Today is Time To Talk Day. It’s a pretty simple idea… talk about your mental health.
So why a picture of a dog and a record?
Well, because talking about your mental health isn’t always about talking about the things that are wrong, although that’s hugely important. Mental health is something we all have. Sometimes, like our physical health, it is good and sometimes we have things we struggle with. And, like our physical health, there are things we can do to help us stay well.
For me at the moment the dog and the music are two of those things that keep me well.
I work in a job that appears to be full of people. It is. Some of those encounters are when people are happy and some are when people are sad or angry or upset. Both of those situations can be difficult depending on how I feel at the time. Happy people can be just as hard to be with as sad people. Being with someone who is grieving can be hugely positive and life giving. I suppose what I’m saying is that ministry is up and down and that’s as much to do with how I feel on any given day as it is to do with the mood or needs of the people I encounter.
It’s also a job that’s full of times when you are alone. Times where you sit at your desk for long periods trying to write a sermon or a tribute for a funeral or responding to emails or all the other things that need doing. I enjoy all of that stuff but it can be a pretty solitary existence sometimes. The other bits make up for that.
Having Aonghus Dog around helps. He makes me get up from my desk and go for a walk. He reminds me that caring for someone or something is a good thing. His enthusiasm for life reminds me that life is good and that having some fun is a good thing. He doesn’t need me to be anything other than here. And to feed him. And let hm out. And to love him. He makes me smile. Just thinking about him makes me smile. He lifts my mood. Even on a rainy miserable day taking him for a walk can be a highlight. Or sitting next to him as he looks out of the window at the world passing by.
The music is different.
I’ve always loved music. I was a DJ in my late teens and early 20s.
(If you studied in Edinburgh in the early 90s and made it to The Shack in Kings Stables Road on a Wednesday or Friday then we’ve probably met! )
There’s something magical about music.
Something beyond a collection of notes played in the right order.
Music moves us. Well, it moves me. It provides a soundtrack to my day. (Springsteen live in Chicago on The River Tour in 2016 is currently playing… That’s us at the back…) It reminds me of people, places, experiences and things but it is more than that. Why is it that when opening chords of The Rising start I well up inside, not with sadness but with joy. It’s the same when U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name starts. Other songs make me cry.
Music taps into our emotions in a way that very little else can.
We bought a new turntable. Partly because we’re cool. But also because listening to vinyl makes you sit and listen. Listening to a whole album takes time. And commitment. It’s a very different experience to listening to MP3s on shuffle. There’s a journey to go on. I like that.
So, for me, my mental health is greatly improved by a wee dog that likes music.
All I need to do is remember how precious those things are and make time for them, and for the other stuff that keeps me well.
So, what keeps you well?