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"Opening up about mental health experiences can be beneficial to yourself as well as others. "

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;


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.


- Rick

By Chris Wood, 21 July 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

02 March 2017

By day 31, mentally – I was on fire!

Cathy had no idea what an effect R.E.D January would have on her life when her friend signed her up...

Joining R.E.D January was the idea of my running buddy Keira. I’d never heard of it and when she suggested we should run everyday, I hadn’t realised it was a sponsored event – I just agreed to do it as a fun way of losing some Christmas wobbly bits. Although, I have to confess that it took until the third of January to publicly admit I was doing it, not because of the running but rather that with family, work and a commitment to support a friend running an ultra in the middle of the month I genuinely didn’t know if I would be able to get out and find the time to run for 31 consecutive days.

This did, of course, prove to be the hardest part BUT what I did discover was that it was a whole lot easier logistically than marathon training as I only ever run a maximum of an hour and a half on the days when I fancied a long run and on the days which proved difficult I simply shuffled along in the dark for 25 minutes.

Physically, I got progressively more tired as the month wore on with a stack of old injuries vying for attention by day 31, however, mentally – I was on fire! I achieved a tremendous amount throughout the month just because I had to be more organised and I never once spent a day staring wistfully out of the window thinking “I should really go for a run.” I just went.

The bonus runs were with my running buddy Keira where an unspoken rule meant that we both brought homebaking for an after snack which, combined with our “natter pace”, meant for a thoroughly uplifting hour of laughter and mental wellbeing. Our runs usually started with a resigned sigh, tying our laces, starting Strava and then complaining for the first few kilometres about how shattered we were before hooting with laughter as we missed another path junction due to talking too much or grimacing across an unplanned river crossing while failing to take a selfie due to stiff middle aged fingers.

I thoroughly enjoyed running every day in January (I still can’t believe that I can say that!) and while it wasn’t easy, like everything that is very hard work it was immensely rewarding. If you are thinking of signing up and giving it a go; stop thinking and just do it. You never know what you can achieve until you try……

- Cathy Casey, R.E.D. January 2017

To read Cathy's entertaining account of the month in full, click here.

By Chris Wood, 02 March 2017 – 0 comments

02 March 2017

Cathy's R.E.D January 2017 Diary


Day 1:

Could only fit in a run in the dark and picked up youngests’ head torch by accident. Turns out she's been reading under the covers and the batteries were spent. I discovered this when I left the streetlight behind one kilometre into my run. With all of 2 lumens and the merest slither of a crescent moon I managed to run 4k without injuring myself. On the plus side, my view of the stars was unhindered.

Day 2:

Replaced batteries and could actually see the white road markings in the fog last night. Another 4km banked even though my Strava decided to turn itself off four metres into the run. Grrrr.

Day 3:

RED January run was a bit breezy. Castles, rivers, Buzzards and Robins joined me along the way.

Day 4:

I had my two little mates with me on a beach run today. 3k followed by lunch cooked on a campfire in the glorious sunshine while the waves lapped gently nearby.

Day 5:

Brrrrrrrr. Chilly run number 5 today with an air temperature of -3. Today's run was full of Pheasants, woodpeckers, dippers and sheep sporting magic markers on their tummies. Clocked up just under 20k so far this week so on target for 100k for Run Every Day January. Hope my shoes aren't too frozen tomorrow.....

Day 6:

I've only just realised I can add a blog to the fundraising page! I've never run 6 consecutive days before and while I was looking at the splashes on the window this morning I realised why. It was cold, damp and very grey today BUT I did clock up another 5k AND get my first sponsor! Alas, there is no visible reduction in waistline to report yet but I do seem to have cravings for porridge and runny boiled eggs with soldiers.

Day 7:

In a supreme effort to delay today's run as long as possible I successfully put away all the Christmas decorations, framed a bunch of photos that have been sitting on the side for a very long time and re-arranged the airing cupboard. However, you wonderful people have already helped me achieve over 50% of my sponsorship goal so I had no choice but to climb into wet shoes and head out into the murk. THANKYOU! (It really does make it easier)

Day 8:

Fresh off the train from our Milton Keynes Shop I made hubby join me for run #8 so far this year. Just passed the 40k mark. Today was supposed to be a nice little 8k circuit just outside Penrith taking in Brougham castle and the picturesque A66 but alas we were halted by a subtle red sign stating "Bridge Collapse Imminent Danger of Death". Storm Desmond is still winning over a year after the floods!

Day 9:

...and I managed to dodge the downpours but there was a penalty to pay. (Alas, I can’t include video in this document, therefore you have been spared the real time footage of me running through a farmyard ankle deep in brown nasty that wasn’t mud!)

Day 10:

Oh my goodness - you amazing people! You have already sponsored me MORE than my goal!!! Thank you sooooo much. Run number 10 and I'm getting faster; I just shaved 5, yes 5 minutes off the same 4K route I ran on the first of Jan!!! (Although admittedly I had lighting issues that meant shuffling at a snails pace on the original run) ??

