Blog#97 – Love is….

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Happy St. Valentine’s Day to You.

It’s been two months since my last blog because I had to contend with the ups and downs of a busy life hence why this is the first blog of 2024. I’m doing my best to get back on track.

Before I share my latest insights with you, I thought you might appreciate some background on the person who inspired this special day. Saint Valentine was a truly inspiring man for the way he supported those who were suffering. It’s hard to believe that he was born one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-eight years ago and here we are today, still marking his existence. He was an Italian bishop who dedicated his life to caring for the sick, especially people suffering with epilepsy, mental illness, and the plague. He was also known for supporting Christians who were being persecuted for their beliefs but, sadly, he also became a victim of the same persecutors and was beheaded for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. In the year 496, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as the day when we celebrate the life of Saint Valentine and honour his martyrdom. He is the patron saint of engaged couples, bee-keepers, epilepsy, happy marriages, travellers, lovers and the mentally ill. His skull, crowned with flowers, is exhibited in a basilica in Rome while other relics of him can be found in a church in Dublin which has become a popular place of pilgrimage for people searching for love.  So, there you have it. For thousands of years, humans have been battling with the same issues. And at the end of it all, love is what keeps us going.

Like the tulips, I’m opening up

As you’ll know by now, I’m no spring chicken. But being an autumn chicken means that I have years of experience of working, taking care of my family and now, living life without the numbing effects of alcohol. In January, I put myself through a laborious but necessary training course to improve my credentials and make me more employable. The course was intense and demanding in that it required me to sit in a classroom from 8am to 4pm every day for a month, and then complete the reams of theory work on my computer at night. While all of that was going on, my daughter needed my support. My husband was travelling with work, and my son was skiing in Japan. Everything landed on my shoulders, and it felt heavy. I will admit that I almost cracked under the strain. While I didn’t quite crack, I did fall into a dark hole for a while. But I’m on my way back up now and bought these beautiful flowers for my daughter to congratulate her for passing her manual driving test this week, and because I love her. Like the tulips, I’m opening up in the hope that you will learn from my experience and avoid making the same silly mistake that I made. When I say I fell into a dark hole, this is what I mean. It was as if I’d been chucked into a coal bunker. It was dark and rough. There were menacing monkeys in there with me, dancing on my shoulders, singing into my ear about how nobody wants me, how stupid I am to think that anybody is going to give me a job, how I’m past my sell-by date and that I may as well just give up. Another little monkey goaded me for even feeling that way, using phrases such as ‘you don’t know how good you’ve got it’, ‘what have you got to be sad about?’, all too familiar I’m afraid. I should clarify at this point that the monkeys are a metaphor for the limiting beliefs that I carry around in my unconscious mind, that have been there since I first experienced self-doubt and insecurity as a child.

Being sober is not the be all and end all

That’s the thing about being mentally unwell that mentally well people don’t get. It’s hard for them to empathise. But that doesn’t excuse their judgements. They really have no right to judge or provide unsolicited advice when they have no experience or expertise in this area. I am the first to admit that it’s messed up to be in the coal bunker and given the choice, I would never go anywhere near it. You’d think that having close to five years of sober living under my belt would be reason enough to wave goodbye to all those troublesome monkeys that have been wreaking havoc on my mental health since I was little. But here’s the thing: being sober is not the be all and end all. It is only the beginning. I had to stop lying to myself before I could find a more peaceful way of living. The hard work of facing those demon monkeys begins when we stop pretending that they’re not there, when we finally face them and deal with them. As I’ve learnt, it is not easy to do this alone. I know from experience that a good counsellor can give us hope when we are filled with a sense of despair.

‘Gee, I’ve really got this now’.

I go through phases where I think, ‘Gee, I’ve really got this now’, when my life feels like it’s finally on an even keel. That’s when I think that I don’t need a counsellor anymore. And then, boom, I’m back in that dark place again.

I am lucky that I have a wonderful counsellor who oozes compassion and empathy, and through her wise words and calm presence can lift me out of the darkest place known to man. But she’s not always available at the drop of a hat. So, in the meantime, I must do some of the work by myself. The first thing is to stop everything, find a quiet place, and reflect on what’s troubling me and causing me to feel so low. I often use a pen and paper to write down what comes up because you know what, we have the answers inside of us if we just give ourselves the time and space.

