FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY

Hey everyone. I hope all is well and that you all had a good Christmas. The COVID-19 restrictions that have been put in place recently definitely messed with our Christmas plans, but we made the best of the situation and had the best festive period we could. I know one thing: I’ve eaten REALLY badly, but it is Christmas and so that’s my excuse for eating rubbish.

I also hope that you’ve managed to get some time to relax, chill and recharge. I can’t stress enough how important it is to do that and it can be for as long as you want – sometimes ten minutes is enough. I find that just listening to or watching something works for me, helping me recharge and get back on track so I’m prepared for my next challenges.

Today I want to talk about my lived experience, how I’ve felt delivering the lessons I’ve learned from it to appreciative audiences and hearing the feedback they’ve given me. When I was 18 I had to do Community Service and I asked to be sent on a drug and alcohol awareness course, because I didn’t know anything about the subject. I was accepted and I asked to talk to someone who had lived experience of these areas. I had two, two-hour sessions with an older gentleman and they were four hours well spent, because I learned a helluva lot from him. Afterwards, when my friends talked about drugs and alcohol, I felt a little bit more secure in the inside information I’d been given.

In the last two to three years I’ve started talking about my mental health journey at local events, and have also been lucky enough to deliver some training to the front-of-house team at my local council. I’ve also been able to talk in local schools about self-harm and all things mental health, which I have to say was bloody awesome. I’ve blogged about those experiences so you can look them up, and I have Access Community Trust and Tod James to thank for providing me with the opportunity. I’m now involved in some new projects that Beth and Richard from Access have offered me, so I’d like to thank them too – I love working with you.

Doing these events has made me want to do more. I feel so empowered once I leave an event, thinking that I might actually have helped someone on that day. It makes me feel good, but if you saw me leading up to my presentation, you’d see an anxious mess who doesn’t want to go out and speak. But, in the end, I get there. Once I start talking, I feel relaxed and at home (even though I’m still nervous underneath!)

Thank you all for reading. I wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to your continued support.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY

Hi everyone. I hope you’re all well and in good mental health. I’m wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and I hope those of you that have got time off over Christmas will be able to recharge your batteries for the coming New Year. For those of you that have to work over the Christmas period, I hope you all stay safe and well. Today, I’m going to talk to you about how I struggle over Christmas, as well as how I cope.

When it gets to about the 20th of December, most of the projects I’m involved in have all come to a stop. I find this really hard, because for those couple of weeks of the festive period, I don’t have my routine any more. I was even like that during the Christmas school holidays, and when I went on a normal holiday during the year. I don’t know why this is, but I need to be as busy as possible and have something to do.

Over the last 10 years, since being with my partner, I’ve started to enjoy Christmas. That’s because she’s a very positive person, and encourages me to do things with my time, so that I’m not just sitting around and dwelling on things. I also now know where to go to get support if I’m struggling. I talk about my problems now; it didn’t help when I didn’t and, again, I’ve got my partner to thank for that..

Over this Christmas period, I’m going to be doing a couple of courses that I need to do, as well as attend two meetings. We’ll also be going for walks, which I’m looking forward to. There’s also a new community project I’m really looking forward to being a part of. I think it’s going to be a challenge for me, and I’ll certainly be blogging about that soon.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m certainly going to be taking the time to recharge my batteries and have fun. Merry Christmas!

THE RETURN OF HAPPY TIMES 2

Hi everyone. I hope you’ve all had a good weekend and are all in good mental health. I’m goanna talk to you about an organisation that has given me the support to do my blogs and podcasts.They’re called the Restoration Trust.

I first got involved with them when I joined the Burgh Castle Almanac over two years ago. It was then that I met Laura Drysdale, the leader of the project, who’s a caring and very funny person. She was so welcoming to me when I first attended the BCA. From her commitment to the welfare of the other group members, I could see that she cared about every single one of us. Laura’s encouraging attitude led to her helping me with this blog.

When I met Laura, myself and my partner were living in the countryside and I was finding that really tough. I started to self-isolate, and when I was apart from the BCA, I’d hardly go out at all. Because of this, we decided we had to move back to the town centre of Lowestoft. I mentioned this to Laura, and she made some suggestions about how we could make this happen. She also said that if we needed any other help, I could Messenger or email her and she would do what she could.

Myself and my partner finally moved into a new place back in Lowestoft. Initially it was great, but we had issues with damp where we were living, and my partner couldn’t live in the flat due to her breathing difficulties. We had to get the council involved because it was their property but, as you can imagine, these things take time, and I ended up spending six months sleeping on a sofa because the bedroom was so full of damp. It took the council nearly nine months before they gave us another property that was fit to live in, which we’re very happy with now. All the way through this period, when I attended the BCA, Laura would always check in with me to see how I was doing.

