Ancient literature going back 2,500 years depict images of exercises similar to Qigong postures but it’s also considered to be over 6,000 years old. It’s a strongly established method originating from China that uses a gentle combination of breathing, stretching and meditating for easing muscle tension, relieving stress, generating flexibility, cultivating energy, and increasing balance in specific organs relevant to each position.
“From a literal standpoint, the word “Qi” is the Chinese word for “vital energy”. Qi is the animating force that moves through our body and soul and gives us not only life but consciousness. The concept of a living energy can be found in every culture and is known by names such as Prana (India), Ruach (Israel), Aenema (Ancient Greece), Holy Spirit (Christianity), and The Force (Star Wars).
“Gong” is the Chinese word for “work” or “skill”. So the word “Qigong” can be translated as “the skill of vital energy”.”
This is a short exercise of 20 minutes and even if done only once you will feel immediate benefits. It provides a great sense of inner peace, a clearing of the mind that alleviates mental strain and I recommend trying it out every morning, every other morning, one evening a week, or whenever it suits you.
Just like after a physical trauma you might have to learn to walk again, with any kind of emotional trauma or mental illness you have to build yourself up again. I have worked for years to achieve emotional stability, confidence, a positive outlook on life, and inner happiness.
Money will come and go, material desires will come and go. But nothing is worth more than inner happiness. The struggles of unemployment, debt, and homelessness are no less challenging than other difficulties this life throws at us. I have been pushing forward, trying to break out of this viscous cycle for the past year. Moving in and out of houses, sleeping in beds that will never be mine, showering in bathrooms where my dreams were held hostage, and tip-toeing through corridors that didn’t want me on their carpets. With numbers in a bank account sinking and sinking, thinking and thinking about how I’ll eat, about worst case scenario of living in a tent. Mostly wondering, how I got there in the first place. Because it had always been like this in someway or another. Moving from house to house on bad terms, drowning in negative work environments where I felt separate from everyone else, and prioritising money for alcohol and cigarettes. I have changed a lot, in my values and ethics. Yet I am still in this struggling scenario of borrowing money for rent and being unable to emotionally cope with aggressive or draining work environments. I am more able to recognise these environments and although this is something that has strengthened, it means I am less willing to compromise and it means that if my inner happiness is threatened I will leave. I try to fight through and bring in the light but I have never been strong enough amongst all of the darkness so it creeps into my pores strangling streams of purity flowing through my veins. Then I wonder again, if ever I will fit in somewhere to make money and sustain this life.
I want one thing. Only freedom to be my authentic self. Un-tainted, pure, natural, loving and happy.
As this scenario happens again and again I am strengthened. This time I cannot deny that everything will be alright as I wipe away the tears, shake off my doubts and keep going, keep hoping and keep praying to know the right thing to do.
Belarus free theatre poetically and realistically portrays mental health in this live screening called 4.48 psychosis written by British playwright Sarah Kane. The writer expresses true and fearful emotions that are buried within us all yet are only faced in extreme turmoil by those who have lived through a hell on earth. It is educational in teaching all of us the crippling experiences that one facing a mental illness may go through and how honestly it still remains unanswered. The discussion after the performance is also connecting and informative from a doctor, drama teacher and audience members who share opinions and personal journeys.
*Image sourced from moc
In mental health the smallest of obstacles may be enormous challenges to overcome with diligence, patience and perseverance. We are fully aware that an action, behaviour or thought is not entirely right but this is only the first step and even in this recognition we still fail to act. Months and years can pass by reciting ‘I’m fine’ while inside every remnant of a person you once were is dilapidated in a mess around your feet. Achievements that appear so simply and naturally for others take time and pushing and pushing and urging and ongoing encouragement and trying and giving up and trying in a motion that never stops. A cycle we chase over-whelmed by horrors we had felt in our depths and sub-dued by fears that are of no substance except for in our betraying minds that had somehow left us to fend for ourselves. Our minds that once left us in darkness, ceased to connect with our hearts so we may move forward alongside humanity loving and breathing. Our mortal bodies were paused in a state of forgotten reason to survive controlled by fatigue, swimming words, endless questions, blank eyes, sweaty panic, incompetence, crippling memories and self-destruction. So even the need of letting a word leave lips induced stifling pain and chaos for one who has been under the spell of an anxiety disorder or social phobia.
Returning to England after my short period of travel six months ago I was faced with re-adjusting to British culture and a society I had long forgotten. At the same time I have been in and out of recognizing, managing and also denying peculiarities in my mental health. It has come to light that a possible diagnosis for me is Bipolar Disorder which results in feeling too low and anxious to visit the doctor or ecstatically positive creating a brief misconception that I am perfectly happy and am handling it myself as I always have. I know that at some point I will crash again but I also know that a trip to the psychiatrist will be a lifetime of prescribed medication and I do not wish for my mind to be subdued by drugs. It has taken a long time for me to cleanse my mind and body of all intoxications- cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and meat to reach clarity and purity so the idea of adding mood stabilizers appears to be an unnecessary infliction. The idea of taking a tablet that changes your personality is scary, as if I would lose a part of myself; yet is it a part I would benefit in losing? For the first time in my life I have a stable job I enjoy that I put a lot of time and energy into achieving, I am eating a healthy diet with a couple of vitamin supplements, I gratefully see my family, I appreciate nature’s blessings, I’m happy when I wake up at 6am, I receive a warm feeling in my heart and I’m not afraid of the future or the past. It was only last week that I was feeling lonely, isolated, under pressure, self-doubting, and lacking belief but through my own control I turned my perception around; it is a continuous journey of self control, self management, self knowledge, and self perseverance, but to know that I have this strength within me is perhaps the greatest consolidation of all.
