Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

It was not until very recently that I heard the term ‘protecting factors’ but immediately it made sense to me. I was having a mental health assessment and I admitted to having suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The nurse then asked me what stopped me acting on those thoughts and attempting suicide. I asked myself this question and was slightly embarrassed to give my honest answer. However, I knew the truth and this was that my dogs are what stops me from acting on my suicidal impulses and thoughts. I felt embarrassed about saying this out loud to a mental health professional because human relationships with pets are so often trivialised and I thought that they wouldn’t take my bond with my dogs seriously. I thought that giving this answer would leave them to believe that my suicidal ideation could not be that strong in the first place – none of which is true.

Instead, the nurse told me that my dogs are what is called my ‘protecting factors’. They act as a release valve for my stress because playing with them is uplifting. They comfort me when I am low by nuzzling and cuddling me, letting me know that I am not alone. When I get anxious about having social contact with humans, they remind me I am capable of having a functional relationship because of the ways I have bonded with them. When I think about leaving this world, they tether me to it because I could not bear to leave them; my desire to protect them and watch them grow-up are what, at this moment at least, is still keeping me fighting for life.

The World Health Organisation works on the definition of ‘protecting factors’ as being those which “enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk.” They use this definition in relation to physical as well as mental health risks but ‘protective factors’ are always seen as what stops an individual’s situation from escalating to a dangerous or drastic level.

So, I would encourage you to think about what your protecting factors are, especially in the lead-up to the festive period which, for me, always adds extra stress onto my shoulders and makes my mood dip because I am hyper-aware of the fact that I am supposed to be happy. Hold your protecting factors dear and be grateful for their existence and what they mean to you. Feel free to share what your protecting factors are in the comments below!

 

Information And Resources About Managing Mental Health At Christmas:

Christmas and mental health – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas (5 ways to look after your mental health) – Priory Group

Depression At Christmas Guide – Mental Health in the UK

 

Some Related Blog Posts Of Mine:

How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

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The Autumn Tag

I first saw this tag over on Hart of Blogging and thought it looked fun. Even though I haven’t actually been tagged in this, I will not let that stop me! So, without further ado, here is my Autumn Tag:

1) What signifies the start of autumn for you?

This probably very predictable but autumn feels like it officially starts for me when the leaves start to change colour. As soon as the luscious greens of summer begin to fade and the warm, earthy hues begin to take their place, I can really relish the changing of the seasons.

2) What is your favourite autumn scent?

I’m not one for sweet scents like the ones often found in Yanky Candles. So, I much prefer richer heady scents, such as ginger, cranberry or fig at this time of year. These probably sound like quite strange choices but pumpkin and vanilla scents do not appeal to me for the most part, even at this time of year.

3) Are you a fan of pumpkin spice latte?

I feel like the only person in the world who has never tried a pumpkin spice latte! For the most part, I avoid Starbucks anyway because I view them as an unethical company. So, overall it seems that I am failing on the autumn checklist so far!

4) Apple or pumpkin pie?

Another unpopular admission here; I really do not enjoy the taste of pumpkins. Genuinely, when I have tried it before I have almost gagged! It’s unfortunate because pumpkins look so beautiful that I really wish I could enjoy them as a food as well. 

5) What TV show, new or old, are you looking forward to in the next few months?

As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly a TV fan (I really am cracking out all of the unpopular opinions during this tag aren’t I?!). Although, I do have a soft spot for Riverdale, even though I am literally a series behind because I am so slow at getting through episodes. There are definitely some creepy elements to Riverdale which give it a somewhat spooky feel, so I’m really looking forward to (finally) catching-up with it.

6) What is your favourite autumn fashion trend?

The comeback of hoodies, bobble hats and cosy coats after the heat of summer.

7) What is your favourite comfort food to enjoy during the cooler months?

Veggie casseroles, hearty lentils and curries definitely! I love warming and hearty meals at this time of year, so I decided to get myself a slow cooker the other day so I can make big batches of these meals.

8) What is your favourite autumn activity?

Walking my dogs around the streets where crunchy yellow, orange and red leaves have fallen along my path. Walking in the cold, crisp autumn air is a treat, especially with my dogs trotting along beside me.

9) Are you a fan of horror movies?

Put it this way, when I watched the Woman In Black at the cinema I had nightmares for a ridiculously long time afterwards. So I tend to avoid horror films as best I can.

10) Do you ever do anything fun for Halloween?

I always stay in and I never dress-up but that’s a choice I make because I prefer to do things which I consider fun, such as making my home look and feel atmospheric and reading creepy books!

11) What was your favourite part of Halloween as a child?

I used to craft fake witches’ potion books, as well as draw magic-themed pictures which I especially enjoyed when it distracted me from the prospect of having to dress-up in a Halloween costume!

12) Are you a bigger fan of Bonfire Night or Halloween night?

Probably Halloween night because my dogs get scared of the fireworks which go off on Bonfire Night.

13) Where is your dream destination to visit during autumn?

