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Sometimes, I say it best when I say nothing at all

The title is a bit misleading but it is meant to highlight that sometimes it’s about the amplification of those that can say what I would like to say.

Last Friday I saw Jonny Benjamin. I won’t tell his story because you should read the book or at least follow him on Twitter.

I don’t quite know what it is about Jonny that made me want to venture out on my own on a Friday night to a part of town that I rarely visit but I did. I watched his story play out in the media and at the heart of it all, I just saw a vulnerable brave (the two are not mutually exclusive) man sharing his story and wanting to help people.

I can’t even tell you the content of the talk. I did freeze when it came to the book signing and said “Thanks for letting me come see you” (like he had a choice…). What I wanted to say in my coherent mind, is thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. Thank you for your ambition and desire to raise awareness about mental health.

I came home after the talk and finally submitted my application to do my counselling course. It’s difficult as I like to talk but I love to listen. I can’t wait to read Jonny’s book and I love that Twitter helped me to find so many other amazing people who talk about mental health, good and bad. Thank you because it’s not easy.

Mental Health and Me

As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, thought it would be rather apt to write a blog post about mental health.

The past few weeks have been a period of time for me where my mental health has been good and bad. A couple of weeks ago I was meant to finally go to Tunisia to meet my in laws and the holiday was cancelled at the last minute due to family illness. I won’t go into the detail but I will say it led to lots of paranoia (as it has happened before) and uncertainty about my marriage, my life and my future.

One little thing that, with good mental health, I could cope with. That week was a busy week at work and I also had other conversations floating around in my head. The cancellation was just an added bonus.

The past few days has seen my mood fluctuate massively. Only a couple of people are aware of what happen. I don’t want to build this into something it’s not but I feel it’s important to be honest during this mental health awareness week.

I’ve never been suicidal although I’ve experienced suicidal feelings. A couple of years ago I actually wrote a note to my husband saying sorry but I couldn’t go on. No other plans. Just words. I never showed my husband the note or told him about it until this weekend.

Some days I feel like I want to hide away. I feel like people don’t understand and I’m selective with who I message.

Other days I feel like I want to surround myself with people. I hear my voice high pitched and excited. It’s like nothing can affect my mood. Those happy days are just as scary because I don’t feel in control.

Other days I’m content. I’m happy. I have significantly more of those days than others which I’m thankful for.

On this Mental Health awareness day, I’m more aware than ever that people should feel empowered to talk as much about good mental health as ill mental health.

This week I have good mental health. That’s why I can write this. It’s why I can listen. It’s why I applied for my counselling course. It’s why I’m happy.

Two more sleeps

The last couple of weeks has been tough. This isn’t a blog post to encourage pity. It’s more about getting out the mass of whirling word in my head.

Two weeks ago my husband had to go back to his home country as his parents were in a car accident. Thankfully they are okay. During the 2 hours between my husband telling me about his parents to deciding to go to Libya, my heart was telling me to say to my husband he shouldn’t go. My slightly more unemotional brain which was the main driving force behind my words encouraged him to go. As he should.

It’s his parents. I can’t imagine what it is like for him to be away from his parents. I don’t live 2 minutes down the road from my family but the reality is that if anything happened I could hop in a car and be home within 2 hours.

The slightly selfish emotional part of me wanted him to stay. The truth is that however independent I am, my mental health and emotional state is better when he is with me.

It has made me appreciate more those around me. I’ve messaged some more than I would have done. I’m just very relieved he will be back on Sunday. It’s made me feel slightly scared of the impact my husband has on keeping my mental health on an even keel and it’s something I need to think about.

Death and dying

Slightly morbid title I admit but it came about as a result of the recent news that Parliament has passed a bill today where organ donation will be assessed unless someone opts out.

I’ve carried an organ donation card for a while. As a Christian I believe that my body is a vessel and my soul will live on in the afterlife therefore I don’t see a need for my organs to remain intact. I know some Christians believe otherwise but that’s my personal view.

It made me think, I don’t know what my husband wants. So I asked him. He’d like to be buried in Libya. I think it’s important to ask those questions because if anything is certain in this life, people live and people die. Everything that happens in between is chance.

I’m not fussed about cremation or burial. I’d prefer cremation now because I’d like to be scattered in various parts of the world. I’d like some of my ashes to be scattered in Libya, in Yorkshire and Egypt. I don’t know where I would be buried so cremation looks like the option at the moment.

