Tag Archives: campaign

Goodbye Time To Change

The mental health campaign Time To Change is closing at the end of March 2021. I’ve been involved with them at different times so this is my goodbye to them.

For those that don’t know, Time To Change is a mental health campaign started in the UK ten years ago. It’s a social movement, meaning it’s work is based on using those with lived experience to talk to others to raise awareness of mental health and mental illness. They have done this in many different ways, from holding events to helping people share their stories with those in power. It has also expanded globally in the last few years.

My first experience with Time To Change was asking them to look at a portrayal in a programme that made people with mental illness seem like attention seekers. They then asked me to write a blog post about this for them. It was one of the first pieces of writing about mental illness I had done. They gave me confidence to start my own blog up, sharing my experiences and thoughts.

In 2015 they sent emails out about a new event, Story Camp, that those with an interest in sharing their experiences about mental illness could sign up to, to learn about how to do it effectively. This included bloggers and media volunteers. I applied and never thought I’d be chosen to take part, but I was. So on 10th September 2015, I headed to London to take part in workshops and listen to others speak. The people I met were amazing. One is now one of my closest friends. Others inspire me greatly. I was too nervous to say hello to my biggest inspiration, Jonny Benjamin, but he was there talking to us all and I snuck a photo. I was in awe.

I carried on writing my blog and using their tips to improve. I signed up as an official Time To Change champion and this led to me becoming part of the local hub being set up in my home town. I did some training again with them, though becoming ill again meant I didn’t take part as much as I’d of liked.

So Time To Change has been at many different parts of me sharing my experiences. And for that I’m grateful. The training offered is high quality and the people I’ve met through them are amazing. I’ll miss having the opportunities they’ve offered and actually feeling valued by an organisation. They’ve validated me and many others.

While we are saying goodbye to Time To Change, we are not saying goodbye to the work they’ve done. It’s definitely made mental health less of a taboo. We still have much work to do with making people understand other mental illnesses as well as they seem to of accepted depression and anxiety. This will continue with those it has trained up and given confidence to.

So thank you Time To Change, and goodbye.

Found my notes from Story Camp 2015

Why I Hate The Term “Mental Resilliance”

“Mental resilliance” is a phrase that keeps cropping up. But it is a phrase I have come to hate with a passion, especially with the way it is being used. It’s connotations make me uncomfortable and I cannot accept it.

First of all I think we need a definition of the word resilience. I’ve found a definition of it in psychology:
“The ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, and even significant sources of stress.” Better Help, 2019

This doesn’t sound too bad. It suggests that we can learn how to get over issues more quickly. However this has led to people taking the phrase and believing that people with a mental illness should be more able to get over a mental illness quicker if they are resilient or even not suffer in the first place. This has been shown by comments made by prominent people in the media.

The problem with these comments is that they imply that if you get ill mentally you are not resilient enough. It gives a sense of failure and that you are not a strong person. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Quite often people with mental illnesses are strong and resilient for too long. They don’t seek help straight away as they feel they should be able to deal with it. This talk of resilience reinforces it.

So what should we be doing?

I’m not saying there is no place for teaching skills to help with mental resilience as it is useful to deal with stressful situations in the short term. However we need to make the narrative clear that mental resilience is not a concrete prevention against mental illness. It is still possible to become unwell even if you are resilient. It does not mean you are weak if you become unwell. Mental illnesses are often caused by things outside our control and for that we need treatment.

Instead, as well as teaching true mental resilience, we need to be saying that it’s OK to talk about our feelings in times of distress. It does not make us a “whiny snowflake”. It is a strong thing to do and will help with our resilience in the future. We need to be helping each other. Just because your younger and suffering does not mean you are less resilient than someone older. All it shows is that I’m the past people couldn’t speak about mental illness and now they can. That is resilience but in a different way.

I think what we need to do is reclaim the term mental resilience and educate people on what it means. We need to take on these people who seek a generational divide about living with a mental illness. We need to change the language we use.

So my question today is what do you think we should be teaching in terms of mental resilience? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Harry Potter Does Not Equal Hate

This isn’t a typical mental health blog but it’s one I needed to write. With the abhorrent tweets from J. K. Rowling, it left me questioning a huge part of me. I have a love for Harry Potter. And this situation made me question it all. Should I rid myself of everything related to it? How can I cut such a huge chunk of me out? I had to really think. I came to my conclusion and here are my thoughts about it and how I got there. I only made it coherent when talking to someone else who was having the same struggle.

