#MY SELF CARE SELFIE

MENTAL HEALTH CAMPAIGN LAUNCH POST!!!

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For those of you who are unaware, as well as being a blogger I am also a mental health campaigner and media volunteer for national Mind (the leading UK mental health charity), and a fundraising volunteer for my local Mind in the North East of England.

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Local Mind charities are separate charities from the main national charity, and they offer services for directly supporting the wellbeing of us living with mental health problems in our communities (regardless of whether you have a diagnosed condition or not).

Local Minds across the Mind network are there so that people with a mental health condition can access emotional support, group support, or individual counselling in their communities, without any need to be referred from your GP.

What most people assume (when they donate to the main Mind charity), is that all money from that big pot of charitable donations gets spread around all the local Minds in England and Wales- but this is not actually the case. All local Minds are self-financing and independent; reliant on the generosity of the public in order to keep going and keep providing all the brilliant services they provide for their locality.

Me being me, and liking to draw attention to MENTAL HEALTH in a big way acting coy through blogging, writing, and campaigning (plus wanting to add to the pot of donations for my fave charity), I thought I’d try my hand at a social media mental health awareness/anti-stigma campaign.

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And MY SELF CARE SELFIE #myselfcareselfie was born :) Here is mine!

I talked my idea over with my fundraising boss, and My Self Care Selfie was a project launched locally last week by the charity on World Mental Health Day.

The idea is, people post their favourite ‘go-to’ self care coping strategies that they use on bad mental health days, and then we can all use that wisdom collected from other people to form a HUGE visual/online/accessible library of mood-enhancing coping options that people can browse through and try themselves when they happen to be having a bad mental health day! Simple and cool, right?

I want this to be BIG! I want the #myselfcareselfie hashtag to be used to the max, and I want MAXIMUM awareness across England slash the entire globe, of the great work done by the local mental health charity I volunteer for…….TYNESIDE AND NORTHUMBERLAND MIND.

I have been helped personally by this charity so much.

I am not paid by them to do PR and marketing. In fact, I am not paid at all, I am a volunteer, doing this simply because I believe in the charity and I am motivated to support the charity as best I can, because the charity supported ME, and I will never forget what they did for me to help me through the roughest emotional/psychological ride of my entire life. ❤❤❤

Regardless of whether you have a ICD/DSM diagnostic label spelled out on your medical records, or how exactly you’d score on a depression or anxiety inventory given out by your GP, mental health is an everyday concern for everyday people.

The principal behind the campaign is very much compatible with this AMAZING video, made my another local Mind, in the North of England. (Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind). This video is fab, and so worth a watch…..

They, like me, think it’s time to make mental health an everyday subject.

Regardless of whether you’ve ever been psychiatrically assessed, or hospitalised in a psychiatric unit, or attempted suicide (at thought about it), or hurt yourself on purpose, or ever had to flee a room because of a panic attack, or suffered a clinical depression, or a psychotic break, or experienced crippling social anxiety that has stopped you doing things, or had problems with eating, or a manic phase, or obsessive thoughts, paranoia, addictions, phobias. YOU NAME IT. All this is about mental health, and mental health is about all of us.

We ALL need to care for our mental health, no matter what end of the spectrum of mood and functioning you are.

Mental health can be great, fantastic, okay, meh, or just plain AWFUL.

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Usually happy and content people still get bad days, and someone who often struggles emotionally with their moods will still have some better times, and usually also a whole repertoire of coping options that they draw on to get them through the crappy phases. My message is, we can all benefit from adding to our toolkit of emotional regulation/self-soothing strategies.

MY SELF CARE SELFIE is the campaign that will (hopefully) raise public awareness of all the positive coping strategies that can be tried in times of low mood, or anxiety, or anger, or even times of emotional emptiness and numbness where we feel nothing at all.

This is a campaign for positive mental health, to encourage open sharing of ideas about how we can get through the tough times when things become particularly challenging emotionally. This is to get social media used for a positive purpose, for positive mental health for all of us. And if you click this link you can go direct to their Facebook page…..HERE

Tyneside and Northumberland Mind have set up an accompanying crowdfunding page to go with this campaign (on JustGiving), so people can donate to support services offered across Tyneside and Northumberland. If anyone out there would like to make a small donation, I would be hugely grateful!!! You can make online donations on JustGiving in any currency, so this is not just a appeal for pennies and pounds from the Brits. Just please indicate you would like to donate (if you would like to) by leaving me a comment below. Thank you!