My husband hates talking about death. I don’t know if it’s because I lost my mum relatively young but death doesn’t scare me and neither does talking about it. It’s part of the circle of life after all but I know it can be difficult to talk about it.

Happiness

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write since last Saturday. I volunteer every Saturday and whilst I can’t share the exact content of the conversation I had during my counselling shift, I really wanted to share some of my thoughts after that shift.

As a society, I feel that there is a lot of emphasis on people to be ‘happy’. How many times have you heard the phrase ‘cheer up’ from strangers, never mind people you know. What is happiness though and should we always strive to be happy?

As a result of a conversation with someone on shift it made me really think. If we don’t have sad times, how do we ‘feel’ happiness? Is it possible to be happy all the time? More importantly if we felt happy all the time, how would we know? We would have nothing to compare it to so it would feel mundane and everyday.

Reaching out to Twitter folk, here is a snapshot of happiness.

‘A place to rest, a hug, loosened and relaxed shoulders, a smile dawning over a face to a full beam of a grim, knowing you’re in someone’s heart and held there, the love I fee for my family and friends’ (@EloquentParrot)

‘Wellness of soul, felt as an experience of emotional warmth, about a creature, person or situation’ (@RevPLane)

‘A feeling of contentment and safety’ (@rachcolours)

‘Inner peace’ (@jooliscious)

‘Being at peace with yourself and knowing it’ (HFCouture)

Everybody has their own individual perspectives but happiness is a feeling and you know it when you feel it. Like you know sadness and pain. It’s made me think about asking about what makes people happy. It’s made me think about asking people more about what makes them sad and what can change that feeling into a happy feeling.

For completeness, happiness for me is feeling like I make a difference everyday in a small way and feeling loved.

The actions of a few

I received an email from Oxfam yesterday. It talked about the Haiti story and basically apologised for what had happened. I read it thinking how many versions, how many people must that email have gone through before it was sent out?

I’ve supported Oxfam intermittently throughout the years. It does some good work and today I saw Simon Pegg speaking on Twitter about not abandoning Oxfam as an ambassador.

Working in the not for profit and also the charity sector has made me realise a few things over the years. Charities are businesses. They have charitable aims but they have people who they need to pay to function. Charities cannot run on volunteers alone. I support charities who are transparent about how many pence in every £ goes to admin/salaries etc.

Charities also have people who don’t share their views and aims. Sometimes charities are fortunate enough to find out earlier enough who those people are and sometimes they don’t.

Charities need to know when to admit they are responsible and something went wrong. What happened in Haiti was wrong. I don’t see Oxfam trying to hide away, divert blame and that is right.

Will the story stop me supporting Oxfam? No. Should you continue to support Oxfam? That’s your choice.

Work-life balance

I’m about 6 weeks into my new job which has prompted this particular post.

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked consistently throughout my life since the age of 13. From an evening paper-round to a farm shop weekend assistant to full time employment. I’ve always taken for granted the fact that I have found consistent work and yet in the back of my mind I’m always aware I’m probably a couple of paychecks away from being reliant on my husband. This scares me because I don’t want to be.

Work is more than just a pay check to me. It’s about my personal independence and, more importantly, it helps to keep my relationship with my husband, family and friends intact. This post isn’t criticising those who stay at home and don’t work. It’s just, for me, I couldn’t imagine not working.

Since changing jobs, the biggest change I’ve noticed is my relationship with my husband. We’ve always loved each other but over the months before I changed jobs, it did seem like we were arguing more and more. One job swap later and the difference is pretty incredible. I love seeing him when I get home from work. We talk more and we are just more relaxed around each other. It’s probably no coincidence I feel more relaxed even though I do work when I’m home.

I know things might change if we have a family. I don’t think it will as I think I’ll always want to have an element of work. My mum worked and I think she influences me a lot.

I don’t live to work. I don’t work to live. The two just coexist.

Music and memories

Driving back to Yorkshire today and singing along to music made me have a think about this very blog post. Partly prompted by listening to Ariana Grande which always makes me think of Manchester and makes me sad. Music has always meant a lot to me. Perhaps more than I was aware of until today.

Music isn’t just about music, it is tied to memories. Some sad but most happy.

