Its been a year?!?

I knew it was coming, I had checked my diary and I wanted to mark the day, some might say that is a bit bonkers, why the hell would he want to mark the anniversary of that? Well, you might be right, you probably are given the stigma that’s attached but I am selfish so I am going to mark it.

It has been a year since I had my third breakdown. Some of you are probably asking yourself the question that I am always asking myself, ‘What am I not learning here?’, still it happened and I am still here to talking about it. By marking this day I don’t want it to be a moratorium of negativity but a celebration of success and passing on a few things that have helped me and maybe something to watch out for. I am not telling you this for sympathy or congratulations but to raise awareness of something that should no longer hide in the shadows and should be dealt with head on without stigma or shame.

After all depression and anxiety are biological chemical imbalances in the brain, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it is not there, just because it’s not wrapped up in a plaster caste as you would a broken bone doesn’t mean the person isn’t suffering.

As I mentioned this was my third breakdown or as some call it a break through and it was by far the most traumatising in some ways. There were days where I remembered the tips and tricks to help get me through it and deal with each day as it came but then there were days when I couldn’t even think straight and there are hours missing from my memory still. There were many challenges, getting to see a GP as I free falling into the depths of something I could no longer get myself out of but with an angry husband shouting causing a nuisance I got an emergency appointment at my GP. I was put on various drugs to get me to sleep which had become a major issue, drugs that made me dizzy and feel nauseous all the time. There was one instance where I literally couldn’t walk and had to get my hubby to come and rescue me as I had gone out to get some fresh air (going out everyday was one of my things that I did everyday).

Then came the disastrous early work medical, it’s a long story but it set me back weeks. Sleep was still a huge issues and we hadn’t really found drugs that were really helping me with sleep. I had a habit of wandering off and one day after some crossed words with Hubby I went for a walk but of course my mind poisoned my thoughts and I don’t remember much, I thought I was just wandering around for a bit thinking about what do to now but I had been missing a few hours and a search party had started, they found me, it’s a good job as I can remember I had decided to go away for a bit and I was heading for the train station (I had no change of clothes just a train pass and a few bags of shopping)

Sleeping pills did nothing and so I was left to it and one night after not sleeping for 3 days, it was about 3am and I was watching nonsense on the TV trying to sleep that I decided I was going outside to sit in the cold for a bit but Hubby had double bolted the door and he managed to grab before I got it unlocked where I had another breakdown and I can honestly sit here and say that I was losing my mind. I was taken to the doctors by Hubby and I know a conversation about me being a danger to myself was taking place and  sectioning mentioned. In all fairness my Hubby had been amazing but never forget the stresses that are put on your loved ones in these times of crisis. The doctor agreed to give me some Diazepam aka Valium and I slept for the next few nights and I can’t tell you how much it helped.

The recovery was straight forward after all this, we found the right drugs, work organised counselling and I was assigned an amazing counsellor who has helped me in so many ways. I have learned about myself, learned to value myself and learned to have fun again.

So I want to share so advice or tips with anyone reading or who may know someone who may need help.

First, talk, you need to talk and be honest, there will be people willing to listen, my counselling journey started on a free counselling service phone number the company provides us. There is always someone around who will listen, there are people out there that will surprise you, they may not know the answer but by just knowing that you are not alone can help.

Secondly, getting out of the house and sleeping. Get out of the house everyday even if it is just a walk around the park or high street, I went to the shops everyday or walked around the ring road, it stops you being a hermit. You don’t have to talk to anyone just get out. Sleep, I know this is easier said than done but practice the best sleep hygiene you can, getting out for a nice long walk helps make you physically tired.

Third, if you have had to take some time off, occupy that time, I did a few free online courses in creative writing (FutureLearn in the UK), it was also part of rediscovering the things I like doing and make me happy. It really worried me when my counsellor asked me, ‘What do you like doing for fun?’ and I couldn’t answer her. I would grab my laptop and go to a little cafe that did the best cakes in the Midlands and sit and write a blog or story. It has led me to studying psychology now.

