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.

‘My First Sense of Belonging’

 ‘My First Sense of Belonging’

Hey everyone. How are you all? I hope you’re all in good mental health and enjoying this sunny weather we’re having in the UK; it’s too hot for my liking today, though… I’m going to talk you about one of the communities I belong to through gaming on my PlayStation, and how it’s helped me when playing, together with the help and the support it’s given me outside gaming.

It must be four or five years now – maybe longer – that I met a group of online players while playing Grand Theft Auto on PlayStation 3. We’d just muck around getting to know each other… there are around seven of them that I keep in contact with offline, and we we’d talk about anything and everything, putting the world to rights in just a couple of hours, while also taking the Mickey out of each other.

I felt that I could open up to some of these lads about my mental health, and they wouldn’t judge me at all. Sometimes I would log off without saying ‘bye, and that was because I was starting to have a panic attack. But, if you asked the lads, they would say I was scared because my partner had just come home, and I was making it look like I hadn’t been on the PlayStation. This was always a shared joke that made us laugh.

I then started talking to them about some of my mental health issues – not too much, as I didn’t want them to think I was a mad man, or weak, or useless. The voices I hear in my head would really play me up at times like these, and make think that my friends wouldn’t be interested; they would also tell me I was weird and a loner. But once I started to open up to my friends a little bit, some of them revealed they had suffered their own battles with life. It was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one that struggled, and that we could help each other if need be.

One of them set up group for UK players and made me admin, which I loved, and this made me feel a part of a community; that was awesome, giving me a sense of belonging. I’ve never met a single one of them in person, but I now count them as lifelong friends. I hope we have many more years of gaming, talking and laughing.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I wish you all good mental health and, once again. thank you for all the support you give me.

Doctor Dance brings joy

Hey everyone. How are you all? I hope you’re all well and good today. I’m going to talk to you today about my first visit back to the Burgh Castle Almanac Gathering, where our guest was Doctor Peter Lovatt, a.k.a. Doctor Dance. As you’ll see,I think he needs to be prescribed on the National Health Service.

I’d been 50/50 whether I’d attend at all, as I’m not one for dancing, although I do love watching all style of dance on the TV and internet. I had visions of a person coming along who took his dance seriously but would have a laugh with us, or get involved with what we were doing, but perhaps that’s me over-thinking things, my anxiety taking over and telling me I wouldn’t be any good at joining in.

But when Doctor Lovatt started speaking, he made me feel at ease immediately: I could see that his body language was positive, and when he spoke he smiled from ear to ear. To begin with, he got us marching up and down on the spot, then took us for a march in circle around the field we were in. His passion for what he was doing was infectious.

With Doctor Dance guiding us, we took 3 steps forwards, clapped, then took 3 steps back and clapped again. We all did this a couple of times, then stepped to the right, clapped and repeated the moves to the left. Peter then asked us “do our own thing”, then it was spin, clap and back again. It was a little confusing, but because I felt relaxed I didn’t feel stupid or self conscious. This was a small victory for me, and I felt good about that. We then had to perform the moves to music. Well, I’ve got no rhythm or timing, so it was hard, but, once again, I kept at it and really enjoyed myself.

The group then went for are a walk around the ruins of the Roman fort, where we caught up on what had been happening to everybody during lockdown, and took our fixed-point photographs. I think being able to meet in person – rather than through a screen – lifted us all. I feel that we’re a really tight-knit community; you could even say we’re a family.

Once we got to the Roman fort, Peter got us doing the haka, the dance the New Zealand rugby team perform before a match. I’m a big sports fan, so this was one of my favourite moments of the day. Thanks to Doctor Dance making a dream come true, I was buzzing afterwards. We then got a chance to make something with streamers supplied by our resident artist Ian Brownlie, which the wind blew through, making a lovely sound that made me feel even more relaxed and grounded.

This is us just after we did the HAKA photograph taking by Julian Claxtom

While having lunch in the field next to Burgh Castle village hall, I had a chat with Doctor Lovatt and his wife Lindsey. I told him about the podcasts I’ve been doing and was delighted when he agreed to be interviewed on one in the future. Then, there was more dancing, with the last one performed in bare feet so we really felt in tune with nature.

