Learning to live with your mental health & why we have to let go.

Posted 15 May 2023 by Laura

Mental health awareness is more than just one week. For many of us, managing our mental health is a lifelong journey – that can require constant care, attention, and dedication. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we hear from our Chief Technical Officer (or Chief Cloud Nerd), Martin Ferguson, about his own experiences living with a complex mental health disorder – and why 12 minutes of meditation a day might be something we all need.

As you may know, I have a serious mental health condition, called bipolar disorder, Type 1 and used to suffer dreadfully with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). With a lot of help and care, I've learned to live with bipolar disorder without guilt and shame – and would go as far as to say that I have recovered from CPTSD, as best as a person ever can. I guess I would say that I am one of the lucky ones.

My treatment began in 2009 and has been through many ups and downs to get to this point. I can recall long periods, up to 18 months where I stopped treatment altogether, as it was just too much. A life event would occur, I'd maybe find myself struggling, or I just felt it was the right time to begin therapy again. Around the summer of 2021, it became apparent to me and others around me that I had changed. Not my personality so much (however, to some extent this has changed), but more my ability to understand and manage my emotions (not control – this is not a word I like to use), with a level of self-awareness that I had not had, ever.

I would like to share, in the few words that I have available here, the most significant factors that have contributed to my recovery and ability to live with bipolar disorder.

That's not to say that I haven't been free of the difficulties that are associated with Type 1 bipolar disorder. I have been caught in a mixed state twice since 2020, once in the summer of 2020 and again in January this year. The episode this year was as a result of personal stress in my life and my decision in May 2022 to withdraw from my medication, which treats mania (there are a number of side effects and long-term health issues associated with certain types of medication that treat bipolar disorder).

Suffice it to say, I was aware enough to recognise the signs of a mixed state (which can be fatal if not treated) and so was my partner. After a wobble, I decided that the only option was to take the medication again. I don't look back at the decision I made in May 2022 to come off my medication with regret. I managed for nearly 8 months, without any significant issues. It helped me develop my daily practice of yoga and meditation and made me feel proud of myself; being able to cope with extreme mania using a combination of yoga and meditation. Had I not had a particularly stressful start to the year, I no doubt would still be medication-free (well at least free of Carbamazepine).

I believe I always knew that I would need the medication again in the future and since going back on it, it has been more effective (or at least that is how it feels).

So, you may be wondering where the title of this blog fits in to this story.

Well, 12 minutes of meditation a day has shown to have an amazing effect on mental health, sleep, self-awareness, and general wellbeing. I've been practising yoga and meditation in earnest now for several years. My daily practice consists of gentle meditation, breathing exercises and yoga poses; lasting somewhere between 45 and 90 minutes. 

I know from my own experiences with meditation, that the idea of sitting still (in a chair or on the floor, with a cushion) and gently breathing in through your nose, with your attention on your in-breath and then on your out-breath can be daunting.

Why do I say daunting?

The thought factory that is our mind is relentless and doesn't stop, even when we're asleep. There's an expectation that you should clear your mind of everything, which if you have tried meditation, is nearly impossible (which I believe even the most experienced meditation gurus struggle to do).

With some great instruction from my yoga teacher (Billy at Vida House, Suffolk) and my meditation teacher (John, again at Vida House), I have come to realise that it is about letting go of this expectation that my mind should be free of thought. The aim is to learn to let these thoughts come and go, like waves rolling gently until they dissipate on reaching the golden sands of your favourite beach. 

It is this letting go of thoughts that has been the most powerful thing I have ever learned.


Mental Health Awareness Week is an ideal time for us all to think about mental health, tackle stigma, and find out how we can create a society that prevents mental health problems from developing and protects our mental well-being. Head over to www.mentalhealth.org.uk for more information and free resources.