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.

Quotes that have helped me

Hey everyone: I hope you’re all in good mental health today. I’m going to share some quotes I’ve found online over these last weeks that I can relate to. I’m going to give you a little snippet of how much they each mean to me.

So, the first one is this:

“There is a way through this, you just haven’t found it yet.”

I think everyone suffers from anxiety in many different ways. One of mine is that when I create a blog, I worry that no one will like it, or no one will read it or my admin team won’t understand what I’m putting down. I also think that once you learn how to deal with your anxiety in the right way, and you can kept it under control, you can turn it from a negative thing into a positive one. I’ve struggled with turning it from negative to positive; it didn’t happen overnight – it took a long time to get to the positive – but I’m still working on it now and the best advice I can give is, don’t give up.

The second quote is:

“I think you have to try and fail, because failure gets you closer to what you’re good at.”

When I was younger I thought I was the biggest failure going, because I didn’t think I was good at anything. I now look at this quote and think, “OK, yes, I did fail at some things in my life, but I must be doing something right, especially when it come to me doing a blog: I was rubbish at English at school, but I’ve now got a successful blog, and I know this from the comments and the likes I get from the people reading my stuff.”

The third quote is:

“To that one soul reading this: I know you’re tired, you’re fed up. You’re close to breaking, but there’s strength within you, even when you feel weak. Keep fighting.”

I wish I had seen this quote when I was younger. I wanted to end my life on several occasions, because I didn’t have the support from from the mental health services that where meant to be there to help. This quote just makes me feel empowered to keep fighting, and to learn new tools to help when I’m struggling with my mental health. If you feel like this, please keep on fighting – you’re worth it.

Here’s the last one:

“Pay attention to the signs that indicate things aren’t going well.” ❤️.

This one I can relate to the most, because when I was younger, I never paid any attention to how I felt, and because of that I was often in a low place. Since then I have started to get help from my partner, services and friends, which has given me the tools to identify when I’m starting to struggle. I can then go and put myself in a safe place, and with the right tools I’m not sitting and dwelling on the the negative.

Writing this has made me feel really positive, so I hope that some of what I’ve said will help you if you’re struggling.

I have a saying I repeat to myself every morning and every night: “It’s not going to beat me – I’m going to beat IT.” I hope this helps you too.

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

How Music helps me

Hey everyone, how are you all? Hope you’re all in good mental health. Today, I’m going to talk to you about why music plays a big part in my journey of getting to grips with my mental health, how it helps me deal with hearing voices in my head, and how it helps me beat the negative thoughts I have.

So, when washing up, I see images of me cutting my fingers off and hear voices telling me to. At first this really started to freak me out, and I had to stop what I was doing and take a break from it because it was terrifying. I managed to get hold of an iPad, which then allowed me to listen to the radio or YouTube. This was the best thing I’ve done, because it kept my brain active and nothing negative or dangerous would happen. Then, I came across this artist on YouTube called WaTTz: his music is not usually my style – grime rap – but I love how passionate he is about his music and it has helped me a lot just listening to what he does. And the other side to this is, you should see me trying to sing along to his song and dance while washing up! The neighbours laugh at me as they know I don’t care: I’m having a good time. Here link to his song talk about it

When I have negative thoughts in my head, I tend to sit there and let them get worse, so a negative thought could turn into self harm. If I hadn’t dealt with them, it would have ended up with me having end of life thoughts. But now I’ve learned how to deal with them and not let them beat me, so I will turn to music to distract my mind. This time, I turn to a different genre of music – Meatloaf – and I find it really helps to ground me when I’m in a low place. Here’s a link to my favourite meatloaf song

When I’m struggling to get of to sleep, I would just lie there and my mind would go off all over the place. Because of this I would struggle even more to get to sleep, but since meeting my partner, she has introduced me to meditation music and I love it, especially when she’s not around. I will put an eight-hour track on in YouTube, shut my eyes and let the music do its job. I also find this style of music helps if I’m on public transport by myself. It helps me tune out and also helps me ground myself. Here link to one of the 8hour tacks on YouTube I use

The reason I do this blog was one of my admins is posting music on his Facebook each day, and is now doing so in our Burgh Castle Almanac group as well. It’s really made a positive impact on my days, so thank you, Robert, and I’m going to let him post the last song here. And here a link to Robert song

Thank you for reading. I wish you all good mental health and hope we’re back to normal soon.

My Inner tune

This song resonates a lot with me, obliviously not all the lyrics, but a lot of them. I have been struggling lately with the voices in my head, talking to me as if they were sitting right next to me. But i’m lucky enough to have a lot of support of loved ones and family. The tools i have been given to help with this situation have helped immensely. But these words feel like i have wrote most of them.

