Guest Post by Claire – But you were Doing so Well…

Recently I’ve decided to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Claire who talks about having Bipolar Disorder and making sense of what other people may say to us when we’re unwell. Please check out her blog by clicking here.

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Learning to live with a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder means learning to live your life quite differently. You have to get used to what triggers you, to make the most of the days where you feel well, to recognise the signs of slipping into depression, and equally raising into hypomania and for those who go there, mania.

The people around you also have a steep learning curve, and despite all their efforts, sometimes it’s really hard for them to understand that your recovery will not be straightforward.

Many of us with mental health issues have felt as though our families and friends don’t understand us, or that they don’t support us. In recent month’s I have started to realise that a lot of the time it is less that than it is near impossible for them to wrap their head around the reality that life really is a roller-coaster for us.

My reality is bipolar disorder, but I know many other illness’ have similar patterns and many people hear phrases similar to one’s I’ve heard from people. These are a fraction of phrases I’ve heard in the past few years from friends, family, and others. I’m sure everyone reading this has heard at least one of these at some point…

“But you were doing so well…”
“You’ve done this on purpose to ruin my careful diary planning”
“Just stick a smile on your face”
“When I was depressed I didn’t…”
“You look fine”
“But you’re laughing”
“Well if you can write a blog, you can work”
“I wish you would come out, just for a bit”
“but I miss you”

I could write these all day, but you get the idea!

Some people are very well-meaning with what they say, and it’s maybe just the wrong thing to say and shows it’s just hard for them to understand exactly what it’s like in your shoes. I find this a lot with family. I know they try very hard to support me, but unless you’ve lived a week in my shoes it’s impossible to know how this feels, to know how one minute everything can be fine the next I can either be in a foul mood or bouncing off of the walls and often for absolutely no reason. The psychosis must be terrifying for them, to see someone afraid of things that aren’t there.

With my sensible head on as I write this, I can understand that as a carer, someone who loves me this must be awfully scary. They must hold onto the moments where we are well so tight and then when we start to get sick again it must be devastating. As the person who is sick, we know it is going to happen, we prepare ourselves for it. But I think our loved one’s hold onto some hope that the last time was the last time.

Often some people just get plain sick of us, and that’s where the more snarky and nasty comments come in. I find these often come from people we had considered friends and it can be soul destroying to find that these people we had found a source of comfort and support are no longer there for us.

From their point of view though, it must be very difficult having friendships with people who consistently cancel plans, aren’t always happy, and I’m being honest here can be quite self-centred at times!

Before the comments get inundated with abuse I am just playing devil’s advocate here, I’m trying to see what they must see. I’ve fallen foul of friend loss because of my illness as much as the next person. I think it helps for us to step outside of ourselves sometimes and see the bigger picture, to see what other people may see.

You then also have the people who are dealing with their own problems, remember that one in four of us have a mental health issue. Not everyone can handle dealing with somebody else’s aswell as their own, or they don’t own up to having one, or won’t realise they have one.

We live with an illness that cripples us, but can be so consuming for us that sometimes we forget to see that it does affect those around us aswell. There could be a whole host of reasons why someone reacts negatively towards you and your illness. Of course, some people are just plain rude and uncaring, and in those cases we are best off without them in our lives.

But for the most part, when you through the rough patch, take a moment to think about why someone has said something hurtful to you. Did they actually mean it in the way you took it? Was it meant as a word of support, a show of love, an act of frustration because they do actually care, do they have an issue you could show them support over?

Telling your mum you’re not well

As my mum has just created her very own blog over at Proud Mumma Bear, I thought I would write a post which I’ve been meaning to do for some time: how to tell your mum, dad, brother, sister, other half, friend – anyone – that you’re not well.

I get so many comments, tweets and emails discussing how open I am with my mum about all the issues that I have. I get messages like ‘How do you do it?‘ and ‘I wish I could be that open‘ all the time.