I can’t wait to see all my friends again soon. I hope you all found this a good and positive read. Wishing you all good mental health and a great week.

A New venture

Hey everyone – how are you all? I hope you’re all good and have been enjoying this lush weather we’ve been having; I hope you’re all in good mental health, too. I’m going to talk to you about my new venture – a podcast – that has helped strengthen my confidence.

First off, I need to give Laura Drysdale from the Restoration Trust – and the organiser of the Burgh Castle Almanac Gathering I belong to – a shout out. I emailed her, asking if she knew if there was any funding out there for me to create create my own podcast; I didn’t think the recording equipment I had would be suitable.

Laura got back to me within a day or two and said, “Why you don’t use the Burgh Castle Almanac laptops that aren’t being used at the moment because of the lockdown?” Laura then mentioned about getting a microphone, which she could loan out, so I immediately said, “Yes please, that would be awesome!” I just want to say a very big thank you to her, and the Restoration Trust, for supporting me. I did a podcast with Laura and we talked about all things mental health, lockdown and Burgh Castle Almanac, which will be my next blog post. I’m excited to report we’re going back to Burgh Castle on the 28th July, where we’ll be meeting with Doctor Dance. please find the link to the podcast here: https://anchor.fm/john-durrant3/episodes/My-interview-with-Laura-Drysdale-from-the-restoration-trust-eernq0

My second podcast was with a role model I look up to and share my #livedexperence with. He’s the amazing Josh Connolly. I first met him at a mental health conference in my home town of Lowestoft, a couple of years ago now. I thought I was pushing my luck when I asked him to participate in my podcast. but he said “Yes” and I was really buzzing, as his talks on alcoholism and how he beat it are truly inspiring. We also talked about the different mental techniques you can use when you’re struggling. Please find the link to Josh’s podcast here: https://anchor.fm/john-durrant3/episodes/My-interview-with-Josh-Connolly-ef52sm

My next podcast was with a lady called Sue Willgoss. We talked about the charity she has set up in memory of her son, #liftloudfordanny, who lost his life to suicide. We talked about what she aims to do with the charity, as well as about her plans for a crisis centre in Lowestoft, which is a very positive thing. I find Sue a really passionate person when it comes to mental health and related areas. The link to her podcast is here: https://anchor.fm/john-durrant3/episodes/My-interview-with-Sue-Willgoss-from-lift-loud-for-Danny-efefeq

My next podcast was with a man called Dan Biddle, a 7/7 terrorist attack survivor. We talked about how he survived the London Underground bombing, C-PTSD, all things mental health and how he enjoys wheelchair boxing. Please find the link to Dan’s podcast here: https://anchor.fm/john-durrant3/episodes/My-interview-with-Dan-Biddle-efqcjk

The most recent podcast I’ve done was with my friend Ivan Humble. We talked about the work to he does combating racism and it was fascinating to hear his views. The link to Ivan’s podcast is here: https://anchor.fm/john-durrant3/episodes/Labels-and-the-negativity-it-could-cause-eh0ccs

I feel these podcasts have boosted my confidence, and I look forward to improving with every one I do.Thanks for reading and listening to my blog and podcast. I wish you all good mental health and hope you have a good weekend.

A little update

Hey everyone, how are you all doing? I hope you’re all well and in good mental health today. I’m going to talk to you about Burgh Castle and my recent visit there without the the Burgh Castle Almanac Gathering group and how I felt about that. I’m also going to discuss my podcast with Laura Drysdale, the BCAG’s organiser, in which we speak about all things mental health, as well as how we want to take the Burgh Castle project further when it officially ends.

The entrance to Burgh Castle fort

I was asked by our film maker Julian Claxton for a few clips of me at my favourite spots in Burgh Castle, so went there together and followed social distancing rules. I nearly snapped his hand of at the chance to go, as I hadn’t been to Burgh Castle for over three months and have missed the place so much. When I’m there, I can ground myself and I feel that all my worries just float away with the sound of the wind through the reeds, and I come away feeling really good.