Vancouver Island is definitely on my travel bucket list, not least because its landscape is stunning at any time of year. Also, I would love to visit Denver in the USA for its largely unspoiled natural features. 

14) Do you always forget about the clocks going back?

Not really, although I do often forget to change a few of the clocks around my home which creates a few moments of confusion on the same day it changes.

15) When do you usually start for preparing for Christmas?

I don’t do much to prepare for Christmas overall except for purchase presents for others which, in general, starts in the first week of December. 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

Another Gratitude List!

Things have been rocky lately (how many times do I start off a blog post with those words?!). In short, I have experienced some very unsettling mental health symptoms which are new to me and got me seriously concerned and fearful, I then changed medication and am waiting for my body (and mind) to adjust to these tablets. However, through the whirlwind of mental health confusion which has left me trying to catch my breath at times, I have seen glimpses of things I am so sincerely grateful for. Surrounding myself online with positive (yet realistic) accounts, whether that be on Instagram, WordPress or Twitter, has yet again realigned my perspective and made me give time, no matter how small, to the things I am grateful for. So, here’s a gratitude list from me to the world!

1) The seasonal change to autumn.
From the leaves changing colour to the crisp edge on the air, autumn is definitely upon us. I am thankful for this change of season because it has brought my attention back to nature. Consciously looking out for the changes in my surroundings, whether big or small, has made me undergo a whole new process of appreciation for the environment. When you can see the world around you as beautiful, it is one more weight taken off of your burdened heart and a way to look around you and feel some sense of hope.

2) Having access to mental health services
I retain the right to say that I firmly believe mental health services in the UK are critically underfunded by the government and so what they can offer people is curtailed by the lack of support they are given by the state. However, I am grateful that I do have access to support when so many people around the world are suffering completely alone in a whole variety of different, heartbreaking, situations. I am immensely grateful that I was able to get an appointment with a GP, talk honestly about how I felt regarding my medication and have him give me a way to reach out to the services I need. I want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the people who work in our National Health Service, as time and again they tirelessly try against the odds to help us in anyway they can.

3) My dogs aka the lights of my life!
Being reunited with my dogs has undoubtedly given me a huge boost (as it always does). Their boundless enthusiasm for life, their endless love and devotion as well as the all-round silly and ridiculous things they do which make me laugh out loud, are the things which really keep me going sometimes. I could write for hours and hours about all the ways they have improved me as a person and given me a little chink of sunlight in my life when I have felt completely hopeless. However, for now, suffice to say that I love them both so dearly and genuinely see them as my best friends.

4) The ability to cook
For me, self-care always starts with looking after my nutrition. Eating properly gives me a foundation from which I can start to feel better about my day and show myself some compassion. Preparing my meals is therapeutic in itself, then actually appreciating the fact that I have made the effort to give my body a nutritious and healthy meal allows me to shift my perspective which usually focuses on my habit of self-loathing.

5) Music
Whilst my ears have probably suffered from my reliance on music, at least putting my earphones in and drowning out the world has given me some peace of mind at times throughout these past few weeks. As always, I am immensely grateful to Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Dodie Clark for making such raw, honest and insightful music. The fact that they don’t dress-up life as an easy ride in their lyrics gives me so much comfort whilst the beautiful music which laces together their words affords me hours of escapism.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

 

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Having been away from the place where I grew-up, my heart is now starting to crave a return to that place which I once took for granted. I thought my hometown was simply run-of-the-mill, boring and easy to forget, little did I know that one day I would look back over my shoulder at it and get a little misty-eyed in missing that place. Sure, it looks grey and typical from an outsiders’ perspective but once you lace the town with your own memories, it takes a hold over you for life. Nothing about it special per se but hindsight tells me that it formed a basis for my life and gave me a springboard to jump forward into the place I live now.

I love my home county in the autumn and winter. I miss walking with my dogs through the dense woods where the trees block out the rest of the world, I miss seeing my dogs kick through the neat piles of autumnal leaves as we made our way through the posh streets in town and I miss shivering in my bed at night with no heating on. It’s funny the things which cling to your heart when you look backwards at your past life. The things you would have assumed that ‘adult’ you could forget in a heartbeat come back as fresh and clear as ever. Small things which seemed inconvenient or too small to notice at the time take on a different hue when you put your rose-tinted glasses on.

Sure, I can still appreciate that it’s not perfect. People there are discontented and suspicious of each other. No-one proudly proclaims that they live there; it is not a picture postcard town. Actually, if anything, the heart of it is pretty ugly. Perhaps it is the bubble which I inhabited there for a time that I want to return to – I can take or leave the rest of it. It’s the walks I took when the air was so cold that it burned the back of my throat, it’s the journeys we took in the car after rugby matches and it’s the times I saw my doggies run around the house together in synchronised mischief. Those are the little bubbles of emotion and experience I look back at with tears in my eyes. Maybe, it’s not the place that I cherish, just the memories it provokes in me. My hometown can still be seen as my fairytale though; the place where I lived when I wanted to die and the place where I learned to breathe again when I was scared to go outside.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00