Volunteering has been an integral part of my recovery over the last 2 years. It’s given me my mojo back and made me use skills I haven’t used since being in the travel industry. I love the buzz and excitement of an upcoming event, or being able to signpost someone to get help from the service I promote. It really has given me a reason to get up in the morning, as sometimes I struggle very much. 

I’ve learnt valuable life skills on some of the courses I’ve attended either with Together or Time To Change. I’ve completed Speaking Out training, running your own campaign, event planning, peer support, peer mentoring and other useful sessions. I’ve just tonight filled in an application to be a Mind Volunteer also, working on the wellbeing project in Hastings. You get very well cared for as a volunteer and they invest in you. If I’m successful in my application with Mind I need to attend a further 2 days training course. I respond well to training and I always did in the travel industry. I was quite intensely trained in selling skills when I worked for Thomas Cook and American Express and other companies, and at Thomas Cook specifically I went on to be the top seller. Training teaches you a lot about yourself you didn’t know, with any course! 

If I hadn’t of been given the aripiprazole injection two years ago none of this would have been possible. I just couldn’t get on with my own medication and took it in fits and starts, normally combined with whether I was at home or running away somewhere because my home life was so miserable stuck out in the sticks with only a Vespa to get around on. I wasn’t fit to be driving with the concoctions of psychiatric medication I was on, and was a danger to myself. 

I came home 2 years ago after a particularly dangerous episode and in 4 weeks I’d moved house and been given my first injection. Since then my brain has come back to me and I’m more and more motivated to do good, or better still do anything! I still have my moments but they are no where near as severe as they were, and I don’t get in half as much danger.

Volunteering has given me my confidence back and has taught me how to integrate in the community and use my skills. I feel very valued in all I do with each of the organisations I’m involved with.

If your looking at volunteering in the U.K. and would like to help tackle the discrimination and stigma attached to mental mental then Mind charity and Time To Change are good organisations to volunteer with. In fact Time To Change isn’t an organisation it’s a social movement, so let’s get it right.

Here’s the links

Time To Change

I’m 1 in 4 

Well what a week it’s been in the U.K. For speaking out! I had no idea it was coming when I wrote my earlier posts and it’s kind of swayed me a bit. First Prince Harry and then Prince William. I must be doing the right thing as it all seems to be helping others so much and has certainly put mental health in the headlines

I had a bit of a set back and that’s why I went into hiding. I had a bit of a disagreement with a family member about my involvement volunteering with mental health. It was suggested I’m obsessed with it and they are fed up with hearing about it. I’ve got 3 voluntary positions, soon to be 4 and it gives me a reason to leave the house every day and meet people. I feel I’m doing good. What I’ve experienced is direct stigma of my family wishing I would just forget about my mental health and get a proper job! This is what swayed me about speaking out and I hesitated, leaving this blog dormant for days. I kept thinking of things I wanted to write but hesitating. I’d lost my confidence.

I’ve been fighting hibernation over the last week or so, forcing myself to go out and attend appoinments but other than that PJs and bedroom. I’ve been getting takeaways delivered for food and not taking care of the home. This altercation has really bothered me.

What’s swung me is William and Harry. I wouldn’t call myself a royalist but I think they do good work. What they have done this week is totally open up about the mental health they suffered and the help they sought after over the death of their mother. This is groundbreaking and will certainly help bust the stigma and make these 1 in 4 realise they are not alone.

I’m going to tread gently with my speaking out and take care of myself. I’ll feel the water with this blog. I’m not 100% again yet and I would say over the last month I’ve been having a bit of an episode. Today I had great news about plans for Mental Health Awareness Week events and Time To Change meetings so I’ve got plenty to get myself together for, and I’ll be needed in tip top condition.

Another great thing that’s pulled me up a bit is passing my Peer Support Induction with Together. I’m now ready to roll with 1 to 1 peer support and co facilitating groups. It was a great induction and covered boundaries, safeguarding and other valuable tools. I can’t wait to get up and running.

Well that’s me dipping my toe in the water again after hitting the ground running and then my little break. I’ve got so much coming up in my volunteering that I want to document it and blog it so I can’t be loosing my confidence and listening to the negatives. Today was a good day with a walk along the beach and the park, and lunch with a great guy that I see at the Together centre, and tomorrow’s going to be even better as plans have got to me made for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Not quite the post you may have been expecting but I’m just too wobbly with speaking out with it being so in the headlines. I need to feel the writing and feel the blog progressing. Can’t just go full steam ahead and blurt everything out in the first couple of posts as that won’t do me any good at all.

Thanks for reading this and I’d really appreciate any feedback. Sweet dreams!

A beautiful sunny day

Well today I had plans to sit at home and write a post about some of the events that led to my bipolar diagnosis. I really want to get them off my chest now I’ve decided to speak out. The trouble is it’s a beautiful sunny day and I live near the beach, so Ipad in hand I’ve trundled off to sit on the balcony of the De La Warr Pavilion and enjoy a latte. I’m like a dog with a bone though now I’ve started writing so there’s bound to be some more posts later on today, especially at bedtime. That’s when I get my true writing head on, or after coffee! That really gets me going!