Here are the top five things that come to mind when I ask myself how I ended up back in the coal bunker:

  • Working too hard
  • Not enough sleep
  • Not enough exercise
  • Poor eating habits
  • Negative self-talk (monkeys on my shoulder)

Once I acknowledge that these things are hazardous to my wellbeing, I need to find a way to avoid them. I’ve had to write reminders to myself that includes this one, ‘Too much work and not enough play makes Gill a very sad girl’.

Monkeys feed on my weakness

The mistake I made in January was not remembering that my body cannot function if it is forced to sit for 12 hours per day. I will never do a job that requires me to sit for hours on end as it would be detrimental to my health. I guess this explains why I’m not churning out books!  As for not getting enough exercise, well, even just walking around is better than sitting in a chair! Any kind of functional fitness that can be built into the average day is beneficial but being stationary is simply bad news, for me anyway. And then there’s the question of diet. Because I was in a rush, I wasn’t putting time into what I ate. The college provided us with a basket full of biscuits every day which was too easy to dig into. A hit of sugar might taste good in the first instance, but for me personally, it only makes me feel worse in the second instance! To top it all off, I came to realise that the monkeys feed on my weakness. When I’m physically worn down, my ability to challenge the things they say to me is severely impaired. In other words, if I don’t take care of my physical well-being, I will become mentally distressed. Knowing that is fundamental to maintaining my equilibrium.

Wise words from my counsellor

While my counsellor was unable to see me immediately, she very kindly responded to an email I wrote to her about what was troubling me. Below is part of the response that I received from her, and I am sharing it with you for two reasons: one, because it demonstrates the beautiful soul that she is, and two, because of the wisdom contained within her words that you too might find useful. I know that it helped me enormously and gave me the strength to help myself out of the darkness.

‘𝐈 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐮𝐫𝐞. 𝐈 𝐬𝐞𝐞 𝐚 𝐰𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬, 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐯𝐮𝐥𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞, 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐣𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐞𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐥𝐜𝐨𝐡𝐨𝐥-𝐟𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐛𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐭 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞, 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞, 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐤 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬. 𝐖𝐨𝐰!

𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐦𝐚𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐟𝐟 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭’𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥 𝐭𝐨𝐨. 𝐈𝐭 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐮𝐩 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐮𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥 𝐛𝐞𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞𝐝. 𝐈𝐭’𝐬 𝐦𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐲 𝐩𝐚𝐢𝐧𝐟𝐮𝐥.

𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐬𝐚𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐳𝐞 𝐛𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐥𝐞 𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧. 𝐋𝐞𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥, 𝐠𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞, 𝐬𝐨𝐛 𝐢𝐟 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐬𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐡 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐢𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭’𝐬 𝐚 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞. 𝐑𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐮𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐮𝐬𝐞 𝐚𝐥𝐜𝐨𝐡𝐨𝐥 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐥𝐨𝐜𝐤 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐟𝐟 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐝, 𝐭𝐡𝐨’ 𝐚𝐭 𝐚 𝐜𝐨𝐬𝐭. 𝐍𝐨𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮’re 𝐠𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐝 t𝐮𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐝𝐨𝐧𝐞, 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐬 𝐮𝐩 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐩𝐮𝐬𝐬 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐚 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐬𝐜𝐚𝐩𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐞.

𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮’𝐝 𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐝𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐞𝐫, 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐈 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟, 𝐭𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐠𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐧𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐨𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟.

𝐈𝐭’𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐟𝐟 𝐦𝐨𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮. 𝐈𝐭’𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞. 𝐘𝐨𝐮 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐫.’

I am deeply grateful to Anne, my counsellor, for being in my life.

Everybody needs someone they can talk to, someone who will empathise with you and show some compassion towards you. If you haven’t been successful in finding that person, do please remember that I am a qualified counsellor who applies my own lived experience to my practice to ensure my clients feel fully supported. Reach out and I will be happy to be of service.

Wishing you a heart full of love for you, your life, and everyone connected to you.

Love is……being kind to yourself and others, in the name of happiness.

Please send feedback as it helps to keep me motivated to stay on track with this blog. Thanks for being here.

Love, Gill 💚




Gill Kenny - the Writer & Blogger

About the author – Gill Kenny

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Through my blog, I aim to provide you with a place where you can feel valued by inviting you to share your journey too.  I will regularly have guest writers who wish to share their views or experiences on each topic. I am open to ideas and happy to cover any topics that interest you, so please feel free to share yours with me.

Thank you so much for being part of my blog community.  To ensure you get to read all my latest posts please subscribe using the form below.

Love, Gill x