I have done so many different things through the BCA which I thought I’d never do, from arts and crafts – which I absolutely detest – to walking along the Thames, to being given a tour behind the scenes at the British Museum, to visiting the Houses of Parliament to talk about how projects like the BCA help their members. It’s all down to Laura: without her, I wouldn’t have done any of these things.

I want to say a public ‘thank you’ to Laura, who has also lent me equipment so I can post my blogs and record my podcasts on a regular basis. Using a new computer program, I’m also able to speak my blogs into a laptop. I sit on the advisory panel for the Restoration Trust, so I can give an organisation that’s done so much for me the benefit of my lived experience of mental health. So, thank you, Laura – I hope our partnership can continue.

Thanks for reading the blog. I wish you all good mental health, and please remember to take some time to recharge and relax.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Hey everyone. I hope you’re all well and good today. I’m going to talk to you about one of the coping techniques I use to distract myself when I’m not feeling too good. The technique might not be up everybody’s street, but it works for me.

A few years ago, I found someone on YouTube who played a football game I like. His commentary was awesome, so I followed him, watching out for when he would upload or post anything. I just loved the passion I saw coming through my screen. The YouTuber I’m talking about does ChesnoidGaming.

I stopped watching for a while when my mental health took a turn for the worst, so I hadn’t seen anything he’d done for ages. One day I was searching YouTube and I found a ChesnoidGaming video for 2020 that he’d put up.

I was buzzing because I’d found his channel again. I would play one of his videos as I washed up, and I found this was helping distract my mind from the voices in my head, as well as the images I would see of me harming myself.

I had yet to learn new tools to cope with this, and I found my favourite ChesnoidGaming channel a great help. I’ve actually spoken to my therapist, who told me it was a good way to deal with what was going on in my head, so I’ve continued with it.

ChesnoidGaming – you don’t know how much you’ve helped me through my bad mental health days. Just knowing that there was a post coming at a certain time of the week or weekend has helped: I even started to schedule the washing up to coincide with your posts. I’ve started to watch your streams as well, and they’ve also helped my mental health so much. You’ve given me back the passion for the sport which I love, so thank you.

You can find a link to the YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/ChesnoidGaming

Thank you for reading. I wish you all good mental health.

LAST DAY OF THE HAPPY TIMES

Hey everyone. How are you all? I wish you all good mental health. Today, I’m going to talk about the last day of our two year project Burgh Castle Almanac, what we got up to and what our plans are for the future.

As we drove up to Burgh Castle in the minibus, I thought the session was going to be a washout. It was very wet and dull and some members couldn’t make it, which was sad as it was the final day.

When we got to Burgh Castle, I walked into the village hall and there were Ferrero Rocher chocolates on the table. Bearing in mind I started a diet the Saturday before, I shouldn’t have had one, but – whoops! – one just fell in my hand, out of the wrapper and into my mouth – oh dear! There was a quick introduction, apologies from people who couldn’t make it, and I offered round some homemade chocolate crunch. Before we set off on our last walk, we were given small wooden sticks by Ian Brownlie, our resident artist, to write messages on and plant around the site as a ‘thank you’.

My homemade chocolate crunch

We left the village hall and started walking to the Roman Fort. Some of us where chatting and having a catch up – all socially distanced, of course. We got to our first place where we always take a fixed-point photograph and I took a few, as I didn’t know when I would get the chance to come back again.

This is our first fixed point photograph

We then walked up to the fort, and it was really nice to see loads of families walking around the site having their lunch by the wall. It made me think of how the Romans would have eaten way back when, and I wondered if there would have been a hierarchy in the soldiers’ ranks – ‘You eat here and you eat over there.’ Hopefully one day there will be a way of finding out.

We are standing on a Saxon grave

One of our members went off to see if he could find any archaeology round the site, then Ian gave us some clay to make something to take home. I didn’t – I used the wall of the fort to make a clay bowl, or something similar looking, and I left it in a hole in the wall with a small stick reading ‘BCA on tour’.

my clay bowl and stick with another member message on the stick as well

Once that was done, we took a slow walk back to the village hall where Laura Drysdale forced me to cheat on my diet again with another Ferrero Rocher and a slice of chocolate cake! That was very nice and I didn’t regret it one bit. We also talked about what the plans are for the future, and we decided to stay in touch with each other, as well as look into making the BCA a community interest group. That would mean we can apply for funding to do things, and get more professionals in to help educate us. Thanks to several speakers being invited to the BCA over the last two years, we’ve all been lucky enough to have some enlightening new experiences.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing our new blog with you soon I wish you all good mental health.

Our film, ‘The Return of Happy Times’, can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=the+return+of+happy+times

CULTURE THERAPY

Hey everyone. How are you all? I hope you’re all in good mental health. Today I want to talk about something I heard discussed in a meeting a few months ago: the term day hospital. I think it could be a way forward for people who struggle with mild to severe mental health problems.

