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Thoughts from a Small Island

Random words from my mind

A Tentative Start

This is going to be used by me as a means of escape from what is currently whizzing round my head.

I have no idea how often I will be updating it but I hope that by posting what I feel about things it may encourage others to speak up or seek help in their own way. It might not be easy to read for some and I offer no apologies for that but my intention is to help open doors and people’s thinking toward mental illness and how it affect not just the ‘patient’ but also those around them.

Stay safe

Featured post

Facebook Page Ending in 14 days…

I have come to a decision about my Facebook page of the same name and that is one of deletion. I have had the page linked to this blog for a number of years and, while it has been lovely to receive comments of support from people, it has become a millstone around my neck.

I have begun to resent the page and all it has become in the fact that I am feeling like I have to constantly update it and share things for me to be ‘relevant’. I feel like I am having to post to seek that validation when in reality the only person I have to prove things to is myself. It is no longer an enjoyable outlet for me and it feels like I am reverting back to the ‘old’ me of posting things to stay current, not because I want to help and this is wrong for everyone. I do genuinely want to help but I can’t do it this way.

I will still be vocal and honest about my mental health and I will always support the people and pages who have helped me (they are truly amazing individuals and I feel honoured to have met and become friends with them) but I don’t think I can be that spokesperson myself. I will share articles I believe important and will speak up if I can to raise awareness. Things such as the #anxiousandawesome project started by my lovely friend ‘Cupcakes and Anxiety’ (search for her on Facebook) will always be close to my heart and wherever possible I will fly the flag.

There is a lot going on in the world right now and I have to be a little selfish and put myself first otherwise I am of no help to anyone.

The overriding message I want to give out though is that you must speak up if you’re struggling. Even if it is anonymously on a blog or vocally, you must put yourself first.

Thank you to everyone who has followed the Facebook page, messaged with support over the years or even just ‘liked’ posts. I haven’t gone away (far from it) but I just can’t be the front man anymore.

Much love to you all and remember to just be kind to each other. It really is that easy xx

Ma ma ma my Corona

For this months post (it seems to have become monthly) I have decided to have a bit of a chat about the current state of the world.

The whole world and its dog has become overcome by the news of Covid-19, more commonly called Coronavirus. Now I, like many others, have an opinion on this but I’m not going to share them here. It is neither the time nor the place, plus I haven’t had time to make a new tin foil hat for when I explain some of my thinking.

One thing though is certain and that is that the whole thing is quite scary. The rate at which it has spread is, whatever you think about it, worrying. I am trying not to be overly concerned about it myself because in my head I have already imagined the worst case scenario (like many of us with mental health issues). It might come across to some as sheer defiance or burying my head in the sand but that is not the case. My own personal way of coping has been to make light of the situation we find ourselves in because if we think about it, it really is quite surreal.

However, the thing worrying me more is the attitude of some people toward each other. Panic buying. Fighting over toilet rolls (yes…..really). Empty shelves. Paranoia. This last particular trait was demonstrated to me perfectly last week when, on my way home from work, I was munching on a packet of crisps. A crisp got stuck (as it does, usually the smallest one ever) and I began to cough loudly to try and clear my throat while holding on to the crisp packet so I didn’t lose any of them (most important). Cue red, angry faces, people crossing the street whilst covering their faces with coats, scarves, hands, bags, small children (okay, maybe not that last one). This pandemic has not only brought out the best in society, it has brought out the worst.

But there is a silver lining. There have been reports of communities banding together to assist the elderly or vulnerable with shopping so they don’t have to leave the house unnecessarily. There have been evening sing alongs in various places across the world where the citizens are on complete lockdown. I’ve seen pictures of care home residents holding up signs to tell their families that they’re safe. Shops that are still open have put in place special times for the elderly and NHS to shop so they can be sure of getting the things they need before the general public are released. I’ve seen houses being decorated with rainbows (ours included) to give people something to smile at as they walk past on their daily exercise.

Last night across the UK at 8pm people stood in their gardens, at front doors or windows and gave a huge round of applause for our emergency services. At the beginning of the week I even gave some random strangers bunches of flowers on my way home from work. We had been given them because they were left over from Mothering Sunday so took some for my wife and a few extra just to make someone smile.

But how do I cope with the anxiety of it all?

Honestly? I don’t know. I have been fortunate enough to be classed as a ‘key worker’ so I can still go to work each day because I work in a food store. That in itself amuses me because usually people who work in supermarkets, newsagents, janitors and the generally ‘unskilled’ workers as we are sometimes called are now being called key workers because of our concerted efforts to ‘keep the nation fed’. It sounds like something from a 1940’s propaganda poster. At the end of my day I immerse myself in my drawing, listening to the radio or just chilling out.