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I haven’t always been that way, but I love that I am now. I had a lot of problems as a teenager and if I could disguise them and ‘put on a brave face’, that’s what I did. I felt like I was being silly and I thought it was easier to just get on with it on my own.

These days of course I don’t really have a choice but to tell her about my agoraphobia, because it’s hard to fake leaving the house when I spend a weekend with her, but I do  tell her the rest as well. I tell her about the highs, the lows, the risks I’ve taken and then regretted, and all the other messy bits to my mental health, or lack there of it. I do this because for me, it’s nice to have someone unconditionally on my side.

But parents seem to be the one limitation that a lot of you have when it comes to sharing your own mental health experiences. So often I hear bloggers say that they have to remain anonymous because the fear of their parents seeing what they’ve written is too much, and even those that do have faces are often anxious at the idea of mum or dad discovering their writing.

I’m not here to say whether or not that’s right or wrong. If keeping your problems away from some of the people you love – for their sake or yours – is the best thing to do, then carry on. You know yourself and what is good for you better than anyone else. I also appreciate that not everyone’s mum is like my mum, and some people feel misunderstood and stigmatised in their own homes, making it much harder to be open.

Additionally on the flip side, it can also be damaging towards the parent. I know that my mum loses sleep over me and my problems constantly. She’s always stressed and worried because she wants me to be as happy and healthy as humanly possible, and none of us want to be a ‘burden’, which is another reason we often downplay our troubles.

But what I will say is that if you have a strong desire to tell someone what’s going on in your life – do it and just trust that they care about you as much you do them.

And this doesn’t mean you have to go into vast detail if you don’t want to. I don’t necessarily explain how bad some situations are to my mum. I might say ‘I’m feeling depressed at the moment‘, but that doesn’t mean I have to go into anymore detail than that. What it does mean though, is that I know she’s there, ready to come and rescue me if I need her.

If you want to tell somebody, find a way no matter how hard that is. There is always something you can do to make it easier for you; you just have to figure out what it is.

For me, when I’m sad or scared I find it incredibly hard to speak. When I’m face to face with someone my mind goes completely blank and no words come out. So whenever it has come to telling my mum something important in the past, I have left her a note or a letter.

Sometimes these have been rather amusing in hindsight, like telling her that my boyfriend when I was fifteen had a three-year old child, or that the boyfriend before that was in a youth offenders prison, but I have also told her about family abuse and deep depressions I’ve suffered through letters.

It may not work for everyone, but it works for us.

I love how open we are. It makes my life so much easier to be able to share with my mum. And sure, sometimes I feel guilty because I know it upsets her, but I know she’d be more upset if she knew I didn’t feel like I could come to her.

If you need someone to share your battle with, then take the first step and make it happen!

Guest Post by Fryn Lane – BPD & Creativity

Recently I’ve decided to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Fryn Lane who talks about having EUPD/BPD, and how she uses creativity as a way of managing it. Please check out her blog by clicking here.

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Hi, I’m Fryn, I’m 22 years old and I have recurrent depression as a result of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, also known as Borderline Personality Disorder. This has quite a big impact on my daily functioning; my feelings are very intense. Relationships with me can be intense at times no matter how hard I try to curtail it. My boyfriend Joe has his own mental health problems (we click because we have good mutual understanding and empathy) and it is very tricky to manage our individual problems alongside supporting one another. I also have extreme self-loathing, and a constant stream of self-critical thoughts narrating my every day.

One of the key ways I cope with my mental illness is through creativity. I am currently recovering from a depressive episode that hit back in November 2014. It’s been a long time, and keeping me as sane as possible have been my many creative outlets. When, in November, my depression was at its worst, I could not function. I could not think, I could not cope. At this point, I was not creative. I went into Hobbycraft, my favourite shop, to find a new project. For the first time, nothing inspired me, I felt broken. Where was the creative spark I relied upon to get me through? I left the shop in tears.

