Twelve years in education advising teachers and supporting children with emotional and behavioral difficulties eventually took its toll.
I woke up one morning after dealing with a particularly heart-wrenching bereavement case of a five-year-old who had just lost his mother and thought to myself, actually, I can't function as a human being anymore, let alone fulfill my role as children's "champion" in preventing these vulnerable youngsters from being excluded from their mainstream schools. In so many cases, the security of their school setting was the child's lifeline, their only chance in life to step away from what was happening to them at home. On reflection, I can't believe I kept going as long as I did before I crashed and burned. A diagnosis of clinical depression ensued. I found myself in a zombie-like state for months, not being able to lift my head off the pillow, let alone make myself a cup of tea. You may as well have said "Go and climb Everest" - it sounded easier than what I was up against. It took over a year before I was able to fully function again and begin to take stock, reflecting on my vocational career. Reluctantly I came to the conclusion that I needed to step back completely in order to begin the healing process to full recovery. That was ten years ago and it has taken me all that time to discover a way to prevent relapses that don't necessarily involve reliance on the NHS. This is when I was first introduced to meditation as a possible aid to calming my scattered, negative, relentlessly self-critical mind. Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University and Dr. John Kabat-Zinn in the US have both written brilliant practical publications on mindfulness and relapses in depression. This led me to attend a local Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course (MBSR) devised by Kabat-Zinn. It was really helpful at the time but once the eight weeks were up, I found it incredibly difficult to keep my mindfulness practice going and we were on our own again.
Then a friend told me of a new meditation app she'd just been recommended called Headspace. For just 10 minutes a day, I could have a daily guided meditation at my fingertips. I could download it onto my phone and use it pretty much anywhere. That was over two years ago and I have never looked back. Headspace has given me back my life. I've developed a whole tool kit of techniques I can use to help bring peace and contentment back into what was a pretty dismal existence. Headspace is perfect for those reluctant meditators like me that found it really daunting at first. I've loved doing my daily Headspace meditations and for the first year I stuck religiously to the daily program. As time goes by, I am finding it easier to sit for longer and clear my mind completely and when thoughts pop up, just observe them coming and going without grasping at them, non-judgementally like in the traffic analogy of Take10. Believe me, I am testament to the healing benefits of Headspace and trying, as best I can, to live mindfully, moment by moment, on a daily basis. The day I discovered meditation was day one of the rest of my life. Two years meditating, two years depression-free, now there's a thought. Headspace started me on this journey of recovery and I've never looked back. Thanks Andy, Rich and the whole of the Headspace team from the bottom of my heart.
A diagnosis of clinical depression ensued. I found myself in a zombie-like state for months, not being able to lift my head off the pillow, let alone make myself a cup of tea.