Have I struggled?

Definitely. I’ve had a few wobbles and only the other morning I could feel a panic attack coming on but I was able to recognise it and calm myself. In general my daily routine hasn’t changed that much so it’s not got to the stage where it feels like it’s intruding on my life but I’m prepared if it does.

One thing I am sure of (and this might sound a little whimsical) but I genuinely believe that the majority of the world will never be the same as before. I get the impression that this has brought people back to earth, as if they’ve pressed ‘reset’ , and that they will appreciate things just that little bit more. There are signs of societies coming together again to help each other and people are smiling at the little things.

Stay safe and take care of each other.

It will be ok.

Life Decisions

Before I get stuck in to this blog I must say that this is not as life changing as the title may suggest but it is about me making decisions for me. And for me only.

I have got to a point in my life where I have realised that the world does in fact primarily revolve around each of us separately and that my decisions and life choices are made with my own mental health in mind. I take in to account the feelings of others when making these decisions but they are not the overriding factor. I also have realised that many others make their own decisions and are trying to live their lives in the same way.

Lately I have begun to notice that I no longer have much in common with people I once thought I did. This isn’t to say that I no longer care for them (because I do care deeply for them) but is more the fact that our lives have moved in different directions and I wish nothing but the best for them. I have removed people from my ‘friends’ on social media because we no longer move in the same circles. I no longer feel a need to socialise as much and make new friends and I am beginning to feel more comfortable on my own again. I used to be very happy on my own until my breakdown happened and made me rely heavily on family and friends. I can now spend a day off on my own having a little wander around town and trawling the charity shops for a bargain. No longer do I feel a sickening in my stomach when I enter a cafe on my own and I am happy to sit with a coffee (caramel latte of course) and watch the world whizz past while I take a breather.

Another thing I have done more of is read books. I’ve stopped watching television as much as I used to (mainly because it’s absolute trash and just gets me annoyed and shouty at the screen) and begun listening to the radio more. Kerrang! radio is always my ‘go to’ station as it’s my favourite kind of music but when I go to bed I now listen to Scala radio which is a classical music station but not in the traditional sense. It has music from film scores, video games and tv ads and is fantastic to chill out and wind down to. I highly recommend it.

I have also begun to care less about my appearance. Not that I’ve turned into a tramp, far from it. I’ve begun to wear what I want and as long as it’s not offensive or it clashes with my pale freckled skin I will own it. Funky socks? Got them. Patterned shirts? Got them. Trousers other than jeans? Yep got them too. Today I went for a haircut and came to the realisation that my hair is getting thinner and my forehead is getting bigger so instead of my usual cut I went for an all over grade 3 cut (short) and I bloody love it (but I do now look more like my brother than either of us would probably care to admit). I have embraced the fact I’m getting older and balder. There’s more grey than brown hair but it’s mine and I’ve decided to run with it.

Finally I have begun to give less of a s**t about what people think of me and I think this is honestly the best decision I have ever made. It has not been an easy decision and has taken me a very long time to come to terms with the fact that I am mentally unwell and will probably be for the rest of my life but I have begun to consciously challenge what I think about myself. This hasn’t been in a deep and meaningful, cross legged, incense fuelled, hippy kind of way. Instead I have just thought more about what I want to do for myself and how I want to do it. I post what I want on my social media pages and share what is relevant to me but might also help others too.

And this has led to me being more content with my own lot in life.

I’m still anxious.

I’m still socially awkward.

I’m still looking for an exit when I enter a room but I’m happy with that and I don’t feel quite so bad anymore when I have to leave due to my anxiety.

I’m also more able to tell people about my mental health, how it affects me and how it feels.

There’s things I still compare about my life and other people’s (that’s only natural) but I’m less likely now to dwell on the things I don’t have and now think I’m fortunate to have the things I do have.

New year…..slightly updated me

It’s been a while since I posted anything here so I thought I would just give you all a little insight in to what has been happening in the world of a thinker who lives on an island (hence the name).

The short answer, to be completely truthful, is not very much.

I survived my first Christmas in the backstage area of the store I work in without losing myself along the way and got some really positive feedback on how I worked and coped with some, at times, challenging decisions (and customers). I have then been keeping myself up to date about an upcoming refurbishment of our customer toilets (I get all the good jobs), sorting out our telephone numbers for the store (exciting stuff) and learning more about the downstairs part of our operations team. For the first time in a long time I have felt confident in my own decision making at work and have even managed to relay information to my manager without getting myself tied up in knots about whether I’ve said the right thing or not.