I’ll leave you with some of the self care selfies we’ve had in so far……aren’t they FAB! And so varied 😊 If you are interested in donating to our crowdfunding page and getting your selfie publically shared, leave me a comment or alternatively email me at summerstartstoshine@yahoo.com X

 

YOUR HELP IN PROMOTING THIS CAMPAIGN WOULD BE SO MUCH APPRECIATED PLEASE, SO IF YOU COULD LINK BACK TO THIS BLOG AND WRITE YOUR OWN #myselfcareselfie POST, OR REBLOG THIS ON YOUR OWN BLOGS, I WOULD BE HUGELY GRATEFUL AND MAY POSSIBLY LOVE YOU FOR EVER….so no pressure ;)

 

summerSHINES©

 

#myselfcareselfie creator, and Tyneside and Northumberland Mind Fundraising Volunteer.

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MENTAL HEALTH (OF THE ENTIRE WORLD etc)

Hello peeps of the world.

Today is October 10th- WORLD mental health day.

The world is a BIG place with many humans in it, and many of those humans (probably far more I’d suspect than the usually cited 1 in 4) will have lived experience of mental ill health, ergo, they have experience, because they have lived out those illnesses in their life.

I have lived experience of mental ill health, but not the usual story of depression and anxiety.

I have a diagnosed personality disorder GASP

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I also have post-traumatic stress disorder

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And I am currently being evaluated by a new psychiatrist (the only mental health professionals permitted to make diagnostic decisions,) for a possible dissociative disorder.

Dissociative disorder….wait, what. What is that? I hear you say.

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A personality disorder? what does that mean?

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PTSD? But how can you have that, you haven’t been in a war have you??

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Those are the questions I would imagine you might be thinking, and I know this well, as this is how people usually react; with confused faces, puzzled faces, or quiet silences, indicating people are unsure what to say so are taking the (understandably) safest option and saying nothing.

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If you don’t have lived experience, or if you don’t know a close family member of friend who you have closely observed and tried to support during their illness, I guess it is absolutely understandable that you might be uncertain as to how to react.

People like me (the ones who are living with the mental illness) do understand that, and make allowances. I think in time we begin to assess (based on people’s reactions) whether we are disclosing and you are genuinely unsure as to how to respond sensitively and kindly and supportively, and those who genuinely act and think from a position and attitude of prejudice and stigma.

Both types of people exist, and people like me (the mental health illness sufferers) will inevitably bump into both types as we go about our daily lives.

It is sad that prejudice, stigma and negative attitudes towards mental ill health still exist, despite the efforts of many brave mentally unwell people to boldly speak out and attempt to overturn this societal bollocks.

I am not a fan of stigma, associated with many things. I have no issues with many ‘apparently controversial’ issues such as being openly transgender, same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia…the list goes on. I would say I am fairly open minded, but not everyone is, and mental illness is a sticky issue that still is responded to differently (by some), in comparison with their physical illness equivalents, which are usually viewed without stigma or blame or judgement. There is a widespread acceptance of physical illness, that just doesn’t apply (seemingly) with mental illness.

Maybe there is some stigma associated with physical illness, but it relates to things such as lifestyle choices. ie. smokers costing the national health service in the UK far more than non-smokers, because of smoking-related illnesses and deaths. It is the same with blaming people for being alcohol dependant, or obese, or wanting cosmetic surgery on the NHS. But all that aside, people are not usually blamed in any way for becoming physically unwell, and are usually granted sympathy and compassionate attention.

Take how illness in the workplace is responded to. A friend of mine observed a HUGE difference in how her boss reacted when she cited mental health reasons for why she needed to take a day off, as opposed to when she was physically poorly.

If someone is physically poorly we might send them a get well card or even flowers or fruit. But if we are in the midst of a depressive episode, or having panic attacks, or even worse, psychotic, it would be very unusual to get a card or gift or offer of help, (unless they are very close friends and extremely fabulous, in which case you would reward them with plentiful hugs!).

If people are supportive when we explain that we are psychologically poorly, cynical bystanders might well think that we are putting on mental health symptoms to get attention, but people don’t usually judge people who are physically unwell as doing it, on purpose, to get attention.

We all know about the poorly voice people learn to put on during telephone conversations, when we are faking physical illness. School kids learn the poorly voice! It starts young, but even though we know that many days taken off work poorly are sickies, rather than cases of genuine illness, but that is the way of the world, so no one bats an eyelid at your skiving.

