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

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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

12 June 2017

Rod's Great North Swim

Rod Anderson GNS

To say I was excited when I found out I had been successful in my application for a post with Carlisle Eden Mind, is a massive understatement.

I saw that there were places available on the Great North Swim available to raise funds for Mind and I decided to give it a go!

So, I enrolled in the swim, set up a Just Giving page and joined the local pool in Carlisle and set off on a fairly intense training program. I remember telling my friend Neil about it and he was somewhat dubious about my readiness for the event, his response was “You’re doing it for 2018, yeah?”. When I told him that it was in four weeks he was unconvinced! So I swam 64 lengths three times a week after work and did some open water swimming at the weekends and as the GNS date loomed nearer, I was getting quite nervous.

Anyway, Saturday was the day and we set off for Ambleside in the pouring rain feeling quite apprehensive. However those thoughts soon turned into excitement as I watched all the other waves of swimmers setting off before mine. My wave set off at 1305 and I waited for the faster swimmers to get a head start before taking to the water. All the other competitors were in very good spirits and the camaraderie was very motivating!

The lake was really quite choppy and a bit unnerving, however I just kept ploughing on to the end with a few kind words from other competitors and the safety boat staff.

Crossing the finishing line was a brilliant experience, especially since my brother is one of the event commentators, he gave Carlisle Eden Mind a brilliant shout out!!

Next swim is Great Scottish Swim in August!

-Rod Anderson, Volunteer Support Worker

By Chris Wood, 12 June 2017 – 0 comments

02 May 2017

Iconic sights, Royal visits and a journey that was so much further than 26.2 miles...

Justine Carruthers, CEO of Traybakes Ltd, ran the London Marathon 2017 for Carlisle Eden Mind as part of team Heads Together. This is her story...

When my good friend and fellow trail runner Juliet Grey asked me to do the London Marathon with her, it really should have been a no brainer. We were to be as part of a team of local people hoping to raise £10,000 collectively to provide much needed funding for Carlisle Eden Mind Suicide Prevention.

I have always loved distance running and have run for pleasure and competitively on and off, pretty much all my life. However, I was faced with a dilemma.

My dilemma was twofold. Firstly, I have tried to avoid running on roads for nearly 20 years as I have suffered injury from the concussion of road running and I much prefer the environment of running off road. Secondly, and most importantly, I have suffered all my life from anxiety and panic attacks. Running has become one of the main tools in my toolbox for coping with anxiety, but I have a fear of crowded places.

Juliet Grey is the Suicide Prevention Officer for Carlisle Eden Mind and the training she delivers is invaluable in our county. On average one person a week is lost to suicide in Cumbria. That coupled with the fact that Mind were a charity partner of Heads Together, this years’ London Marathon’s charity of the year, I felt I had to accept and face my very own mental health challenges Head On!

The morning of the marathon, we set off at 7am to make our way to the start line and make the most of our VIP invitation to the Heads Together marquee. Situated very conveniently right behind the start, it was clear on arrival that this was indeed a very special area, as we needed to convince a number of burly security guards that we had been formally invited. On entering, we were greeted by a television crew and lots of excited fellow Heads Together runners. I asked a guy standing next to me if he had run a marathon before and he said he had, but never one quite like this. I took that to mean he had never ran London before, but it turns out he was the trainer for the runners on the Mind Over Marathon television documentary!

We were greeted next by a flush of police officers and sniffer dogs sweeping the area and a fellow runner whispered to me that we were getting some important visitors… Shortly after, Princes William and Harry arrived to greet all the Heads Together runners and wish us all luck. We were then escorted to the start line and set off directly behind the elite men. I was not expecting this; my running number was 14,530 and I fully expected to be right at the back with the fancy dress runners and blimey it was a much faster start than I had planned.

The London Marathon is an amazing experience, but it is an assault on your senses. The first thing that struck me was the incredible drumming of feet pounding the road. I can only imagine that it must be rather like running into battle, every runner charged with emotion and high energy, nobody speaking just a loud drumming of feet. It eventually became quite meditative but initially it made me feel quite anxious.

I had hoped to settle into a steady pace in the first few miles, but this proved to be a little naïve. We were carried along by the crowd with fast runners coming behind us snapping at our heels, but the energy and atmosphere was sensational. Juliet and I ran along with huge grins on our faces. The crowds were amazing - I had been told about people shouting your name and encouraging you, but I was not at all prepared for the passion and enthusiasm of total strangers shouting out your name on your vest, genuinely wishing you well. It was incredibly moving and I found myself feeling very emotional.

The marathon is a great marketing opportunity for brand association, with drinks companies eager to supply the marathon. Water and energy drinks stations are available every few miles which is marvellous, but they are an obstacle in themselves! You need to have the skill of a relay team sprinter to negotiate the crowds and grab your bottle like a baton from the wonderful people handing them to you at the stations. You then need to move quickly out of the way for fear of running into the back of another thirsty runner and avoid the hydrated runners who are running past the station. You also need to avoid the ‘in flight’ bottles that are being discarded and try not to trip over the ones under your feet. I think the bottle collectors deserve a medal never mind the runners!

