of the army of compassionate people out there working hard to help with the fallout of mental ill-health then I would like to, virtually and via the ether, shake your hand and thank you.

See you soon. All my love,

Catherine x

18 Comments

  1. Jill May 11, 2017 at 1:22 pm -  Reply

    Hello Catherine, thank you so much for all your kind words and for sharing your tips and what works with your online followers.
    My feeling is that most people have experienced mental health, positive and failing at some time in their life.
    Staying strong and moving forward each day, remembering you are still the person you were has helped me.
    Thanks for all your kind words and love
    JillyXX

  2. Tony Randall May 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm -  Reply

    Thank you for posting Catherine. And I’m so sorry to hear the heartache you and your family have been through with family members losing their battle against Mental Health.
    I won’t go rambling on about me as I don’t want to be a burden to you. But in short I’m ashamed of my Mental Health illness and the pain it causes me. I consider myself as damaged goods. Voices in my head urge me down the path to self destruction on a regular basis. Which has resulted in being sectioned on many occasions.
    It’s all so easy to look at anyone and think they look happy without a care in the world, if only we could see inside people’s heads and what is actually going on.
    I to love the countryside here in Kent and wildlife and I love to walk and clear my head or to make sense what I’m feeling and lose the feeling of self destruction. I wish I had a fellow walker to enjoy the countryside and talk to, I’ve shut everybody out of my life.
    I see my psychologist every week and have talking therapies. My story is much more complicated than that as is many people’s.
    I do admire your love and enthusiasm for life Catherine it’s inspiring even if at times life must get you down as well. If I could only bottle up some of what you have I’d have a chance.

  3. Bev taylor May 12, 2017 at 8:37 am -  Reply

    How brave of you to share such intimate things about your family. And how kind because it spurs others on. My battle with anxiety problems began 37 years ago when I was just 22. Even now I can struggle but hold down jobs and do all the lovely things I really couldn’t do back then xx Thank you Catherine x

  4. dee May 12, 2017 at 3:09 pm -  Reply

    you have such a cheerful personality Catherine, I’m sorry you and your family have suffered so much. I’m sure we all know someone who suffers, my husband has bouts of depression since our son died and I know that walking in the countryside is very uplifting for him. To tony, don’t be ashamed, everyone has demons believe me x

  5. Susan May 12, 2017 at 5:57 pm -  Reply

    Hi Catherine, you’re an inspiration for talking about your loss of your dad and brother. You also haven’t had an easy path yourself but have raised 2 great children. You’re lucky to have them. I think people judge a lot, too much, without knowing someone. Even when you think you do they may be withholding troubles. I don’t like it when people say only be around positive people. Who is there for the struggling people then?? Tony, maybe your therapist could put you in touch with a walking buddy. And maybe reach out to just one person from your past even. It might help and start a ball rolling. Never be ashamed. It’s people who don’t understand that should be ashamed. Take care all x

  6. Lisa May 12, 2017 at 10:35 pm -  Reply

    Hi Catherine your lastest blog has really struck a cord with me. I am like you usually a very positive person, however, since we had a burglary last August and then in December my husband was approached on our drive for his motorbike my whole life has been turned upside down making me have anxiety and paranoia of it happening again on a daily basis. And as you mentioned negative thoughts trigger so many other thoughts and all I want to do is run away from where we have been happy for 23 years. Like yourself the way I cope is to go for lovely walks in the countryside with our dog and enjoy nature as there is nothing more therauptic and distressing than been surrounded by nature…take care xx

  7. Patricia Doyle May 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm -  Reply

    You are a beautiful lady and I feel I could talk to you for hours Catherine, and wish I could !!. Tony I too am pushing people away the closer they are the further I push … I lost my hubby and my son’s partner of 14 years almost 2 years now and it’s getting worse, my youngest children were 14 and 9 years old at the time, I have aggraphobia and feel like I’m a terrible mother because they go know were, the best parent was taken by cancer ,two death’s in 3 months is more than anyone can cope with ,I so worry about my 29 year old son losing his dad and his fiancee so close together, thankyou everyone for letting me know I’m not on my own x❤x

  8. Sandra May 15, 2017 at 3:26 pm -  Reply

    Hi Catherine
    Mental health is so difficult to see as lots of us suffer in silence. I have four children my oldest who is 28 is on the autistic spectrum but he is at this moment in life very low, it’s hard enough when you don’t have special needs but to someone like my son it’s very hard.Fortunately for us we talk and he especially talks to me about his day to day struggles. I don’t know how you as a family coped with the loss of your brother very very hard. Fortunately now days people talk more which helps enormously.
    Much love
    Sandrax

  9. Mandy Mason May 15, 2017 at 6:47 pm -  Reply

    Thank you Catherine for your inspiring words my husband and my sister have just been through a very low time recently but thankfully they are thankfully coming out the other side now. They both used cbt and fitness to help them. It is a continuing journey and they still use all the techniques . My husband started a new job today which is a great milestone and he came home tonight with a big smile on his face and my sister has also returned to work and she is doing really well. Thank you for sharing your experiences. You have always inspired me with your positive words I met you at the beauty bash last year when you had achieved your personal goal with your weight loss.

