Mental Health Day: The Therapist Within
Cloudy days will come.
For you. For your family. For your friends.
And not just the kind that dominate the skies above you. But also the ones that help set the weather within you. The internal cloudy days that send your mental and emotional landscape into overcast sadness.
Cloudy days will come…
I was thinking this the other day, when some of my family came to Sydney to visit. Even now, in spring, it was suddenly cold and wet again. And even though it was sun that we wanted, it was cloud and some rain that we got (as you can see in the photo).
So what do you do when the internal cloudy days come to visit? How can you get through them? Or maybe even prepare for them? On this year’s Mental Health Day, perhaps it’s worth getting mentally meteorological and taking a look at what you’ll do when your weather changes.
It’s a fairly well-worn metaphor in some ways, that comparison between our internal states and the weather: stormy days; times of drought; seasons of balmy bliss.
Yet metaphors like these aren’t just cute or clever. They can really help crack open new perspectives on familiar problems in your life, if you just explore them a little more. They’re used a lot in therapy, perhaps especially in narrative therapy. And, of course, you can access their power yourself.
So, back to the weather…
If you were to prepare for a storm, or for rain, how might you do it? Is there a storm of sorts in your life right now maybe? How big is it? How long lasting might it be?
And so what level of protection might you need?
Will an old umbrella do the trick? (Rusty spokes, flimsy handle). Old habits? Or do you want to update your strategies? To find new ways to keep at least part of you dry in a shower of emotional rain.
What already helps protect you from the smaller showers – the flat days? Maybe talking with a friend or going for a walk or listening to some music or doing something creative or taking a hot bath.
What if you need more substantial shelter from a brewing storm? Maybe you’ll need to batten down the hatches? Or create a kind of safe house? Perhaps even a bunker?
What would that look like in terms of your emotional safety?
Is it about creating stronger boundaries when you need to? Or taking time out from certain people or situations? Do you actually need to get out of the way of the oncoming storm altogether? Do you need to leave for a while – evacuate the area – so you can stay safe?
How will you know when that might be necessary – what will the signs be? How will you detect if there’s too much danger in your life or your work or your relationships?
It all seems a bit grim to go through this, especially if the sun’s out for you right now. But it’s just about being ready if and when the time comes for the clouds to gather on your horizon.
For the clouds are just a part of the weather patterns we all must go through at sometime or another. Part of the rich and sometimes challenging experiences life will offer us all.
And maybe taking care of your mental health is just a matter of being ready for all kinds of internal weather.
Ready for the clouds that will come.
So you can then be ready for the sun again…
Photo and text copyright: Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar
Gabrielle Gawne-Kelnar (Grad Dip Counselling & Psychotherapy) is a writer, blogger and Sydney psychotherapist in private practice at One Life Counselling & Psychotherapy. Gabrielle also facilitates telephone support groups for people who are living with cancer, for their carers, and for people who have been bereaved through a cancer experience. She was the former editor of a journal on counselling and psychotherapy and she provides regular therapeutic updates on facebook and Twitter @OneLifeTherapy.
Gawne-Kelnar, G. (2011). Mental Health Day: The Therapist Within. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 6, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/therapist-within/2011/10/mental-health-day-the-therapist-within/