I have also made a little progress in my art work and took a massive leap of faith by directly approaching a multi national company as to whether they would like to use one of my designs on their carrier bags. Initially the customer service team said that although they love it themselves, it’s not something they deal with so have promised to pass on my work and contact details to the relevant department. Now, I’m not expecting miracles to happen but the fact that they even replied in a non generic way about how they liked the design is enough of a thumbs for me to go on. I haven’t heard back from them as yet, but I took my email one step further and also forwarded it on myself to their media and social department. I await their response…………

Today I have contacted a local shop about stocking some of my pieces in there. It is a local shop for local people (not THAT kind of shop) who are craft / art minded and wish to sell their wares in a slightly less stressful environment. The shop rents space out monthly to artists and I made enquiries for some of larger, framed pieces that I have. Their reaction to my initial photos of my work was promising, so that might be another avenue for me to pursue in the near future.

Then, there is this coming week at home where we might actually be doing some proper decorating in our house for the first time since we bought it. Granted, it’s our daughters room we’re doing but she bought the paint herself before we moved and we promised her we’d do it. After much shouting at her to get her room cleaned (she’s a typical teenager with a ‘floordrobe’ and junk everywhere) the time has finally come. If we have time we might also give the kitchen a lick of ‘Andalusia’ (or yellow as it’s commonly called). Only thing now though is that since we decided on the colours for the living room / dining room those years ago, those same colours are no longer available. Looks like more trips around DIY shops are on the horizon

Finally, after all the work and art stuff I am still the same old me, albeit with a little more self assurance than I had at this point last year. My motivation for exercise at the moment is still non existent and I’m unsure how to find that ‘spark’ again, even though I have new trainers that I’ve only worn twice and new running leggings I bought in the sale. I will get out there, but I just don’t know when and it’s starting to really frustrate me, even though I know it’s only my own battle. My work is still quite physical so it’s not like I do nothing at all, and I walk to / from work every day (about 3.5 miles in total) but I miss the loneliness of running.

I know that sounds odd that I might enjoy loneliness but it’s a different kind of freedom than the feeling of actually being lonely.

Anyway, one foot in front of the other and just keep going……………

Grinch

I think I’ve done pretty well this year. I’ve made it to 10 days until the big day before I start to despise the enforced happiness and fake goodwill.

Normally it begins around the start of the month but I think that because I no longer work on the shop floor I have managed to avoid the ‘excitement’ of it (if you can call it that).

This is my last weekend off before Christmas and I spent yesterday just mooching around town like I usually do but with the added bonus of having to buy ‘Secret Santa’ presents. It wasn’t too bad though because I went for the ‘safe’ option of gifts.

Today however was a little different.

We had made plans a few weeks ago to go across the water to the big island and visit the Southampton Christmas Market. There was my parents, my wife, daughter and myself (obviously) and we took the car over as, surprisingly, it was cheaper than the 5 of us going as foot passengers. The crossing was fine and I had my headphones on to drown out the sound of the general public with the soothing tunes on Kerrang! radio. On arrival in Southampton we parked the car and headed up in to the shopping centre and then out on to the high street. I felt anxious with the amount of people around me but safe in the company of my family.

The market was full of the usual type of Christmassy gifts that aren’t usually available in the shops (there’s a good reason for that…..most of the stuff will end up in a charity shop in the new year) but the atmosphere was relaxed. After a good wander, we then hit the proper shops. Primark, Lush, Superdry, Forbidden Planet (it’s a comic book, sci fi place…not what you’re all thinking) and many more we went in and out of. It felt good to be somewhere different and I actually enjoyed myself. We made it in good time back to the ferry and that’s when it all changed.

I began to feel like I had just wasted the whole day.

In my head I was thinking that I’ve spent money on half of a ferry fare, lunch for the 3 of us (an overpriced but very tasty pork and apple sauce baguette) and half of the car park fee and the only thing I had to show for it was a book that I could have bought at home. I sat on the ferry with my headphones on just staring out the window in to darkness feeling my mood darken too. I try to enjoy Christmas and the build up to it but every year I get myself in to a bad mood by trying to enjoy Christmas and the build up to it.

I have therefore spent this evening sorting out laundry, doing the dishes and generally putting myself in an even more bad mood before ordering a pizza for my tea and watching crap on tv.

I seem to have this incredible ability to turn a good day into a bad day at the flick of my mood.

At least I can console myself with the fact that in 10 days time it will all be over and I’ll be able to be my usual anxious, depressive self instead of the Christmas anxious and depressive me (basically the same me but with a naff jumper on).

