On Saturday, mum asked me if I wanted to go to the beach. My extended family have a house there, split into three separate units, and from April-September, they spend every weekend down there. The house is on the same site that once housed the caravans I spent the summer in with my granny, siblings and cousins, on a hill above the village with an unobstructed view over the beach and sea. On a bad day, it’s pretty nice; on a good day, it’s glorious.
I hesitated. I was bored, listless, feeling a little ‘blah’ and sorry for myself, and at risk of spending the weekend moping and fuelling the negativity that has been somewhat lurking beneath the surface these past couple of weeks. So I thought ‘why not?’ and half an hour later I heading down the road with my dad. I’m glad I went.
Saturday was a bit of an anxious day. I felt shy and self conscious and tugged at my top and played with my hair and picked my nails raw. But I managed dinner in a nice restaurant to celebrate my mum’s birthday, and after, we all trooped back to the house on the hill and set up party in the garage- dressed with fairy lights and old Subway sofas and a record player and a sign hanging up saying ‘BAR RULES: NO WIFI, NO REFUNDS’. My mum got drunk and danced, my uncle’s finance had a heart to heart with me about bipolar/depression and my uncle’s made chicken wings doused in hot sauce at 2am (these were later fed to the dog, who threw them back up). So it was nice.
Sunday morning I woke to the sun streaming through the peppa pig blanket that covered the skylight in my room. I had bacon and bagels for brunch, Prosecco and chocolate cake for afternoon tea, steak and chips for dinner. I lay on the picnic table and dozed in the sun and ended up getting burnt, two white circles in the middle of my face where my sunglasses were. I watched my cousin chase the dog round the garden, trying to get his socks back, and subsequently fall flat on his face (it was truly TV comical). I pushed my 2 year old cousin round the patio on her bike. I read her and my four year old cousin stories, laughed when she told everyone we were reading ‘Adam and Niamh- a book about me!!’ (she meant Adam and Eve).
In the evening, we went down to the harbour to watch my cousins jumping off the pier and I ended up going out on my uncle’s new boat. So I am on this boat, my cousin hops onto my knee, the boys lean off the side in their wetsuits to graze their hands along the water, and my uncle steers us off out of the harbour and into the bay, a huge grin on his face. And I look out at the beach that gets smaller behind us, and to the side at the village and the hill, and to the front and the vast ocean and the sun which is starting to sink lower in the sky- and everywhere I look, it is beautiful. And I am content and calm and at peace and happy to be alive and I think ‘it is moments like this, that make life worth living’.
I’m not sure I like the term ‘mindfulness’, but I guess that’s what it was- I was taking everything in, enjoying being in the moment, acknowledging that despite whatever else might be going on, while out on that boat, surrounded by family and in a place that means a lot to me on a beautiful late spring evening, everything was ok, and everything would be ok if there were moments like this to come along and puncture the darkness and ground me in the craziness.
So I am taking three things from my weekend at the beach that I think are important to remember when living with or recovering from a mental illness:
- It is important to say YES sometimes, to challenge your fears and anxieties and do something that ordinarily, your illness wouldn’t let you, or that because of your illness, you don’t feel like doing
- It is important to allow yourself to just BE, to soak up the good moments when they happen and store them at the back of your mind to use as reminders on the hard days as to why it IS worth holding on
- It is the little things that make life special