Last week I attended my first of three group therapy sessions provided by the NHS as a gateway to counselling.
I’ll be honest, I was apprehensive. While therapy is generally a really good thing, the thought of discussing my deepest thoughts with others present is not. Despite my prediliction for crying in coffee shops, I’m not in the habit of displaying emotion in public generally.
I parked at Horsham Hospital and made my way to the wheelchair wing as instructed. Seeking directions a couple of times on route, despite copious instructions beforehand, the location is really well hidden.
Although I was early, I was also the last to arrive. Two ladies and two gents were already settled in their seats, their clumping defined by gender and looking as nervous as I felt. It was clear they had already introduced themselves to each other and wearing sticky labelled hand written name badges with resilience.
I ignored a seat clearly available in the girls section, and plumped for the seat next to one of the chaps primarily because it was near the door.
I was handed a name badge with ‘Nicola’ written on it (which instantly went into my bag) and another of those godforesaken ‘risk assessment’ forms, ‘on a scale of 1-10 answer as honestly as you can, how are you feeling about…’ which I’ve now learned not to be honest on at all, (or risk sectioning or being labelled an alcoholic) and then looked up to take in the scene around me.
We were sat in semi darkness, with the blinds half closed and the lights off. The room was warm, much warmer than the ambient temperature outside. Despite the darkness, I could clearly make out the typical stains on a ‘much loved’ NHS light blue carpet and ubiquitous scuffed magnolia walls. The plastic chairs were formed in a wide ‘U’. Perfect for facilitated discussion.
The room had a more than generous amount of plug sockets indicating it may have once been a computer room or office. The whirring of a projector sat atop a table in the middle of the room, in front of the chairs. On it, causing my heart to sink, was the start of the most dreaded thing in the world (for an ex trainer), a powerpoint presentation.
“Surely he’s not going to lead a ‘mindfulness’ seminar with a powerpoint presentation” I thought. Low and behold, he did and gave us a hand out with it on too and then if that wasn’t enough, bloody read it out blow by bullet point blow.
Anyhoo, it isn’t the point of this blog post to lament inappropriate power point usage or the point of facilitated group mindfulness, or indeed compare one persons mental illness manifestations to another. The point is, as usual, that life will give you directions when you are least expecting it, as long as you are generally open to it.
The quote above was on page 2 of the presentation. The group read it and oooed and ahhhed and isn’t it lovely and what an amazing thought before moving on. But I wonder how many of them are willing to change their views on life to learn from it? It’s a rhetorical question, I don’t need answers on a postcard.
For me, the quote was a verification of all of the things I’ve learned in the last year or so.
Things (while being nice) are not important. When it comes to it, they cost a lot (not just in terms of financial outlay) and are easily lost. Health, friends, experiences, peace of mind, love, these are the things to be coveted.
All around me I see the misery of people either with a sense of entitlement or unwillingness to give up “keeping up with the Joneses” with the view it will make them happy in the end.
While I sat there tuning out the discussion of lack of coping strategies, and SMART objectives for next week, I let my mind drift to the future. To a time when Run to Live is gone and I have a clean sheet to start again.
As I said last week, I have no plans for the future, but then, in that dark computer room/office I knew that most importantly that money is not everything. I considered plans that will crucially involve downtime and what that will actually mean. Time for trips to the seaside, runs in the country and bike rides to visit unexplored places. They will involve sitting in the sun with nothing more than daydreams to keep me company and snuggling on dark winter evenings to read my book.
And most importantly they will include mindfulness. Drawn from a lifestyle we evolved to live, and without the need for group therapy to achieve. Sunshine, being outdoors, sleep, exercise, healthy food and positive company. The most valuable things of all.