These are just a few things that helped me but everyone is individual, some might work for you. You are not alone and never will be, called someone, anyone, they will help. The Samaritans in the UK is a great organisation and I know they can get you off the brink and start the journey to recover. There is no shame to mental health, go to your doctor and get the help you need.

Remember you are not alone and it DOES get better, I am living proof, with help I pulled myself back from the brink, I am stronger and happier and more at peace than I have ever been. You can do it to but it is so important to be honest with yourself.

I celebrate this last year, a year of struggle, tears and laughter, it had made me what I am. I know I keep saying it but it is true….

You are not alone, it DOES get better!

x

 

Gift yourself some time!

Hi all,

Hope you are all well.

Again it has been a while but I am been very busy hitting a self destruct button but that is another story, whilst trying to keep my finger off the button I have been looking after myself a little better and I don’t mean in the physical sense of mud baths and massages. I have been giving myself time.

Let me explain.

I have started reading self-help books on mental health and anxiety but as always with me I need to understand the science behind things before I can fully take it in. I went searching for an easy to understand entry level book and came across Ruby Wax and her books of her own story on mental health (Sane New World) and mindfulness (Mindfulness guide for the Frazzled) and how she needed to find out more about it and understand the ins and outs of her own mind to be able to better cope with her issues. I read the mindfulness book, of which I am a big fan, and I am only a few chapters into the other book and already I have been taking some of the things on board.

I’m not marketing for Mrs Wax not at all but I find some of the things she writes about are very similar and I can relate to them in some way. I wanted to share somethings I have learned so far and to issue you with a challenge of sorts. I had a brief conversation with a friend the other day about giving yourself time and it was nice to hear I am not the only one who struggles with inner peace and where to find the time. Some of you may well be calm and collected and at all times and able to cope with everything that life sends you but some, like me, whose life is like the duck on the pond. Effortlessly gliding around the pond, graceful and serene but below the surface legs and working ten to the dozen to keep going. This is me pretty much all the time, but not last week.

So what was different about last week I here you cry, well I gave myself time. Time is one of those things that we always say we never have and I do believe that at certain times of day we genuinely don’t but I challenge you to think right here and now do you have 10 minutes to can gift yourself?

Gift yourself, strange use of words, maybe but trust me on this. Modern society has us constantly on the go with one thing or another, the latest social media app, photographing every aspect of our lives and sharing it, watching the latest box set, buying the latest apps and taking part in latest craze. Then take into consideration the inner self, our minds and emotions. Think of the emotional range you have been through today so far, hopefully it has all been good but so far today I have had happiness, annoyance, anger, frustration, impatience and joy to name but a few, how many of these have you shared on social media or have felt you had to share with everyone? Then consider in relation to our emotions our relationships with those around us, work mates, family, friends and other loved ones. What feelings and pressures have to had from them today so far and what is yet to come.

Work in itself is a big one after all we spend nearly a 3rd of our adult lives at work where we all deal with more emotion and stress that draws on our time, for example, have to get that report in, someone has called in sick and we need to pick up the slack and new management and a dysfunctional work place. Is it any wonder we are frazzled, frustrated and exhausted at the end of the day/week. As I say some can cope with this fully and calmly and fantastic but some can’t and there is no shame in that at all. We are just wired differently.

So let me back track, I gave myself back some time and it has been a joy and made me look at things a little bit differently, I’m not talking about major cataclysmic changes but small changes that have made a difference to me. All I did was give myself some time and use it for me, purely selfishly and yes you are allowed to be selfish from time to time. I downloaded an app called Headspace and started their ‘Take 10’ program which comes free with the app and for 10 minutes every morning I would practices mindfulness. Some days were easy than others and not every day did I really feel I was getting anywhere but after a week I felt just that little bit more in contact with my inner self and learnt the very basic skills to calm my mind and order myself.