‘I’m friends with the monster, that’s under my bed, get along with the voices, inside of my head, you’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath, and you think i’m crazy, yeah you think i’m crazy.’

This is how some people make me feel, they think i’m crazy, and holding their breath for the next ‘episode’.

‘I ain’t here to save the children, but if one kid out of a hundred million, who are going through a struggle, feels and then relates, that’s great”

I love this verse, its how i feel, if i can just help even one person understand, they are not alone, then that would make me very happy.

‘Turn nothing into something, still can make that, straw into gold chump, i will spin Rumpelstilskin in a haystack, maybe i need a straight jacket, face facts, i am nuts for real, but i’m okay with that, its nothing, i’m still friends with the…..Monster that’s under my bed….’

This bit to me, means even though the situation i am in seems grim, there’s something good i can make out of it, i’m going to turn the haystack into gold. And even though i know i have a mental issue, i’m ok with that, i will and can survive.

Is there a song that resonates with you? Please feel free to share.

Keep well and safe.

p.s. I apologize for the explicit lyrics, but does not detract from an awesome song.

Please have a listen to this song Eminem ft. Rihanna The Monster

What I’ve been up to in during Covid -19

Hey everyone, how are you all in this weird and scary time? I hope you’re all doing great, and coping the best you can in these circumstances we are in at the moment. I’m just going to talk to you about what I’ve been up to since Covid -19 has came up.

When I first heard about this virus, I wasn’t taking it very seriously, I didn’t think it would’ve spread world wide like it has. I didn’t think it would make people panic, buy stuff they didn’t need. I  didn’t think it would bring lockdowns either. There are so many divided opinions among the populus, causing upset and anger, when we should all be fighting this together, as one.

I’m so glad we have this opportunity to still meet every Tuesday even though it’s online. Today we did arts and craft, Ian Brownlie the artist gave some ideas to us and also sang a couple of songs, including the Funky Almanac song which some people participated in. It was really good just laughing and and enjoying ourselves and we saw a 1 minute film of of our project today which Julian Claxton has done wonders with. He is now working on a 3-4 minute film for a month’s time, then a longer one for the end of the project.

Here’s the link for the 1 minute film please

So this Covid -19 has put the Burgh Castle Almanac project I’m involved with on hold because we’re not allowed to gather in groups at the minute. As a group we have decided to still stay in contact online by video chat, and it’s so good to see everyone and hear from them about what they have been up to. The good news is that the project is still going to happen, past its official end date, so when things go back to normal we will carry on with the project. Happy days. 

What also has happened is they have sent us some arts and craft stuff to do through the post which is awesome. But what the hell do I do with it. The first oast parcel was some foil that we could make something with to go in our exhibition once thing go back to normal. I received a second parcel yesterday, we wasn’t allowed to open them till today and we received some fablon and acetate. Take a look at the pictures below.

It’s important for me to take part in this group cause I get so much from the group and I hope I give something back to the group. I for one know that once the project finishes I’m going to do everything I can to kept it running some way or another.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all good mental health in these times.





Open your eyes to nature

Hey everyone hope you’re well and in good mental health, I’m going to be talking to you today about Burgh Castle again and what we got up to last week. We attended the Norffolk Makers Market at the Forum in Norwich and then on Valentine’s Day we attended Buckenham Fen with a bird expert, Mark Cocker, where we went to see the roost of birds.
It was one of the arty people that came up with the idea of going to Makers Market at the Forum, where we showed them how we could make roundels like we did for our sculpture model we did at Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail.

These are the willow roundels read below to find out what we do with them.

We would get some willow that at been soaked in water so it was easy to work with, two pieces to make it stronger, so then we had a frame to work to. We would then get this strong tissue paper that had been cut into a circle of 8cm diameter. We would glue peices of tissue paper to the willow and cover the paper in glue. We would then get bits of nature that we collected from Burgh Castle and also cut up magazines to put on the tissue paper in any arrangement that we liked. We would then get a smaller circle peice of paper, and put that on top like a sandwich. Once that was done we would glue that top piece of paper as well, and then we would hang them up to dry for a couple of hours. But with the amount of people that was walking through the Forum they where drying quite quickly. We had 604 people coming to our stall.
The best thing for me was that when we opened the stall we had a couple of young men from City College come and take part in this activity They wanted to learn so much from what we wer doing and they were asking questions about the project we were involved in and what else we got out of it. And there was the retired teacher who came along and loved what we were about. We also got BBC Radio Norfolk Voices team come down and interviewed a couple of our members about what we were getting up to, which is great. Also the amount of people that wanted to leave a donation for materials cause they just wanted to say thank you for our stall.

