Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Talking with Friends - Sick Not Weak

Check out my Guest Blog on Sick Not Weak - Talking with Friends

Reaching for the Pen

When you find yourself somewhere between having an episode and wanting one to take over your body. 

I just can't deal with this I am unable to process these feelings, these emotions. 

I welcome the moments when it takes over my body. I welcome the loss of control. This is the only feeling I can accept. 

My mind is somewhere between racing and being absent. 

I want to let people know Im ok, but I can't bring myself to lie, heck I cant even pick up the phone. My ability to communicate has gone. 

I am grateful I have reached for a pen, its stopped me clenching my fist and punching myself. 

I am still twitching but much less now. 

Im not sure if it will come back, but I can at least move now. 

- These were my thoughts during a episode -

Saturday, 22 October 2016

The misuse of "anxiety"

I'm writing this a few days after the event so I have calmed down a fair bit now. But, it's still really annoying!

Right, well, I guess I should actually tell you what's got me all annoyed. 

Earlier this week in the morning I was radio channel hopping in the car while sitting in traffic on the way to work. Eventually I found a song playing. Then a song or two later the talking happens, Radio One is not a station I would usually stay on but I did. 
Nick Grimshaw and his co host are talking about accidentally sending messages to the person your talking about or posting their name on social media when you meant to search it. Basically what I think is being described is bullying...worry not it gets worse!
Nick a couple of times says talking about this is giving him "anxiety". This riled me a little, as someone in the mental health community who talks about the misuse of words. The fact we see or rather hear mental health ILLNESSES used as adjectives. Still haven't heard anyone say they feel cancery and I probably will never hear that because cancer has more visible symptoms and there has been great work done by cancer charities to educate our society. 

While the use of the word "anxiety" was upsetting for my, I considered, maybe you could honestly have anxiety symptoms in the situation being described. If I think about this behaviour situation. Your talking about someone behind their back, and they might be about to find out how you feel. Or maybe Laura is about to find out you've been stalking her photos and you've just liked an Instagram photo from 12 months ago. Then how would I feel, I could be nervous, unsure, on edge, unable to think about anything else, it stop me doing or concentrating on tasks.

Ok so maybe while not the best example. This is an...ok... use of "anxiety". Maybe I'm overreacting. 

The radio conversation continues, Nick then says "I'm getting full on anxiety"! I also rip the radio out of the car to throw it out the window. This is ridiculous, uneducated, uninformed, misleading, stigma building, potentially isolating and extremely damaging to the mental health movement that people within our communities are fighting for. We try to raise awareness, prevent stigma, support fellow suffers and those around them. Previously I have mentioned the damage that mainstream media are doing when it comes to mental health. But in honestly I think I have done this imagining a faceless media. Well this week I heard what I consider ignorant and harmful use of the ILLNESS anxiety. 

I'd like to think I always consider what the other side was thinking and their perspective. With that in mind I had self justified the use of "anxiety", but "I'm getting full on anxiety"?! No, no, no! 

This was another example of how mental health is not seen as serious or important by the media, specifically Nick Grimshaw and Radio One. A very sad day for radio! 

The mental health community will continue will continue to raise awareness in the hope we see and hear less of this. More importantly so people suffering from this ILLNESS will not feel alone, will know there is support, help and understanding out there. You just will not fine it on Radio One. 

Speed Dating (repost)

Coming soon I will be writing a article for Daily Focal which will be based on my thoughts and experience of speed dating. With that in mind I though this would be a great opportinuy to repost a blog entry from over a year ago, especially since I posted this to an old blog feed (not this one). Enjoy and visit Daily Focal for my upcoming articles. 


In the last few weeks I've decided I would like to put myself back out there and have, on recommendation from Rachel, joined a couple of dating apps and signed up for a singles night.

The apps are pretty hit and miss in my opinion so far. I've heard horror stories and success stories, so that, I guess, reinforces that view. Additionally I enjoy face to face interaction much more. I feel that I learn more about the person I am with and gain a better feeling for if there is any sort of connection when you are physically in each others presence. 

For this reason I was interested and excited to attend a event in Southampton with Rachel. We went along and had dinner (in the same venue as the event) before the event started. This allowed us to see the first few people go up and know we wouldn't be the first to enter. We tried to see who was going up to the function room to gage a few things about the people attending, like attractiveness, age, gender. This was fairly unsuccessful, we could see that some people had gone up but we couldn't see enough to tell what they where like. This was an open event, so there could be mainly 20, 30, 50, 80 year olds, we didn't know. In a strange way that made me more nervous and more relaxed at the same time. Its hard to explain.  