People make the assumption that if you are complaining of mental health symptoms, that you must inevitably be making them up, as an excuse, for attention, or to get out of doing things you don’t want to do (such as going to work), but this is NOT TRUE.

People who cite mental health symptoms as reasons for non-attendance at work, or avoidance of social or childcare or other responsibilities are viewed as skivers and attention seekers. REALITY CHECK> Anyone who cites mental health as the reason they cannot do something is very fucking BRAVE to do that, because, whether conscious or unintended, we are actively opposing stigma, and doing our bit to make attitudes in society more open minded, by choosing to be honest with people that we are very much NOT OKAY, and that is ok!!

People do not FAKE mental illness. Mental illness is hard to admit to. Yes, sure, things are improving, and mental health charities and the work they do play a large role in improving things for current and future generations, but it is still VERY DIFFICULT to openly express that our mental health is bad, and that we are emotionally struggling to cope. Mental illness is not a socially acceptable excuse, therefore why would anyone pretend they are mentally unwell, when they are not? It would make no sense. All you would be doing is making things potentially very socially awkward for yourself, so if I could get one message out there to society it would be:-

WHEN WE SAY WE ARE STRUGGLING WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS, PLEASE BELIEVE US!

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I talk about mental illness on my blog, and have written quite a bit for mental health charities in the UK (Mind and Time to Change). You can find links to their websites here, as well as Heads Together, (which is another charity affiliated with Mind, led by our British royals, William, Kate and Harry).

MIND WEBSITE

TIME TO CHANGE WEBSITE

HEADS TOGETHER WEBSITE

All are great sources of information, written in plain English by people who live with mental illness, in our own words.

These charities also have YouTube channels too, where you can watch clips of real people taking about their personal experiences of mental illness (and not just the usual ones such as anxiety and depression- I mean the whole spectrum of different disorders out there that dominate the lives of people who suffer with these emotional challenges.)  I would thoroughly recommend you take a look at these as there are so many interesting clips to watch….. (links below)

MIND YOUTUBE CHANNEL

TIME TO CHANGE YOUTUBE CHANNEL

HEADS TOGETHER YOUTUBE CHANNEL

In terms of my volunteering plans, I got a very exciting email yesterday asking me to speak at some mental health awareness talks in my area next month. I am delighted to be asked (!) particularly as I would like to challenge attitudes and widen people’s understanding of personality disorders and PTSD, and what those labels mean for the people who live with them. This is a fab opportunity and I will do what I can, but I am not the only person striving to improve things. I know there are MANY mental health bloggers and mental health charity media volunteers out there, who are doing an amazing job of fighting stigma by talking honestly and openly about their mental health challenges. WELL DONE! You are growing flowers as you tap the keys….

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I am about to sit down and watch a short film of a close blogger friend being interviewed about her mental health. This is something which aired on regional news in the morning bulletin (and I recorded), so I am very much looking forward to watching that, and feeling the positivity of being part of a movement who are paving the way for greater acceptance and compassion, so that no one with a mental health problem has to live it alone.

Happy mental health day to you all! and if you are not happy today because of your mental health, I feel your pain, as I’m feeling it too.

It is ok to be not ok X

[And not just on world mental health day].

summerSHINES©

 

INTO THE BLUE

What I sent to my therapist just now….I’m publishing it, because when I email my therapist I feel more comfortable expressing my vulnerability than I seem to on my blog. With her I can lay it all out. It’s a release. I found this because it helps me in the moment.

Also this is my official blog reintroduction to my renamed blog ‘Into the Blue’.


Trigger warning- This is a #no filter letter. **Refers to self-harm and suicidal ideation.

“I’m feeling the need to email you again, probably because I’m feeling vulnerable.

I would be speaking right now if I had gone to London. I’d be there speaking and schmoozing and being all media-ish. But I’m not there, I’m here – where I always am. Limited. Resentful. Sad. Aching. At home. Deep psychological stuff is going down, and I feel horribly alone, (like I almost always do).

The days are ok as I can stay in my bubble, but the evenings are hard. Darkness is threatening. Next week is the full moon. Autumn is here. I feel cold inside, matching the cooler temperatures of the air.

Enough waffling bollocks. Why am I emailing you? What’s wrong? Why am I so threatened? Why can’t I cope alone? Why am I such a grown up underdeveloped child? I feel like I’m heading for a breakdown  (how many times do I say that! I feel like this almost ALL the time). Something is in the air, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

The inner panic is quietly building. 