These are the final result hanging to dry

So that now brings me on to the next thing we got up to. On Valentine’s Day we went with Mark Cocker to look at birds and the nature at Buckenham Fen in Norfolk. It is a nature reserve, well what can I say ,it didn’t disappoint. We got there around 4pm and there was a small group of golden plover, and there was already geese flying over, ducks eating the grass and we were even treated to Chinese Water Deer, a couple of them running around. Also there were some hares hopping about – I was shocked of how quickly they can move. There also was a river running along the site, if any of you like fishing you would be well in your element.

Then we were treated to 3 barn owls flying over the other side of the river which was a fantastic sight to see, and as we walked further around the site the owls that were flying over in the background started to come nearer to the river so you could get a closer look at them if you had the binoculars on which was great. When I got back I rang my grandma and told her what I had seen as she loves owls.
We started to walk to near the beginning of the site to see the main attraction of the roost, which I had ever only seen on television. The birds started to gather all around us in the sky then they seemed to group together and well what can I say, the noise and the the sght of 20,000 birds that were flying turning twisting all in synchronised movmement, it was amazing. The only downside was that I didn’t have a decent camera to catch it with. If you’re into your wildlife then go check out your local nature reserve and lose yourself in such beautiful scenery and the noises.

The sun set at Buckingham fen captured by another participant.

Thank you for reading hope you have enjoyed another round of up what we have been up to on our project.

Project ‘Crucial Crew’

Hey everyone, how are you doing? I hope you’re well and in good mental health. I want to apologise for the lack of blogs lately. It’s because I’ve been moving house, but want to discus with you about this project I’m involved in called ‘Crucial crew’ for school students aged 11- 16 at my first school. I then did 13-15 at the second school, where we have been talking about mental health and self harm, in 15 minute sessions, as it is a very hard hitting topic for children and young people.

This was my first experience ever speaking to children about this, and I was worried they would eat me alive. I didn’t get a good night sleep the night before as I was very nervous, but my first class of the morning went well. I started off asking them could they name some emotions that are linked with mental health. The room went quite for a minute or so, then one student put his hand up and said ‘sadness’ then some more hands started popping up with answers of fear, angry, lonely and so on. I said to them there is one that begins with H and someone shouted out ‘happiness’. I high-fived this student and that made them all laugh. I then explained that you can be in a happy place but still have bad mental health, but you can be in a sad place and still have good mental health and through out the room you could see they were nodding there heads.

So the the second thing, I explained a senario of me when I was at school of something that actually happened to me years ago. I was scared to put my hand up in case I got the answer wrong, and the class would laugh at me, or I would put my hand up and pull it straight back down again then think the teacher would pick on me for it. Or I’d answer the question, but give an answer about another subject. I then explained that this left me with negative thoughts in my head. I would go home and then lock my self in my room then the self harm thoughts would come because I didn’t want to ask for help as I was scared to. It wasn’t until I went to school and told someone I was struggling, I had a teacher say to me, don’t ever feel ashamed to ask for help if your struggling, because we all struggle at something in our lives. So I said to them this me giving you a gentle kick up the backside to go ask for help if you need it. They all burst out laughing, but some also said thank you. And I reminded them asking for help isn’t sign weakness.

For the end of the talk we talked about distraction techniques and if we couldn’t talk about our problems, how else we could communicate to people that we need help and they came up with suggestions like writing, drawing and singing. I thought they were good answers.

Then we had a Q&A, and my favourite question was ‘does self harm have to be physical?’. My answer was not always. That there are many ways to self harm, and that includes not looking after yourself. Over eating, starving yourself etc.

I wish mental health was talked about more like this when I was back at school. I think it could of helped me so much in so many ways. The children really surprised me on both occasions on how they deal with such mature topics of conversation, and I hope projects like this help them, and make them feel like they’re not alone. At the end of some sessions, I was getting thumbs up, fist pumps and thank yous from the students. This is what makes me think that projects like Crucial crew can really make a difference with peoples mental health.

Burgh Castle Almanac

Hello everyone, I hope you are all well and enjoying good mental health. I’ve been asked to write for the national archaeological trust, about the Burgh Castle project i am involved with.

The group is called, The Burgh Castle Almanac group. We meet up in the village hall at Burgh Castle, and walk up to the castle, where we take our fixed spot photographs around the site. This is all over the year, and you can see the changes in the site, over the different seasons. We have all been given some cameras, so we can take different photos throughout the site.

