My Helping Hand And My Toolbox

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When things breakdown like our car or if we have an electrical or plumbing problem we go to the garage, or call  the electrician or plumber, and why do we do that ? because they have the tool box to fix the problem !!

As we struggle with the consequence of depression we too need a tool box, which can help us to fix things in our mind, to rebuild ourselves, and recover our own sense of self  worth  and well being.

There are five (5) Key Recovery concepts :

1 Hope

2 Personal Responsibility

3 Education

4 Self – Advocacy

5 Support

And issues that need attention, including:

Getting good healthcare and Medication management

There is much to hope for:

If  you experience disturbing emotional symptoms and behaviours, you can get well and stay well for long periods of time.

You can work towards and meet your goals. You can lead a happy and productive life.

You don’t need, nor will you benefit from dire predictions about your future

Your supporters and care providers should encourage you, help you feel better and assist in supporting you in staying well


Personal Responsibility:

You are the expert on yourself. You know what you need and want.

It’s up to you to take personal responsibility for your own wellness and your life. Sometimes this means facing up to the past and taking back control of what you have lost in the past

Those of us who have taken back this control and accept this responsibility achieve the highest levels of  wellness, happiness,and life satisfaction 


Learn all you can about yourself so you can make good decisions about your treatment , lifestyle, career, Relationships, living space, leisure time activities, and all aspects of your life.

Educate  yourself, read about your illness, use the internet to your advantage to gain information, this can be the new beginning in life that after years of suffering you have yearned for, so take it up with both hands, cherish it, and enjoy your new life, but this can’t be achieved without your TOOLBOX        The  five key recovery concepts in this article should be in your toolbox as I found them to be the basis for my ongoing and so far successful wellness 

As I go through this series of articles I will hopefully be giving you more things to help fill your 

 Recovery Toolbox.

In the meantime thank you for reading this article and I hope it will be of help to you.

For a more detailed look at the WRAP program Google ; Mary Ellen Copeland Phd




WRAP: Wellness Recovery Action Plan

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Today 6/12/ 2017 I have just completed a six (6) week Course in St Patrick’s University Hospital For Mental Health:

It’s Called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan ) This is a recovery plan which is used world wide by people who are dealing with all kinds of health and mental health issues, and life challenges. The plan was developed by a group of people who suffer with / from mental health issues.

The program is set up as a self management tool that promotes a higher level of wellness, stability and quality of life, which will empower you to take control of your life, and to embrace /achieve your  life goals and dreams.

It gives people the tools to re-discover themselves, their own self esteem, their confidence and self worth and motivates people to face the world after a serious episode of a mental health illness.

This program was formatted by Dr Mary Ellen Copeland PhD

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The WRAP program does not replace other treatments i.e. medication etc but rather it can be used to compliment them and if the method is adhered to it can be used as an  early warning system to help keep you from falling back into an acute depression.

The WRAP program consists of eight (8) modules:

(a) The Wellness Toolbox:

( b) The Daily Maintenance Plan:

(c) The Triggers and Action Plan:

(d) Early Warning Signs and Action Plan:

(e) When Things are Breaking Down and Action plan:

(f) Crisis  Planning:

(g) Post Crisis Planning:

The program lasts 6 weeks, two days per week, 12 days in all, and it is given by  trained and certified therapists, who are in most if not all cases fully qualified nurses and social sciences workers  who have a wide varied experience in their fields of expertise who will make you feel at ease with them and the other patients who shared the course with me.

Over the next few weeks I will give an over view of each module and how I was able to benefit from the program

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The Sins Of Fianna Fail, Fein Gael And The Irish Labour Party and The Catholic Church, Against The Children and Mothers of Ireland, Many Of whom died of Broken Hearts Or In the Magdalene Laundries

They were sent from orphanages from the north of Ireland and Britain to Australia with the promise of freedom. Many ended up in the care of the notorious Christian Brothers where they were treated as slave labour and suffered horrific physical and sexual abuse. Between 1947 and 1967 up to 10,000 children were shipped to […]

via The Stolen Children – Hopes and Dreams Deported Down Under — Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Retirement ,Old Age, And Depression

 I write this article in tribute to the testimony of the  Older Generation that I encountered during my stay in Saint Patrick’s University Hospital Dublin.

