talk with andy

talk with andy

I was delighted to accept a resident columnist role with the new online magazine LGBTQymru. As the resident therapist I'll be answering your questions on mental health and life. The first edition is released today (Friday 26th February 2021).

In response to Covid 19 lockdown, and in the absence of any other all-Wales on-line Pride events, LGBTQYMRU formed to bring about the first-ever Wales-Wide Virtual Pride. The team went on to establish Wales' first online magazine for the LGBTQ+ community. It's a completely bilingual publication available in Welsh and English.

You can subscribe to the free magazine by clicking here SUBSCRIBE. You can also read the first edition by click here READ NOW

Below you'll find my first column. If you'd like to submit any questions for the next edition email: magazine@LGBTQymru.wales

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru

ANSWER

I can see by your question Peter that you care very much. Your child has made such an important step to tell you, and I can be sure that it wouldn't have been easy for them to come out to you. All you have to do in the short-term is let them know they are supported and loved. You don't have to agree with their decision right now, though find a way to accept it.

It can sometimes be too easy to forget the impact 'coming-out' can have on the extended family. Societal norms are changing, though there's still a way to travel before transgendered people receive a similar acceptance to other parts of our LGBTQ+ community. That child you say you've lost has actually become more of a person, so there's more of them to love and get to know. Making mistakes is absolutely fine and asking lots of questions is very normal, and important too. No-one is expecting you to be an overnight expert on all things trans, so take the pressure off.

Getting used to new pronouns, and a name change can take some time. Remember that your child is also facing new challenges and experiencing themselves in the world in a different way, so you're both outside of what was previously normal. Your experiences will be different, though they are shared. Worry, fear, guilt, anger, anxiety - all of these are valid emotions. Don't push them away, in fact get to know them, ask yourself why they are there? What positive purpose can they play? When we embrace all life's emotions in the same way as we do happiness, joy and contentment, the difficult times become easier to get through.

Guilt is an interesting emotion, it almost says you are responsible, and something is your fault, and of course, we're not all faultless all of the time. I understand how you may be experiencing guilt, through not knowing sooner, and the grief of losing someone you thought you knew. You will know as a parent, that you kind of make it up as you go! There's a song by Savage Garden called Affirmation, and one line reads, 'I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do.' There are exceptions I know, though in principle I agree with this. You can't reshape the past, so find ways to put all of your energy into accepting, and getting to know your child in a fuller way.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru

ANSWER

It's been widely reported how many people have noticed a shift in their mental health since the pandemic started, and I have seen this personally at my clinic. Some of those people would have experienced poor mental health for the first time, and it sounds like you are one of them Jay.

Our lives and the world around us changed at a rapid pace at the start of this pandemic. This meant, for most people, their experience of life got smaller. With less activity, routine and social contact our thinking brain can go into overdrive.

Here's just a little bit of science: our brain is made up of neural pathways, and they are connected by a series of neurons. These neurons send signals from one part of the brain to another, and they process the information we receive. They allow us to interact, as well as experience emotions and sensations. They are also responsible for creating our memories and enable us to learn.

Basically, neural pathways thrive in familiarity - they grow stronger and establish more patterns. When our lives change, especially during a crisis or trauma, your thinking brain is trying to pull you in one direction, and your reality in another. When this happens it can cause over-thinking, worry, fear and anxiety.

So, your experience is normal, and for the majority of people, they will revert back to good mental health. I truly hope our experiences during this crisis will ensure that we don't revert to anything pre-pandemic in the same way, and this includes not taking our mental health for granted.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru

ANSWER

This is a popular question Rosa. The pandemic has challenged how we perceived a 'normal' life. The truth is, there is no 'normal', just our individual ways of dealing with stuff. I've heard this time being described as a 'wake-up call', and I believe it's an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how we live our lives, and to take care of ourselves and each other.

When something bad happens, many of us, and only then, have a call to action. Think of it like someone who doesn't look after their oral hygiene, and then notices decay. It's only at the point of an emergency do they decide to take action and make change. It doesn't take a therapist to highlight that prevention is far healthier than cure, though I guess it does, some of the time!

Make it simple. That's the starting point when considering how to care for your mental health. If you over complicate self-care it becomes a chore, and you'll be far less likely to stick to it. Which leads me onto the next tip.

Be consistent. A patient once asked me how long they should continue with the exercises I set them. My response, 'for the rest of your life'! Let's go back to our oral hygiene - wouldn't it be an unhealthy decision to choose to clean our teeth only once in a lifetime? I'm hoping most people would agree 'yes' to that question! Put as much care and consistency into your mental health as you would your personal hygiene.

Do what works for you. There's lots of suggestions floating around in magazines and online forums on how to care for your mental health. There are no rules, so make it up. Do the things you love and challenge yourself each day with something new. These things don't need to be big gestures, so sitting still and noticing the silence or listening to a song that lifts you up can bring you joy and fulfilment. Make it varied and change it up - nurturing your mental health can be fun and rewarding.

Accept the low times. Our mental wellbeing is fluid, which means it changes and isn't always stable. Accept this and acknowledge what it is you're feeling. Avoiding it or pushing it to the side, may give some short-term relief, though it rarely goes away by pretending it's not there. I appreciate that facing intrusive thoughts and difficult experiences can bring discomfort and trauma, though you own your mental health - don't let it control you.

Reach out and ask for help. We have moved forward in big strides to challenge the stigma surrounding mental illness. It's more than okay to have times when you feel mentally unwell, so let the people around you help. Just because you feel unwell, doesn't necessarily mean that others' get to see it. So, speak up, let them know, and ask for help. I'm sure you'll be surprised at the positive response you'll receive.

Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru
Andy Garland Therapies - Counselling Cardiff - Mental Health Services Cardiff - Cardiff Therapists - Talk With Andy - LGBTQymru

ANSWER

You don't ever have to be the perfect version of yourself, just a version that you can accept. That's your starting point Jamie, and I feel from your question that you're already on track. Many people struggle with being themselves in every area of their lives. You just need enough confidence to continually be yourself. Imagine how freeing that would be?

This confidence begins with caring less about your perceptions of what you think, other peoples' perceptions are. Read that again...and one more time!

If you are being bullied and fearful of individuals at work, find a way to call this out. Confide in a colleague, a line manager or anonymously via your Human resources department. No person should experience harm, in what should be a safe environment for you.

It's often our own thoughts and judgements that hold us back. Maybe write down ten things you like about yourself, and then ask if you allow others' to see these things. The more awareness you put on your qualities, and embrace and celebrate your differences, the more comfortable you will become by just being you.

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