Make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone give here

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02 November 2017

The Beginning

 

 

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A,B,C…..

If by now you’re not in full Julie Andrews on a hill mode then we can’t be friends and you may as well stop reading now.
So, on the 5th May 94 I graced the world with my presence, late as per but I arrived. My mam was only a kid herself so to begin with I was brought up in the Thompson household. Grandma and Granda to oversee the upbringing. My Granda loves telling people how I had a mint moses basket with a hood on and he wouldn’t allow the hood to be up as then nobody could see my face. He’s still as proud of me to this day.


Not long after this my Mam and Dad began the rollercoaster of their relationship adding a son and a wedding to the list.
To the outside world we were now a “normal” family. A Mam, Dad, a girl and a boy, the house, a dog and even a little cat. Both parents worked full time. The children were never in trouble or causing havoc. Never allowed to play past the back yard and when they dared to they would only go where they could be seen. Nothing out of the ordinary here right?
Wrong!


As I write this I’m sat in a cafe on my lunch break and they’re playing Pink – Family portrait. I remember getting this cd when I was around 7. I’d won a Walkman.. yes a Walkman of all things, by colouring a picture in Safeway. My grandma did work there mind and was the judge but I totally won fair and square. .
Over and over I would play this song and although I haven’t heard it in 15 years or so it feels like a sign as I’m writing this.
“It ain’t easy growing up in world war three”It wasn’t easy. The minute the door would close on our “perfect” family home reality would kick in.


I had bruises, bones broken as I didn’t clear my polly pockets away in time. Watching my younger brother cry as his xbox has been thrown out of the window onto the concrete. My mam, she seemed bubbly and full of life. She was cuddly and loved me and strong. Yet inside she was breaking. Physical and mental abuse and torture for 16 years took it’s toll on her big brown owl like eyes. She’s lost her sparkle.
This would go on day in day out. Me trying to pack the toothbrushes in the night and tigger so my brother wouldn’t cry. But we couldn’t leave. Ever.


The sun would come up, uniforms on, a bowl of ready brek (does that even still exist?!) off to school, work on with daily lives. Back to looking normal. Nothing for anyone to expect.
We were always presentable, on time, parents always came to school when needed, no shouting or trouble. Why would anyone think we were living in a nightmare?


The reason I’m writing this is to show. You never know what’s going on behind a closed door. Whether it’s abuse, stress, mental illness. Us as humans are amazing at painting on a smile and convincing the world were ok. So good in fact we often convince ourselves.


As you’re going about your normal daily tasks just think that person who you make a remark to might be suffering so much and may need someone. We need to stick together and open up.

By Chris Wood, 02 November 2017 – 0 comments

25 October 2017

Be Your Own Lighthouse

I’ve never wrote a blog before. I’m not 100% sure what one is.

But I’m going to interpret it as a way to express my experiences, emotions and difficulties all on this little page. Hopefully to help others to speak up or find some comfort.

I won’t lie, I’m scared to put it all out there. Terrified in fact. And I feel very alone when doing so. But I hope that by speaking out others can come forwards with their experience and continue to share.
If by me airing my “dirty laundry” will help one person then I am happy to do so.

I’ve always been scared to be honest, I’m a bit of a woss. I was a scared little girl. Not all the time granted. But often if I heard a person’s footsteps coming up the stairs I was terrified I would be made to watch something or do something I didn’t want to nor did I understand. I would lie on my cabin bed, face tucked into a cabbage patch doll as tight as possible hoping if I could pretend I was asleep nothing would happen.

I would be terrified my mam would never escape. Packing her toothbrush in the night as a toddler. I wanted to save her. At the age of 23 I still do want to save her.
I was scared at school. Of not fitting in. Of always being left out. Always on the outside edge of friendship groups. The nerdy girl with the pink clarinet and the frizzy hair always clicking down the corridor like an extra from Glee! (I didn’t fit in)

I was scared of failure of not doing my mam and my Granda proud. They needed some good news.

As a teenager I was terrified I was always being whispered about. Emily the girl whose father hung himself. I heard these whispers so many times and thought I’m never going to amount to anything else other than an add on to a bit of gossip.

Being loved. Being broken. A massive fear and they probably still are to this day. I have longed to feel loved by anyone, someone. And due to this and living in denial of accepting that I’ve stayed on violent abusive and torturous relationships and others where I knew, and was told, I wasn’t loved back.

If anyone has ever suffered abuse or a mental illness you will probably know how it feels to be stripped of your identity. To many in surrounding towns I have often been thought of as the chubby funny girl with a top knot. Always joking, making a fool of herself. Having a kerfuffle. I held down a good job working my way up the ladder. Got houses, a dog. Yet inside I felt lost, empty. As though I was floating through life. I just wanted a purpose. I would fill this void with determination.
Maybe my purpose is to be successful. So I would take on as many jobs and as many hours as I could. And still I would lay at night wishing I didn’t exist.