With J. K. Rowling, I’ve decided she is not Harry Potter. That has grown bigger than her. It’s the people who love it that have made it what it is. The people who have brought it to life. It is the friendships it’s formed and the lives its saved. And those people are statistically more open and accepting than the rest of the world. (Info on study here)

As the wizarding world is bigger than her my friend who I was discussing it with said maybe we should focus on supporting the publishers and actors. The actors have spoken against her. (Find details here). They know the world is more than her. She had an idea but others took it further and the wizarding world made it it’s own. They removed it from being about one person. With any fandom it’s not just about the creator. The fans take hold and it belongs to them rather than the creator.

In the story it teaches us to be accepting of all. It shows us that differences can be overcome and it shows that people who try to eliminate anyone from society will not go far. She wrote her own downfall in these books. She showed the fans of Harry Potter that you can not push out a whole section of society and expect no backlash or to keep your status. It will catch up with you.

I’m not going to feel guilt for liking and loving something that actually made me feel part of the world a little bit. For being the kid with no friends who then finds them later on. For needing a bit of magic in my life to deal with the shit storm it was. Harry Potter to me is not about J. K. Rowling. Its about the friendships it created, its about the magical world, its about finding something that made me see that people should be accepted in society and sometimes we just need to find the right people, it’s not us causing the issue.

My final words are for the people of the trans community. You’re not on your own. We love you andd accept you. We want you in our society. You make it a better place. Keep fighting together and we will beat people like her. Big love.

Kindness At A Higher Level

We live in a society that is often far from kind. I’m not talking about individuals, I’m talking about policy and societal norms. Being individually kind is important but we need kindness as a society to make a larger change.

Unfortunately we live in a world led my money rather than kindness and what is best for people. I can understand this. Money is finite and so we have to spend with care and this can mean cuts that are the opposite of kindness. We see this in mental health services all the time. People are turned away as not sick enough or not enough resources. People are sent miles from home when unwell and needing the kindness of family close by. There are some changes that really need to be made and cutting more and more is doing the opposite of kindness and therefore worsening mental health issues at times.

Also as a society we are far from kind to those who attempt to end their life. Many are labelled attention seeking and selfish. Many a person has been heard on a train that has hit a person berating them for ending their life and delaying people. The kindness that this person needed appears to of been absent in their life and their death. Instead of asking what could of been done to help them before this event they are condemned for seeing no other way out.

Society is also cruel in its use of social media. While social media can be great there are the trolls and the nasties who are far from kind. They band together to bring cruelty to one person. They push people over the edge as they can’t show kindness. They condemn people as guilty before hearing the full story. They forgot that a little kindness could improve the world and keep people alive.

By changing our outlook from the top down we could prevent so many deaths. By acting as a society we could improve life for many. It’s time to unite to be kind as well as individual acts of kindness.

I’d love to hear your views so feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Self-kindness

Being kind to others is important but there is someone we tend to overlook when we are sharing kindness and that is ourselves. We deserve to be kind to ourselves however alien it may be and how little we feel we deserve it. Believe me I’m the first to admit I’m far from kind to myself with negative self talk and lack of care for myself. But there are some ways we can all be kind to ourselves and I thought I’d share a few.

1. Getting sleep

Our sleep routine is really important to our mental health. By getting sleep we are being kind to ourselves. Staying awake to get things done can feel like what we need to do but if we show ourselves kindness by at least trying to get some good sleep then we will be more productive.

2. Eating well

We’ve all heard this one I’m sure. But it is true that it makes you feel better and allows you to fight other illnesses more effectively. This is showing a real kindness to yourself.

3. Exercise

Again we’ve heard it lots but it can really help our mood to stay active. I’m not saying run a marathon (believe me I can barely run a mile) but just a short walk can help. It is kind to ourselves although it may not feel like it before we start.

4. Positive self talk

This is a huge one linked to kindness. It’s also one I struggle with on a huge scale. If we are kinder in the way we talk to ourselves it can improve our mood and motivation. But boy is it hard. Everyone has told me to either imagine talking to a friend or to the child I was. Would you say the mean things you say to yourself to them? Like I said I really struggle with this one. Maybe we can start by saying one kind thing to ourselves a day.