As you’re aware, I’ve been involved in a project called the Burgh Castle Almanac for the last two years. The ‘day hospital’ we ran wasn’t your normal style of therapy: the Restoration Trust, who funded the BCA, called it culture therapy. In this instance, that means using the Roman ruins at Burgh Castle and the neighbouring landscape to reconnect participants with nature, the local landscape and their heritage. This, together with having various professionals and experts in to talk about related subjects, offers a positive alternative to dwelling on your problems. Having said that, the BCA community is very inclusive and non-judgemental, and if one of the group members didn’t make a given session, someone would always check to see if they were OK.

I found talking to other people from the group about my mental health really encouraging, because they might have had something similar happen to them and dealt with it in a better way than I did. I could then go back home and try out their advice the next time I was struggling. If I was feeling unwell in a session, no one would fixate on what I was going through, they would just help me enjoy that week’s meeting. That was so refreshing.

So my question to you is: how would your day hospital look to you?

A project like the BCA could be used as the model for a day hospital for people with mild mental health issues, principally to build up their self esteem. Just getting out of the house is a positive start, then attending something like the BCA is a major victory. I wonder if this could also work for people with severe mental health issues? With the help of their support team, they could attend a group session in person, or perhaps a virtual session through Zoom. I think there are so many options and I would love to hear your thoughts about this.

I also think that the project running for two years was a tremendous help, because we all had something to look forward to for such a long time. I really think this is the way forward: you only get six sessions of therapy on the NHS, and are just beginning to open up when – bang – it stops. By contrast, over two years of the BCA I learned to trust everyone and because of that I could gradually reveal how I was feeling.

Thank you for reading. I wish you all good mental health. Remember, always take some time to recharge yourself for the coming week ahead

THE DRUGS DON’T WORK

Hey everyone. How are you all? I hope you’re all well and in good mental health. This time, I’m going to talk to you about my dosset box, and how it’s helped me since my relapse in 2017-18.

I was first put on medication on a daily basis when I started to struggle again with my mental health. I started mixing up my medication and taking the wrong doses – sometimes taking the same meds twice – which would lead me to overdosing. (I should point out that during these overdoses, I didn’t actually want to end my life.)

One night, I fell asleep early, woke up later and thought, “Oh poo, I haven’t taken my tablets”, so I took three – which I should have done – and went back to sleep. I woke up the next morning and looked at my packets of medication, noticing that I was down one tablet, and in the other packet had more than I should have had. But the weirdest thing about that morning was that my eyes felt so wide, and my head was literally buzzing.

I was worried that I might have caused myself some serious damage, so as I lived two minutes away from the chemist that was attached to my doctor’s surgery, I walked round there, also hoping that the fresh air would do me some good. I spoke to the chemist and told her what had happened and how I was feeling. She calmed me down by saying what I’d taken shouldn’t cause me any serious issues, but she wanted me to see a nurse or a doctor. She also said I would probably feel like this for up to three days. I couldn’t get in to see a doctor or a nurse, and was told that if I felt any worse, then I was to go back to them or go to hospital. 7pm came and I crashed – I slept all the way through the night and I was up by 7am the next day, still with a buzzing head and wide eyes.

Going back to my relapse, I was good at first with my meds, but then I started taking the wrong doses again. I felt stupid, feeling that I should be able to sort out my medication, so my partner suggested to me that we either get them in blister pack or get a dosset box – a weekly one. I thought that was a good idea but also felt that I was letting myself down, because I couldn’t do my medications without help, and that did affect me for a while. However, we went to my chemist and discussed the various options, and in the end we went for the dosset box. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s had a huge impact on my life. The only problem is when I’m feeling low, I feel don’t fill my box out correctly – and that’s bad – but I am changing the pattern.

THIS IS MY DOSSET BOX

Thank you for reading this blog. I wish you all good mental health and hope you all have a good week.

THE RETURN OF HAPPY TIMES

Hey everyone. I hope you’re well and in good mental health, and I hope you’re looking forward to the weekend. Today I’m going to talk to you about the film premiere of ‘The Return of Happy Times’, a documentary film about the Burgh Castle Almanac project which I’m involved with. If you want to find out more about the project, then just take a look through my blog, where I’ve posted reports on things we’ve been up to.

So, because of this stupid blooming virus, we had to scale down our premiere, which meant two screenings in one day, for which the BCA group was split in two. For me was this a good idea, as in the interview and question and answer session following each screening, there were different questions from Robert Fairclough, the interviewer, and different reactions from the director, Julian Claxton. It was also nice that some of the people who came to the premiere were the same kind souls who’ve been opening up Burgh Castle village hall for us for the last two years.