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As we go through our early life and teenage years we rarely if ever think about our old age, it’s all rock and roll, parties, girlfriends, boyfriends, school and university.

Its a time where we are full of energy and ambitions. It’s when we are free to try and fulfill our dreams of travel, excitement, and discovery of the world we live in, its also a time of great joy and   challenges.

As you are off on your travels you are sure in your mind that Mammy and Daddy are at home where there is a warm bed and roof to lie under, this is your safety net.


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Eventually somewhere along the line you will meet the boy /girl of your dreams.

This is the point when you will turn into a man/woman, you become an adult.

You then do what society expects you to do, it’s called human conditioning !!,

Your conditioned to be, in the case of the male to be the breadwinner, the supplier of security, as your wife is the home maker  and mother to your children and so it goes around.

Even at this stage old age or retirement does not enter your mind, you’re paying into your pension / insurance schemes and all is bright and beautiful.

Then as you create your own family the circle of life begins once again.

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Your mother / father become grandparents as  they now  start to face into retirement and their own mortality.

Its a time, after years of hard work for reflection, evaluation, but most of all it’s a time when society turns you, just like the horse, out to grass, because in their eyes you have now served your purpose, that is in spite of the fact that we did not wish to retire as we still feel that we have something to offer society, but more important we don’t want to feel unwanted or surplus to requirements, we don’t want people saying in surprise “you’re looking well for your age” because age doesn’t matter its what is in the mind that matters !!!

But whats in the mind of an older person ?

Is it a feeling of rejection ? A feeling of joy ?

Is it a feeling of loss ?

Is it a feeling of despair / abandonment ?

Is it a fear of the unknown?

For most it can be a time of joy, a time to share the long love and comfort of each other, to look back at your successes as you proudly look at your children and grandchildren and murmur to yourself , we didn’t do too bad after all, its time to let go, its now our time.

Its time to live the dreams, to visit the places we always wanted to, to do the bucket list !!, it could be a round the world  trip, it could be an exotic train journey across Russia to China, or the orient express across Europe.

Unfortunately we can’t all be so lucky in our old age.

For most of us it’s the bowling club, the men’s shed, that walk everyday, the night out to dinner every week. But then our biggest fear arrives, just like that old broken  car in the drive way, we start to feel the pain in our joints. we start to slow down, our memory starts to fade, our age starts to catch up as   we are faced with our own mortality and health issues.

Old age is setting in and as our mobility is now less effective we start to feel isolated.

 Our children now have responsibility for their own  children, we see less of them or even worse they may be in some far off land where our only contact is by Skype or Social Media.

While all this movement is going on around us we start to become more and more isolated and fear of being a burden to others grows.

Then one day we wake up and we can’t/wont get out of the bed.

As time goes on we spend more and more time in bed and our sense of loss, feeling uselessness and loss of self esteem grows as we fall unknowingly  into a deep depression

 A depression which can and does become life threatening.

A depression which becomes even more dangerous when we mourn the loss of our partner and enter  widowhood.

It’s a trauma and sense of loss that few will understand until they themselves experience it,

I know I didn’t understand as a young man the depth of that suffering when my father died and my mother was left alone, its only now when I hear the heartbreaking stories of bereaved partners that I can now fully appreciate that suffering,

 Because now as I sit here in front off this computer I too at 69 years old, I am now facing my own mortality.