On my way to get my coffee I walked past an art exhibition in the De La Warr Pavilion by George Shaw. It’s called My Back To Nature and it’s about the evidence you find of people having fun in the woods! The paintings were made by him whilst he was in residence at The National Gallery. The work resonates with the artists experience of walking in the forest near his hometown as a teenager with the feeling that something out of the ordinary could happen at any time there!

Art works for me. It can divert my mind. It’s therapy! I have an art cabinet in my front room with some fantastic art equipment. I get the urge now and again to paint. I’ll post you my watercolour of the old Hastings Pier at some point, which I’m rather proud of. My brother is an artist and paints sunsets on the beaches of Cornwall. He also does workshops in the community teaching good graffiti. Also at festivals he has a set up with a bell tent, and does guided meditation and then life drawing. Something along the lines of “So you think you can’t draw, well you can now”. He lives in the back of a Mercedes Long Wheel Base vehicle with his dog, wood burner and complete kitchen set up. He’s living the dream. Someone did a documentary on him a few weeks back and it was great. 

Well the coffee has gone down lovely and it’s time to move on. I’m going for a wander on this beautiful sunny day. My minds working overtime trying to decide which event to write about first. It’s like a floodgate has opened. I’m ready for this! I did write a blog once before, and published it. It reached 1000+ views very quickly and I got very scared. I deleted everything I had written. I wasn’t ready. This time I am, and with the speaking out training from Time To Change I’ve learned how to do it safely. 

Right I’m off into town, maybe around a few charity shops and junk shops. I’m being kind to myself today. I’ll leave you with a picture of where I am right now, within a few minutes walk of where I live. Hope your also enjoying this lovely sunny day.

An Episode At A Time

I’ve decided it’s time! I want to tell you all about it, an episode at a time. This may be a bit sporadic and won’t be in any order, as that’s me, but it may give you an insight into the chaos that has been my life for the last 20 plus years.

Ive been diagnosed with rapid cycle bipolar about 16 years now after some traumatic events in my life, of which I will tell you about later on. I’ve been prescribed some horrible medication in that time which has left me in a zombie like state for weeks on end and I’ve hibernated for years, with sudden bursts of mania taking me off into society to some weird and wonderful places. I have had normal times yes, and I’ve maintained some wonderful relationships and support networks, but the cherry on the cake has been 2 years ago moving back to my home town where my parents live, and accepting the depot injection once a month. This has given me my brain and my motivation back and given me a purpose. For 8 years prior to moving back to my home town I was living in a rural location with just a Vespa as transport, an expensive local shop and a pub. I thought this was safety and that sleeping 5 days a week was what had to be done. I’d occasionally burst into life like a Phoenix from the flame, dress up in some colourful clothes and head into the nearest town and be the life and soul but that was mania and a few days later it would normally end in tears.

My saving grace has been getting involved with organisations in the community that help people with mental health problems. When I was rural I used to occasionally visit Hastings Your Way, but it was a bit far away and either I wasn’t well enough to ride my Vespa, or a taxi was too expensive. There was a bus every 2 hours but at times I just can’t travel on public transport. Hastings Your Way is a project run by Together which are a very well established mental health charity who have projects throughout the UK. You can find out more about Together by clicking HERE. After moving back to my home town I engaged fully with another Together project, Bexhill Your Way, and it is within walking distance of my new flat. I visit the service now a few times a week, sometimes even daily. I have a wonderful support worker, Liz, who is also the manager of both Bexhill and Hastings and she has helped me no end. I no longer go to psychiatric appointments alone, and Liz has learnt my traits and also found out where my skills lie.

Also at the same time as getting involved with Together I became a Time To Change Champion. This has made me very passionate about fighting the discrimination and stigma attached to mental health. I’ve organised 3 very successful events for Time To Talk Day which happens in February, and attended various training courses. I’ve learnt how to organise events, how to run a campaign, how to talk to the press, and many other great skills. I have regular contact with Angela, the regional community Equalities co ordinator and get to hear about any campaigns and events that are happening. During my years of having a bipolar diagnosis I’ve experienced a lot of stigma and discrimination attached to my mental health. People don’t understand. I’ve been called some terrible names like Div, La La, Nut Nut, Nutter, Freak, Weirdo to name but a few, due to my sometimes odd behaviour maybe during an episode. Being a Time To Change Champion has empowered me and helped me challenge these stereotypes and the stigma. You can find out more about Time To Change HERE.

This brings me to tell you about the other organisation I’m involved with and that’s the great local campaign called Love Hastings Love Yourself, which is about promoting positive mental health awareness and community cohesion. I sit on a committee with representatives from organisations such as Mind Charity, Hastings Voluntary Action, Hastings Borough Council, Together, NHS Partnership Trust and others. We’ve so far put on a handful of local events, namely World Mental Health Day and Time To Talk Day and have had anything from 250 – 350 people attending. This is really helping to bust the stigma in Hastings Town, and we have many more exciting events planned. I am the main events organiser and with the support f these great organisations these events are becoming very talked about and very popular. I’m going to write a separate blog entry on each event later on so watch this space. You can find out more information on Love Hastings Love Yourself by searching for us on Facebook as we have a page that’s regularly updated. Here you will find out about any future events we will be planning.

Well I think that’s enough for my first post. Thanks for reading and I’ve really enjoyed writing it. Please stay posted for stories of magic and mayhem, trials and tribulations, highs and lows. As promised I’ll fill you in an episode at a time!

#bipolar #blog #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #manic #episode