The only disappointing thing about this visit to Burgh Castle is that the rest of the group couldn’t join us. That made me feel a little low that we weren’t all together, sharing the experience. Burgh Castle was looking beautiful and our visit there was lovely. Julian made me feel relaxed and chilled and we talked a lot about my journey, about how far I’ve come on the road to recovery, as well as living with mental health issues. We also talked about local sports and how we’ve missed watching the football.

Nearly three weeks ago I recorded a podcast with Laura Drysdale, a director from the Restoration Trust that runs our project. We talked about how far the project has come and I asked here if she would still take part in the group when it officially finishes. I’m going to leave the link to the podcast here so you can have a listen. Here’s the link to the podcast episode https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/eernq0

Only a short read this time, so thank you for reading. I wish you all good mental health and a very good week.

To medicate or not to medicate

Hey everyone, I hope you’re all well and in good mental health. Today, I’m going to talk about medication and why it has such a bad reputation. I’ve also started to do a podcast, with a couple of people lined up to interview in the coming weeks.I see so many people slating others for being on medication. Some people need it to help them get back on an even keel, and only for a short period of time. I also know people need to be on them for a longer period, or maybe even for life, because of their mental health issues. When I used to go to the doctor, it seems like all he wanted to do was stick pills down my neck, but now this attitude is changing for the better

Social prescribing is now being used in a lot of areas, and I think this is a positive thing. A doctor can help or suggest different ways of getting help, or put you in contact with support groups in your area, or even help you to rejoin the community by recommending you take on a volunteer position. This will help you gain confidence, or even just connect you to social groups you may be interested in. You might not be offered any medication at all.

For some people, this might be enough to help them through their problem, and they won’t need to go back and see a doctor again because they’ll be in a better place. But some people still might need to, because they’re still struggling. A doctor might have to try various medications out on them to get the right balance which, in my opinion, is the right thing to do.

I had a lot of changes to my medication because initially they didn’t work. My psychiatrist told me one drug would work great, but instead it made me angry; I was snapping at people a lot, and that isn’t me, so I had to come off it straight away. I have been on tablets that made me eat a lot, but I don’t need any help in that department at all. I’ve been taking the pill I’m on now for about six months; they were increased by one a day to help me sleep better, and they seem to be the right mix for me. The hardest thing for me to deal with was that I wanted an instant fix, but when it was explained to me they take about six week to start working, I started to relax and not panic so much.

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

How heritage helped John reconnect to the world

How heritage helped John reconnect to the world

https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/stories/how-heritage-helped-john-reconnect-world

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we hear from a participant of a National Lottery-funded project that uses heritage to help people living with mental illness – even during lockdown.

Man lying with artwork

John Durrant

“I’ve lived nearby Burgh Castle for so many years and had never been. Now I don’t think I will ever stop going.”

John Durrant

Through the Restoration Trust’s Burgh Castle Almanac project, John Durrant has been exploring the history and landscapes of Burgh Castle Roman Fort in Great Yarmouth.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked John about his experiences with the project before and during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Listening to talk
Stories in stone talk. Credit: Laura Drysdale

 

How did you become part of the Burgh Castle Almanac project?

I began hearing voices from the age of 12 and as a teenager tried to take my own life. I was diagnosed with a mild form of schizophrenia, but it wasn’t until 11 years later following a psychotic episode that I discovered I had been misdiagnosed and I actually have emotional unstable personality disorder.

Since then I have been trying to understand my illness.

“I don’t drive, so the fact I was offered transport to get to the castle was a big factor in my decision to join.”

A facilitator of the Burgh Castle Almanac project contacted me to see if I wanted to take part. I don’t drive, so the fact I was offered transport to get to the castle was a big factor in my decision to join.

Blackberry picking
Blackberry picking

 

The first time I went I really didn’t feel like it was for me and didn’t think I would be going again, but my partner persuaded me to give it another go. Now I am part of the furniture! The group is so non-judgemental, you aren’t judged if you miss a week, but they also care and see if you are OK if you do.