But for whatever time I have left on this world I will always  look back at the gifts that god bestowed on me, my brothers and sisters and say Ireland is a better place now from when they where born into this Island,

My own 4 children and my beautiful wife Catherine,and say we did not do so bad after all



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Where To Begin, A Journey Of Self Discovery Through An Illness Of The Mind


Some people describe an illness of the mind as a nervous breakdown or a breakthrough of the mind, or madness, or “Oh he / she has problems with their nerves “!! all the usual cliche’s made by the unknowable / unacknowledgeable  people in  society who, without realizing the actual damage that they are doing to the person they are referring too.

In reality it’s called creating a stigma

I always refer to my recent encounter as my breakthrough, as an illness of the mind, not unlike any other illness I have had through my life, and I have had many, all of them life threatening, but none more so than my illness of the mind.!!

An illness of the mind in all cases is challenging to the sufferer, who becomes detached from the world around them, and their family and friends.

This is manifested by withdrawal from reality by way of sleeping all day, loss of motivation or purpose, loss of self esteem, loss of concentration, loss of self worth, and a conviction that whatever I do its wrong.

While the above does represent a number of sufferers but not all and certainly not the  most serious of cases, there can be people who suffer from psychosis / Schizophrenia, and bi-polar depression  but the one thing that is common among all sufferers is a feeling of unity as we are all ill of mind and we all suffer from a lack of understanding from people who have not had the misfortune to suffer an illness of the mind.

 It is estimated that at least 30% of the Irish population will suffer an episode of depression in their life time.

In many cases it explodes into their lives without warning or without the sufferer realizing it or understanding the reasons for it.

That is until in many cases they are hospitalized by their GP ( as it was in my own case).  I had all the symptoms of acute depression but as I was convinced I had a physical illness my focus was on a medical cure for my chronic back pain, which I was convinced was as a result of a major surgery I had in January 2015 which led me through 2015/16  having every medical test possible to try and discover the cause of this unbearable pain but to no avail, as this pain continued unabated and in many cases and on many days it got worse.

For me my loss of energy, concentration, sleeping for long periods during the day, being angry at those around me, feelings of uselessness and a burden to those who care the most for my welfare, this pain was so severe that I wished my doctors would tell me  I was terminally ill,

Unknown to me I was terminally ill but not as I had suspected, I was suffering from a different type of terminal illness it’s called extreme stress / depression/ anxiety.

This was to lead to a serious and acute bout of depression, which can lead, and sometimes does to a person making a terminal decision  with regards their own life.

My initial response to this event was one of fear, a fear of the unknown and the future, what would people say? what would my neighbors think ? what would the in-laws and out- laws have to say or think ?!!

After a couple of weeks in hospital I was to understand that it did not really matter what they said or thought, because at the end of the day this was  my illness and mine alone.

I  could lie down under it or I could turn it to my advantage, I could make the  decision to accept responsibility for my own recovery with the help of my medical team .

It was at this point that I decided that my life had to change, I needed to unconditionally accept my illness and do my share to achieve a full recovery.



During my journey I was to discover who I am;
















                                I AM ME !!





A Mindful Experience


When I was putting this poster together, it all happened without thought or intention from me.

When I was in hospital recently one of my fellow patients asked me to go this therapy so I decided I would if no other reason than to kill time and to stop Eddie giving out to me !!!

As we entered the therapy room all I could see were four tables and  six people at each table  which where covered with magazines and six pairs of scissors and everyone ready to go  I thought,what next? here we are back at primary school  cutting out pictures as Eddie stands back laughing at the shock on my face as I say “Jesus Eddie what have you got me into this time ? !!!” but never the less I said as promised I would stay and give it ago as we took up our seats

I started to look through the magazines to find pictures when suddenly I saw the heading:

I’m Beginning To Accept Myself For Who I am :

At this point  something strange started to happen. As I was continuing to leaf through the pages I felt that this was not me in charge off this project but my mind and that my hands where only the instruments to do its bidding as more and more pictures presented themselves to me which I blindly stuck to the cardboard to create the poster.

Not thinking much more about it  I returned to my room and put the poster on top off my wardrobe went off  had a cup of tea and as it was a sunny evening a walk in the garden with Eddie where we talked about the class we both attended.