It was not until a few months later, as the depression was beginning to lift, that my creative ‘spark’, or energy, came back. My creativity is a huge part of my identity and helps me define who I am in my murky sea of moving goalposts and slipping standards. I love being creative, and with a diagnosis of EUPD, with my intense emotions I have a lot of feeling to pour into what I create. I need to feel something strongly in order to create, and the EUPD helps with that! I only ever feel things strongly!

What I do creatively really varies. I go through phases and bore easily so what you see me working on one week will not be the same as what I work on the week after. I paint, I crochet, I design and sew cross stitch, I bake, I cook new things, I draw, I colour, I make things with clay, I build things and I make a mess. I get stuck in, I rip up paper for collages, I use pastels, paint, pencils, felt tips, I write I craft I create. It varies based on my mood, I never plan my future creations, and as I say I go through phases. I’m no real artist; perhaps it is my low self-esteem talking but I often make something and then wish to destroy it straight away. I often detest what I have created, but equally sometimes I feel I have created something truly beautiful.

My favourite at the moment is colouring in (the adult colouring book craze that’s hit the UK is amazing! Seriously, there are so many designs and books to choose from, it’s brilliant!) I often get frustrated with my own drawing inability, so to colour a pre-drawn design feels really therapeutic. It’s great for mindfulness, and you can really express your emotions through the colours you choose. I have stuck all my pictures on my wall to cheer me up; the images I coloured when more depressed used darker, foreboding colours yet my more recent stuff is multi coloured and fun – It’s a visual log of my progress in escaping this depressive episode. And it’s great to pick up and do when I feel a bit stressed out.

I have also been making clay figures that express my emotions from air drying clay. The process of mixing paints and decorating the models, as well as squishing the clay in my fingers is really calming. I can be making models for hours and not notice the time passing. Which is great; because I’m not able to work at the moment being creative keeps my mind active. Someday perhaps when I am better and more able I hope to embark on a creative career, too. My creativity comes hand in hand with my mental illness, and I’d never manage without the release for my emotions and the structure it provides for my day.

Mental Health Awareness Patch

Earlier today I came across an interesting article from the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) which you can find by clicking here.

The new scheme put into place by IBPF allows young girls across America to earn a Mental Health Awareness Patch as apart of their Girl Guides, Girl Scouts and Heritage Girls training.

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I myself was in the Rainbows and Brownies here in the UK – I gave up by Guides; but along with everyone else, I did earn my own fair share of badges. Examples included learning different knots, planning healthy lunches, sewing on buttons and helping to raise money for a good cause.

The aim is to help young girls learn basic and useful life skills, and from memory, everyone was willing to do the tasks because we all knew that the coolest girls had the most badges sewn to their sashes. We were all eager and determined to keep learning the things necessary to add to our collection.

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So wouldn’t it be great if we could now incorporate mental health into the training these young girls receieve? The IBPF lists the following aims for the new Mental Health Awareness Patch distributed across America:

  • Learn how the brain impacts mental health

  • Explore how discrimination against those with a mental health condition makes it difficult to seek help

  • Learn about many great achievers who experienced mental illness

  • Research how mental health is portrayed in the media

  • Create anti-stigma campaign activities

This training wouldn’t just enable these young girls to grow up into understanding and well-rounded women, but would also encourage them in later life to get the help they may need, with less fear and stigma attached to the idea of mental illness.

Now I am neither a child nor have a child, so my last trip to one of these clubs was quite some time ago, but do these patches exist within the UK?

I have already emailed Girlguiding UK to ask (but maybe one of you can enlighten me first), and also asked if something like this isn’t in place, where I can formally suggest it and put forward a case for how important I think an initiative like this is.

It’s fantastic to see something practical being done by the IBPF. So often I get American’s commenting on my posts jealous of some of the initiatives we have here in the UK (because these are the ones I focus on being here myself), but the USA is beating us as far as I know on this one!

Guest Post by Brendan Farrell – The First Step is Not The Hardest

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Brendan Farrell who talks about his journey with anxiety and depression, and how running has helped rid him of his demons. Please check out his blog by clicking here.