I wanted to push on and do more, I downloaded a guided meditation by Glenn Harold and listened to that a few times last week. To me this was about using the power of my own mind to heal myself and give affirmations that help me to calm and as I call it reset to baseline. This was more of a commitment as it was a whole 30 minutes, shock horror, 30 minutes a whole 30 minutes I hear you cry! I gifted myself that time and I have to say I was calm and relaxed all week and to be fair last week was, for me quite a stressful week.

The final thing I did was to stop. Just stop and see what is around me and ask myself if I am cool. This took no time as I used my train ride to work everyday. Normally I would listen to music and play games on my iPhone or I would read Facebook or the news anything to distract me on the 20 minute train ride and in that my mind would race around and the worries and stresses would come. However one morning I put my phone in my bag and took my headphones off and just looked out of the window, simple. I just sat and noticed the world as it went by but more than this it was about giving myself time to breathe and NOT think about everything else, just to notice the world around me and be at peace. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t the best way I can try and describe it was a bit of mindfulness out in the real world, noticing the things around me and not letting my mind full up with stuff, giving me a break without having to find the time to do it.

So that was 10 minutes a day, what’s that, a short conversation on the phone or not reading all of last night Facebook posts just incase you missed something or not reading the news. A couple of times a week I took 30 minutes, I’ll admit 30 minutes is more of a challenge but I promise it is worth it, challenge yourself.

That’s my challenge, for one week take 10 minutes daily and 30 minutes a couple of times a week to gift to yourself, try mindfulness or a guided meditation. If you commute, leave the phone in your bag or pocket and just notice the world as it goes by, give yourself a break. Some other things to try which I have also been trying, watch and TV programme all the way through and don’t pick up your phone to see if someone as left you a message or an update. Can you leave it 30 minutes of so and just enjoy the programme you are watching after all you must have put it on for a reason, you like the programme if not and you are just  killing time gift yourself those minutes and reset yourself to baseline and gain some inner peace.

Give it a try, what have you got to lose?

 

 

Are you OK?

Hi all,

Kind of said before that I wasn’t going to write a blog about mental health or rather my mental health issues. I am not sure I am the right person to do this although I do have my insights. I think there are people out there more able to put things across better than I can. That said I am going to say something because of what has been in the news this week in the UK.

So this week it has been discovered that our NHS (National Health Service) is not doing mental health care very well. Yes, tell me something I don’t know. I mean I have always been able to see a doctor and get the medication but that is the easy bit and my cases have always, in the big scheme of things, been easily treatable. However start talking about the talking therapies and doctors tend to clam up, no budget or long waiting lists being the usual excuses. I am very lucky that my employer will provide and has in the past counselling. I am lucky to have the support I have.

What I want to say in this blog is that we as a people, as society, can’t keep dumping things at the governments door, yes they are there to protect us and keep us well but there are so many pressures on the public purse, lets not get in tothe debate on wasteful government spending, we will be here all day. The point is still valid, we can’t just raise this with government and expect them to do all the work. We as a society have to play our part in mental health.

Let me put it a different way, if we saw someone in the street with a zimmer frame, a person in a wheelchair or someone with a white stick or guide dog, one would hope that humaity in us would spark up and compel us to help or at least see that they are OK as we pass by. We hear all the time about looking after our elderly neighbours during the cold months of the year, making sure they are OK and perhaps even getting shopping for them. I have been warmed to always see people help others out with people in wheelchairs, giving up seats for the elderly and helping blind people around. Even when seing someone is distress in the street offering them a tissue and asking, ‘Are you OK?’. In fact, those words are usually what go before people start helping, they say something similar, ‘Are you OK there?’, ‘Do you need some help?’ and so on.

Why is mental health any different? Before you all give me your answers let me say a few things. I know mental illness’s can be dam hard to spot and someone people may get defensive and maybe get annoyed that you asked this. I probably would have but I think if it came from a genuine place of concern and not of judgement than maybe people would open up and talk. I know this is not always easy but if we all, as a society, work together to make all the environments we work and exist in comfortable for people with mental illness then it can only be a good thing.