Michael Bolton reminds me of my husband. Our first dance was “When A Man Loves A Woman”.

“Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations was a song that became my theme song at university. Made all the better singing in a taxi on the way home.

Michael Jackson “You Rocked My World” and Alicia Keys “Falling” is tied to my flatmate at university who lived opposite.

“One and Only” by Chesney Hawkes – theme tune during college time. For the first year at university I would be woken up by friends calling my voicemail and on answering would hear the lovely tones of Chesney, with the slightly less tuneful tones of my friends screaming down the phone.

“Call me Al” by Paul Simon – reminds me of a very lovely and special friend who would laugh hysterically at my attempt at the “do do do do” in tune.

“Just the way I’m feeling” Feeder -reminds me of the times spent during university at the campus pub, desperately trying to avoid doing any form of work with one of my friends.

“Jump Around” House of Pain – reminds me of countless fun nights out with another friend.

“Dancing on the Ceiling” by Lionel Ritchie – reminds me of a last night out with a friend before she headed off to the Big Smoke.

There are sad times too. “As long as you love me” by Backstreet Boys reminds me of a friend’s funeral on my 16th birthday.

There are countless more songs and memories. Many more to make.

Feeling blue on a Monday?

Thanks firstly to @Ms_Wire for suggesting this topic due to my need to write but not knowing what to write about!

Yesterday was Blue Monday, also known as ‘The Most Depressing Day of the Year’. According to a tabloid newspaper I wouldn’t want to promote intentionally but which seemed to have the best summary “It is calculated using a series of factors in a (not particularly scientific) mathematical formula. The factors are: the weather, debt level (specifically, the difference between debt and our ability to pay), the amount of time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take charge of the situation”.

Blue Monday causes me to have mixed feelings. On a positive note, I believe it is important to raise awareness of mental health and an attempt to cause people to think and be more conscious of people who do have issues with mental health.

However on the other hand, does allocating a day to be the most depressing day send a message that it’s okay to be depressed on that one day but not any other day of the year? What happens if a person with depression actually feels pretty okay on Blue Monday but then Tuesday is their Blue Tuesday? Will the day make them feel even more alone?

Amplification of a topic as massive and important as mental health is good. Bringing people together and making them feel not alone is not good. Naming a day and identifying a day when it is okay to be depressed on that one particular day? I’m not sure.

I remember going to an event where someone said to the group ‘why do we call homeless people homeless? We identify the one thing that they don’t have and attach it to them’? Why do we attach Blue Monday to people with depression?

If people take away from Blue Monday experiences and thoughts from people with mental health issues which help to educate and raise awareness….then I think it is positive. If people think about Blue Monday for one day a year and then assume that people don’t have good days/not so good days…then I think Blue Monday may well be a day that I’ll choose to forget.

To be honest I didn’t take much notice of Blue Monday other than some social media posts. I did like the fact Samaritans hijacked it slightly and turned it into Brew Monday. I think everyday could be Brew Monday. Except for me because I don’t drink tea. Or coffee. Can you brew hot chocolate?

Post January musings

So, we are already halfway through January. Time seems to fly by so quickly recently and it emphasises the need to truly embrace decisions and changes however difficult that is to do.

For me January meant a change of job. New career, new people, new location. I’m still in training mode at the moment so things may change but I have some initial thoughts.

Normally, I would describe myself as pretty outgoing, someone who talks to anybody. However in a job with new people, it does take me a bit of time to work out my place in the team. By that, I don’t mean whereabouts I am in the management hierarchy. Instead I mean identifying at what point can I be myself. Sometimes it takes longer to gel with some people than others. I have quite a sarcastic (or dry!) sense of humour which some can take the wrong way. I felt very strange during the first few days of my new job, a bit out of place and desperately missing my old work colleagues who I had developed friendships with over the past five years.

Roll on 2 weeks and I still miss my old work friends. I’m still determined to keep in touch but I’ve realised something. I want to stay in touch not because they were my work friends. I want to stay in touch because I like them. They made me laugh. They hugged me when I cried (or made me laugh to stop me crying). I could be myself with them.

There are a few new work people already where I can see friendships forming. We all seem to be quite chilled out and friendly and I’m eager to see where my new job takes me both personally and professionally. But I know I’ll have a base of people I’ve collected over the years who will be there for me no matter what. I can add to that base hopefully.