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  • Writer's pictureTom Robinson

A change of scene, social engagement, and some wonderful words of wisdom!

Last weekend I went up to Shropshire to support my sister in her half Iron Man and there were lots of positive mental health aspects to come out of the trip which I thought were worth a mention today.

We stayed near to where the triathlon was being held at Alderford Lake, near Whitchurch in a ‘pod’ at Bradley Hall Escapes.

It was so refreshing to finally be able to do something recreational which involved getting away from home, and glamping in the peaceful Shropshire countryside turned out to be a great tonic for our mental health!

The benefits of a change of scene

I have long known that getting away from it all can be a great boost for mental well-being, the problem was that most of the time I was just too ill to ever do it.

However, now that I am better, I am noticing the benefits that everyone else reports when they engage in mental well-being exercises like walking, talking, exercising etc, etc, and a successful trip away was more confirmation of the fact that I am finally fully well again.

We found rural Shropshire so much more peaceful than the countryside around South Oxfordshire because everything seems so much less dense up there and the pace of life is also noticeably slower. It proved a great opportunity for unwinding and quietening the mind.

We spent two nights in the pod and my sister completed the half Iron Man on Sunday in just over six hours - an incredible effort, then we drove up to a friend’s house in Cheshire so that she could collapse and recover!

Rediscovering the benefits of social engagement

Between all of the antics of the triathlon, I managed to catch up with other friends too, and I was pleased to note that conversing and interacting came easily without ever a moment of awkwardness or self-doubt.

It’s hard to understand this but when you are suffering from depression the mind is so utterly crippled that trying to have a conversation with friends is virtually impossible.

Most of the time you are ‘dying to stay alive’ and you have absolutely no interest in anyone or anything, so you end up acting and pretending which is absolutely exhausting.

I gave up with socialising completely when I was ill because it was excruciatingly painful and never made me feel any better when I forced myself to do it; this is why most of the messages in the media are wrong for mental illness – I hope to be able to help clear this up in the future!

Anyway, I am pleased to report that I can now easily and confidently converse and interact with my friends in a way that positively affects my mental ‘health’ just like everyone else does – thank God for that!

A few words of wisdom

On the return journey, we dropped in to see our grandmother in Worcestershire who is 98 and still going strong, and she had a few words of wisdom for me which I thought I would mention this morning!

Once the forthright opinions about the state of the royal family were out of the way, we talked a bit about my illness – her main take-out point being:

“You are nothing without your health.”

She still recalls everything so distinctly and was asking me if I remembered going up to stay with her when I was suffering from my first bout of depression.

I had basically bolted out of Oxfordshire in my first episode because I knew I couldn’t keep going with my career and I had to get away from it or I was sure I was going to act on my horrifyingly morbid thoughts.

It’s weird to think back to that time because in one way it was lovely (she took me to country houses and spoiled me) and hideous in others (every spare moment I was dying to stay alive in bed), so I have mixed emotions about it!

Anyway, it is so nice that my grandmother is still well enough to recount those tales and be genuinely thrilled to hear that I am now fully better – what a monumental relief that is!

Being grateful

It was also a good reminder and life lesson when we were talking about acceptance, being grateful and seeing the positives.

I’m sure it would be quite easy to be resentful when you get to 98 about the fact that you’ve had to give up your independence and move into supported care, but there was none of that at all and she was really quite sanguine about the whole situation which is fantastic for her and a great example for us.

She told us that she feels fortunate to still be able to stand and walk (pretty incredible), and that she’s grateful to still have her mind (sharp as ever) which means she can recount childhood memories which are a comfort to her when she’s sitting quietly in her room.

“Focus on the positives.”

She has pretty much lost her hearing, but we didn’t have any complaints about that and

she’s grateful to still have her sight which means that she can read and appreciate the beautiful gardens. It was good to note that even at 98 it is still possible to find ways to enjoy your days, and the importance of mental health and positivity, even at that advanced age, is also worth remembering!

Although it’s pretty much impossible to focus on anything positive when you are suffering from mental illness, hearing all of this was still a great example of resilience and will power – two of the biggest characteristics that are needed in any difficult situation.

“Make memories while you’re young.”

Another reminder came from her quote about living life to the full and making the most of your opportunities.

Now that I have the opportunity (both through being well and with the easing of restrictions), I am going to follow her advice and get out and about as much as possible!

Like most people who’ve survived a life-threatening illness, I now don’t sweat the small stuff and I take pleasure from the most insignificant things like being able to get out of bed and appreciating a summer’s day – speaking of which it’s an absolutely stunning morning so I’m going to sign off in a minute, ‘seize the day’ and get outside!

All in all, it was a fantastic few days, and it was so incredibly liberating to have been able to enjoy the whole experience rather than forcing myself to do it and pretending to be ok - long may the equilibrium last!!

Thanks for reading,

Speak to you soon,


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