5. Showers/baths

As well as keeping you clean they can be relaxing. Show yourself some kindness by giving yourself some time to look after your body. Make it feel nice. Embrace it.

6. Treating yourself

This is the kindness that a lot of us can’t allow ourselves but we are allowed nice things. We are allowed that bar of chocolate or that new book. There doesn’t need to be a special occasion to make ourselves feel OK or to treat ourselves.

Being kind to ourselves is alien. Society has made us think it makes us selfish. It’s not. It’s self care. It’s looking after yourself which in turn helps you look after others.

What ideas for self kindness do you have? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Kindness In A Crisis

We are living through a crisis at the moment. Everyone is dealing with an unprecedented situation and it can feel overwhelming. At this time what we all need is some kindness. This can seem even more difficult when we are either keeping our distance from others or isolating. I thought I’d share a few ideas to spread a bit of kindness. As things may change these might not all be appropriate so please take the most recent advice.

1. Message people

The most special thing to most people is a bit of social contact. Sending a message to others to remind them they are thought of and that they matter to you will hopefully make them feel better. If you feel able to offer support do but don’t put pressure on yourself. You deserve kindness too.

2. Make a card/write a letter

I think everyone loves getting mail. Maybe write one for a neighbour who is isolated or to send to a friend. If you’re self isolating though remember to keep you and others safe.

3. Send a present from online

If you have money to spare (and I know not everyone does so please don’t put yourself in a difficult position) then it might be nice to send a present to a friend. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It might just be something that would be useful.

4. Share a music play list to brighten people’s day

It might seem silly but anything that might brighten someone’s day is a great thing to do. And this can be done from at home. And it might brighten your day too.

5. Offer your services if you can

Again if it is safe to do so and if you feel able to then offer to do something for someone else. Mine has been offering my teaching skills to help those with children at home. Your’s might be shopping or something else.

These are just a few ideas. I’m sure you all have many more ideas so feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Image from Pinterest

All I Want For Christmas

I was thinking about things I’d really like for Christmas. Obviously there are the materialistic items (🤞Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire illustrated edition) but also there are some huge things I would love to see happen personally and more for mental health in our society. Therefore I thought I’d share some of my wishes (though I’m aware with just 2 and a half weeks to Christmas (at time of writing) these are unlikely to happen, maybe 2020).

1. No suicidal thoughts

This is personal, although I wish it for everyone. I’d just like to be like others and not be wanting to die on a near constant basis. It feels impossible at the moment when my first thought on waking is I wish I wasn’t alive. It would be nice to have at least a break from the overwhelming thoughts of dying.

2. Shorter waiting times

This is one for everyone in mental health services. Often we wait forever for support. It can be from weeks to months to years. It’s really not good enough. I’ve been referred for therapy again and been told if the referral is accepted I could be waiting up to two years. We need real change in this area to stop people falling through the gaps.

3. Continuity of care

This is huge to me and so many others. Seeing the same person is essential in all areas of health but the turnover of staff in mental health is huge. This means we often are faced with new staff at our most vulnerable who know nothing about us. I’ve lost count of the number of psychiatrists I’ve seen in the last two years. It is nearly always someone new. I’m on my fifth care coordinator of the year. The changes effect my mental health massively. We need to retain staff.

4. More money for mental health research

Mental health is one of the least funded areas of research in medicine. Yet again it is the poor relation in health care. It is also one of the least understood areas. This needs to change when it effects so many people. It would also help other areas of health care as helping people with their mental health aids them looking after their physical health too.

5. Better self esteem.

This is a personal one. I hate myself. It’s not a secret. I have no feeling of self worth. I put myself down constantly. It needs to change but it’s a struggle so if I could get it magically fixed for Christmas that would be great.

6. My friends to be well

My final wish is that all my friends have good mental health. That they feel better. I want so much for them to see their worth. That they are awesome. In fact I want it for all of you. You are all fabulous. Thank you for being amazing.

Feel free to share your own Christmas wishes in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

Alcohol And Me

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some of the content may be triggering.

Alcohol is something we hear a lot about. There are many arguments about whether it is a problem or just something to use to relax. Overall alcohol can be fine if used in moderation. The problems come when it becomes more than just the odd glass.