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There are so many motivational quotes over the years that compare achieving goals to some sort of uphill task, a mountain or a series of steps. While this comparison works for some people to a large extent, my experience with anxiety and depression can somewhat be the opposite of this. Why? Because that top step is where I sat, in the middle of the night, dozens of times because I couldn’t sleep. I was deeply depressed. That is the hardest point. The loneliness is overwhelming. Every house noise and creek comes with huge hope that it’s someone getting up to help. It never was. Who gets up at half 3 in the morning? Other days those steps would be climbed immediately after work. This was for the sole purpose of lying on the bed not to be around anyone, feeling absolutely numb. So that top step didn’t represent anything positive.

It was the bottom step that did. That bottom step means you’re willing to be around people. It means you can get out and be with the world. Not alone. It shows courage, passion and a desire to give it everything to get through it. And you will.

My name is Brendan Farrell. I’m 31 and from Templeogue in Dublin. I have been working in finance since 2006. It’s deadline, accuracy, bureaucracy and fear driven and the reason I suffered from anxiety and depression. I initially loved working full-time and earning a salary. At 22 there was a large element of innocence and naivety which wasn’t recognised at the time. Getting the job in the first place meant a lot. How times have changed. After 2 years there, some friends were spending a year in Australia (a very common thing for an Irish person in their 20’s). They had been gone a few months when things started to become very stressful in the job. At this point, physical fitness was very low. I weighed 15 stone and running for the bus was an issue (I’ll get back to this later. Turns out these are quite important points).

This started to affect my sleep and confidence in the ability to do my job. It clouded my brain completely. I began to get extremely nervous at the thought of going in, being around all those people, not being able to understand the work and completely obsessed with getting a good sleep. This carried on until I decided to pack it in and join my friends in Australia. I spent 6 of the best months of my life there. We got a point where there was a choice between going to New Zealand or going home. The budget was another issue so returning home was the path chosen.

A month after returning I was to start work again in the same office. I knew deep down that it didn’t sit right. The night before I started, the tears rolled down my face from the pure nerves. Things kicked off. Like a tonne of bricks. Therapists, tablets, hypnotherapy, coming off anti-depressants cold turkey and having crippling panic attacks, loneliness and silence. A long course of CBT chipped away at the negativity and the clouds slowly but surely began to clear. I won’t dwell too much on the CBT because it wasn’t the only factor in my recovery.

At this time, another tonne of bricks hit me. Except it was one of the most positive of my life. I trained for and completed a 5 mile charity run. I got a huge sense of satisfaction from it. I got hooked. The feeling of having a clear head was hugely relaxing. There’s a science behind it. Exercise releases endorphins which reduce stress. It’s that simple. Plus with physical fitness comes mental fitness. To tell you the truth, you wouldn’t believe the impact it can have. Some days when I get pissed off, I go running. It feels like taking on whatever is pissing me off and smashing it to pieces. It’s amazing.

So I took up a spinning class for a few months. This is a tough form of exercise but so effective. I went into it with still a low level of fitness. I didn’t care. What’s the point in thinking like that? Everyone knows there is a reason you’re there. People often say to me, “Oh I won’t be able to keep up”, or “I’d be petrified of how I’d look”. Who cares? What’s gonna happen if you can’t keep up? Nothing. You went. You feel great and you’ll do it again because you’ve got the heart for it. Once you see the fitness levels increase, that’s my nicotine. I lost 3 stone doing it.

I have also found a huge comradery in running. The people are the best part. The support from onlookers as you plough through the streets of a town or city is enormous. There is nothing but positivity in races, online groups, running clubs. I just wanted to be involved. Last September I ran my first marathon. It meant so much that I remember the date and my race time to the second. I erupted into tears but I thought about the first time I did that in this whole process. The night before I started work after Australia.

