Sunday, 17 March 2019

Blog Interview with Kelly Martin of Peace Within Radio

Today I welcome my friend Kelly Martin on my blog. I have known Kelly for a few years and she has been on a journey not that dis-similar to mine in some ways. More recently, she has been in the process of setting up Peace Within Radio, a radio station 'Bringing support for listeners suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD and low self esteem.'

I asked her a few questions relating to mental health and she answered. 
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Hi Andy and thanks for welcoming me to your blog.


1. We often hear that it’s hard for men to open up about mental health issues, but how hard is it for women to open up? Women are often expected to work, raise children and do everything to the point of exhaustion - and still have it all together. How big is the stigma around mental health for women?

I think we can often have a different type of stigma when it comes to mental health.

We are often seen as erratic, over emotional, over sensitive and dramatic when we feel upset. Genuine mental health issues can be overlooked by friends, family, loved ones as simply being a woman who is ‘too hormonal’ and we are put into the category of having a ‘PMS day’ or being menopausal. And while pre-menstrual syndrome and going through menopause have elements of mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, we can dismiss what may be serious conditions as just the ‘time of the month’.

Opening up as a woman is still hard. While mental health may be talked about more among women, many still don’t talk about it with friends or loved ones, because when we do talk about it, most of the women we may know are also going through mental health stuff, feeling overwhelmed from issues to do with family and we may feel a burden for sharing it with female friends.

For example, I was going through a particularly bad depression in 2018. I felt in a very dark place. I told those who I thought I was close to as female friends that I was feeling seriously depressed, but none of the friends I had back then checked in with me after I told them or offered to talk or come see me. As a result I let those friends go. I needed people I could rely on during difficult times. I was drowning while they were so over busy and overwhelmed too.

I’ve never felt the rally of women around me to help me through mental health issues. And perhaps I am an enigma in this sense, but from talking to other women, I think many do feel seriously alone in their mental health issues.


So, while the media impression given is that women talk about everything with one another in a group loving hug, I think most are so overwhelmed that they share little about mental health issues because the feedback from friends and family hasn’t been that of giving or nurturing through that time. I think unfortunately in the west, women are just too busy to connect with themselves and they don’t have the time or energy to connect with others too.

2. Often it can be really challenging to truly listen to another person talking about their mental health struggles, as opposed to trying to fix them. What do you feel is the best way for someone to truly listen?

It is truly hard to do this, especially when you have an understanding of mental health. Also, feeling empathic and sensitive to others can be both a good thing and a tough challenge when trying to be a good listener. For me, simply, as you said, listening without thinking about what to say next. To know that the other person is completely unique and no matter what I or anyone else may feel, we can’t possibly know what or how that person is handling their life challenges. To know that holding the space so that another person can be totally human is probably the greatest gift we can ever offer.

3. What were your biggest difficulties in facing your mental health challenges?

The biggest difficulties have been stopping myself from trying to fix the feelings. Not allowing myself space and time to process the pain. Over-working or distracting myself because I couldn’t see the point in being with what arose for me, and judging certain feelings as bad, instead of simply as feelings. What I gained from finally facing the feelings was seeing that they were a gift that would mean I could empathise with others and that these feelings were like orphaned children that needed my love, not my judgement or criticism. Seeing feelings in that way was and still is both hard and yet deeply healing.


4. There is a lot of pressure to ‘be positive’ which is often reinforced by the self-help and spiritual communities. People are scared to admit they are feeling down or not got their life together. Why do you think this is and what can we do to change it?

I think society as a whole has created this insistence on positive thinking as the answer to life’s problems. In the Western world, especially in the USA, it is fixated on success and doing well and because of this we have created a culture of compare-a-holics, where we simply can’t see that all of our humanity is of value, not just the best bits. Also religion holds a part in this when it encourages us to look away from the darkness, as if the darkness is a bad evil place, when actually it is a road through into the very light they prescribe us to go into.

And spiritual teachers proclaiming positivity to the exclusion of the negative or the dark, has caused so much imbalance. To be told that if you are not in a good-feeling place that you are out of the vortex or not on the leading edge for example, is downright dangerous for those with mental health issues. To be told that thoughts create, while it all sounds good, to someone who is suicidal we are basically dooming them to ‘well you created this yourself’ and as the thoughts don’t improve then they are to blame for the pain they are in.

To me, too much emphasis on positive thinking can cause the very thing those following this way of being will experience. The darkness cannot be repressed or pushed down; it is like holding a balloon under water. It has to come up sometime and if it’s down there too long it will be louder and more painful when it eventually rises.
It is far healthier to welcome what is perceived to be both positive and negative and eventually to begin to see life without the labels as simply life being lived, life arising, energy or feelings being felt and flowing through us.

