Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Fayre in aid of Mind Norwich.

The reason this blog has been a bit quiet of late is due to that little thing call 'Christmas.' It's like it's suddenly popped out of nowhere, and however much I love the festive season, part of me wants it to be over because I'm getting married in less than four months and have other things to concentrate on!

Anyway, now I have a bit of time, I have to write about my fayre I did recently, on December 15th. It was a massive thing for me to achieve, and if I can say so, I'm bloody proud of what I have achieved.

Within a month, I organised a Christmas Fayre. I decided from the outset that I wanted to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity, after being completely inspired by their Mental Health First Aid Training. I was lucky in the sense that I found a big community centre early on and had an awful lot of interest from stallholders. All in all, we had nearly 40 stalls of homemade gifts, crafts and Christmas goodies, and it was magical.

The Thursday before though, my anxiety went in to absolute over drive. It was the first time I'd gone back to work in five months, and I was just doing a two hour stint on my computer, getting my access back. Obviously, I expected to be anxious, I've learnt that how I felt that day about not wanting to go was completely normal. I hadn't slept, I was tired and irritable, but at the same time so on edge I couldn't sit still. When I left work, I had a voicemail from the community centre. They had double booked one of my halls.

I was devastated. It turns out it was a genuine mistake, they had been so excited that I had managed to get a second hall at the centre they had completely looked past their regular booking on a Saturday morning. So, Thursday afternoon I was crying one minute, then on the phone to stall holders the next, but everyone was incredibly understanding and said that squashing in to one hall would be 'cosy' so I wiped away the tears and got the rest I needed for Saturday.

Friday night, I made t-shirts for myself, my fiancé and my sister, as we were the main organisiers of the Fayre. They had our names on and the Mind and Time To Change logo on, with 'let's end mental health discrimination' on the back. (pictures below!)

Saturday got here so quickly I couldn't believe it. At the crack of dawn, my fiancé and I were up, throwing all our promotional gear we had got from Mind and Time To Change in the back of the car, and my hand painted board to entice passers by. I was so nervous. I was facing my anxiety head on, and it knew what I was trying to do. It knew I was trying to beat it, and at times, it did win. Within the hour, I was in the kitchen with my mum while she was making cups of tea, and I just cried. What was I doing? Not working in five months and then organising all this? So many people relying on me, asking questions, wanting to know where everything was, when I didn't have a clue myself!

But then things changed. I had a Mind Associate who had contacted me earlier in the week, and she wanted to volunteer. She was lovely. She told me how brave I was, organising this so close to Christmas and gave me a hug when I needed it but also a 'come on, we can't stop now, let's keep going' attitude when I needed it. I can't thank her enough for that.

It was what I needed to keep smiling through those tears, and whilst at first I felt like a wreck inside with a plastic smile on, it soon changed, and I realised I was enjoying myself, I was happy, I had done this, no one else, but me, Kim.

And then, a stall holder wanted to talk to me. She said she had a personal question for me. "How did you feel organising this? Did it make you better or worse?" I thought about it before I answered honestly. It had been difficult, there had been tears but overall, knowing I was making a difference was the best thing ever. She went on to talk to me about how she had been suffering from anxiety with extreme panic attacks and wanted the awareness to be better too. We shared our stories about what therapies and helped, and what hadn't and then it hit me that I had set out to make people talk about mental health like they would the weather, and here I was doing exactly that, in a community centre full to the brim of strangers, and I was talking about mental health. Perfect.

After that, people were coming up to me all day. Strangers asking for help, where could they go for more information, and they wanted to tell me (yes, me!) their stories and I hung on to their every word. While some stories saddended or surprised me, I learnt so much that day. I had so many people come up and congratulate me on what I'd done, I didn;t know how to respond. I was overwhelmed and felt I didn't deserve the response, but I will be eternally greatful for those who did give me a big 'well done.' Even stallholders at the end said they wanted me to organise another one!

