We catch up with our remaining four volunteers on a photo challenge of capturing a photo of something they are grateful for each week for a whole year.
THE STORY SO FAR: In May 2019 I asked seven people who struggle with a common mental health issue such as depression or anxiety, or a sense of ‘lack’ to be in gratitude for the year ahead. Each person represented a day of the week and began to post me a photo of something they are grateful for this day. The challenge was for a whole year. Since my orginal request, three more people joined the group, so we doubled up Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Read original blog.
A correlation emerged that the more a person embraced and integrated the gratitude challenge as their own way of being, the more positive a view on life circumstances. It didn’t mean life changed for the better, it meant the way of viewing life changed for the better. I noticed those who were more positive, wouldn’t just take one photo a week, but would look for the things to be grateful for each day regardless of life circumstances. Furthermore, would pay it forward, so bring the concept into someone elses life. So from this observation in August 2019, everyone was challenged to take ownership of their challenge by setting their own reminders to submit photos and catch up questions. This was to support an implicit change of perceiving the world by taking ownership and responsibility for being in gratitude, rather than seen as a chore or task for someone else (me).
Ownership/responsibility supports a healthier Adult-Adult relationship between myself and challengee rather than a Parent-Child. Whilst in ‘Parent’ I found that I was becoming an overwhelmed by the amount of reminders, submissions were coming in later, my time was only available at certain times to create the photos, fb slideshows and blogs. I had to become boundaried about my time (i.e. how much to allocate and when), because although I am genuinely interested if being in gratitude can help with a positive mental attitude, with my time I had to prioritse earning money. Money being an issue for me which I discuss openly in May and Nov blogs. In December many opted to leave at the this point and kindly shared their journeys with us some having integrated gratitude and some not ready to go there. By Jan 2020 we had four challengees left and four months to go.
This is our first catch up blog this year. I did fail on Adult-Adult relationship because I sent three reminders out to achieve this. For our Mar-Apr blog…I will be stronger, and only send one and see what happens, even if I don’t publish anything. By May 2020, our year point and I look forward to reviewing all observations and learning from myself and any particpants who wish to celebrate their ending, and maybe even catch up with those who have left to see if Gratitude is still something they use in day to day life.
What has life been like during the challenge?
When I started the challenge back in June last year, I had been through a particularly difficult time. I lost one brother in the January to a sudden and short illness, I then effectively lost two more through greed, jealousy and bitterness. I did feel as though the photo challenge would give me something more positive to focus on and be committed to completing.
I have had a major difficulty in allocating time for me, to the extent that I have really been unable to enjoy my photography hobby properly. No one else has put any pressure or restrictions on me and I’m not sure whether it is just procrastination. My mind is telling me that once I get the more important jobs done, I will then be able to spend some time on my myself and my interests, but there is always something more important to do and of course this goes on most weekends.
It’s not all been negative though, my job is quite high pressure and over the last five years, I have taken quite a bit of time off with stress and depression. In July a contractor was employed to assist me; I even got to choose the person for the job and it couldn’t have been a better choice. This has been a massive help to me and other work colleagues have noticed the change in me, for the better.
In September we had the marriage of my number three son to a lovely girl which was a joyous occasion and this has now been followed up with the announcement that they are due to have a baby in June this year.
This not something that I want to discuss in too much detail, but quite few activities didn’t actually take place as planned, this has revolved around the fact that my wife’s sleep pattern is almost twelve hours out sync with the rest of the world. She has tried desperately to fix it and sometimes she got it back to normal, but never for very long. Suffice to say that joint family activities have been few and far between. Although I am fully supportive, it has still been quite stressful at times.
As a couple, we have taken on one big challenge together. In May we agreed to foster a cruelty case dog from the RSPCA; this is so the dog doesn’t have to remain in kennels until the court hearing and we still don’t know when that will be, but probably not for another three or four months. She is a darling little dog and because we have had her so long now, we are definitely going adopt her, that is assuming she does get signed over to the RSPCA, and if not, we’re not thinking about that.
Since October until just this week, my work colleague and I have been working tirelessly through countless spreadsheets, this has been as part of the prep for a multimillion pound bid for a customer contract. So no real pressure then and if you haven’t dreamed about Excel formulas in your sleep, you haven’t lived.
One of the hardest and saddest parts of this year so far though, is due to a falling out a few weeks ago between my son, daughter-in-law and ourselves, they have restricted access to our two year old grandson. From seeing him two days a week and providing childcare, we have only seen him once in the last six weeks so that we could give him his birthday presents. I was particularly hurt to find out that they held a birthday party for him in a hall just two hundred yards from our house. We were not invited and only found about it by accident.
I think that the biggest contribution to the decline in my mental health over the last year though, has to be BREXIT. It has fired up so many emotions in me, from anger and sadness to hurt and helplessness, and even isolation at times. I could write forever about this subject but it won’t do me any good, so I will just leave it here.
There has still been lots to be grateful for though; myself and my family have all been in good (ish) physical health, even if a few of us have mental health issues. My relationship with my wife is stronger than ever, after forty years. Thanks to people like Georgie McBurney, the help given to me during numerous counselling sessions, has kept me in a better place than I otherwise would have been. Attending a monthly peer support group has also helped to put own problems into perspective.
I am also happy that I managed to produce a photograph and an ”In Gratitude” thought every week (at least I think I did), albeit not very often on a Sunday. The challenge has been harder than I expected it to be; with a four day weekend, how difficult could it be to take one photo a week. I was and I still am determined to see it through to the end. There is always a nice feeling that I have achieved something when I press the send key on the weekly email.
Jan-Feb: life has been shit and really stressful. My grandma died, I felt some guilt for not going to the funeral, but it was really ok I didn’t go. My dog had major orthopaedic surgery. We adopted a rescue dog who is big and a puppy, so that put a lot of stress on the household. Not one friend remembered my birthday. Even though I hate birthdays, up to this year every friend has still wished me a good day. This year: no one. Which really triggered my ‘not good enough’ ‘I don’t really matter’ trauma. The dog who had surgery was recovering really well, then had a massive bout of gastro-was shitting and vomiting blood. I was called and asked to leave work and go to the vets, so naturally I thought we were losing him. More vet bills. My partner has been doing his best impression of an alcoholic since Christmas. Out of the blue. To say 2020 has sucked so far is an understatement.
That’s the main reason I’ve forgotten to submit photos. I’ve not been in a good space, and stress levels have been high. The other reason is I felt more compelled to submit a photo when they were being published regularly on fb: I find that the group dynamic and knowing others were waiting and watching for each other’s photos was a good enforcer/encourager for making sure a photo was taken each week.
Tuesday: Things have been very hard since about Christmas. I do still want to do the challenge but when things get dark, I shut down. I can’t see anything to be grateful for, so certainly can’t take a photo. I eventually went to the GPs last month and have started a course of anti-depressants, and painkillers for my prolapsed disc and things are improved with the odd struggle here and there. I have recently sent about five photos in to make up for my lack of camera clicking over these last couple of months.
Saturday South: Awaiting news…