Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Riding the comet’s tail

Day 17 (Thursday 17th December 2015)

17 hours is the length of a day on the planet Uranus. Like Earth, Uranus has four seasons,
however, each season lasts 21 Earth years, due to the fact that Uranus takes 81 years to orbit the Sun.

This excellent and very personal post is by Zoe Mounsey, who lives in New Zealand, having moved there a few years ago (from the UK), with her husband and two children. She works as a researcher and policy developer in Academia. Zoe has been involved in the Advent Blog series since its inception and it is a pleasure to have her back here with us again. Although on the other side of the world from me, I feel that I have got to know Zoe over the years via social media. You can follow her on Twitter, her handle is @zoemounsey. For all the time I have known Zoe, she has shown a deep interest in well-being, given her past year (and hence her post) this is a good thing.


Yet another year has raced by and it is almost time to get the Christmas decorations out. I have come to regard writing my advent post as part of my seasonal preparations. It gives me a chance to take a breath and think about the year gone by. I struggled to write this year’s post as I didn’t feel I had anything to say that fitted with the theme. My 2015 has had lots of high points it has also had a lot of lows and I am not used to sharing the darker side of my soul. It has been a year where I have had to get inside my own head and learn some hard lessons. And this had had an impact on everything in my life – just like a comet tail perhaps.

Comet McNaught seen from the Southern Hemisphere
Earlier this year I hit a low – it had been building for a long time – but I reached a point where I was going through the motions and felt that I had nothing left to give. It forced me to look at the dark places in my mind, it wasn’t a comfortable place to be and I don’t think I was very easy to be around for a while. I was struggling with many aspects of my life, feeling very overwhelmed by everyone’s expectations of me. I just wanted to hibernate, hide away from the world until I felt stronger. I really retreated into myself, stopped talking to people or spent ages ruminating and talking about why I felt this way. I have a huge sense of gratitude to those around me who gave me a sympathetic ear, hugs and tried to help me find some answers.

I have experienced anxiety and depression before but perhaps not to this extent. Everything revolved around how I felt, all the things that used to make me feel good – reading, walking – just didn’t work. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of negative emotions and I was fighting the urge to just give up. 

I acknowledged that I needed outside help to manage my anxiety and depression that I didn’t have to struggle alone. A few months down the line I am in a much better frame of mind and am building up my reserves again. I still have low days where everything gets a bit too much, but I am getting better at picking myself up and dusting myself down. The key thing for me was learning how to ask for and accept help from others, to admit when I felt unable to cope on my own. 

I am finishing the year feeling stronger and with a developing sense of self-compassion. I have learnt that feeling good about myself and having a high sense of self-esteem is not the same as self-acceptance and self-compassion. 

This is something I am trying to promote in my working life and in my parenting style. I am embracing the Japanese concept of kintsukuroi (golden mend) - the Japanese art of mending broken pottery using lacquer resin laced with gold or silver. As well as a clever form of repair, kintsukuroi has a deeper philosophical significance. The mended flaws become part of the object’s design, and some people believe the pottery to be even more beautiful having gone through the process of being broken and repaired. Through kintsukuroi, the cracks and seams are merely a symbol of an event that happened in the life of the object, rather than the cause of its destruction. So it is my weaknesses and flaws that give me strength, courage and beauty, that make me who I am.

Thank you for reading my end of year ramblings, a very merry Christmas wherever you may be from a hopefully sunny New Zealand and here’s to 2016 being a year of laughter, fun and sunshine.

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