Coming home was great. I was physically and emotionally shattered but coming home to Twitter and Facebook was so lovely. The comments on my photos, tweets and status updates put tears in my eyes. Never had I had so many people tell me I was making some sort of difference. That day proved my calling in life, to help other people. And if I can change just one persons view on mental health, I know I have made a difference, it's all I need to do.

Here's some piccies I really want to share:

 Above: James (my fiancé) and me with home made t-shirts, having our first (and very important!) coffee of the day.

 Above: James and Susan, a Mind Associate volunteer sorting out the tombola which sold out twice!

 Above: Richie, James' best friend (and best man come April 2013!) who was a massive help to us on the day. To show his support, he got a pretty unicorn painted on his face!

Above: And here's me, before we left, with my t-shirt on that got quite a few comments...:)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sorry for the delay but here I am!

Okay firstly MASSIVE apologies... have not written a blog post since 28th November but trust me, I have good reasons!

This weekend has been a big one for me. Where do I start?

Work. This week I went to the doctors, and we discussed a return to work. This has made me feel (obviously) very anxious and at times, I have felt reluctant to go back. I was concerned that going back to a place that added to the triggering of my anxiety reaching its peak would cause me a relapse, and I was scared of myself. I soon realised though that I was ultimately scared of being scared, and that's my illness talking. I felt better after discussing my concerns with my [amazing!] doctor who reassured me these feelings were normal, and that I can only try my best.

Thursday just gone marked the start of my phased return. I went in for two hours and whilst that seems very small, for me it was massive. I was going back to an office which I recognised after working there for three years, but at the same time, it was like being a new kid at school. I felt so sick before I went in, and it didn't help I'd had no sleep for the previous three nights. What if people talked to me so much it was overwhelming? What if no one talked to me because they didn't know how? What if I fell ill? What if I burst into tears? My head felt like it was literally about to explode.

And what did happen? I went in, my breathing definitely quickened, my legs were like two sticks of jelly, but I did it. I sat down at my desk with the help and support of my manager and logged on to my computer, the first time in nearly six months. Once a couple of people said 'hi' I started to relax. My shoulders were still up to my ears with tension but I was getting through.

But then I panicked. Everyone had changed where they were sitting. I didn't recognise teams and they're formats, I didn't understand who was dealing with what, and for some reason, it frightened me. It just increased that 'new kid' feeling. But knowing my friends were around me helped. I have one very close friend at work who I did know where she sat and it comforted me knowing that. It gave me the confidence to lift my head up over the pc screen and spot another person I'm really close to. I grasped on to every smile that came my way and took a deep breath.

During the time I spent trying to solve IT problems, it was lovely that people started to recognise where I was sitting. They came up, said hello, and the best thing I remember is someone asking me if I wanted one of the crappy free coffees, just like they used to. I had managers come and just mutter a 'welcome back' with a smile and it meant the world, it truly did.

After my two hours, I was due to just head on home but ended up being waved over by a couple of good friends. I don't know how, but I ended up sitting between them for almost forty minutes, catching up on the latest news in the department, and being hassled about going to the Christmas party. I will always be greatful for those precious forty minutes.

Going home I felt positive. A few things had cropped up which deflated me a little, but I know this journey will be hard, and some days I will struggle. My anxiety is still strong, and some days, I'll be honest, it controls me, when it should be the other way round. But now I also feel strong, strong enough to recognise that what I have is like any other illness and I need to care for myself to aid recovery. 

Monday I start official phased return hours. This makes me a bit more nervous as this is a minimum requirement I have to reach and committing to something seems daunting but I know that my health is the most important thing and I can really only try my best. I will not back down, I will fight against the thoughts and realise they are just that - thoughts.

I have had the most hectic weekend EVER this weekend, and whilst I could write until the cows go home, I will love you and leave you until tomorrow. Today has been an eye opener for me, and I can't wait to share it with you tomorrow when I will have the energy to talk about it.

Thank you for your support so far x