My relationship with alcohol has always been complicated. Most children don’t experience alcohol until later on in their teens. I first experienced alcohol at two years old. To me it was normal for me to be given a glass of wine when we met my parents friends for dinner which happened fairly often. I even began to acquire a taste for certain wines, leading to a melt down at three years old in M&S because they weren’t buying the wine I liked. I think the thinking behind giving me alcohol at a young age was to give me a healthy relationship with alcohol as I grew up. This didn’t completely work though I was less bothered about going out drinking as an early teenager as I already had access to alcohol at home. Why sit cold in a park when you can drink in your own home?

The real problems began when I went away to university. There was noone to monitor my drinking so I went all out. Why should I care about the effects? I didn’t like myself and this made me feel less anxious. It gave me confidence. I could forget the events of my past and approach guys. I was fun and attractive to them. What they probably saw though was a desperate girl throwing herself at them? A girl who didn’t care.

I’d often drink myself into dangerous situations. I’d end up with a strange guy somewhere I didn’t know. I’d walk around the town on my own, falling asleep in different places, waking up to continue my journey home, arriving not knowing how I’d got there or what had happened on the way. I’d give my card and pin number to friends loudly without worry about someone stealing my money (though as a student they’d have been disappointed). I didn’t care though. In my head I was being that fun friend. I was just living the crazy student life like everyone else. But I wasn’t.

There was another side to the drinking as well. As it got more out of control I’d become depressed after drinking. One little event on the way home would trigger me into sitting in the middle of the road waiting for a car to hit me. Or I’d try climbing out of a first floor window, having others pulling me back in. I’d down two litres of cider in an hour and pass out. I began drinking cans of cider on my own in my room on the nights we didn’t go out. I thought it was the perfect accompiament to essay writing.

Soon people started to worry and I was referred to the campus nurse who also happened to be a trained mental health nurse. My suicidal thoughts had peaked. I’d made threats to end my life. Things had deteriorated so much in three months. My mental health had been poor before I’d started to university but this was the biggest deterioration since my first suicide attempt at fifteen. I was told I needed to stop drinking. That alcohol was worsening my mental health. I was to go back in a month to review how things had gone.

I never kept that appointment. I tried stopping drinking but it didn’t make much difference so I didn’t see the point in continuing and I began drinking again. Depression and anxiety overtook me and I realised I couldn’t stay at university on my own anymore. I made my request to transfer to one nearer home. This didn’t reduce my drinking for the rest of the year and there was many more drinking escapades and me waking up in states that I never imagined I would.

Once I moved home I decided I needed to get a handle on my drinking. It helped I was so busy working and going to university that it didn’t leave much time for alcohol. I also didn’t have the same connections to go out drinking. This helped a lot. I reduced my drinking but didn’t stop at that point. This meant that drinking still had an impact on me though less severe. I’d be drinking at home and just getting depressed with everything. It was only after another suicide attempt that I decided no alcohol was the way to go for me.

No alcohol sounds simple. You surely just don’t drink. I wish I found it that easy. I found myself craving alcohol. If something bad happened I’d want to turn to alcohol. The thought of being drunk and away from the situation was still appealing. But I tried hard. I did slip up repeatedly but in the end I managed it. I’m currently eight years sober. It’s still a struggle. I still get the urge to drink and have to fight it.

I’m not saying alcohol is all bad but it can be hard when it overtakes your life. I’m not saying people shouldn’t drink but I just want people to be aware of why they drink and when it may be becoming a problem. If you need help with alcohol issues you can find information here.

If you wish to share your experiences feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Picture from Pinterest

1000 Days Of Self Care

As many of you know, especially if you follow me on Twitter, I have been doing the #365daysofselfcare challenge created by The Blurt Foundation. This involves trying to do some form of self care each day. Recently I managed to reach 1000 days. Therefore I thought I’d reflect a little and discuss self care again.

First of all let’s totally go over the point that self care isn’t selfish. It is the act of looking after and treating yourself with respect. People may interpret it as looking out for number one but really it’s bigger than that. By treating yourself with kindness you are helping those that you care about too. In order to be the most effective friend, parent, son, daughter, carer or partner you need to be in a fit state yourself. Self care is important.

Why did I take up the challenge?