About 20 minutes after the event started we made our way over and signed in with the host. At this point we were given a drinks card, there was something about finding someone (of the opposite sex) with a matching card to get a free drink, but we quickly saw you could exchange them for a drink without matching them. So I'm not sure if it didn't matter, or maybe we would have gotten a better drink if we'd matched it? I really don't know. 
* I have since worked out, I think, that these are just conversation starters. It makes no difference to your drink. 

For a while we just talked to each other, as everyone else was notability older than us (minimum 15 years older) and that wasn't something we were looking for. After about 15 minutes there was a steady influx of people. Somehow we created a group of 5 and chatted as a small group for a while. Sometimes with multiple conversations at once. 

It was really nice to just chat to people and enjoy being sociable with new people. Through I evening I mainly spoke to two girls, April and Julianna. While Rach spoke to a couple of guys. It was great to be there with someone, but be happy to talk to different people / groups. I guess it made me feel more comfortable and relaxed. 

The two girls I spoke to where friends and where really interesting to talk to. We discussed a few things throughout the evening, I did get distracted a couple of times with tying to work out their safe, or escape phase (which I managed to get by the end of the evening using my skills of deduction). At one stage in the evening I did look around the room and see that there where quite a few people at the event now and thought maybe I should 'mingle' more. However I was enjoying the conversation and company I currently had so opted to stay where I was. Occasionally someone would come over and sit with the three of us, but they would also leave after a short while. The next time I looked around the room had started to empty out, more people where leaving and the bar was shutting. It felt like it had been 10 minutes, I can only assume it had been much longer.

I really enjoyed the event and was glad that Rach had suggested it. I continue to chat with April, we've even been on two dates.

Shortly after the singles night we also signed up for a Speed Dating event. This time Rach's sister, Helen would be coming with us too.
I was looking forward to the speed dating to see how different it was to the open, free, Match event. This event was booked through Speed Dater and had a £13 booking fee. Now I've mentioned the money, I feel this is an appropriate time to mention one of the differences here. Attending the 'open' mingle type of event before was great to attend with someone of the opposite gender. Speed Dating however, not as much. You are paying to meet people, so what is the point of going with people you already know? For me, I really like these girls so spending time with them is a joy and something I look forward to. However, I was definitely feeling that I had two wasted dates, which equated to £2.60 of my booking free. Ok, I've said it now I'll let that go. They really are lovely girls 😀  

This time on arrival we grabbed drinks and made our way up to the event area straight away. There were a couple of people there already, but a majority hadn't arrived yet. 
As people began to arrive there was a visible difference in the attire people where wearing, particularly I thought the guys. Having gone with the smart casual standard shirt and jeans, I was interested to see Gary turn up in a suit and tie combo and another chap wearing t-shirt jeans and carrying a bag. A couple of the girls seemed to have come together and where dressed in similar fashion, so there wasn't as much of a difference in their attire.

Rach, Helen and myself sat down and chatted for about 20 minutes. At this point the event host provided an overview of the evening and how the dates would work. Ladies would sit at a table for the evening with men rotating tables every four minutes, the four minutes would be sounded by a bell. We had been provided with the scorecard, which we could make notes on following each date. Along with ticking if we were interested in dating this person, being friends or not interested. 

Once we started, you start on the table that matches your number, so for example girl 3 starts with boy 3. I immediately enjoyed the experience and talking to the different girls that where there. I found it hilarious that the host put Rachel and Helen next to each other. Meaning each could hear the others conversation. Meeting the family on the first date, within four minutes, still makes me chuckle. Personally I was not keen on the set up of the room, I didn't feel the space was optimised and some dates where very close to others and then two where in there own space. It just seemed a little strange. I did not seem to have a chance to make any 'notes' as I went around. I managed with just noting down name and table number.

As an experience it was different to what I had expected. I though you'd be able to chat with people, but you may need to think of a topic or question if the conversation stalled. However I found the opposite, it was easy to talk to everyone. But with the time going so fast, it became important to move the conversation on to other topics sometimes, or you learnt nothing about the person other than a hobby or their job. The event as a whole seemed to pass very quickly which I suppose shows I had a good time. We hung around after the event finished with two guys (Chris and Mike) and two girls (Emma and Tracey) for a little while, having a couple of drinks and chatting about our thoughts on the evening. I retain the belief that these are great events for meeting and chatting to new people. I think the pressure comes when you go hoping to meet someone that night. 