I’ve been trying to explain to the kids about why I can’t do the speech, and they are asking why I always change things last minute and change so much. It made me sad. I want to be stable and not chaotic and stormy and unpredictable. 


I am tired of feeling desperate and fighting self harm urges. Suicidal ideation is always there, even if occupying a small space in the very corner of my mind. 

Living with the constant thought of dying is pretty ‘conflicting’ I’d say. 


My death wish is strong currently because I feel so despondent. I know I’ve had successes, but there are more disappointments, hurts, and failures than I’m comfortable tolerating. Dealing with the difficulties feels fairly beyond me.


You said to have hope, but it’s draining away and not in constant supply….like a bathtub where new water is getting added but the plug isn’t in, so the draining action offsets the new water being added. 

Yesterday I was emotionally flooded. Today I’m dry and empty.

I have thoughts about suicide being beautiful, more than life. Most people would say I’m glamorising suicide. I say instead it is people who glamorise living. 

I’ve changed my blog and revamped it all. It isn’t ‘Summer Starts to Shine’ anymore, because all this self-imposed pressure to shine makes me feel like a miserable fucked up failure. It’s now ‘Into the Blue’. That’s where I’m escaping…hopefully out of the black, into the blue, with no further pressure to shine. It’s darker and more mysterious, like a deep ocean.  


I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know I can’t stay where I am. So I have to bust some moves….. I just haven’t worked out what they are yet. 


That’s me. Stream of consciousness. The younger dissociated parts of me are quiet for now. Right now it’s just me in here. That’s maybe why I feel so empty? I guess I just miss the company.”


SummerSHINES 


#4 of 20. BREAKTHROUGH!

Good morning! I have lots of good stuff to publish today…and I am actually in a half decent mood, (which considering my recent mental health crisis is pretty epic!)

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I did some sharpie doodling this morning whilst chatting on and off to lovely humans (via the online social beauty that is Facebook messenger).

I sent a very important email to a very important mental health charity, telling them I will be doing the very important speech to the very important audience, after all. I REFUSE to let my mental health dictate my life (though I will have a good rest first, between now and then so I’m all recouped and ready to fly).

So where am I at- on day 4 of my attempt to get myself out of my current mental health breakdown?….I am here……(below). I have broken through, wherever it is that people in the midst of mental health crisis break through to, to mark that the worst bit is over and the better bits are to come……

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To say I’m ‘relieved’ doesn’t do it justice….but hopefully this doodle does it justice….

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There are lots of positive things to be positive about today…so I decided to make a list….

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Another FAB thing I am realising, is that I’m doing OK without my old friends, the team of NHS crisis, and the community based MH team (CMHT)…also without the therapist. I need to stand on my own feet for a bit and feel pride that I can regain my footing after some mental health slippery-ness. I’m proud of me for managing to do this….maybe sarpies, artsy paper and determination was all I needed….and maybe (for not at least) this is a sufficient substitute for NHS talking therapy and telephone-based support from people I’ve never met.

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I am dead excited about the charity speech, and dead excited about my BOOT THE BLUES hike.

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The good news is IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO DONATE! YOU LOVELY PEOPLE OUT THERE IN THE WORLD!!!….ANY CURRENCY, ANY PERSON- YOU CAN ALL DONATE ON MY JUSTGIVING PAGE…
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/imani-summer

ALL DOSH GOES TO TYNESIDE AND NORTHUMBERLAND MIND (FOR BETTER MENTAL HEALTH IN THE NORTH-EAST OF ENGLAND).

IF YOU DONATE, I WILL OFFICIALLY LOVE YOU :) xxx (but, on reflection, maybe not quite as much as my husband and children) :D

I nearly backed out, as last week doing this hike seemed impossible, but my spirits are soaring and my strength is returning. And I will SMASH THE SHIT OUT OF THIS HIKE and be so proud when it all comes together and all the money is totted up, and I will feel totes proud for my AMAZING :P organisational and volunteering skills!

Woop!

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On day 4-it’s all GOOD. :)

See you tomorrow for more sharpie mental health crisis recovery shenanigans blows kiss

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summerSHINES©

 

PEACEFUL SOLE

At last. A happy blog topic!! party poppers

This post is a lot more about footwear than mental health, although don’t worry, this blog hasn’t morphed into a vacuous fashionista blog- the mental health link is still very much there. For a welcome change, this post empathises some of the good stuff only good stuff that mental illness can bring into your life, namely the way it gives you an excuse to buy new shoes.