  10. Janine Churchward May 17, 2017 at 8:05 pm -  Reply

    Hi Catherine
    You are such a lovely person. Thank you for posting your thoughts I can really relate to you.
    Take care x

  11. Gloria browne May 18, 2017 at 11:38 am -  Reply

    Dear Katharine, you are so lovely inside and out. You also talk a great deal of sense.
    My sister also underwent electric shock treatment in the 1960s.
    I do believe there could be some kind of underlying mental health issues in some families and I also believe these people could also be quite sensitive that it happens to.

  12. Isabel moule May 18, 2017 at 3:41 pm -  Reply

    Hi Catherine,
    You are beautiful on the in and outside.
    Much love x

  13. Vanessa hart May 19, 2017 at 3:17 pm -  Reply

    Thank you for talking about this subject and about your own personal experience. My 19 year old daughter was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition last year she was fit and well a grade A student she’s had s terrible time she has seizures and progressive long term and short term memory loss and many other issues caused by disorder.she has severe anxiety and depression and one moment we can be laughing and happy then she will suddenly have suicidal thoughts this us part of the neurological condition. unfortunately because its not a mental health issue its not treatable but we just talk and try and get through her low times and like you said do the little things like doing our nails or going for a coffee just to perk her up.People who are suffering need lots of love and reassurance

  14. rose broomfield May 20, 2017 at 11:41 am -  Reply

    Hi Catherine , thank you for highlighting mental health i think most families have to deal with it sometimes . My family have a lot of it and i myself struggle but i manage to hold down a job and raise my family who are all gtown now and people dont believe i am a sufferer but believe i struggle every day of my life but i find walking with my fitbit really helps and has made me so much more healthy the best thing ever xx

  15. Jacqueline Donoghue May 21, 2017 at 11:27 am -  Reply

    We met a few years ago Catherine at the beauty bash. We spoke of losing our loved ones. Mine in a very different way to your dear Brother, mine was my Daughter Eve, who died from complications after surgery at 29 years old. You were so, so sympathetic and caring and you touched my heart. We spoke of your dear Mum and the effect of losing a child. I am an avid Q.V.C shopper and always love your shows. The advice about getting out in a rural environment is spot on as I’ve just discovered myself.

  16. Rachel Cooke June 1, 2017 at 7:06 pm -  Reply

    Wow what wonderful & heartfelt words, very inspiring. My life has been far from straight forward for the last 3 years. After 22 yrs of work I, devastatingly lost my job. It all happened very suddenly & from working full time in what I thought was a secure job, where I had many lovely friends, I abruptly found myself with no job.
    My sense of self worth & self esteem plummetted, I felt ashamed & embarrassed at being out of work.
    This was all exacerbated by having no income. I was hounded by dept collectors & nearly had my home repossessed. I had to apply for food parcels so I could eat & constantly had no Gas or electric.
    My dearest & beloved best friend ( my Mum ) had passed away 1 year previously & my wonderful Father had passed away 5 years prior to that. I had no support network so quickly became reclusive.
    I normally try to give off a positive lightweight, happy, silly, daft, fun loving persona but I found I didnt have the strength or reason to be that way.
    I have, over the last 3 years, had a few short term jobs, but nothing permanent so my financial worries still remain – even today I have received a letter from the council demanding £700 or they will take items from my home to repay the dept – but I am fighting to get my life & self back.
    Having read about your sincere & heartfelt experiences with regard to mental health in your family I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration this has given me.
    I was so deeply sorry to read about the sadness & heartache you & your family have gone through.
    No one would ever imagine you have been through such difficult times, you are such an awesome, radiant ray of sunshine. The warmth & happiness & fun you give off is gorgeous.
    I have turned to Hypnotherapy to help me cope with life & found this to be of great benefit & would highly recommend it.
    I am also going to get out & about more & go for long walks. I can’t thank you enough Catherine for sharing your experiences, you are a great inspiration. I wish you all the happiness & fun in the world
    Rach xxxxxxx

  17. Pat June 27, 2017 at 4:17 pm -  Reply

    Thank you Thank you Thank you! Catherine for sharing your experience. I too have had lost a family member to mental health and have had challenges myself. I echo your love of walking cooking and self help, all of this is a great way to keep the blues at bay. There is indeed help out there and with people like yourself sharing it makes those of us who find it difficult to talk about it not feel so isolated. Love your beautiful personality on screen your warmth and caring really shines through.
    warm regards.

  18. Julia July 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm -  Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think most people have had experience of poor mental health, whether personally or by way of a close family member. I wish people in power would realise this and act accordingly. I also wish society would realise this so that people would not be ashamed or treat it as a taboo subject. Sometimes people won’t go to the doctor early enough to deal with their mental health woes and it makes the situation worse – all because of the taboo nature of mental health. Keep going the way you are going Catherine.
    I have great admiration and respect for you .

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