Are you OK?….The power of these three words or similar words can’t be underestimated. I will share this with you, many years ago, when I had my first breakdown I had return to work and wasn’t really listening to those around me and taking doctors advice. I went back to work too quickly and one day I was just not coping again, I was slipping or rather had slipped again. I was standing on the concourse at the station that I worked at and a manager I had worked with for a while came up to me and just asked, “Are you OK?”. I thought about it for a few seconds I could have just said no, I could have said I’m just tired. However in that moment I realised that she had seen something in me that I couldn’t see, I said ‘No’ and that was that, we talked I was sent home and I took more time off and truly got myself fixed. That simple question had saved me from a worse dip as my head was firmly in the sand.

I hope by now you have seen that I am no expert when it comes to mental health I have only got my own experiences to draw upon and I can only share those experiences. Maybe if you feel that you could ask this question and listen to what they may say then just consider the following.

Do it the right way,

  • Privately so they don’t feel pressured by crowds.
  • Do it for the right reason, make sure it is because you care about this person and you don’t just want a bit of gossip, if someone opens up to you and you don’t care and you go gossiping trust me you are doing more damage than you will ever know.
  • If you are not someone they will open up to or feel you are not the right person, tell someone you think they will trust, a friend of a friend or a sympathetic line manager.

Be brave, ask the question, you could be saving someones life.

Si

Values

Good Morning!

So today I thought I would talk about something that was a bit of a revelation to me during one of my counselling sessions. It may seem a bit silly as I am sure we all know what values are and yes we do, I know what values are. They are the things we live our lives by but have you ever really sat down and thought about what you inner, personal ‘core’ values are? Well, as I mentioned I did such an exercise with my counsellor and later on I will share it with you but I have to say I learnt so much about myself in that hour, well maybe not all new things but certainly reaffirmed a few things for me.

I found it quite hard at first to think about my values, I mean I have always thought of myself as honest and someone who likes to enjoy what they do and have a laugh, but to try and make a list of the everything that I consider a value was quite daunting. Thankfully my counsellor handed my a piece of paper with a long list of of values on, it made it much easier. So I come back to the question, what is a value?

It is something you live you life by? Or something to you try or aim to live your life by? I mean when I say I listed truth as a value am I saying that I am always truthful, if I am honest then no I can’t say that but do I always try to be truthful with people then hell yes! So to me a value can be both something you live your life by and something you try your very best to achieve in life, in your dealings with people and family.

I am going to share the first part of the exercise I did with you, it’s aimed more at the work area of life but I think it bleeds into all parts of life, I hope it doesn’t actually break any copyrights or anything, it was given to me on a printed piece of paper from my counsellor. I wrote all over it so I am going to type it in, maybe you will learn something about yourself, I am no psychologist or counsellor but I learned a fair bit about myself and had somethings validated for me. Let me know what you think.

So you have to go through the following list and pick 25 of the following values that mean something to you, the best thing is not to over think them, gut reaction is best, write them down on a piece of paper. (This will only display properly if you view on a desktop, doesn’t come across well on a mobile)

Achievement                     Pleasure                        Integrity                  Supervising Others                         Leadership                        Creativity                      Work with Others    Friendships                             Advancement/                  Power and Authority    Involvement            Team Work                        Promotion                        Customer Service          Working Alone        Growth                            Loyalty                              Privacy                           Expertise                Time Freedom             Adventure                         Decisiveness                  Stability                  Helping Society                Market Position                Public Service                Security                  Truth                                Challenging Problems      Democracy                    Excellence               Honesty                       Meaningful Work             Persistence                    Serenity                   Wealth                         Change and Variety          Self-Motivation            Excitement              Freedom                            Money                               Knowledge                    Self-Respect            Work Under Pressure Clear Communications    Humour                         Physical Challenge  Influencing Others     Nature                              Economic Security        Competition             Status                                    Close Relationships         Quality Relationships   Financial Gain          Wisdom                       Open and Honest             Effectiveness                Personal Development                                Cooperation                     Recognition                   Competence              Community                       Order                                Ethical Practice             Independence

