Umbrella

As if there was not enough to be doing in June, I’ve taken an extra fortnightly task onto the list: Time to Change’s Story Camp. Running this week until the end of August, I’ll get a new prompt every other Monday. It encourages us to ‘tell our story’ about mental health and, in this case, I’ve decided that response will come via poetry. I’d not expected to have an automatic, almost visceral response to the initial prompt either, but it happened. This was written late Monday night and posted on Wednesday, and might be one of the best things I’ve produced for some time.

In the chaos of this week, to use my voice when so many others are being silenced seems… wrong. It really does. I appreciate that these events are arranged in advance, with no idea of the potential chaos that may unfold around us. That response needed to be the point of the poem: my own experiences at this point should absolutely not be taking centre stage. In two weeks, the world could well be in a completely different place, but for now personal history needs to mark this moment with significance.

Having someone else provide the prompts however is, undoubtedly, a bonus. Not having to think of directions or ideas, having an opportunity just to create has been what this week has been all about, and writing here after a week of doing just that? It is incredibly satisfying. Therefore, when all these are done, we’ll collate them together as a testament to how the Summer played out from my distinct and unique mental health standpoint.

You’ll see that poetic graphic a few times therefore in the next ten days: I’ll post it, optimising exposure times, just to prove I have learnt a few things about how Twitter has worked over the years. Now that’s done, it’s time to go sort out the Drabbles for next week, swiftly followed by the inaugural YouTube video … now, about that…

Better Living through Chemistry

There’s been a side project over the last few weeks, that has taken up slightly more time than had been anticipated. However, now we’re done, it’s time to get my act together and explain why this has become something more than the moment that it was created from.

gettingthehangofit

You’ll know from the header that it’s Mental Health Awareness Week starting on the 18th: initially the subject was going to be body image, which is a topic that’s still quite hard for me to talk about easily, and so I’d decided not to do any specific work for it until the day. However, I was approached by my Time To Change hub (the people that look after Mental health Champions and support our fundraising activity) to provide something as the brief for the week had changed: the new subject is Kindness.

I wrote a poem, then looked at it on the page and realised that I could do so much better. So, I looked for some pictures to go with it, then I rewrote some more, changed my pictures, decided to not use music and subtitles but instead record my own voice. An ancient Podcasting microphone was pulled out of the garage, audio recorded, before the whole thing was stuck together over two days.

All in all, from start to finish, it was about three weeks’ work.

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The finished product will get an exclusive first see by my Patrons tomorrow, and I’ll use their feedback (plus that from my early ‘focus group’) to improve going forward. The video’s been sent to the people who matter for a look over, and assuming they’re okay with it, the thing will get published by them that week. I’ll stick it on my socials as well for good measure of course, but they must remain the main benefactors.

I’ve never produced something this personal before. It’s been a fantastic exercise in knowing what’s possible with the limited resources I have available. What’s been learnt will undoubtedly be useful going forward too, as these skills can be translated into other areas, used to promote my own work. However, what matters most of all is starting a conversation with others about mental health, and making sure that message is heard by everyone who needs it.

That, in the end, is what matters most of all.

Warm Sound

I should have written this on Friday, but in reality it’s Sunday. The last three days, I’ll be honest, have been a bit of a blur: we’ve had a vomiting bug go around the family, which is a salutary reminder that maybe personal hygiene needs a bit of work. As the day draws to an end everything is almost back to the way it was: except, as the dust settles, I’m aware of a key difference between the person that started the weekend and the one who now finishes it here.

There’s been a lot of anger to deal with because of COVID. I try not to talk about it too much in any of my spaces except personal Twitter, where people know and understand me enough to grasp that however much you try and be kind, there are days when everything just goes Pete Tong. I also get hauled up a fair bit when I refer to people as ‘stupid’ in how they react: mostly people who should really know better. I can’t be mean like that. It’s not fair.

Today, the relevance of those comments has come home to roost.

dinkleberg

Everybody has a Nemesis. It’s how 007 got reinvented, the basis of a billion badly-planned Fanfics and kept Dr Who’s current season absolutely stonking. In my case, that evil is ignorance.  Read the instructions: do the work, put in the hours, make the effort. It’s easy to just do, but thinking is hard, painful and ultimately redemptive. For an awfully long time I never took my own advice either, but fortunately I got over myself eventually.