There are many other things I have achieved but I would hate for this to be a self obsessive article. That’s not me. I simply want to highlight the importance of physical fitness in mental wellbeing. I want to help. Somebody asked me recently what my ideal job would be if money was no issue at all? I immediately said it would be owner of an athletics club. Imagine the amount of people you could help. That’s the dream.

Right now I don’t have depression. I don’t see myself ever having it again. But I will never forget it. It made me the person I am today. Strong, physically fit and happy. I love people and being with my family and friends. After reading this, some people might think why am I still working in that office today? The truth is that I won’t be for much longer. I’m changing careers. I’ve been trying to change jobs for a few weeks now. It’s long, tedious and there are days that it gets the better of me. It still makes me nervous but I have running. I have cycling. I have boot camp. If I didn’t have them, things would be a lot different.

So what is my actual message here? Don’t ever EVER be afraid of that bottom step. Don’t look up and say, “look how much I have to do”. Always look straight ahead, grit your teeth and do it. Achieve something. Absolutely anything. Run a mile. Join a gym. Prepare and have a healthy meal. After that ALWAYS look back and smile at what you have done. If you did that, then why can’t you do everything else?

Exactly. There is no reason and there never will be.

Thank you so much for reading.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any advice.

REglam Article

Aaaages ago, I wrote a post to you guys telling you that I had been asked to write an article for REglam magazine.

Well a lot has changed since then. I’m now much more involved with the company and I’ve been starting to take over the PR & Communications side over the past week.

REglam is a fashion magazine which helps to promote positive body image, with roots in the health, fashion and eating disorder communities. It’s almost brand new and lots of exciting things  are being planned right now for its near future so it’s a great thing to check out.

You can find them on twitter by clicking here, or reach their website here.

Plus, my article is finally up! So what better time to start? Click here to read it!

Guest Post by Matthew Malin – My nightmares give the boogeyman tremors deep within his soul

I’ve decided recently to feature some guests here on my blog to showcase some other people’s troubles with mental health. Here we have Matthew Malin who talks about his journey with depression, anxiety and getting the help that has made him who he is today. Please check out his blog by clicking here.

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Photo taken from Matthew’s Instagram page – mattyb1213

It is within my opinion that loneliness is the chauffer of the limousine labeled “Depression”.  Loneliness becomes the ghost of your past, present, and future pressing on your mind during the day and haunting you while you sleep. It is always there to remind you that you are the only one sad…that you are the only one going through your individual circumstance.  It becomes the demon of your nightmares. It stalks the hallways of your heart looking for any chance it can take to strike at your deepest level. You may tell it to let you out of the car here but I guarantee you it will ignore your request and abandon you in the darkest recesses of your mind. Loneliness is a vindictive killer.

 My individual struggle with depression, anxiety, and loneliness began four years ago. I was in the midst of a new adventure seeking out new paths when betrayal struck my heart. It was not painless. It was not an “in your face” affair. It was silent, subtle, and it severed the chords of my heart. To place so much trust in a person only to have them break your heart an instant does damage that is hardly reparable. This was the beginning of my nightmare.

Over the course of time I allowed anger and bitterness to rule my heart. I forsook the godly notion of forgiveness and in turn turned my back on God. The slow burn of hatred filled my heart and it was not long until I had fallen into the deep pit of depression. My heart became cold and vacant. Under no circumstances would I allow anyone in. Why should I have? People got me into this mess so I hell bent on making sure they didn’t do it again. It was here that I bought into the lie of loneliness. It came to me like a thief in the night and whispered, “No one cares”. Sadly, I fell for loneliness’ trick. No one asked if I was ok. No one noticed that I was angry. Most importantly, no one noticed how badly I had been hurt. I had all of the evidence that I needed. No one cared.

I found myself lying in bed one evening hoping that the sun would stay away. The room was black and I could barely see in front of me. Despite these things I had the odd feeling that there were presences in my room…Waiting…Hovering. I heard whispers of suicide. They told me that I would be “better off dead”. These things…these voices…they swept through my mind as if they were only here for one purpose. They wanted me to die.