Day 11:

Today in numbers:

  • Time spent listening to storm at 4:30 this morning - 60 mins
  • Time spent hoping running shoes might have blown away - 59 mins
  • Time spent hunting for hand carved wand for daughters Harry Potter night - 150 mins
  • Time spent running through thick mud while being overtaken by leaves and pummelled by sideways sleet - 64 mins...
  • Number of seasons experienced during run - 4
  • Total kilometres run in January so far - 60
  • Number of wands found - 0

Day 12:

Much better with friends (and a bit if snow!) Yellow weather warnings and the tabloids screaming about the "killer freeze" has resulted in some lovely outings amid the snowy hills these past few days. The downside of this is that I have got carried away with distance resulting in achy legs for the first time this year. Another down side is wet shoes. Very cold, wet shoes. So cold and wet, in fact, that I actually wore my summer running shoes today - a terrible decision as it turned out because their gorgeous colours have now got a muddy splat right across the front.

Day 13:

With achy legs, a biting wind, slush underfoot and very wet shoes from yesterday, today was definitely the hardest day to get out of the door so far.

Day 14:

Very chilly run with very tired legs in the snow today. Fantastic Peak District scenery as I am spending the next three days supporting my friend on The Spine Race – 108 miles that he has to cover in 60 hours. Parked up in the snow now waiting for Chris to arrive at first crew meet up. He's just minutes away !!!

Day 15:

Only managed to squeeze 2.5km in today on account of having spent the night kipping in a van. The good news is that I can recover tonight by.......kipping in a van. Missing my own Casey crew back home but now waiting for Chris Worton to drop into Gargrave as he reaches the 3/4 point of his Spine Challenger. Go Chris!

Day 16:

Was a small skip around Hawes. Small distances these past few days as have only had 8 hours sleep in three days. In other news: Chris Worton did it!!!! He crossed the finish line at 5pm this evening after having covered 108 miles since Saturday morning!

Day 17:

Today was by far and away the hardest to get out into the grey drizzle and put more kilometres in my legs. They felt like lead, my calf muscles were screaming on any uphill, paracetamol only made a small dent in the thumping headache I've had all day - running this charity challenge has really got me thinking about how people with anxiety and depression deal with these symptoms (and worse) every single day. Frequently with no end in sight.

P.S: Passed 80km today

Day 18:

Couldn't face a run today so went for a 10k "chat" with fellow RED runner Keira Booth. We were nattering so much that we completely forgot to take any pictures and completed the circuit in our normal running time! This was something of a surprise as we greeted each other this morning with a synchronised whinge about how exhausted we were.
Our daily exertion was eased by scrummy chocolate orange brownies with white choc chips (baked by eldest) washed down by a flask full of Assam tea - with a unique hint of Pantene. (Forgot I used the plastic milk bottle for my shampoo when I went to India.)

Day 19:

In order to take lunch with the ladies this afternoon I had to fit in an early run today. This was especially important as I was swapping banana walnut loaf for topsoil. So I squelched hand in hand with youngest down to school in order to run the long way home. A superb lunch was enjoyed, there was plenty of high quality natter, I got my topsoil and managed to nick the remainder of the banana loaf (apologies Keira Booth but you can't go leaving blueberry and lemon curd roulade on the side and expect me to leave the loaf behind!!) Now just a whisker away from reaching that magic 100k.....

Day 20:

Hubby joined me as I passed the 100k mark today. Thought I'd take him on one of my favourite 7k's - turns out it was closer to 7 miles. A very muddy 7 miles. Ooooops!

I PASSED 100km TODAY!!!!!!!! I honestly had no idea if I would even be able to get out everyday, let alone achieve my pledged distance with time to spare!!! Who knows what distance I'll be able to cover before the 31st? I can't wait to see..... Hope the ground dries out a bit though.

Day 21:

Frozen shoes and stiff legs were eased by sunshine and glorious blue skies this morning. A hard frost is still on the ground where the light of the sun hasn't yet hit.
This challenge is to raise money for a suicide awareness project but it is also hoped it will raise awareness of mental health. Without even trying I can think of five family members and close friends that I see frequently who are currently taking medication for Depression, Anxiety or PTSD. They range wildly in age and have found themselves in a dark place for a variety of reasons including bereavement, physical illness, abuse or simply because they remained strong for too long.
Our physical and mental health are only temporary.
A big, heartfelt thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far. If you are able to, please consider sponsoring me via the link below or get in touch to pledge by other means. Or - you could do something even more amazing and make a phone call to someone on their own, write a letter to someone recently bereaved, meet for a coffee with a friend you know to be a bit down or even just send a card to a distant family member bearing three important words: "Thinking of you".
Make time for each other in this crazy world because it is not an easy place to navigate on your own.