Calling people stupid as an insult however is going to have to change. A memory surfaced this weekend, as I was on my hands and knees clearing up after a particularly effulgent round of sickness. Trauma flashbacks, each time they take place, are easier to cope with but this one wasn’t. This one still sits in my brain, right now, making me upset as I type this. You used to be called stupid as an insult.

You had no way of replying coherently when it happened.

makeitstop

Next week, therefore, there will need to be some mental rearrangement. The government can become incompetent. People breaking lockdown and thinking only about themselves can be selfish. I’m not going back to delete those posts because honestly, a lot of white people are genuinely not covering themselves in glory right now, and my opinion on them isn’t going to alter that one iota.

However, the training is beginning to kick in. My counselling has taken a year to really take, but now the changes are indisputable. I need to be more kind: to myself, mostly, and then to everybody else without thinking. However, the latter won’t ever be a given until the former is properly taken care of. That meant writing this before anything else happened. It’s a public acknowledgement of progress.

Illsithee

Nobody’s perfect, me more than most. However, it’s improving.

Every step forward is progress.

Walk Away

I finished the last portion of my formal Mental Health Champion training at the end of January, but all of that ended up being overshadowed by RED January Fundraising for Mind. At the end of the month, exhaustion was real. It’s taken a week to get everything back to something approaching normal: during that time it became apparent that this year, I wasn’t really comfortable contributing publicly to Time to Talk Day.

That came as more relief than surprise, if truth be told.

thatsenough

The last couple of years this date in February has been marked by me trying to be honest about my own mental health journey. Last year however, a lot of the perceptions that personally existed around those feelings was quite significantly altered by counselling. It’s taken this long to really begin the process of unpacking all of the baggage that’s been trailing behind me, in some cases for my entire adult life.

I’d even planned to try and get out to support an actual, real-world event this week, but when it came down to the day something else came up. It too was mental health related, and I made a decision: this was the moment to do my talking elsewhere and not online. It’s a measure of how faith in my own ability has improved in the last twelve months that this was automatically the place that it made more sense to be.

It’s also cemented my desire to become a Mental Health First Aider.

mhfa_course

The course is not cheap and I suspect it will take me time to save, then it’s about finding the right time and location in which to take part. However, as I got so much from the MHF’s Mindfulness course when I first took it (you’ll find the details here) that it seems the logical extension from that initial process to pursue. It’s also a decent bet that my lived experience of mental health issues will become useful in training.

However, as a result of this revelation I have provided information to Mind which means that, at some point in the future, I may be called upon for interviews with the media. This might seem odd considering what has just taken place, but there is method in the madness. I am happy being interviewed, and a fair amount of front-facing public work will be taking place via the reading of poetry.

If I can read poetry to an audience, I can talk about mental health to others.

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The difference, I now realise, about contributing this year was literal exhaustion. I need to be both physically and mentally awake to do the job justice. Yet again, all of this is a bigger process, learning and expanding my remits across multiple spheres. As confidence and ability increase, so does the capacity to do good and help wherever the need arises. I like this new me, so much better than the person I was before.

There is new purpose I fully intend to learn from going forward.

Love What You Do

I’ve learnt a lot in the past year. Most of that’s come in the form of just how much time things take to work out the way you want them. Therefore, planning early and often has become the watch phrase. It means I’ve cheekily skipped last week’s episodic fiction to ensure the next part of the story is told properly, and in the way it needs to be. Most of you won’t notice the changes happening, of course, but for me they are life savers.

That means February’s mostly planned. Paper Hearts is gonna be my Instagram project: bit of poetry, some photography, nothing too fancy. Some days, just gonna be words. I like the idea of not being totally focussed on imagery this time. However, there has to be a LOT of work on the other parts of my equation, and now there’s no immediate timescale around certain projects, this can all be achieved in a far less stressful environment.

February also has some things to look forward to on top of the scheduled.

spidermaster

It’s Time to Talk day on February 6th (effectively two weeks from now) and there will be many words in my various places online during that period. I’ve also booked a creative writing workshop for the following week, so there’s something more to talk about than my own projects. Plus, there is the aborted from this month Video Content that will finally see the light of day.

