#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©

 

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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**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 :) 

 

 

THE GOLDEN GLOW

I write this post with my feet still hovering several inches off the ground. [That isn’t because I’m sitting typing this post while perched on an unusually tall chair] ;)

…….It’s actually because I’m still really happy and buzzy and nicely floaty after a couple of stimulating full-on but FABULOUS days.

I don’t have the mental capacity to write lots today, so instead I will allow the photographs to do the talking, and maybe a few sharpie doodles too.

Tuesday was blog release day. Mind very kindly shared the blog I’d written which accompanied the parliamentary visit (associated with the Jo Cox Loneliness Campaign-more on that to follow in future posts), and then yesterday was the day this beach lovin’ village dwelling Northern girl got her chance to travel down to London town to attend a totes important and valuable event in parliament!

Two very proud and very busy days have unfolded, and today I’m basking in a beautifully golden and happily satisfied glow.

There is lots more I want to write as my inspiration levels have reached overflowing levels swoon but I know I need to rest and recuperate and take it easy today. Self-care is everything.

I have plenty of time to write out what the last few days have been like and all the things I’ve personally gained from these positive experiences, but all that can wait for another day…..Today I shall mainly be basking in my golden post-awesome-experience glow.

I’ll leave you with some photos to tell my story of yesterday that way, (the easy way), in pictures. The other dude on the pics is my new friend of lushness- Jaabir (The other Mind media volunteer I spent the day with) :)

I hope you enjoy.

**For anyone who hadn’t yet read my blog on loneliness and depression, please visit http://www.mind.org.uk, or look on their Twitter/Facebook feeds. Thanks. Imani Summer X

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EXCITED/SCARED 

Trauma ‘has me’ in its grip today. Ironic as yesterday when I published my ‘post-traumatic sparkle syndrome (PTSS) post, I said I’d need to keep it in plain sight for my low days.

Today is a bit low, not catastrophically low. I’m just out of balance and below par.

Soon I travel down to Westminster for a parliamentary reception with other representatives from Mind. For the benefit of my international followers, Mind are a national mental health charity who are based in London, and I’ll be there with them wearing my media volunteer hat. It’ll be a chance to converse with people that matter about things that matter.

Feeling excited and scared is my emotional cocktail of the day. Feeling two very different emotional things at once, one good and one bad is something I am incredibly talented at 😁😂

My philosophy for living is that most things that are worthwhile in life are both exciting AND terrifying, and a problem only emerges when you do things that are ONLY terrifying, without also being exciting in any compensatory way. Obviously things that are exciting but NOT terrifying are also fairly good, but not as good as exciting terrifying things, which are only terrifying because of their importance and personal significance.

If you understood that sentence, well done :P

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Going to London is personally significant for me (because for me, it’s a big thing to do.)

Meeting people from Mind who I’ve only previously spoken to over the phone or by email is EXCITING (because I love Mind Charity and all it’s aims, and everyone I’ve ever spoken to at national Mind has always been truly and universally lovely. They are an awesome bunch of humans :) )

Speaking to politicians is significant because: a. I’ve never ever done it, and b. the fact I’ll be chatting about the mental health of the nation with them is humongously HUGE.

Speaking to the press and being photographed by them is significant because I have only ever spoken to one journalist at a time, and I’m still very early on in my media volunteering experiences (a few months in), PLUS I will feel more celebrity (ish) than I have ever done previously in my 36 years on the planet. (Except for the time I was filmed for the telly which admittedly was quite celeb-ish 🙈🙈).

The subject for discussion on the day matters lots (though I can’t speak about what it is about just yet as it’s totes confidential 🙈🙉🙊).

I don’t do media volunteering for Mind to feel like a celeb though. I take it seriously and I do it for the right reasons. Talking publically about mental health and how my life is affected by my trauma-created illnesses is an important thing to do.

It’s also quite bold and quite SCARY. Stigma does still exist, despite things being far better than they used to. ‘Coming out’ publically in the media and being a face that is recognisable is slightly risky. Even though I want to be a media volunteer for the right reasons, not everyone who reads or watches will perceive mental illness and the people who live with mental health conditions in the compassionate and empathic way that I do.

Anyway back to the point of the post, I’m a tiny bit scared of tomorrow because my PTSD and BPD will be challenged to the MAX.

But I’m also excited :) and the excitement is what I shall focus on.

My blog has gone out today on Mind social media-in association with the event, and that has been exciting too 🙌🙌

To read the blog on the topic of Loneliness go onto http://www.mind.org.uk. and it’s the top story. Alternatively find it on Mind’s Facebook or Twitter.

I’m off for an early night and some much needed relaxation so I’m refreshed and ready to hit Westminster when the time comes 💛💛💛

SummerSHINES