I survived the darkest night of my life but it was not without consequence. I held on to this memory and carried it with me. Thankfully, in a short manner of time I found hope and recovery. God gave me the ability to forgive those who had wronged me and I was finally able to be free.

Unfortunately, as most of you know, depression doesn’t just end there. It’s not just a circumstantial emotion…it’s a disease that rots your heart. I have spent the past four years experiencing heartbreak, broken trust, and misleading intentions. People have come into my life and expertly walked out all the while taking my heart with them. Is it my fault? Should I have given them so much? Honestly, these are questions that will erode my mind for the rest of time. One thing that I do know amidst all of this is that despite my feelings of being alone, I indeed was one of many.

It was only until recently that my anxiety took over my heart. My first panic attack came at the hands of fear. I remember shaking uncontrollably, crying, and begging God to make the pain go away. I couldn’t think straight. My mind was a highway and every which way was a new car wreck begging for attention. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had to get help…

I spent the next two months in a counselor’s office detailing every piece of my heart from the past four years.  Each meeting was a test, a test of my motivation to get better. I had to be honest, I had to be transparent, and I had to hear the painful truth.  Five months later I can honestly say that I am better. I’m not completely healed but I am better. Forward progress is better than no progress at all I always say.

Why do I tell you all of this? I mean, you and I are practically strangers. Why should I let anyone in on my secret? Honestly it’s because I have wandered around in the darkest pits of my heart and made it out alive (barely).  Having been through all of this I have been made aware of an undying need of encouragement to those like me. People who are struggling just as much (if not more) than I did (and do) need to know that they are not alone.

Depression is a thief, a murderer, and it only seeks to take the most precious piece of life away from you. It wants your joy. There really isn’t anything I can say that would help you feel better but I know that if you’re anything like me you just need a friend. Someone who can just simply let you know that everything will be ok even when it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve seen God do miracles in my own heart and I know that he can do the same for you. I sincerely hope you have found some type of encouragement through my story. My heart is for you and it is with you in your battle.

Never give up.

Little steps are still steps

So today, I took some steps towards ridding myself of my anxiety (quite literally!).

I had a phone appointment with the doctor this morning, to which he told me I needed to go in and see him – useful, so I’m going to do that on Monday when my mum’s here to visit.

Yes, I still need my mum.

I’m really not looking forward to it. In fact I would rather do anything else. I don’t feel particually comfortable talking to doctors about my mental health anyway because there have been so many times that I’ve been pushed out of the door with no understanding whatsoever, and with another useless medication that does nothing.

My personal favourite quote from a doctor to this day still has to be ‘ everyone your age feels ups and downs sometimes so I wouldn’t worry‘… Just the type of reassuring statement one needs to hear whilst crying and shaking.

But hey, it needs to be done! Hopefully this time they’ll be able to come up with at least a slightly practical and beneficial plan of action.

As well as this, I also downloaded Google Fit to my phone. I keep saying I need to get out of the house and walk about to try and stop this agoraphobia from entirely taking away my freedom, but it’s hard to keep a track of it and monitor how far I’ve gone.

Anyway, Google Fit automatically sets itself to an initial goal of 6,000 steps per day so that is my new aim. I’ve just now got back from my 5,790 step walk so I’m happy with that for today. It’s nice to have something to work towards (and you have permission to give me a virtual slap if I don’t keep it up).

That’s about all for my update – as my posts about ‘me’ recently haven’t been all that positive I thought I should just let you guys know how I’m getting on!

#YorkshireDay #MentalHealth

Today it is #YorkshireDay! The one day a year where Yorkshire folk celebrate all the amazingness that Yorkshire has to offer. (I swear someone just walked past my window as I wrote that wearing a tweed flat cap – brilliant!)

I may not be originally from Yorkshire, but I’ve lived here for the last three years, and prior to that I spent many a childhood summer on a family farm up in this county. I love this place, and it’s definitely my home now and will continue to be after I graduate university.