Day 22:


Day 23:

Was very tempted to drag a red balloon with me on this run what with it being the 50th birthday of Milton Keynes. Shout out to all those other red ballooners out there who appeared in the original 80’s TV advert. If my memory serves me correctly the MK Bowl DJ had 2 songs: 99 Red Ballons & Wake Me Up before You Go Go!

Day 24:

With the stunning Pennines behind me I made a short video while running today showing the sheep patiently waiting for their lambs to appear. The other night when I had been running through the same field I had fifty pairs of sheepy eyes staring back at me. Then one of them coughed and I nearly soiled myself. My goodness they sound human!

Day 25:

Sunshine, mud, more mud, a surprise river crossing, a little bit more mud and delicious baked comestibles on the roadside. Then we went back to Keira Booth's to shovel......more mud. Anyone else sensing a theme here?

Day 26:

I am a study in yawning. I yawned all the way dropping youngest off at school today. I yawned all the way home. I like to think I improved - maybe I should write a book about it...
Today was spent studying Cumberland mud (as opposed to yesterday's Westmoreland) and I can report with some confidence that Cumberland mud is colder and contains more ice crystals. It also plays havoc with your digestion so much so that if I hadn't been running with hubby today I would have bailed at 3km. (Although to be fair, this may have more to do with scoffing two boiled eggs rather than just the energy sapping properties of the mud) Happily we covered 7.5km in the winter sunshine taking me to within a whisper of 140km in total. So far.....

Day 27:

The small window for todays run vanished when the Headmaster sidled up to me this morning to remind me that I was about to miss a deadline. I had filed a letter in my February pile instead of my January pile by accident. Aaaarrgh! And so it was, I found myself sitting in Tebay services at 10am, rattling off an essay on why parents should vote for me to be the next Parent Governor. It's possible I should have included a photo of my disorganisation highlighted by the fact I had a partially carved wand poking out the top of my rucksack. (Which is, in fact due for completion in Feburary so technically I'm on a winner with that one....)
Fortunately, I finished preparations at work in time to fit in a swift 2km prance around Llanberis in the dim light of another failing headtorch.

Lucky we sell batteries!

Day 28:

6:30am. Rain. No sign of daylight but I was welcomed back into the village to Joes’ smiley face above our shop. Now it's time to pack for a day on the hill with the Joe Brown Big Winter Walk - our friends at Plas Y Brenin, the national Mountaineering Centre, assure me there's some snow up there somewhere.....

Day 29:

Got back to the flat at 10 last night absolutely pooped after a great day on the hill and working the evening of the Joe Brown Big Winter Walk at Plas Y Brenin. Brilliant 7 hour winter day on the Carneddau (two and a half of which were in crampons) AND there was enough snow to throw ourselves down to practice ice axe braking - a lot of me hurts this morning!

So a very sloooow 2.5km this morning as I am off out on the hill again today. It was just me and the Llanberis rowing team up at dawn. The sunrise looks promising but the forecast says otherwise.....

Day 30:

The theme of today's run was "All Over Body Ache". Had another excellent winter day on the Glyders yesterday with another goodly few hours in crampons. What a cracking weekend and to cap it all...........I'VE RUN 150k!!!!!!!!

RED January Day 31 COMPLETE!

Well that was moist!

Earlier this month I pledged to run everyday this month to raise money for Carlisle Eden Mind. I thought that IF I could manage to actually get a run in everyday I might be able to run 100km this month.

Turns out I ran 160 instead - 100 miles!!!!

You never know what you are capable of until you try.


January in numbers:

  • Total miles run: 100 (160km)
  • Av. time spent out in the fresh air running per week: 4.5hrs
  • Av. distance per week: 38km
  • Ascent: 2700m (8,850 feet) (2 x Ben Nevis approx.)
  • No. of pairs of running shoes worn out: 1
  • No. of pairs of running tights worn out: 1
  • National Parks Run In: 4
  • No. of cups of tea drunk roadside (both with and without a hint of shampoo): lost count
  • No. of castles run past: 3
  • No. of Harry Potter wands carved, sanded and pyrographed: 1
  • No. of positions of school governor achieved: 1
  • Monies raised in total: £415

THANK YOU! For your amazing donations. Collectively over £15,000 has been raised to help Carlisle and Eden's Suicide Awareness Project. That's enough to train over 600 people to identify and support someone in need. Every week, someone in Cumbria takes their own life because they just can't see a way out of their darkness. Thanks to your donations, 600 people will have the training to talk confidently to someone in need without worrying about saying the "wrong thing" and therefore saying nothing at all.
P.s: I went for a run today.....

By Chris Wood, 02 March 2017 – 0 comments


  • Time to Change Cumbria Champions share their lived experience of mental health
  • Your Stories Opening up about mental health experiences can be beneficial to yourself as well as others.
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