However, I have agreed to us all wearing Christmas pyjamas as it’s probably the only day where it’s socially acceptable to not get dressed.

But that is my limit.

Epic Fail and Low Self Esteem

The last couple of months I’ve felt the happiest I have been for a long time.

Work is good since moving away from the sales floor and the general public. Although I miss my colleagues downstairs I don’t miss the general rudeness and unpleasant treatment from the majority of the paying public. Home and family life is also great. I can watch my daughter at swimming training in the evenings and I’ve begun reading (or rather listening) to audiobooks. I truly don’t know why I’ve never listened to an audiobook before because it’s effortless. Reading normally doesn’t interest me. I can read a few chapters of a book, put it down and then leave it for months before finally picking it back up and going through a few more chapters. With an audiobook to listen to I can carry on drawing at the same time (yes, I know, a man who can multitask) or just sit and chill out. In the last 2 months I have listened to 4 books ranging from Norse mythology, autobiography and historical accounts.

I am also still regularly attending the anxiety cafe both in the evening twice a month, and on a Wednesday morning when it’s my day off.

Which brings me to today’s little outburst.

On looking at the list of activities I noticed that today was to be ‘Movement with Hannah’ and in a little way I was quite keen to take part.

I arrived nice and early, took a seat and was made a lovely cup of tea to warm up with. I cannot stress enough how friendly and welcoming it always is at the cafe and everybody is very accommodating. More people arrived and there was a lovely buzz in the room. One of my favourite things about anxiety cafe is the completely non-judgmental atmosphere at every session. There is never any pressure to take part or even to stay for the whole session.

The session practitioner arrived and she was a lovely lady. Bouncy in character and with lively pink hair she was immediately engaging and took a genuine interest in how we all felt, being incredibly aware of our collective anxiety.

My head however was fully preoccupied with thoughts of what today would involve. I believed that it would be gentle movement in a kind of Tai Chi way and I would end up relaxed and refreshed. My mind was already made up that it was going to be a meditative day.

Epic fail. This was to be my downfall.

The session started calmly enough with some head tilts, shoulder lifts and neck rolls. Great, just what I was expecting. Then I was overcome with a feeling that EVERYONE was looking at me (they weren’t, they were too busy participating). The music got slightly more upbeat and the activity level gradually increased. This was in complete contrast to me who got more self conscious and my activity level stopped.

My eyes fixed on the floor, my hands clasped together and I started running my thumbnail backwards and forwards along the side of my hand.

I looked around and everybody was joining in, doing whatever they felt physically comfortable with and enjoying themselves. Meanwhile the only physical activity coming from me was nervously bouncing legs and tapping fingers.

Why was I this anxious?

Why couldn’t I join in without feeling self conscious?

I made the decision to leave. I hurriedly stood up, got my hat and my coat and left whilst briefly saying my goodbyes and apologising at the same time. All the time still feeling like I was the worst person ever. I opened the door and didn’t look back in case I saw the looks of disappointment in everyone’s eyes. There wouldn’t be any looks of course as everyone is too lovely but my head was telling me “just go home, you’re a failure.”

What brought this feeling on? I have no idea but my immediate thought is that because I made myself think the activity was going to be one thing and it turned out to be another I felt unprepared. I had built my expectations up so high that when it wasn’t what I expected I felt like I’d let myself down. I felt that if I stayed I would have made it less enjoyable for everyone else as they would have been worried about how I was feeling.

I’m now sat at home with a big chicken and bacon pasta salad, Bargain Hunt (standard daytime viewing) on the TV and a cup of tea.

Oh well, the main thing to take away from this is that I tried xx

#Anxiousandawesome

Today’s blog is all about telling the world one person at a time that no matter what mental health issues you, or I may have we are all in this together.

I could be beaming on the outside but most days there is a tiny person inside screaming “..don’t do it, you’ll never cope. People will think you’re weird”

I could be socialising at a party but inside I’m thinking “..everyone hates me, I don’t even know why I bother”

I know I’m not alone in having these thoughts but I do know that when I have them I feel like I’m alone.

So how do I go about telling people that this is just who I am? To help others understand how I, and many others feel?

Well, the answer to that my dear readers is a project called ‘Anxious & Awesome’ that is springing up across the small island and beginning to make a very sizable dent in the internet (I’m not sure that it’s ACTUALLY possible to dent the internet but just humour me here).