I think the two events are very different, and both are worth attending. Speed Dating is good for confidence building because you have to talk to everyone at the event. However it can be restrictive if you want to spend more that a couple of minutes with someone. Then you really need to catch them at the end of the dating and chat a bit more. The open events, such as Match, are nice relaxing evenings out and you can attend without the same pressure that may come with speed dating, however (again) you do have to make the effort to approach and talk to people. No one is going to ring a bell a say its your turn with that girl / guy you like the look of.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Talking about Mental Health at Interview and in the Workplace

This morning I read a blog post by Kayleigh (@veryberrycosmo) about mental health and employment and I started to write a comment at the bottom of the post. That 'short' comment started to turn into a ramble. So I thought I would turn that....I guess frustration into a blog post of my own.

Let me start by saying this is very much based on MY experience, everyone is different and will have different thoughts and experiences of this. Additionally so much of this, for me, is about your relationship with those around you. So that will dramatically affect your decisions and experiences.

I have never revealed or discussed my mental health in any of the workplaces I have had. I have discussed it with colleagues AFTER I have left that place of work. Because at that point they are no longer colleagues, they are friends and not really related to my work.
I do feel slightly ashamed of this because part of my current job is encouraging students to come forward and feel they can talk about their own experiences while encouraging discussion of mental health across the institution. I believe I do a really good job of this. However, 'coming out' and using myself as an example could be a very useful thing in terms of empowering and awareness raising. However...

I have never felt comfortable talking about my mental health in the workplace. I think this is for a few different reasons. Firstly the fact that at the beginning I didn't know what was going on so its really hard to talk about something why you don't know its affecting you! Then either through social stigma, or the stigma that I hold within my own head I didn't / don't feel committable to talk about this at work. Towards the start of my mental health adventure I moved workplaces a lot, I had 5 jobs in 12 months. So connecting with people I was working with didn't really happen. Part of that was contractable, but it was also me probably avoiding those connections while I struggled to work out what was happening to me. That being said there are some people I worked with in that time that I am still in contact with as friends and thats been cool. That despite only knowing those people for a short time bonds can still be made. The best example of this is Kelly, who I worked with for a grand total of 2 months. She's moved from Bournemouth to Scotland now, but we regularly talk and I am very open with her about my struggles and experiences (obviously she doesn't get told everything, but then the other person that gets that is probably Sarah). For me this is a great example that those connections can be made even in a short space of time. I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for Kelly and hope to see her again some time soon.

The workplace, of me has always been somewhere you take pride in yourself and your work. You act in a certain way because of your 'role' and the professional setting and expectations. While I have always had my own...approach. I have for most of my working life conformed to the social norms and perceived expectations. Yes, to some extent that has been affected by the positions and institutions I have worked for. But isn't that the same for most people? We all have or see these expectations.
Recently I would say I have started to drift from this slightly. In my last job, I was much more forthright in my views and ideas (see my podcast with Matt and Wes for a bit more on this). Then in my current workplace my appearance has continued to become less...traditional with the long hair and beard. I am yet to try jeans!
Despite this I continue to hold back about my mental health.

When I commented on Kayleigh's blog, I found myself thinking of all these things many of us do because of our mental health. We blog, podcast, talk to people, give advise, support, we listen. To do this we have build websites, set up blog or podcast feeds, we have attended events, some have organised events. Heck some have won awards! This is such a big part of our lives, even if you don't feel like you do many of these things. We have developed so many skills and experiences, that if applied to any other field we would be encouraged to talk about (in detail) because of benefit of these experiences and skills. Not to mention the other personal attributes (confidence, time management, drive, determination etc) that we have demonstrated. By not talking about these things we essentially miss out on something that would really make us stand out compared to other people, particularly in an interview / application scenario. But that stigma, whether held socially or within ourselves holds us back.

While I will likely continue, in the short term at least, to not discuss my mental health in the workplace. I would like to think I would be able to mention it in an interview in the future. Because I believe when Im asked about my personal life, my character, my 'hobbies' much of those questions would be best answered by talking about my experience in the social setting of the mental health discussion. I am not applying to anywhere at the moment so this is an easier statement for me to make I guess.

How about you, would you feel at ease talking about your blog / podcast / website in an interview or at the workplace?

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