A couple of weeks ago I spoke at a suicide prevention conference in Kent. After I finished speaking I had time for questions and so, as the microphone made its way to each person, I addressed each query in turn...until it came to the clinician who asked me a question that I'd never been asked before and that I found almost impossible to answer. ''Revisiting such a difficult time in your life must take a lot out of you. What do you do to take care of yourself?"
Floored...I actually couldn't answer. I'd never really thought about it I suppose. What do I do to take care of myself? How do I look after my own self-care?
I'm sure I mumbled an answer and, as I always do in situations like that, I directed the question back at the clinician: "How do you ensure your own self-care?" I fired back, buying myself more time to think than anything!
Since then I've been thinking about my own self-care a lot and wondering if I do it well, or if I address it in a conscious, deliberate way at all? I know it's important because I'm forever telling other people just how important it is, but do I really take my own advice?
Maybe self-care is one of those areas of our lives that you only take note of when you're not doing it right?! I think I know when I'm doing things like managing my stress levels by trying not to cram too much into my diary. I try to get enough exercise and watch what I eat.
Sleep? Well, I think that's my self-care barometer. I know when I'm doing too much or letting things play on my mind when I find myself awake at 4am. I wake up, usually at 3.55am for some strange reason, when the thoughts, the worries and the silly things come flooding in. Then I start thinking of all the other people who are seeing 4am, the nurses and the doctors and the people working shifts at the car factory up the road...and so it goes on.
A lot's been happening recently. In a fantastic act of support for World Suicide Prevention day, the BBC decided to show our documentary Life After Suicide again, for an incredible third time on BBC 1. That also means that our film is also currently available on iPlayer for the next 10 days I think http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05n2922
Each time our film is shown it reignites the most wonderful stream of messages from people across the globe who just want to say thank you to the whole team and who are just relieved that a subject that has been in the shadows for such a long time, is finally being talked about openly.
I've also been delivering an important series of suicide awareness training sessions, which I co-produced, to Mersey Care clinical staff - hard but ultimately satisfying work.
By the time I'd seen more than a week's worth of 4am's I knew that I needed a break and just at the right time a trip to the idyllic Bardsey Island came up. It was fantastic! You can only reach the 1.5-mile long island off the Welsh coast by boat, there's no phone signal or Wi-Fi and the population is largely made up of grey seals. The sun shone and my friends and I ate our sandwiches on top of the island's 'mountain' as they call it. The restorative effect of just a few hours of digital detox and rest and laughter was palpable and I suppose I actually hadn't realised how much I needed a break until I realised my head felt clear on the boat on the ride home.
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