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03 July, 2019

Staying well: Advice from a service user on how to maintain wellness outside of hospital

When we become well, and in particular stay well, we encourage others who need to be able to stay well too. Paula, a former service user of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, shares her advice on ways in which you can stay well upon leaving the hospital setting.

 

I am happy to say that I have for a long time come to experience being out of hospital as my most normal place to be; instead of being in hospital.  Being out of hospital, for protracted periods of time, is attainable with the passing of time itself.  There is no magic wand to keep us away from an admission but there are definitely many aids along the way to help us stay in the community.  Some of these work almost always.  I am going to suggest a few activities that have helped keep me well. (Then I can stop looking ‘over my shoulder’ in the course of any one day, so to speak, because I have moved onto the next stage of the journey and am well.).  I can relax into who I am, and what my circumstances may be, without creating a ‘worst case scenario’ at every turn.  I can do these simple but effective activities and come to believe that yes, I can be, and stay, well.

The converse of that is also true.  I begin to blossom when I begin to see that day-in and day-out I am building a life for myself. I am delighted when I make genuine progress, chiefly because I have been brave enough to confront myself and put my foot on the floor early for the first time in the morning.  That first step is as important for me, as ‘the Giant Step for Mankind’ that Neil Armstrong once took on the moon.  It is a major step for me, since I myself have suffered, so much – because my life is so important; it is important even if I sometimes falter, or even when I feel unable to carry out some task, and sometimes other caring and supportive people in my life value my life more than I do.

These people who love me and care for me are willing me on because I am never alone in my  efforts to build a life for myself - a happy life – despite the setbacks I have encountered along the way. My life is very important. For the lives of each of us, have their effects on others.  When we become well, and particularly stay well, we encourage others who need to be able to stay well.  In a sense we are charting a path for others because our success becomes like a testimony of success for them too.  Below I have outlined some of the activities that have made my good mental health possible and sustainable.  I hope you’ll find also, that these activities work for you.

Fresh air and exercise

Getting fresh air is a fantastic way of re-igniting the batteries and keeping fit. We are lucky in Dublin to have such an array of parks and walks. Fortunately, I grew up a mile from the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin; the colours and hues of the trees and flowers there are breathtaking, and I am particularly taken with the ‘herbaceous walk’ just metres from the entrance.   

Not very far from there, is Tolka Park, which has its very own swans and ducks. Twenty minutes from here by car, St Anne’s Park in Raheny/Clontarf, has a rose garden that competes well with the rose garden in the Botanic Gardens. In fact a Rose Festival is held here every June -  a wonder to behold. Joggers meet here at 9.30am each Saturday for the park run, in conjunction with Dublin City Council, with an impressive crowd turning up for the 5km weekly run.  These runs cater for every level of fitness imaginable. St. Anne’s is really beautiful and just across the road lies Dollymount beach, a wonderful place to walk or jog, at any time of the year, also.

Reading

Reading has to be one of those hobbies that give high return for low investment.  The blessings received for such a simple undertaking as reading are happily very disproportionate.  Reading is really good for the mind. It is educational and often just good fun.  It helps us on our journey.  Apart from the incremental benefits of gaining knowledge and learning, there is such a wonderful release of the ‘feel-good endorphins’ that people come back to reading time and again

The other good thing about reading is that you can pick up a book and then leave it down and read it at leisure.  There are no rules and regulations; you can read as little or as much as you like and you can read as many heavyweight or as lightweight books as you like. 

Books open us up to new worlds, new understanding and new ideas.  A John Boyne book on the one hand, or a Sebastian Barry on the other, are completely different types of ‘reads’, but they are both writers of great merit, although they write in ways that engage me at different levels.  

Reading is one of those ‘free’ gifts in the world.  Libraries are readily found in Ireland and it’s free to read from the many thousands of books they house.  Wonderfully, libraries order books in they don’t have, even if it’s a brand-new book, or a book just published, if you ask them to, and yes, that’s free too!  Make reading a habit and hobby and feel your happiness soar. 

I hope that the above suggestions are of some use to you.  I have tried them out for myself, and they work. I am 14 years out of hospital and I know by experience that these activities can play a role in your wellness when you leave hospital.

Paula

Continue to…

The mirror view: a reflection on self-stigma