I tried to explain to him what had happened, he laughed at me and said your off your head !! we both laughed as I said I suppose that is why we are in St Pat’s !!! as Eddie say’s “Its the medication stupid !!!” once again laughter as we continue our walk joking with each other, as we are joined by other patients from our floor, the poster was never mentioned again

A couple off weeks later I started my [ CBT] Therapy which is about helping people to deal with trauma and post traumatic stress disorder, something I never thought about until I had my breakdown / breakthrough.

It was at one of these sessions that I was to realize and learn about a thing called “compassionate self “

This is a therapy where we look at the decision’s we made  in our lives and why we made them etc. what where the positives and what where the negative?

As I continued on with this therapy my mind was becoming more clear about the past I was for the first time able to stop beating myself up and start to regain my self esteem and self respect by knowing that my decisions were made for the right reasons and not self gain or self glorification hence your compassionate self.

It was after one of these sessions that I returned to my room to prepare my laundry bag that I happened to take the poster down, as I left it on my bed I looked at it one more time only to see the biggest success any human being could have

      As I Now Accept Who I Am

I Am Me!!


The Challenges Of Life

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As we go through life we will all have to face challenges, some of these of events / challenges we will face with great courage where we will overcome them with gusto, and in other times we will fail miserably. But nevertheless we will continue to try even if its against all the odds of success.

Some people describe this as being pigheaded, determined or in Irish terms, { A Thick that just won’t give up !!}

Sometimes these unbearable challenges are hoisted upon us by way of  serious ill health which in most cases are life threatening as we hang on by our fingertips and hope that the Surgeons will get it right as we are wheeled  into the theater for our biggest challenge.

Knowing of  course that the real work will only begin when we arrive back into the intensive care unit as our nurses and doctors will await your waking up out of your very own anesthetic !!

But  can you imagine if in your later life you had to face that four/five times  as you fight to recover every time, and all are for a different illness but at the same time all related to the first  illness.

Sometimes the body just cant take any more as we suffer unbearable pain which just never seems to relent or even lessen.

It’s called chronic pain, a pain that will drive you down into the darkest place, a place no one ever wants to go, it is called ACUTE DEPRESSION !!

An illness that is even more life endangering / threatening   than any psychical illness, simply because we have lost all our reasons to live, where the taking of ones own life is seen to be the answer.

No more pain, no longer  are we a burden to our family, we will reach out to our God and seek love, comfort and forgiveness for our sins and for which we intend to do.

Or hope that a doctor would just  say we can’t do any more for you, as he tells you I can only say 6 months to a year and then it will be all over no more pain no more suffering

But then we wake up one morning and we decide to give our god forsaken life one more try  { The Thick Irish Man}.

But then all the questions start.

Why can’t you just allow me to go to your judgement rather than have all these people judge me and my life;

Why ? all the questions but few answers.

 How will  we try and tame that black dog of depression  and anxiety,and if so how ?

Who will help me?,

Who will understand me?

Was this awakening the hand of comfort from my God.?

Is he/she telling me I had more to do on this earth and I am not ready to take you?

Am I to face further suffering and pain? what more pain will I have to endure, or is my God to give me further strength to bear this cross,? to shine that light of hope, and where will that shining light take me?, Will He guide me to my inner peace? will He pick me up when I fall ?

When self doubt raises its head will He guide me back and give me the strength to overcome my weakness and fear.

Once again more questions than answers !!

Then I ask ? what was it that  awoke me that morning, what was it that told me I was going to be OK, its not your time and as we don’t know or understand the human mind  but something was talking to me, so I decided it was time to follow my mind. This was to be the first step of many in my recovery.

As I put my trust in that voice in my mind, which has guided me home and out of that darkness into the brightness of a new spring, where just like the daffodils sprouting from the darkness of the soil  I  too am reborn into life’s brightness.

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