Of course when we discuss all things great in Yorkshire, some things automatically come to mind – The Yorkshire pudding, great tea and the best ales. Undoubtedly now, I will also think of the gentleman that just walked past my window who couldn’t have been anymore Yorkshire if he tried; he could have quite easily been a cast member in Emmerdale.

But today, I am going to put aside the celebrations of these things for just a moment, and celebrate what I’ve come to respect in Yorkshire recently – some fantastic people and organisations trying to make the mental health services better in this beautiful county.

Now I can’t name them all; I practically come across a new organisation every week, and my list may be slightly Leeds biased (being that’s where I live and know), but here are four organisations that deserve to be celebrated this #YorkshireDay, whilst I drink my Yorkshire tea of course.

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1. Together We Can, Leeds

Firstly, we have Together We Can. This is a fantastic organisation of people who are currently campaigning to redesign some of the mental health services in Leeds that aren’t as good as they could be! The people who make up this fantastic group all have experience with seeking mental health support in the city, and therefore collectively are able to put forward new plans, which hopefully will make a big difference really soon. 

Right now is big and exciting time for Together We Can as there are currently people with power listening and willing to put some of their ideas in place. I for one am excited to be apart of this movement and eager to see the services change for the better.

You can follow Together We Can on twitter, and if you have any ideas please do tweet them as they welcome any new suggestions.

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2. Feardom Fighters, Leeds

Feardom Fighters is another great movement which I am somewhat involved with (exciting!). Founded by a lovely woman named Kathryn who has suffered with anxiety in the past, the Feardom Fighters are currently in the planning stage of the #FeardomFestival which will take place this World Mental Health Day (October 10th). 

The purpose of the #FeardomFestival is fantastic, and if you’re an anxiety sufferer and are in the area I would highly encourage you to check it out. There will be workshops and guest speakers, all aimed at helping people manage their anxiety and also giving anxiety sufferers new ways to express themselves. The event is also fantastic as a way to meet other people who know what you’re going through; I can’t wait to check it out myself!

I have previously done a full post on the Feardom Fighters which you can find by clicking here, and I also encourage you to check out the Feardom Fighters twitter page and website.

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3. Free Hand, Sheffield

And we’re out of Leeds!!!! Are you proud of me?

Yep, my third celebration of all great things in Yorkshire is Free Hand in Sheffield.

Again, I have already done a full post on this organisation, and you can find that by clicking here.

Free Hand is set up by the fantastic Charly, and they offer great workshops where they just allow people with depression and anxiety to come in and be creative in any way they like so that they can blow off some steam; which is completely up my street as I’m constantly using art as a means of recovery.

It’s fantastic, brilliant and really seems to be helping a lot of people, so again, please check out the Free Hand twitter page, and also the Free Hand blog.

7xYDCILO_400x4004. Wild Goose, Otley

Last, but definitely not least, we have Wild Goose in Otley.

Now I do have to admit, whilst very close to me in location, I haven’t yet checked out Wild Goose, but it was recently recommended to me by Kathryn from Feardom Fighters and it looks amazing; so I just had to include them on my list! 

Founded by an ecotherapist named Hayley, Wild Goose offers the environment and nature as a way to de-stress and promote better mental health. They offer campfire cookouts, meditation, Bear Grylls-style basic survival techniques, and specialist sessions including yoga and pottery making. 

I will definitely be making a special effort to go down and check them out soon because I want to be Bear Grylls for the day quite frankly, and nature sounds like a perfect way to de-stress.

Again, as always, Wild Goose has a twitter account which you can check out, as well as a website which you can find by clicking here

yorkshire

Whilst I am partial to a cuppa and a Yorkshire pudding, these are the things that make Yorkshire truly great. People that are doing things to make the mental health services more accessible, better, and finding new ways to help people.

Happy #YorkshireDay everyone!

And now a bunch of Leeds United fans are walking past my window chanting, how very Yorkshire. 