Maybe my purpose is to love and be loved. So I would throw myself at a man devoting every aspect of my life to him. Yet still I would sit on the shore for hours crying. Wanting the sea to take me to a better place.
One day I had lost the lot. We had reached the end of the story.
The illness and the things I have gone through won. They took it all. The boyfriend, the friends, the job, the money, and myself. I had nothing left and knew I had been avoiding these demons for too long. I had reached tipping point.
Unfortunately, didn’t win any 2ps either! Shame.

I lay day after day night after night my family on constant Emily watch. My younger sister having to shower me and brush my hair whilst I was in a trance. Re living the trauma and the nightmares in my head like a bad episode of Corrie!
Then it hit me.

I needed to save myself. I needed to be my lighthouse. Something clicked on my head. I sought help from family. Reading online posts like this one. Speaking openly to my gp and professionals. And bit by bit I found myself again.
I realised it’s so easy to be swallowed up by the demons and the negative thoughts wanting to be saved or it to end. And often it’s yourself that needs to be the hero. It hasn’t been easy but I am now in the best place mentally I have probably been in years. I am happy. Truly.

And I want to win. I want you to win (yes you) be your own lighthouse. Praise yourself for the achievements that seem “regular” to others. Whether it’s reading this post, managing to get dressed or out of bed, eat a meal without feeling guilty, seeking help, volunteering, finding a hobby. You are a lot stronger than you think. And trust me there is a reason you’re here. Let’s find it.


I will win. We will win. Together.

 

Follow Emily's story over at WordPress where you will find regular blogs on trauma, recovery, life and gratitude. 

https://postmanpom.wordpress.com/

By Chris Wood, 25 October 2017 – 0 comments

06 September 2017

Championing Positive Mental Health In Cumbria

 

 

Mental Health is real. it’s not going anywhere. We do need to address it. We do need to talk about it and we do need to break down the stigma surrounding it. Stigma and discrimination arise from fear and as Yoda says - “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."

To face our fears and let them into our lives is courageous and the power of conversation, education and information is paramount to living in a forward thinking society that accepts mental health as a basic human right. It can no longer be dismissed, side lined, hushed and locked away. The bird is out the cage and it’s time to sing.

As a #timetochange champion I pledge to speak openly and honestly about my mental health on a regular basis to encourage close ones to do the same. My work is not done until everybody is talking about mental health and wellbeing in a relaxed, honest and open way.

To me, this means integrating conversation into everyday life - at home, school, college, university, at work, in the local coffee shop and on social media. (I see you all grimace at the thought and I'm noticing my ‘facebook friends’ not so interactive when I post about serious matters surrounding mental health but flock in their treble figures for a good selfie. It is this level of discomfort that presses me to keep going. “Get comfortable being uncomfortable. That’s how you break the plateau and reach that next level.” - Chalene Johnson

I want to be part of a society that helps one another to rise - not fall with ignorance. I want to be a champion that challenges stigma with kindness, faces judgment with compassion and to help change perceptions and attitudes. Damn, I want to change the world!

My lived experience of mental health started way back as a young child. I was either very confident - almost over confident in social/peer situations or very self-conscious and shy. I dealt with this using plain old avoidance. I would physically remove myself from the group with an air of arrogance and coolness to disguise the overwhelming feeling of not fitting in and disconnect.

There was nobody to talk to about these feelings, no one to validate that everything was ok and would be ok and this heightened my feelings of isolation and sadness further. I would look around as a young child and see that everyone else was getting on just fine, they didn’t appear to have crippling low self-esteem and confidence issues, they were much better socially skilled than I, better dressed, had more money, lived in nicer houses - and so the comparing began and I would do this for most of my adult life.

As a kid I was surrounded by stigma growing up on a council estate - racism, violence, poverty, physical illness and addiction were all rife - but no-one and I mean no-one ever talked about mental health unless it was to finger point at the  'nutter' who was walking the streets fresh out the 'funny farm.' This is the kind of stigma that I'm on a mission to challenge so watch out!

If there had been help and open conversations growing up about how to overcome feelings and emotions and positive advice on how to boost your own mental health I feel my silent battle wouldn’t have hit the crisis points that it did. So for these reasons, I truly believe in Time to Change and everything it stands for and will do everything in my power to pro-actively do my bit to make sure no child growing up faces these struggles alone. I want to empower children, young people, teenagers, adults and OAP’s to find their voice and most importantly teach society that it is OK to not be OK. Help is at hand.

If you would like to find out more about Time to Change and what we do hit the link here https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

Our next Champions meeting is September 20, 2017 at the Crown and Mitre Hotel, Carlisle, 6-7:30 pm. Anyone over 18 with an interest in joining the movement or a desire to find out more you're more than welcome to come along. Just ask for Sara or Caroline at reception. 

 

Thank you.

Sara x

 

By Chris Wood, 06 September 2017 – 0 comments

11 August 2017

A Beacon of Light

The Lighthouse

Caption: The Lighthouse

Matchstick Lighthouse

Caption: Matchstick Lighthouse

 A Beacon of Light

 Having had a long period of bad mental health I am well acquainted with charities and the fantastic work that they do in supporting and empowering victims of this modern day curse.

