ABG - Three Ways I Try To Cope

by David Gilbert

March 26, 2018

I am back in my healing place, by the fountain at Trent Park Café. I am not sure what’s happening with my mind again. I am a bit fragile. So this may not be the most cogent thing I've ever written.

This has been a time of letting go. The kids are getting older and the house feels lonely sometimes. I am waiting on news of a project. Depression and sense of profound meaninglessness hover.


I Have Never

Sometimes when I can’t sleep
I watch a web cam of a bald eagle on her nest in the rain

and my intention in those closeted hours
while being steadied
by that primeval harbouring of unhatched eggs

is always to be kinder. I have never
been kind enough.

The sadness is in seeing this so startlingly late
then having to be woken
night after night

to be reminded
that true kindness has wings.


I came down from one of my two anti-depressants a while back, so perhaps there is some sort of ‘withdrawal’ going on. Add to this, some deep insecurities playing out in some of my work, and a few other bits n'pieces. Not terrible stuff.

I am feeling quite 'empty' (does anyone get that feeling of being see-through – it is both enlightening and can be a bit freaky). In that emptiness, there is a luminescent quality of awareness, which is actually quite 'interesting' but I am perhaps over-sensitive and fears rise. I am raw.

Plus – this is the one that many people who have suffered from mental health problems will get: I am fearful of what my mind might do! The brain is scared of the brain's activities.

When your mind has fucked you up big time in the past, it is easy to fall prey to a gnawing sense of impending chaos. "Oh, god, last time this feeling was around, I went…. " Agh!

Ironically, the vigilance induces the very fear that you are wanting to protect yourself from. Catch 22 – the bloody brain. When you have seldom felt safe, when you are trying to build that sense of safety for yourself (even at 55 years old FFS!), then it is not easy to validate one’s feelings or trust the quieter voice in your head, hard even to put one foot in front of the other. But you do. And you have to.



I felt safe once
in the warm back seat of our blue Cortina

on a monotonous four and a half hour
pre-dawn journey to Newton Abbot.

I was half asleep all the way.
We stopped in a lay-by

for jam sandwiches on sliced white bread
smokey bacon crisps and quartered apples

and a pink sky bathed the empty A31.
We were headed for the sea.


So, I just wanted to put my coping strategies out there, in case they help others. I am hoping that these bring me through. Like they did the last two times I have been ‘unwell’ over the last couple of years.

I also need to be ready for a conference on Wednesday on ‘rehumanising health care’ which is all about vulnerability – oh, irony! So, these had better bloody work or I’m in shtuck.

1. Act As If – I don’t really get psychosynthesis but I once had a therapist who recommended a book by Assagioli and this phrase stuck. It’s a bit like the ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

It does not mean do everything, and push yourself, or distract yourself through doing. It is more about putting one foot in front of the other – taking actions, small as you like – and trusting that the lagging negative feelings (fear, anxiety, mental patterns, unhappiness) will shift eventually following a period of constructive functioning and behaviour.

Not deep, not Freudian, not anything really. But has worked for me in the past. 'This too shall pass' is an underpinning motto here I think.

2. Breath and Body – I practice mindfulness, and because I am often stuck in my head (my thoughts are blessing and curse) I try to come back into my body.

This may not ‘help’ immediately but is grounding. I can cope more with the ‘emptiness’ (hard to explain) when I do this. When my brain is struggling to 'explain’ everything (and failing to get an anchor), this can help me be more still.

From here I can also be aware of the outside world and take in nature. Softening the eyes and gaze has been another recent addition to my fragile armoury - this can also relax my breathing funnily enough.

3. Be Gentle – I was going to say ‘compassion’ but that seems over-used. Being gentle gets me to a sense of the better attitude towards myself (and others).

Part of my brain can articulate or shape a feeling of gentleness these days. But it is still a fragile voice because words and thoughts fly away. But some part of us – even for those of us who have never felt safe – ‘knows’. I think (!?) practicing the art of gentleness over a course of time can help embed that positive habit of mind.

This includes voicing consciously so as to manifest that sensibility – ‘you’re doing OK David, you’ve had a lot on your plate, etc etc’ – that tone can build from a trickle to a river I hope.

We spend so much time listening to the scarey voices – why do they get all the airtime? Also take yourself away from too much stimulus (that bloody phone) - towards birds, trees, rivers...



I am more tired of myself than you would understand
I walk into the woods with my eyes closed
tired of thought tired of storm

of holding myself between reaching and falling
of talking and time and childish sound
I want to lie down

softening damp mossy gnarled
encrusted by lichen surrounded by flies
a log within thorns of thickening bramble


4. One more – eat, drink, move and rest properly, take care of the physiology as much as you can.

That’s it for now. Time to get back to that fountain and perhaps some poetry (something else that helps).




If you liked this blog, please check out others at www.futurepatientblog.com

© 2018 David Gilbert



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One comment on “ABG - Three Ways I Try To Cope”

  1. Good morning David Some good news My brain hurts but it's good news.  I have just attended some NHSE training for the last two days and it was very, very good. Met some some really fab people including the trainers and the people from NHSE. It was full on and really, really good. My only slight issue was that it was for PPV people but that's a start. As I said before, the trainers did include your engagement cycle and I was asked to say how that came about and obviously I said ti was all my idea (not), it came out of work in Croydon (then got put in the waste paper basket) but interestingly when I asked the NHS lead if it could be included in NHSE booklet for trainees!! she said that she could only include what was agreed from higher up (or words to that effect). I met a young chap called Jamie Keddie from NHSE London and it became clear that the spotlight is on the senior management team in Croydon, those very same people who binned your engagement so with any great good fortune, we might get some pressure brought to bear to improve engagement and co production in Croydon. If that were to happen (holding breath) it might make all the s**t I've had to put up with, worthwhile. Hope you find this a bit inspiring. best wishes Anne Our aim is to see an active and effective Patient Participation Group in every GP practice and that each group is based on the mutual interests of the Primary Care Team and Patients of the practice.NHS Constitution for England - GOV.UK

    From: Future Patient - musings on patient-led healthcare To: [email protected] Sent: Monday, 26 March 2018, 13:10 Subject: [New post] ABG – Three Ways I Try To Cope #yiv7706865081 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv7706865081 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv7706865081 a.yiv7706865081primaryactionlink:link, #yiv7706865081 a.yiv7706865081primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv7706865081 a.yiv7706865081primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv7706865081 a.yiv7706865081primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv7706865081 WordPress.com | davidngilbert posted: "I am back in my healing place, by the fountain at Trent Park Café. I am not sure what’s happening with my mind again. And, even for a poet, words can’t quite do it. But I am fragile.This has been a month of letting go. The kids are getting older and the" | |

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