The project is the brainchild of a lovely lady who I have become friends with through the wonder of mental health issues. Now, I know that sounds a bit flippant but if it wasn’t for me having a massive mental breakdown and thus being diagnosed with depression and anxiety we would never have met. Her name is Kerry and she runs the Cupcakes and Anxiety page on here, Facebook and Instagram (which constantly makes me drool because of the pictures she posts of the amazing cakes she bakes). She is also one of the founders (alongside the lovely Hannah) of the Anxiety Cafe here on the island and it was through this group I met her. Over the few years I have known Kerry I have already found her to be an inspiration to many (if it wasn’t for her gentle encouragement I may never have kept blogging) and a wonderfully genuine person. Passionate about mental health she has begun this simple but very effective campaign which is incredibly easy to get involved with.

All you need to do is grab a piece of paper.

Write the words ‘anxious & awesome’ on it.

Take a selfie holding the piece of paper up.

Upload the picture to social media using the hashtag #anxiousandawesome

It really is that easy and it’s all about showing the outside world that while we may have a mental illness we’re still awesome.

I’ve done it already.

You can do it too.

Uncomfortable

As I sit here at the wedding of one of our most wonderful friends I am reminded of how much I value my family and those close to me. My wife looks beautiful (she always does but she never believes me when I tell her that) and I’ve even made an effort and am wearing a jacket and smart trouser.

The wedding itself was a beautifully simple affair with enough people who care about our lovely circle.

There was no fuss, no big pomp and ceremony. Instead there was a room full of love and understanding. There was no seating plan for the tables, no speeches and it felt so relaxed.

This was then followed by an amazing BBQ and a mobile ice cream seller which just added to the calming atmosphere.

So why do I feel the need to withdraw myself from the festivities? Socially I am sat at the table listening to the conversation topics but mentally I am wanting to be at home. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the day and our friend looks truly stunning but I am screaming inside to be let out. I can’t explain the feeling properly but I don’t feel anxious, just uncomfortable.

I’ve tried my best to smile when I need to, join in conversation when I have to and be part of photograph but I don’t know how much more I can give.

I’m tired

I’m irritated about nothing in particular.

This will pass eventually

The only thing keeping me going right now is my wife and my choice of socks x

That’s Why I’m Easy (or not….)

Today has been a bit of a funny one.

I’m currently enjoying a week off work and so far I’ve spent my time doing absolutely nothing. Which may be a godsend to some people but to me, who has a bit of a thing about routine, it can make the day a bit difficult.

My normal daily routine would consist of getting up at 6am, breakfast, dressed and teeth brushed then out the door just after 7am. Get to work at about 7.40 and chill out before the day ahead which is also pretty structured.

This week though is different because the whole first part of the day doesn’t happen.

I’m still awake at the usual time but there’s no motivation to do anything. I get up and have breakfast but instead of getting everything ready for work I sit in front of the tv. I have even begun to watch a new series on Netflix and watched 3 episodes already (yeah it’s not exactly binge watching but it’s more than I’d usually do).

Today though came with a bit of a stumble (kind of like when you trip up but make it look like you meant it)

I woke up, listened to the radio going on, heard the rain outside and waited for my wife’s alarm to go off. When it did, she was up and off out to work for her usual time. I went down to have some breakfast but there was an unsettling feeling. No discernible reason for it but I just couldn’t settle at anything. I watched a bit more of ‘The Dark Crystal’ on Netflix but couldn’t even concentrate on that and gave up halfway through an episode. I started a new scribble drawing and got as far as a few lines and a central ‘shape’ to work around.

I decided I’d go for a walk into town and get some fresh air. I told my daughter I was popping to the daytime anxiety cafe I often go to. The walk would do me good I thought.

Well………..it kind of did but I still felt odd.

Walking in to the hall I looked around and saw a few familiar faces. The activity topic was making model dinosaurs and I just wasn’t feeling it. Normally I’ll give most crafty and creative things a try but I just didn’t want to today. I sat at the end of the table, sipping on my cup of tea, watching the group getting stuck in but I had no inclination to join in. I tried to make a little kind of creature with wire, corks and pipe cleaners but I got to a point where I looked at it and just thought “what the hell is that?”. I actually felt disappointed with myself at creating something which looked like nothing.

I got up and left everyone to it while saying a brief goodbye to a select few.

Why did I feel this way?

What triggered this response?

I have genuinely no idea but it had left me feeling a bit deflated for today so I’ve come home, I’ve put the radio on the telly and I’m just sat here in the living room listening to the music while tapping my feet along to the drum sections.

It’s amazing what a bit of Nirvana and Rammstein can do.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what I think of ‘The Dark Crystal’ the answer is I’m undecided just now. It looks stunning (it’s by the Jim Henson team, like the original film) but I still have such a soft spot for the film I don’t know what to make of it just now. I’m reserving judgement until I’ve watched the whole series.

Until the next time………

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