Also, we get a SUPER BONUS FREE DAY on the 29th that isn’t normally there at all and it would be a foolish woman who did not plan something special for that. So I will, except as of right now I am not entirely certain what this thing will be. It’s going to be clever and massive and may actually involve tea (both beverage and mealtime) now I come to think of it and OH YES THAT’S A BRILLIANT IDEA…

Better go write this down whilst I remember it…

Run for Home

This should have happened on Wednesday, for which I apologise, but it has taken me 72 hours to adjust brain and body to the new world order, which is EXERCISE EVERY DAY. The RED in Red January stands for Run Every Day and having done that two days out of three this week? Nope. Huge fat nope. Not happening this week, or indeed the rest of January. By June? Quite possibly. We’re working on it.

This will be the only post I make about this here until I’m done on February 1st, because there doesn’t need to be the boring repetition of the same stuff. People have already given money, without prompting, and the £250 total that’s been set should be easily attainable if there’s a slow, sensible reiteration of intent. The best bit of all this, undoubtedly, is having means to be truly accountable using technology.

vitals

There’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the organised exercise classes I do: if you don’t work hard enough, you’re only cheating yourself. Although this is undoubtedly true, it is no longer possible to pretend you went on a 5k run if the stats won’t support it. I’ve never felt the need to do that in the first place: the stats now aren’t just a record of your work, but are useful insights into how your body reacts to exercise.

I’ve been trying to shift some areas of fat on my body for close to a decade. Now I know where the optimal zones are to work in for my heartrate to do that, and have proved this is actually now taking place with the addition of a sensible diet and calorie limit? These areas are beginning to shrink. Fat really is starting to vanish. Now all that is needed is a month’s worth of hard, targeted effort to keep the momentum up.

You can follow me on Instagram to keep up to date with affairs. Like I said, we’ll be back in February not only to see how well things went, but also look at weight loss. I’m down on this week’s weigh in, let’s hope this continues going forward.

Then we can talk about training to be a Mental health Champion…

Deliver Me

Everything’s a bit out of order here, for reasons that still include dentistry and Christmas. You sometimes can’t predict the outcomes of certain events: tooth pain is a special Circle of Hell which I can only hope is now gone for good. In the midst of it all however, a lot of good has come from the experiences. Most notable of all is the Altered Paths project which, this year, has made me more than happy.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself in 2019; to continue to do so in 2020 there needs to be a redefinition of what I read and consume via Social media. The changes are already in place, and a bunch of new and interesting projects will be investigated during the next 12 months, plus there will be the continuation of the body of work which keeps this site alive and relevant.

As a result I’ve decided to leave the Christmas week fallow of posts and content, allowing plenty of time to prepare for the new year. That’s included graphics work today, poetry contest submissions and other pieces being given much-needed love and attention. After this is all finished and I’m up to date with poetry, we can start planning for my January fundraising project.

red_january

We’ll formally launch RED January on the 1st, and begin a year of fundraising for Mind (as well as my training to become a Mental health Champion) on a strong, positive note. There’s also Time to Talk Day in February, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. So much has to happen before that, including some fairly significant real life gubbins. Let’s see if this year, that precious life/work balance can be finally located and maintained…

For now, let’s clear the backlog and ready ourselves for January.

Run To the Hills

Those of you who have followed me for some time will know that whenever a Time to Talk Day comes up, I’m all over the concept. That’s going to be particularly apposite this coming February, when the next event is scheduled: by then I hope to have begun my training as a Champion. The first meeting to begin that journey happened last Saturday, in my county’s main town. Needless to say, it’s changed quite a bit since I was there last.

I almost didn’t make it there at all.

Driving was fine, parking no problem. At the venue, there was an unexpected attack of nerves: walking into the meeting room, where one other person was already, made me feel unwell… and then I was in the bathroom, managing a potential panic attack. The reason for this, of course, was easily rationalised. Unfamiliar surroundings, people I didn’t know. I should have visited the venue earlier in the week to calm my fears.

Having come all that way, in the rain and wind… it would be foolish to just turn around and go home again. So, I walked back into the room… and now I’m so very glad I did. This is the first step of a journey that should have been started a long time ago: finally there’s confidence to stand with a group of people whose commitment and care is abundantly apparent. I can’t wait for formal training to start in January.

It also gives me an opportunity to consider what it is I’ll do for Time to Talk day 2020. I’ll want to do it online, of course, because that’s the place where I feel I can do the most good in terms of supporting people whilst assisting the process of obtaining the help and advice they’re looking for. I feel both poetry and imagery have a part to play in this… so I wonder, what can I do to pull myself out of comfort zones in the process?

There are some ideas in my planner. Watch this space for more details.