Before lockdown, what did you do?

So many things! We met every fortnight, sometimes small groups and sometimes more of us – it was really flexible.

We had different professionals visit to help us relate to Burgh Castle including a writer, a geologist and a butterfly man.

“In my life I went through a long time not feeling connected to anything. The project gave me that connection back.”

Another time, we visited the Thames Foreshore project in London – walking right along the riverbed was phenomenal. That same trip we went to the British Museum. One of the other members of the group actually has a Saxon find on display there. He also found a Roman coin in a molehill near Burgh Castle when we were on one of our walks.

Walking group in nature
Walking at Burgh Castle. Credit: Robert Fairclough

 

Mindfulness walks were another thing. I was sceptical at first but walking and paying real attention to the sounds of birds, the wind blowing and taking in the smells really did help me reconnect with nature.

I’ve lived nearby the castle for so many years and had never been, now I don’t think I will ever stop going.

Has the project impacted your mental health?

Big time!

In my life I went through a long time not feeling connected to anything. The project gave me that connection back. I looked forward to going on a Tuesday and being laughed at (good naturedly!) for getting stressed about art projects.

The group is like a big family, if we see each other struggling we take notice and offer support. I’ve made friends I never would have met if I hadn’t joined.

Group through pinhole camera
Burgh Castle Almanac group

 

Now I’m connected to the world again I want to take this experience as far as I can and I want to give back to the project and people what they have given to me.

How has coronavirus (COVID-19) and the lockdown changed things for you?

I work to manage my mental health by trying not to get weighed down by too much news or social media. Each day I say something new and positive to myself including the fact that this situation will not beat me – I will beat it.

In terms of the project, we have definitely not stopped.

We meet on Zoom every week where we talk and complete challenges such as mindfulness maps to stay in touch with each other and heritage.

Zoom screenshot
Meeting on Zoom

 

We also have a closed Facebook group with more than 50 members where we post creative challenges. In fact, lockdown has meant the group is more active than ever and remains a way we can pick up on if someone is having a down day.

“The group is like a big family, if we see each other struggling we take notice and offer support. I’ve made friends I never would have met if I hadn’t joined.”

I’ll admit, the situation was disheartening at first, but the communication and support is still there and so helpful.

When lockdown ends, we will meet up again and there are so many positive things to plan and do for the project. I’m excited and so thankful we will have the opportunity.

More information

The Restoration Trust’s ‘culture therapy’ model is designed to help people with mental health problems benefit from heritage, arts and culture. We also spoke to the Restoration Trust’s Director, Laura Drysdale, who told us how heritage can support mental health.

The Burgh Castle Almanac is a partnership between the Restoration Trust, Norfolk Archaeological Trust, Access Community Trust and Norfolk Museums Services. It is part of the wider National Lottery-funded Water Mills and Marshes Landscape Partnership project.

Every project The National Lottery Heritage Fund supports must achieve our inclusion outcome: a wider range of people will be involved with heritage. Read our inclusion advice to find out more.

 

Shall I talk or listen

Hey everyone, how are you all? I hope you’re all in good mental health today. I’m going to discuss with you talking about your problems and discussing when you’re struggling and in a low place. I have changed from not wanting to talk to anyone about my issues, to now asking for help if I’m struggling. I ask for help because, for me, if I don’t I go downhill quickly.

When I was young I never asked for help, because I didn’t want to be seen as a weakling or as a mad person, but things would get me down very quickly; my anxiety would set in and I would start getting pains in my head and stomach and then I would start sweating. I would then start getting negative thoughts that would tell me, “Why are you doing this? You’re rubbish, you’re no good, you’re useless.” Because I was still young, I didn’t have the tools to help me get through crises like this, so when the suicidal thoughts came, that was when my mum had to call the police – on several occasions – because we didn’t know where to get help from. We weren’t getting help from the services that we needed, and the police were the only people that seemed they want to help us. I can’t thank Suffolk Police enough for the assistance they gave me and my mum when I was younger. They’re the reason I’m still here.