 When Caroline first mentioned the Lighthouse project to me, my initial instinct was to volunteer to help in whatever way I could. I listened to what they wanted to achieve and visited the homely, welcoming offices, and I desperately wanted to be a part of it. Unfortunately its opening coincided with one of my ‘dark periods’ and I was physically unable to commit.

 What I did instead was to put my mind to thinking how else I could help. My thoughts were that this great project required a model, a beacon of light to match its purpose. And so my labour of love began. Caroline duly sent me a copy of the logo that was to be on their paperwork and off I went to work.

 I’ve only been doing matchstick models for just over a year but it turns out that I seem to have a knack for them. For more years than I care to remember I’ve struggled to find a hobby that would distract me from my ‘difficulties’. I’ve tried many different things from painting to clay modelling but nothing kept my interest; and then came matchsticks!

 In all this model took me around forty to fifty hours to complete. Admittedly a fair chunk of the time was thinking about the logistics of the model but it was still time spent away from my ‘other issues’.

 I’m happy with the results and hope that the Lighthouse Project can be similarly successful in bringing hope, light and distraction to those lucky enough to file through its doorway.

 

- Rick

 

 

 

By Chris Wood, 11 August 2017 – 0 comments

21 July 2017

Work Experience


Q. What do the following phrases have in common?

  • EU Brexit repayment due

  • Boris Karloff playing Frankenstein’s monster

  • President Trump in charge of the nuclear button

  • Overdraft limit reached

  • I’ve got Mental Health problems

A. They’re all too scary to even think about!


***


I’ve had bad mental health problems for the past 20 years, or rather, I recognised that I had MH problems 20 years ago, and one of the hardest things for me to accept was the fact that I was no longer fit for work. Me being me, I initially refused to accept this fact and struggled on “manfully” for another 5 years before I faced up to the inevitable and signed on the sick. What damage this period of not acting on my better instincts did is debateable, and a subject for a later blog.


Once I had ‘recovered’ I made a couple of attempts at returning to the workplace; neither of which were successful. They failed quite simply because I was neither ready for work, nor, accepting of the true nature of my illness.

When I finally accepted that I could “no longer do what I used to be able to do”, I got my act together and started volunteering. Anyway, that too is the subject of another later blog; this one is about the general public’s view on mental health.

 

***


Three long months ago, I woke up one gloriously sunny morning and decided that it was time for me to return to the workplace. I reasoned that after 15 years on the sick and 10 years working with services towards my wellbeing, it was now time to put all of the lessons into practice and collect a weekly paycheque.

At my interview I was brutally honest with the manager and told him about my mental health condition and the effect that it has had on my day to day living. I explained that I’d done voluntary work for over 10 years, specialising in MH. When he asked why I hadn’t done paid work instead, I told him how one of the benefits of volunteering was that if I was having a ‘bad day’, I could simply phone in and no explanation was needed.

Truthfully, I think that it was my honesty that got me the job and very probably, against his better judgement. For three months I worked like a Trojan. I was never late; I was always willing to do anything and to help anyone; I worked harder than I should have because, after all I had 15 years of pent up energy to expel.

Finally, and almost inevitably, my illness caught up with me.


***


One thing that I am extremely proud of is that when I feel a crash approaching, I take the necessary action, however hard it may be.

I loved working. I was proud that the money I was spending was coming from my own labours. I enjoyed the camaraderie with my new colleagues. But, on the other side of the coin, I was using the strength that I normally reserve for my constant battle with my inner destructive voices on manual labour at work instead.

On the morning that I handed in my notice, I was shaking like a leaf. Not from fear but from complete exhaustion. I no longer had the strength to control my basic motor functions.

Reluctantly, I walked into the boss’s office and told him that I simply couldn’t work anymore because my MH was starting to play up again and I was heading towards a crash. At this, he nigh on exploded and started shouting about having the chance he’d given to me thrown back in his face. I walked out of his office and left him with the words “if you’re not going to listen I’m not bothering to explain”.

Anyway, after 30 seconds of calming down I was called back in and the manager apologised for his outburst. He then uttered the dreaded phrase, “if you’d walked in with a cast on your leg I could see that you couldn’t work, but with mental health, I didn’t have a clue”.


***


I’m pretty sure that everyone who suffers from bad MH has at one time or another heard those exact words. My question is;

WHY?

In these technologically advanced days, there is no shortage of information on the internet. Most reasonable sized towns and all cities have support groups for relatives and friends of sufferers. The media is forever highlighting celebrities who have had the courage to be open about their battle with MH. And probably most importantly of all, with over one in four of us suffering, we all know someone personally with bad MH.

Anyway, I’m going to leave it there because those of us that do understand don’t need another rant about the general public’s ignorance of our condition, and those of you that don’t understand, you should be reading up on other stuff.

RAISING MENTAL AWARENESS
RAISES SOCIETY

- Rick

By Chris Wood, 21 July 2017 – 0 comments

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