Free Hand, Sheffield

Today I interviewed Charly from Free Hand in Sheffield. Free Hand offers creative workshops for people struggling with anxiety and depression, as a way to help them express themselves. It’s an amazing organisation and honestly the more I’ve got to know the woman behind it, the more I want it to succeed! Regardless of where you are in the world, I would highly recommend you check out Free Hand’s blog, twitter and facebook page.

You can find the full interview below.

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Ok so firstly, the dreaded question nobody likes (sorry!), tell me a little bit about you. Why did Free Hand start and where did the idea come from?
I’m Charly, I’m 27 and have lived with depression since my teens. I started the journey towards this I guess by studying A levels in subjects I didn’t really like, just because I had no idea what I was going to do with my life at 16. After a year of doing something I didn’t like a friend suggested fashion. I joined the course and fell in love, I went on to study photography and then did a degree in fashion. After I finished my degree I started to have panic attacks, while doing my MA. The creative process really helped me to work through a lot of stuff and find my confidence again. I set up my own label but after nearly two years of running it I realised it wasn’t making me happy anymore so I started to think about what I really wanted to do and that was to create a supportive community for people living with depression and anxiety. Art had always been a help to me so I believed I could use what I had learned to help other people. Wow long answer!

Good answer though – you’re like my soul sister, I love it haha! Do you think the sessions really do help people then? Have you had good feedback about them?
Yay! I do! I’ve gotten good feedback but I’m always looking for different things to do and ways to improve the workshops. It’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day things and not make times for activities that are really good for your mental health. Much like exercise actually, I think creativity no matter what skill level is just as important. Even if you don’t feel like it just coming and playing around with ideas can turn a bad day into a good one.

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I couldn’t agree more – all anyone has to do when I’m having a bad day is put a paintbrush in my hand and I’m golden! It must be such a nice feeling for you as well to know that you’re doing something that can help someone else feel good even if just for a moment. Do you think it’s helped your anxiety and depression to a certain extent as well?
Yea, I was going to say it really helps me, it makes me stay motivated and creative. I love it when Wednesday rolls around I’m just excited about sharing and meeting people.

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It’s nice that you’re so enthusiastic still after six months of doing it. It just shows that you made the right decision when you decided to do it in the first place. It does sound like a lot of work though, especially if you’re always seeking ways of improving the workshops. Is it just you that runs them or is there a team of you?
Haha, it is quite a lot of work I want to do the best I can! It’s just me but I collab with Designing Out Suicide every 6 weeks so that is really nice; I’m always looking to get people with different skills in to co run a workshop. I have amazing supportive friends that help out but sometimes it is a lot, but I love what I do so it mostly gives me energy!

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Did I see that you come with themes and stuff for the workshops too? I think I saw something about masks – that sounds like a great way of firstly creating even more work for yourself haha, but secondly keeps it interesting and different for the people who turn up.
Well, when I first started I just had a few activity ideas and art supplies. I thought people could just work on whatever they wanted! This turned out to be a bit over-facing so the themes make it more approachable, and the option to free style is alway there.

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Oh ok I see what you mean, it’s a bit daunting being told you can do anything you like sometimes without anybody giving you any ideas! Do you have any cool projects or themes lined up then?
Nothing set in stone, but I’m hoping to get an exhibition of works together that’s a snapshot of mental health. I’ve also been talking to people involved in an environmental project about doing a photography trip there. I’d also love to go back and further explore escapism as a theme.

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It all sounds really exciting – I’ll be definitely keeping track of your journey. If you could sum up Free Hand in three words, what would they be?
Supportive, creative and judgement free!

Just one last question and I’m done! Do you regret any of it? If you could back to the beginning and focus on the fashion instead, would you?
No, everything that has happened has resulted in who I am and that door is always open.

Please click on the links below to be taken to Charly’s social media pages and if you’re in or around Sheffield – go and check Free Hand out!
www.freehandcreative.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/freehandsheffield?fref=ts
www.twitter.com/FreeHandSheff/