The reason I started #365daysofselfcare was because I knew things needed to change. Mentally and physically I was a mess and I had no respect for myself. I felt worthless. Then I saw that The Blurt Foundation had started this challenge. I’d never really considered self care before; why would I when I felt so rubbish about myself? I decided to read about it and discovered it didn’t have to be big gestures but instead could be simple things that meant I was looking after myself. I thought I’d give it a go, after all what harm could it do?

What do I do for self care?

As I’ve already said self care isn’t all about spa days or trips to the cinema (although they obviously do count as self care and are great if you can do them). Sometimes self care is a nap, getting dressed, having a shower, clean pyjamas or just eating and drinking. It might sound boring but self care doesn’t have to be exciting. It’s just important that you are looking after you.

What’s been tough?

Doing some form of self care every day is not always easy. To begin with it was really strange deliberately doing something each day to look after myself. It was a totally alien concept and I felt like I didn’t deserve to look after myself (and quite often I still feel this way). There were many days where I didn’t feel I had done anything that constituted self care. I learnt though through talking to others that I was actually engaging in self care without realising it. Doing it as part of the #365daysofselfcare challenge actually made it easier, especially at the beginning, as I felt I was doing it for other people rather than me which spurred me on when I felt worthless. Also having the support of The Blurt Foundation team, as well as other people taking part, made things easier too.

Overall I would highly recommend trying to incorporate some form of self care into each day. It helps me be a little more respectful of myself. It makes it easier for me to be there for others and feel less of a hypocrite when telling others to look after themselves. Even if you just start small it is just as important as the big things, maybe more so.

If you want more info on self care you can check out my blogs on the subject here or check out this information from The Blurt Foundation. A very big thank you to Jayne Hardy and the whole The Blurt Foundation team. If you want to follow me on the #365daysofselfcare challenge then head over to my Twitter. You can also keep connected on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks to Jayne Hardy and The Blurt team for the pin.

My BPD Story

I originally wrote this post for the Break The Stigma campaign that is run by Ben who works for my local Mental Health Trust, East London Foundation Trust. You can find the campaign on Facebook or Twitter. For the original post click here.

“Hello, my name is Jo and I have Borderline Personality Disorder.” These are the words that I wish it was easy to say out loud. But it’s not. The reason I don’t feel able to share my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) easily is the huge amount of stigma that the condition carries. This is something I desperately want to change.

When I was diagnosed with BPD, about six years ago, I struggled to deal with my diagnosis. I found out I had this diagnosis by reading it on my copy of the letters sent to my GP. At the time I didn’t know what BPD was and so I worked up the courage to ask my psychiatrist what this diagnosis was and how she had come to this conclusion. She was very good and went through the criteria with me. I was shocked. She then suggested I read a book written by a psychiatrist about the condition. I agreed. This was a mistake.

The book I was given went into detail about why people with BPD were difficult patients and how they were all trying to manipulate those around them. It listed a number of bad things about people with BPD. I was horrified and immediately went into denial. Even though the psychiatrist had shown how I met the criteria, I did not want to believe I had this illness. I was definitely not going to tell many people I had it either. I did not want them to think I was these bad things.

My denial went on for quite a while. I told very few people my diagnosis. Even my parents didn’t know. Then I met and talked to some other people with the same diagnosis and I realised they were none of the bad things I had heard about BPD. These people were lovely, they just struggled with certain things like I did. This led me to being more open about my diagnosis and even telling my parents.

There is still a lot of stigma out there surrounding BPD and personality disorders in general. People still think we are manipulative and all the same but we are people with an illness, just like if we had cancer or diabetes. I’ve experienced stigma even from a psychiatrist who told me I couldn’t be treated. This is untrue. Therapy is the main treatment for BPD and medication can help manage some symptoms.

It is important to challenge the stigma surrounding BPD, and all mental illnesses, so that people can access the help that they need and deserve. At the moment 10% of those diagnosed with BPD will die as a result of suicide. This number is far too high. With help hopefully this can be reduced. Even one life lost is too many, and stigma feeds into these statistics. Reducing stigma will save lives and help those with mental illness to lead a better life.

Having BPD doesn’t make people scary or manipulative. They just have an illness like everyone else.”

To find out more information on Borderline Personality Disorder click here or follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.