It is recently that I have comprehended and accepted both of my parent’s inclusion or more realistically, lack of inclusion in my childhood. Memories and confusion flooded my mind when I was trapped within mental illness and nightmares of crippling words and abandonment re-played over and over. I had fallen victim to my abusive childhood but I also blamed my parents for the situation I was in. I blamed them for not being there for me when I was bullied, I blamed them for not understanding me, I blamed them for my lack of direction in life, for my excessive drinking, and for my depression. There are elements in my upbringing that I can say have resulted in particular events and characteristics within myself because that is only human nature. We are created by our upbringing and our environment, and parents sub-consciously influence our characters with their every word and action.
I reached a moment when I suddenly realised that I could not put the blame upon my parents anymore and I was responsible for my own feelings, my own life. I was angry because I had inherited the mental illnesses that I had watched my mother succumb to and I feared they would destroy my life as they had destroyed hers.
When I was travelling I met a young man from Israel who always wore a brightly coloured patchwork jacket and a bountiful head of long twisted curls. He regularly expressed his views on alien life and his theories of our own alien origins induced by the South American drug Ayuahasca. He spoke of parallel universes he had explored whilst strumming his eight string mini guitar.
There came a day when he returned from a nearby town to explain he had received no more than an email stating that his father had taken his own life. The young Israelite appeared detached and aloof as he sat amongst us twirling his fingers through his curls. But he understood and he accepted with such grace the traumatic situation that had so unexpectedly landed in his life. He was aware of a suffering his father lived through that deemed the world an unbearable place of inhabutance, and now the pain was over. Now the pain was to live through the family left behind. Now this young man had to end his freedom, his choices and his own direction to return home and work to provide for his family.
In my childhood my mother had confessed on numerous occasions that she had tried to take her own life, that she didn’t wish to be alive, and for this I blamed myself. In her mental instability she cursed the day I was born inadvertently reducing me to a worthless incapable excuse of a human being. I have grown to understand reasons for my mother’s behaviour and am able to help her where she could not help me. Because underneath the exterior that labels her as my mother, she is a human being who has experienced a great fear, who has been rejected and abused by those closest and has lived through the darkened shadows of society. And that is what matters today; that she is alive. That today, she is alive and I am alive.
Perhaps the worst part of my depression was the guilt that ate away at my insides. I knew that the feelings I had and the way I was living my life were not right and as each day passed by I would feebly attempt to gather strength to turn it around. It was the disappointment in myself that tied me down further, my inability to complete daily tasks that were only necessary for survival like buying food from the shops, made me regularly question my place as a human being. Each day I would write lists to complete, with number one always being to get out of bed. Even this was a battle with the evils that governed my thought processes as I argued with myself over the pro’s and cons of dragging my body outside of unwashed sheets.There was no purpose, no reason, to leave the room that I hid in. I was studying a degree yet this was only another social activity, another embarrassment, another guilt, and another opportunity to feel deeply inadequate.
My confidence had been vacant for so long I didn’t know the meaning of the word and when assigned with presentations to the class, a fear trembled through my skeleton. It was truly a living nightmare to stand in front of a group of people, address them on a subject I could muster no interest in and present using a mind that was consumed by worry, fear, memory-loss, lack of focus and the idea that everyone was against me. The only times I could communicate with people was when I went out drinking. I would throw back drink after drink so that finally my mind was poisoned and tricked into believing that I was happy, overly confident, and outrageous until I awoke trying to piece together fragments of the night. I drank until I could not stand, could not speak my own name, and could not remember the turmoil of my life that I was persistently escaping from. I favoured hangovers because it was an excuse to lay in bed all day but I would still lay amongst guilt for doing this to myself and for letting myself wallow in pity.
Creativity would only escape after I drank some alcohol and I could always feel the urge inside of my blood trying to be released. It was supressed with my emotions as if I had stopped myself from feeling anything other than pain. I was ashamed of who I was and didn’t know who I was so when I drank I allowed my suffering to spill out onto blank pages in slurred words and buried them between hoarded coursework and memories so no one would see what I really was. I was un-hinged, broken, divided, drowning and alone. I was suffering with depression, anxiety and social phobia, and I thought that was the way I was. I thought these illnesses and all of the extra side effects were my personality, but they were not. They are not a part of me and I have learned who I really am and accepted who I am so I can live my life with a free mind.