I’ve been in out of mental health services all my life, but was never given the help I needed because I was miss diagnosed in 2006 with a mild form of schizophrenia. In 2017 I had a psychotic episode and I was put back under my mental health team. There was a long wait, but I eventually had a mental health assessment and I was told I had emotional unstable personality disorder, with compulsive components and psychotic episodes. I was put into something called Recovery College, and that started to give me some tools to cope when I’m struggling. Another thing I learnt was that it was okay to ask for help if I was having a bad day; this led me to starting to speak publicly, as well as through blogs, about my mental health.

I never thought I would be able to ask for help, or even admit to people that I was finding things difficult. For me, talking about if I’m not coping is the way forward, but I know there are people out there still struggling to get their feelings out. There are different ways you can do it: through writing, poetry, drawing, singing. I also found out that sitting in a group and just hearing that someone is going through something similar, and learning how they deal with it, was a way for me to go home and try new coping strategies. I’ve found that really helpful.

I can now listen to, and speak about, my feelings. I’m lucky that I can do both. I’m not saying it’s an easy road to get on: it’s taken me years, but what I am saying is, please keep trying to learn of new ways to help yourself and don’t give up at the first hurdle. Keep fighting and you will get to where I am today. I still have bad days, but they’re limited.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I wish you all good mental health.

‘Inside the Burgh Castle Almanac’

Hey everyone. I hope you’re all well and are in good mental health. Today, I’m going to talk to you about what we’ve been getting up to with our Burgh Castle Almanac group. We have Zoom meetings every week, and I’m going to show you some of the arts and crafts we’ve been doing during these calls, as well as share with you one of the member’s archaeological finds.

When we meet up on Zoom every Tuesday there are about ten of us, including our resident artist, Ian Brownlie, who joins us and sets us challenges, which we have to post by 6pm the same day.

The task this week was to draw the mindfulness walk we regularly do around the Burgh Castle fort. This proved quite a challenge for me, as I know what I want to put down on paper, but don’t know how to draw with my pencil; I don’t know if any other people in the group feel the same way. When we finished, we had to make a ‘ding’ sound, so I got on Youtube and used a doorbell, while some of the others had little bells which sounded great. The drawings where all unique, telling everybody’s individual story of their walks. We were also given three materials that we had to make something with, but weren’t allowed to start until we’d finished our chat.

Here’s my mindfulness map

I thought I’d share some facts about the BCA group. Thanks to the organiser Laura Drysdale for providing me with this information; I’m shocked that it’s been this many times that we’ve met up!

  1. In all, we’ve met 58 times in person.
  2. We’ve met 7 times online.
  3. Average online attendance is 11 people. I think that’s pretty similar to meetings before lockdown, though it may be a bit more .
  4. Around 45 people all together have taken part in BCA sessions, excluding experts and artists for one-off events.

In a few weeks time, I’ll look at all the data we’ve assembled across the whole BCA experience so far.

I use to work with one of the participants over ten years ago, and he would always talk about the archaeological finds that he found from doing digs on the beach. His sister is a part of our Facebook group and she posted pictures of a piece of amber he found which he gave to her. This member has been coming to Burgh Castle since he was 14 and says that in that time, he’s found loads of pottery. Quite recently, he found a Roman coin and the transcription read ‘The return of happy times’, which is what we called our first exhibition, held at the Time and Tide museum in Great Yarmouth. I think the whole of our group now look at mole hills in a different light, as this is where our friend finds his treasures.

This is the peace of amber

This week there were around 11 of us on the Zoom call, and we were sent some more arts and crafts materials in order to make a wire ball. First, we had to to put some rice in a freezer bag and make it the size of egg. I tried to do this, but the blooming freezer bag popped on me and the rice went all over the floor and my table. A few choice words were said, ha ha.

This is what we where making this was one I made earlier on the project.
Here’s my spillage

So I couldn’t make mine in the end, but some of the other members made some and they looked really good. We’re also looking at producing a BCA t-shirt design, and there are loads of ideas floating around from everyone about what it should look like.

Once again, I wish you all good mental health and thank you for reading.