At the beginning of the premiere, Robert gave us an introduction about how the screening would unfold. The film started and… well, I didn’t expect me to be near the start of it. I was also in the rest of the film a lot more than I expected to be, so Julian has a lot to answer for! When he was filming, I felt safe with him, to the extent that Julian gave me the nickname ‘Big Man’, and not because I ate all the cakes, ha ha. I felt that he listened to all of us in the BCA, respected our opinions and listened to our ideas.

Getting a film made about our activities was always part of the aim of the project. We interviewed several filmmakers last year (we must have put some of them through hell, as there’s no Wi-fi in Burgh Castle village hall, so they had to make an impression on the interviewing panel without showing us their work). There were so many different approaches from the people we talked to, but we had one more interview to do a week later – with Julian, ironically. For me, he gave the best interview and came across as very confident and professional, so my decision was an easy one – I wanted him to make the film.

I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who made ‘The Return of Happy Times’ happen: the funders, the professionals who came in and did workshops with us, and all of the BCA group for taking part and making me feel welcome.

Please find the film here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODVpf0bwVQI&t=41s . It’s 28 minutes long. I hope you enjoy watching it, and please leave a comment if you can.

Thanks you for reading this blog. I wish you all good mental health, and remember: take some time whenever you can to recharge yourself.

ACCESS ALL AREAS

ACCESS ALL AREAS

Hey everyone. I hope you’re all well in these trying times, and I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks. Today I’m going to talk to you about some training I did with a company called Access Community Trust.

First off, I had to get the bus to town, and it was a weird experience being on it with other passengers who were all masked up. I find it strange that we have to wear masks, as the drivers don’t, but I can understand why they don’t wear them. I got off the bus and walked through town to the railway station, where I had a snack which filled me up for my train journey. What an awesome journey it was through our countryside, seeing all the leaves and wild animals in the fields doing their thing. I must admit, though, I forgot to get some photographs to share with you… I got off at my stop and was glad to stretch my legs, and I have to say the new trains are very posh and smooth.

I was meet at the train station, as my sense of direction is not the best. We got to Saxhouse where I was doing the training, and I asked the Access people if they’d had a spillage, because there were loads of towels on the floor because someone had dropped the water dispenser bottle while changing it. I couldn’t help but laugh, and they laughed too, so that broke the ice a little. That made me feel at home and helped calm my nerves a lot.

We started the session with the questions ‘What does mental health mean to you?’, ‘What emotions do you link with mental health?’ and ‘What is the deteriorating effect it can have on you?’ We opened this up into a group discussion, and we came up with some excellent answers to all the questions posed. We then talked about four real case studies and two others that had been brought to Access recently. I also used the sixteen year-old me and the 30 year-old me as models for study, and some of the suggestions of what the team would to do for me were really insightful.

I then told the group about where my mental health journey had started and where I am today. Sharing my story and getting some positive feedback from them was brilliant. If I can now help someone through a bad time, my Access training has been especially worthwhile.

Thank for reading, I wish you all good mental health, and remember to make some time for yourselves when you can.

‘Don’t panic’

‘Don’t panic’

Hey everyone. How are you all? I hope you’re all in good mental health, had a good weekend and managed to get some you time to relax and recharge yourself for the week ahead. Today, I’m going to talk to you about panic attacks, how they affect me, how I deal with them now and how, sometimes, I can’t find what triggers them.

I’m going to talk you through my first ever panic attack: I woke up that morning and felt fine. I was slightly nervous, as I had to play in a football match that day with the disabilities team I played with at my my local college – I used football as a positive boost for my mental health.I finished my game and went back to college, where I waited for my friend. Then, I started to feel strange: my breathing started to get quicker, I couldn’t catch my breath and there was a tingling sensation all over my body. I started to cry, worrying that I was having a heart attack. The receptionist of the college rang an ambulance; the paramedics were very good, talking to me gently to calm me down. I started to get my breath back, then they said, “We think you’ve had a panic attack” and explained it a little. That was great, because the paramedics took their time to go through what happened.

Over the years, I went on to have more panic attacks, some more stressful then others, but the thing that really gets to me is that I can’t pinpoint a trigger for some of them. I find myself obsessing over that, and I would feel stupid because I couldn’t work out a cause. So, my question is: should I be obsessing over it, or should I leave it alone and move on?

When I start to go in to an attack, I try to distract myself to stop it in its tracks. I do a few things that help:

1. Listen to music, or watch something on YouTube

2. Count sheep

3. Talk to my partner

4. Write or doodle

.I would love to hear what helps you through a panic attack – please feel free to write in the comments section.

I’m now a firm believer that panic attacks make us stronger, and that we learn something new from them each time. We must remember we’re all unique, as they affect us in different ways. What works for me may not work for you, so it’s good to have several things lined up to try and help you through one

Thank you for reading I wish you all good mental health and a good week ahead.