One you have selected you 25 values you need to break them into 5 groups of values that you think sit together well, you can have as many or a little in each group as you like. For an example I have put mine in below,

Loyalty                    Adventure      Team Work              Customer Service    Self-Motivation                           Open and Honest   Pleasure          Meaningful Work    Ethical Practice       Recognition           Stability                  Humour          Clear Comms           Self Respect             Integrity                     Freedom                 Excitement     Democracy               Time Freedom         Independence       Truth                      Friendships    Involvement                                                                                 Honesty                                         Personal Development

Now once you have done this pick one value from each group to be the groups name, the value you think encompasses the meaning of the entire group, again I have done mine below the,

Loyalty                    Adventure      Team Work             Customer Service    Self-Motivation Open and Honest    Pleasure         Meaningful Work   Ethical Practice       Recognition Stability                   Humour         Clear Comms          Self Respect             Integrity Freedom                  Excitement    Democracy              Time Freedom         Independence Truth                       Friendships    Involvement                                                                  Honesty                                           Personal Development

The ones I have highlighted are my core values, Truth, Adventure, Involvement, Self Respect and Integrity.

I found this exercise quite interesting to actually look in on myself and think of my values for the first time. I even put them on an A4 piece of paper that I can have with me and put on desks where I work or around my own to always remind me that these are my values and I don’t have to trade them in.IMG_2300

Sometime you may have to bend them and for very good reason or maybe override them, for a very good reason I mean safety or other laws or maybe to protect someone. These are my core values and they may change over time with different experiences but it is comforting to know that they will guide me and back me up when I might need that little bit of guidance. They might help me understand other people, we always have to remember that everyone has different values to us and that is why we may clash but it is OK as long as we are true to ourselves and always try our best then that is all we can do.

Si

Waiting!

Morning all!

I have just realised as I sit here in a another train station waiting room that I am waiting for a few things to happen to me, good and bad.

Let’s deal with them one at a time. So as you know if you have been a follower of by blog I have been a trainer for the last year on a secondment and that secondment is due to end very soon, 5 or so weeks. So I will return to my old post at the Hellmouth something I am not keen on doing. There is a chance of a small but interesting extension or development opportunity in another team. This of course is totally out of my hands. Various managers have control over this decision. I hate this, I’m a control freak and do not like it one little bit. On the plus side I was approached to do this but the manager of the project because of the work I have been doing with the teams in Manchester. This is very nice. It’s always good to get some validation of what you are doing is right. However on that note I get more praise from the leaders in my Manchester region than I do with my own direct management at the Academy. Go figure that one.

I am waiting for a train, I have a been doing this most of this week as that is what I have to do. I have tried to fill this half hour gap with reading, Kindle battery wasn’t charged. Then with work, no wifi to get my laptop on and the I forgot my work phone. So I am a little behind which basically means I will have to go in early on Friday when I am finally back in the office. Waiting for trains is a bit mind numbing, OK if your an avid reader but it comes in fits a spurts with me, sometimes I want to read and then next I want to be read to, I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. You get the best of both worlds, watch the scenery go by and still get the story. See you can have your cake and eat it! So waiting for trains isn’t that bad it’s just that moment when the delay indicator starts flashing with a delay time, aaarrrgggghhhh.

My holiday, I’m waiting for this, I have been waiting for this since we booked in in December last year. Now I am only 59 sleeps I go it getting to be that whenever I look at the holiday folder, he one with all the tickets and visa’s in etc, I get a little bit excited. I so can’t wait, we are even trying to work on getting some upgrades from premium to upper class, now that will be amazeballs! We have loads booked to do in Vegas and a few things in San Francisco. I love having these holidays, we have a few cheap breaks away and then every 3 or 4 years we have a BIG blow out holiday that takes a year to save up for and where money is no object. We did New York a few years ago and that was great we did loads and money wasn’t an object and that was great, the feeling you can do what you like when you like. I worked so hard and so many hours for that holiday and for this holiday I am going to enjoy it so very much.