Finding it difficult to say that we are not feeling too good or that we haven’t got our s**t together comes from comparing ourselves with others. We are shown the highlight reels of most people’s lives on social media or in person, but we never get to see the tough times and we live in a world where too many people are not living authentically, but when we can own and take responsibility for what is happening, we then have room for change to unfold naturally.

5. Despite all the memes along the lines of ‘accept/allow/embrace your pain’, in practice this can be quite difficult. What would you say to someone who is having a difficult time dealing with painful emotions?

I would say, it’s okay. If it was me I would simply say to myself, ‘Right now I can’t handle these emotions and that’s okay’Some days we can accept difficult emotions, other days we simply can’t, they feel too much.
It is when we push against the fact that we can’t handle them that we compound them further. It’s okay if we can’t handle stuff, it’s okay if we can’t accept what is happening or what we are feeling. In the same way, it's okay if we are feeling alright with ‘what is’. It’s all okay. Whatever is happening it’s okay.

We tend not to give ourselves many breaks when it comes to our life journey, me included. We forget that sometimes we suck at loving our human experience and this too is okay. When I can’t accept what is coming up for me, I simply say ‘I love you’ to the feeling. Consciously I feel far from accepting the feeling, but there is something about the words ‘I love you’ that pierce the feelings, without me having to think about it and I feel over time this has helped a lot.

6. What steps can people take to accept and love themselves when they have had particularly challenging issues around self-worth?

Well, I used to hate myself. I thought I was a waste of space, a complete failure, a pointless human being that didn’t really want to be here anymore, but what changed for me was when I stopped all the positive thinking and started to label my thoughts. I read a book called ‘The Mindful Way Through Depression’ and one of the tips in there was simply to label the thoughts in meditation. I would sit and have a hundred thoughts all whirling around in my head, telling me that I was awful. So I labelled them ‘judging’ or if I was anxious and fearing the future I would simply label them ‘future’ and over time of doing this daily, I began to experience myself more as the witness and noticed that they were simply patterns of thought stuck in a cog going round and round in circles.
And I stopped asking myself what was wrong with me (that was my mantra) and started asking what was okay with me. I couldn’t go straight to ‘what is great with me?’, I was not in that place, I had to start somewhere, but I didn’t do this consciously.

I didn’t write a list of gratitudes for what was okay with me. To me, gratitude lists are old news -- once written they are in the past. I prefer to just give thanks as and when it happens, whatever ‘it’ is. I simply put the question ‘What is okay with me?’ out there and in a way, much like a Google search engine, my unconscious started to bring forward qualities in me I had not thought about.

But perhaps the most important step for me was accepting what is. Allowing myself to acknowledge that what is or was happening was happening and that it was okay. And from there I started to see all these painful feelings as small neglected children and instead of beating them up I had to welcome them.

I am still on this journey now. I wouldn’t say I love myself yet, but I am far more accepting of who I am then I ever was before. It’s a journey, not a race and we can’t rush this process.

7. Last but not least, how do you envisage your new radio station helping and encourage people? I know a bit of the story but what prompted you to set the station up?

Peace Within Radio was born out of a desire to help people to feel good enough, exactly as they are. I noticed when I lay in bed one day during a deep depression that my inner voice was so cruel. I wondered how anyone can think better about who they are with this kind of inner voice?
And I realised that if we could be a bridge for those who were suffering from mental health issues like depression for example, that we could be that outer voice when the inner voice is particularly self-defeating and dark. When people are on long waiting lists for therapy and try to commit
suicide many times before they finally get therapy (or they don’t make it that far), I thought there must be a way of sharing wisdom, inspiration and ideas to encourage those who are suffering, at no cost to them and available from the comfort of their own homes. My belief is that if an encouraging word said on the station touches even one person and triggers them to get help or to see their life or
themselves in a different way, we have done our job.
It’s a simple reason for beginning really, just to help people feel enough exactly as they are right now and bring music to complement the words and energy of the station.

Yes, finding a way to help people know they are more than their mental health issues, so much more.
You can find out about the new station on our Crowdfunding page here or our website.
And if you feel you would like to offer a voice on the station, you can record audio on your smartphone or computer from the comfort of your own home and who knows what a difference your voice could make.

BIO
Kelly Martin is the author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’, a mental health blogger, Podcaster at Kelly Martin Speaks; and radio producer of the new mental health and music station Peace Within Radio. Kelly is on a mission to help those suffering with depression, anxiety and PTSD feel good enough exactly as they are. Facebook / Twitter



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