I can remember my first session. I didn’t really talk to anybody, as it was a new group, with people i had never met before, and I feel awkward and anxious in situations like this. But everyone, within the group, acknowledged me, which made me feel at ease and the facilitators made me feel welcome, and ensured no one was left out.

This project has had a positive impact on my mental health. It is a two year project, which I think has helped me a lot, because when i get used to something, it can suddenly stop, which can have a huge impact on my mental well being. Causing more anxiety and stress because it has stopped and there is nothing to soften the impact. But with this project, you have time to get to understand how things work and you know when it will finish, and things are put into place to help the transgression to not doing it anymore.

I think this is how more projects should be ran. People with mental health have good days and bad days, and with a long running project, such as the Burgh Castle project, it helps people in a much more positive way. for instance, if you can’t make a session because of any issue, your not kicked off, or moaned at, like i have experienced in the past. And your never judged for not being able to attend.

I’ve completed activities, I’ve never thought I would do. Arty stuff, a walk on the river Thames and attending the Houses of Parliament I’ve also been able to blog about my experiences and thoughts of the things i have done and seen, which in turn has helped me with my mental health journey.

I can say that this project has brought out the best in me. It has taught me that anything is possible, i am referring to the arty things i have been involved with, trust me, art and me are not best of friends, but to try and complete the little projects, was and is a huge achievement for me, especially as it has taught me to be more patient with myself, and control my anger a little bit better than before. I wont be painting for any art gallery or making any arty things in the near future, but i did it, and surprisingly i enjoyed it. I have to admit, i am rather chuffed with the wooden spoon i whittled!!!!!

Its not just the projects we get to do, that makes this such a fantastic experience. Burgh castle is a beautiful site, and the photographs we have taken, do not do it justice. I have always been interested in the history of things, and this has been a pleasure and a privilege, being a part of this group.

Would i recommend you doing this project if it was offered to you, one hundred percent yes, not only for your mental health but for the knowledge you learn from the site itself and the projects you take part in. The team that organizes this, are fantastic, i can not praise them enough.

i think i may have gushed enough about this, but i am very passionate about how this has affected my life, so please bare with me.

I will leave you all now, feeling positive and happy, and i wish you all a great mental health, where ever and who ever you are.

Thanks for listening

John .

Session 41, 19th October 2019 Roman Experience at Time and Tide Museum

Sessions 41, 42 and 43 including Roman soldiery, a moonlit walk, and mushrooming with a fun guy

Photo credits Sue Tyler, Phillip Wells, Robert Fairclough, Adrian Stott

Session 41, 19th October 2019 Roman Experience at Time and Tide Museum

It’s not everyone who can carry off the Legionary Look, but here are some who can.

We drilled, marched and tortoised. And we also met Lady Lydia to hear more about her beauty regime and plans for the exhausting day ahead, instructing slaves.

There was also an intriguing exhibition of British tattoo art.

Session 42, 12th November 2019 Full Moon at Burgh Castle Roman Fort

A beaver moon, mostly obscured by clouds and rain which magically lifted as we entered the fort. 17 brave people made our regular walk, including along the slippery broadwalk, taking some wonderful photographs despite – or actually because of – the weather.

Session 43, 15th November 2019 Mushrooming at Burgh Castle Roman Fort

We walked with Marc Ladi, who runs a great facebook group called Norfolk mushroom spotters(uk). Fun guy Marc has been mushroom hunting since he was a boy going out to find porcini with his Italian father, and he is an encouraging spotter. We even picked a mushroom he’d never found before, the wrinkled peach. 

Marc dispelled all the myths you can think of, and warned us off the deadliest mushrooms with the maxim that there are….old mushroom spotters, bold mushroom spotters, but no old, bold mushroom spotters. In the end, by close attention to the ground, and being mindful to likely places, it was quite a squeeze to get them all on the display table – not much room.

Marc said: Found a lot more species than I expected after the frosts but including, Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda), field Blewits (Lepista Saeva), wood/jelly ear (Auricularia auricula), sulphur tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare), glistening ink caps (Coprinellus micaceus) honey fungus (Armillaria mellea), Shaggy parasols (Chlorophyllum brunneum), velvet shanks (Flammulina velutipes), fairy ring champignon (Marasmius oreades) my first ever wrinkled peach! (Rhodotus palmatus) and at the time an unidentified grey capped mushroom, now possibly identified following further research as Volvariella gloiocephala (stubble rose gill). NB: not all are edibles, and even some of the edibles were found in a cemetery so unwise to consume!