I was shocked also by the sheer waste of water and Lucozade drinks. Most runners only take a few sips out of each full-sized bottle, to then discard it at the side of the road. The road where the Lucozade is being distributed reminded me of a 1980’s disco - your pace suddenly slowing as your feet stick to the road. I was also not prepared to be completely willing to take sweets from total strangers, not having the slightest clue what I had accepted and shoving it in my mouth in the hope it would magically make my legs run faster!

The highlight for me was running with my lovely friend Juliet across the iconic Tower Bridge and Prince William high-fiving the Heads Together runners on the side of the road about 5 miles in. The crowds are truly amazing and you really do feel as though the whole of London is right behind you, a truly carnival atmosphere.

I found the last 6 miles quite tough going as my legs grew heavier and I felt emotionally and physically tired. Juliet just seemed to get stronger in her legs at this point as she looked totally energised by the atmosphere. It just goes to show that everybody’s marathon journey is different.

I feel very privileged to have been given a place in the 2017 London Marathon, representing the Heads Together Charity. I am incredibly grateful to all the wonderful friends, family, associates and total strangers who donated to our fundraising for Suicide Prevention Training and to Caroline Robinson of Carlisle Eden Mind who worked tirelessly to help us with our fund raising and supporting us every step of the way.

I feel that there has never been a better time to tackle the stigma around Mental Health and make for a more open conversation, really hope we can keep the momentum going.

- Justine

By Chris Wood, 02 May 2017 – 0 comments

16 March 2017

How does one eat an elephant?

Admit it. You just scrunched up your face and said to yourself; you don’t eat an elephant…

That was exactly my reaction many years ago, when a counsellor said this to me. But please stay with me!

This little saying has stuck with me, maybe because it was different. But I like different; I am different. I’ve not had an easy life and it is not going to get better overnight. Yet I’m still here, and let me tell you why.

Those unexpected painful nights, the break ups, the seemingly impossible blows life sometimes throws. Any time I have felt stressed, hurt or even the few times I’ve felt like giving up. This saying, echoed in my ear.

“How do you eat an elephant Marie? …one little piece at a time.”

I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. I’m now a single mum bordering thirty and this has never seemed more relevant. Oh, and to add to the circus, I now study a bachelors degree in Psychology and counselling. It’s safe to say I often feel a tad overwhelmed. In fact, just last night, whilst fighting sleep deprived brain fog and the final cut off for a deadline looming, I crumbled.

I reached out to my best friend, crying as I struggled with the words. He as ever listened and talked softly. “I’m going to say this, breathe. You’re doing amazing and just remember, how do you eat an elephant?” Well, he said a lot but honestly, this got me laughing. This silly phrase has managed to work its way to anyone who knows me well. For something I brushed off as something a radical therapist said as to just break the ice was still making me laugh now. Simple, silly, memorable and effective.

The ‘elephant’ is, of course, something huge; you cannot tackle eating one whole, right? For someone who used to have panic attacks in public and anxiety made me breathless, I must always remember how far I’ve come. We can condition ourselves to believe something is out of reach. One or a few bad experiences can truly shake us up, believe me, I know. We can begin to underestimate ourselves, especially if those around you do.

I’m here to tell you, you shouldn’t.

I left school before completing my A levels as I spiralled a little out of control. I did not see the point in trying. I married young, which inevitably was to go wrong. In fact, for a long time it seemed everything was.

I now know that keeping this secret inside and pretending everything was fine, was slowly breaking my soul and making me unwell. The anxiety and depression triggered by this need to keep quiet. Until I simply couldn’t anymore. I won’t lie, it was not easy. However, just a few years later, I’m here, reclaiming my life. The man who stole what felt like everything from me is in jail. I have a new life to live for; my girl.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve learned to stop sometimes and simply breathe. To count my blessings, not my struggles. I’ve sadly learned that people can and will let you down. But I’ve also learned I’m much more capable than I ever thought possible. I’ve also met some truly beautiful souls who like me have found strength in their pain.

Everything I’ve been through just makes me more determined. I have this fire inside I once thought had been extinguished. I found my voice, and now I’m working my butt off to give others theirs back too. Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life is unfair. Sometimes we cry. I’m here to tell you, to give yourself a break. If you feel scared, say it. Talk it out.

Break that elephant up and take that bite. Fight. Nothing is ever as impossible as it initially feels.

 

-Marie Conaghan

By Chris Wood, 16 March 2017 – 1 comments

15 March 2017

I reckon we're ready for this!

So today Justine and Juliet headed off to conquer road running...

...setting off from Traybakes at Redhills and ending up 24 miles later in Keswick. It was a bit endless and probably more undulating than London, but it was sunny and we hadn't caught up for a while so we had a lot to chat about so all in all it was thoroughly enjoyable!

So in part, I reckon we are ready for this now!!... I have my road shoes now but look forward to swapping them again for my others.

A big thank you to the amazing Chris from Traybakes who came and picked us up and the lovely bar staff at the White Horse when we popped in for a drink midway through (a coke by the way!)

Please remember we aren't just doing this for the fun of it, if you are able to sponsor us we would be so grateful!

- Juliet Gray

To support Juliet text JULG17 £5 to 70070

To support Justine text JSTN17 £5 to 70070

By Chris Wood, 15 March 2017 – 0 comments

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