This month, we had the honour of getting to interview Rachel Kelly, author of Black Rainbow, a phenomenally honest and deeply moving memoir of her experience of depression….
- When I reflect back on my teenage years I would have much more proactively tried to learn techniques to look after my mental health. These would have been centred on what I now know about the links between mind and body: that if you are physically relaxed, then you are automatically mentally relaxed. Equally if you are mentally relaxed, then you are physically relaxed. I would have been careful with my diet, used mindful techniques especially breathing exercises, and used exercise especially Pilates and yoga as ways of relaxing my body and therefore my mind. I would also have helped my state of mind by being more compassionate with myself and less judgmental of myself and others.
- If someone is reading this and feels depressed or anxious right now, I would ask them to stop, and focus on their breathing. With each in breath, accept and breathe in all the negative thoughts and feelings. If it helps, label them: ‘rejection, sadness, jealousy, loss, anxiety, worry, anger, depressed.’ By breathing and labelling, you will find it easier to acknowledge and accept the difficult feelings, which in turn will help reduce them. What we resist, persists. Then in the out breath try and breathe out anything positive to give back to the world – any tiny thing that seems to improve your mood, and again label it. So perhaps it might be ‘joy at the sight of a small bird’ or ‘happiness at a friend’s concern’. By breathing out it encourages a sense we are connected to the world and we are helped by giving and trying to help others. This simple breathing exercise would always be my first step.
- If I could my fourteen year old self one piece of advice it would be: ‘Patient endurance attaineth to all things’. It comes from a prayer by St Theresa and I think would have helped my fourteen year old self to be in less of a rush and learn to take a longer view on all life throws at us, both good and bad.
- My advice to a young person who was feeling helpless and anxious would be to try and focus on others. It sounds counter intuitive, and it may sound harsh, but I’ve found the more I obsess about my own problems, the worse I feel. If I engage with others, I find I can develop a wider perspective, and my mood improves. It could be as simple as smiling at the person who serves you in a shop, or offering to help an old person cross the road. Engaging with others helps us feel our common humanity and less alone. Even if you can’t find a job or a university place, your time is not wasted if you are kind to others. And by being kind to others, you automatically are kind to yourself. Sometimes reciting a mantra or poem can help. I particularly like this one by Adam Lindsay Gordon:
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.
Rachel Kelly is a writer and an Ambassador for Sane. For more information follow her on Twitter @rache_Kelly or go to www.blackrainbow.org.uk. Her memoir on recovering from depression is at http://bit.ly/BlackRainbowOnAmazon and her free app is here http://bit.ly/BlackRainbowApp.
Her next book ‘Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happines’ is published by Short Books in November 2015.