Anyone who knows me will know I am most at home [footwear wise] in wellies or trainers (and not even your trendy hunters or converse), and I’m also very partial to the epitome of laid back cool- the flip-flop. That reflects my informality, my lack of ability to be arsed about following trends, my desire for people to take me as I am- what you see is what you get, and also the fact I’m WAY TOO TALL AND UNGAINLY TO WALK IN HIGH HEELS :D

My estrangement from high heels happened when I became pregnant for the first time. Carrying that extra baby weight, rocking an altered centre of gravity and things like not being able to see my feet when standing, slash disturbingly swollen ankles, made heel wearing treacherous and not for the faint hearted. I officially have not stepped into a heel since that very last trimester of pregnancy day, and have sachayed around the north of England in un-cool flats ever since.

I am 6 ft tall, so heels are an option, but by no means a necessity. Men appear to be scared of me in heels, presumably as I match their stature, and women appear to be very uncomfortable with me towering over them, (judging by the vile looks of derision I get), so because I don’t want to scare or overpower people, I stay on terra firma, at the very height mother nature intended me to be. 6 foot off the ground. That is high enough I hypothesise for most occasions.

Well it usually is anyways, but sometimes life events come along that make you scrap and disregard your usual rules of living, in favour of the heady thrill of doing something a tiny bit different to what you normally do.

Next month, on a date (unnamed) in a location (unnamed, but hint- would cost £400 to purchase on a monopoly board) I shall be chucking out my usual flip, flop and flats, in favour of foot stilts (aka. heels).

Some occasions DEMAND heels, and this is surely one of them. This social situation demands a slick and sassy dress code and INCREASED HEIGHT.

I am doing a big speech, the biggest and most important speech of my life thus far. How this links with mental health is that the speech is on behalf of the biggest and best mental health charity in England and Wales- MIND.

I am a media volunteer for them, and this is an important gig which really matters, for both them and for me….one that I am immensely flattered to be asked to do.

I will be challenging my social anxiety more than it has ever been challenged before, and I will be doing something immensely nerve wrackingly scary as speaking, in public, with a microphone, to a big crowd, in a big room, in a big city. gulp

I can’t say any more than that publically, but to say I am excited about this event has the word “UNDERSTATEMENT” printed all over it. I am not too nervous [yet], I am just excited and thrilled to be given this opportunity, but interestingly considering the gravitas of the situation, most people’s first question when I tell them about this is not ‘what will you say’, but ‘what will you WEAR‘?! And to be honest, I don’t blame them, because that is what I feel most nervous about myself!…..[this Northerner not looking out of place in a swanky hotel at a prestigious address in central London]. Which is why shopping is a must- at least for the purchasing of heels and bling.

If I’m going to address a room about a topic I’m as passionate about as mental health, I want to feel comfortable, and that my outards successfully match my innards. I want the passion to show through on the outside, and to put it bluntly, I don’t want to stand behind the lecturn feeling like a tit.

A key advantage of the rural/coastal area where I live is that I don’t have to care what I wear when I go out. I put the bins out in my PJs and dressing gown, I will often go out to walk the dogs sans bra, and black leggings and a Primark vest are absolutely appropriate for ANY OCCASION; cagoules are positively ENCOURAGED (cause of the rain), fleeces are deemed fully ACCEPTABLE (cause of the arctic coastal breeze that blows in from the north sea) and shell suits NEVER went out of fashion.

On this occasion though, I want to raise my game and show Southerners that rural dwelling Northerners can actually look the business.

I know in my heart of hearts that no-one there probably does give a fuck what I wear and won’t be judging me on that basis, but I want to feel comfortable in myself so the search for the outfit begins TODAY. You heard it here first :)

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summerSHINES©

**Post-publishing note.

I did go shopping. I did brave the over-sized and packed out shopping centre that is bad for my PTSD. I did feel near to tears as I tried on shoe after shoe, all of which either didn’t fit (like Cinderella) or looked shit (I blame the designers) but in the end I DID get fixed up, in TESCOS of all places! It was a last ditch attempt on to salvage my heel shopping induced melancholy on the way home. Peace is restored in my soul, [or should I say sole]. I am blinged up to the max with a bracelet, a necklace and high heeled shoes that I can actually (just about) walk in. Now all I need to do is write my speech :)