So this is waiting, it’s good and bad, it’s in your control and sits out of control. So it’s basically life and trust me the best things in life are worth waiting for. Some examples, my Husband I waited 31 years for him to come along and it was well worth the wait.

One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn in life is to be pateint, I am not a patient person at all, so it’s been a tough lesson and sometimes your have no control over things. Sit back and chill if you need to, you have to work at the goals but when you have put your all in and can do no more and the decision is out of your hands. Chill.

Si

Train is taking the strain!

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Good Morning!

I am currently on a train literally flying down to London and what a beautiful morning it is, I have included a photo of my office window today. I do like travelling by train, I get to blog and read the paper and if there is some work I need to do I can get it done. I suppose it helps that I have a 1st class pass. (It took 10 years of blood sweat and tears to get it thank you very much!) One of my lovely colleagues brings me a cuppa and I can sit back and relax.

This morning I have been reviewing training notes for a course that I have coming up soon and one I have to deliver tomorrow for the first time. I have just around the carriage that I am in and it is not very busy but you can see lots of different types of people.

You have a gent reading the Financial Times looking all professional, I gonna hedge my bets he is a banker. Immaculate appearance and the full english option setting himself up for a hard day of meetings and make lots of money.

Opposite him is a bloke that is also very well turned out and is sitting quietly just staring out of the window. He looks like he has the world on his shoulders. My heart goes out to him a little, what is on his plate today? What is happening in his private life.

Just behind him is a young guy siting and watching something on his iPad with his feet on the seats in front of him with a smile on his face. Not a care in the world, well so it seems.

Why am I telling you all this? I don’t know really I suppose I am conscious that we are all indiviuals, it one of things that I train. One of the things I like to mention is that you never know what is going on in peoples heads. Are they late, relationship just fell apart, someone in their world ill or dying. I know that I have been in a place where it felt that my life is falling apart but do you really show it? I suppose it all comes down to stereo typing people.

We all do it, don’t we? I do. If you asked most people what they thought of people that travelled in 1st class and they would all say, business men etc.

Just because I am gay does that me camp and girly? Just because someone lives on a council estate does that make them a chav or a failure?

Stereotypes can be very dangerous things, I like to think of everyone as an individual no matter their appearance, shape and sexuality. Difficult at time to fight ones preconceptions but is it worth while? Hell Yes!

Have an AMAZING day!

Si

My Manchester

So this weekend me and His Lordship came to Manchester for a weekend away. I write this on the train waiting to depart for home so technically I am still there.

There are some wonderful things I love about Manchester, one minute you are wandering around some posh boutiques the next your mixing with the chav’s in Piccadilly Gardens. To be honest, being a gay man, I love both. Shop and rough, manly looking chav’s, heaven.

Did we shop? We shopped and a good selection of shops to choose from although sad to see the Corn Exchange is now a deserted shelled of it’s former uniqueness. One filled with independent retailers with a mix of high end.

The chav’s are always nice to look at, the roughness, did i mention that?

The gay scene in Manchester has always been over sold and to be honest while very good it is missing something. I don’t even know what it is it is missing. One word sprang to mind and that was clinical, too clean. There didn’t seem to be that seedy underbelly that you have in Birmingham and London. Maybe we just didn’t see it, it’s there i’m sure. Why would you want a seedy underbelly I hear you all ask. the simple answer is I don’t really know. Maybe I am just to having one in Birmingham so I expect one here.

I do love Manchester and for all it’s faults I would move here in a heart beat. The city is just a mass of old Victorian buildings that give this city a real feel of history, an industrial powerhouse history of sweatshops and cotton mills. In between it’s old historical heart is the youthful pulse with new modern buildings and areas being re-developing the city of it’s future. I love the space, the smell, the feel, the flexibility, the people. (did i mention the chav’s)

Wow, came over a bit arty farty then didn’t. I am not normally up my own arse, maybe i was trying a new writing style.

Oh well, off to catch some sleep on the train home. Nothing worse than travelling with a hangover and being extremely tired!

Si