Wellbeing & Creativity
HOLLIE ANA NINGYOU
Summer is gone, longer nights have come and we are all left in the dark. Or so it may seem! This issue is something I never thought I would be able to do, putting together an issue takes a lot of time and effort. But I truly believe it’s worth it. The idea that we can share our experiences, expression and thoughts in one place, in an inclusive way, is something that I am truly passionate about and will forever place at the forefront of my work. This issue is a transitional piece, I started the magazine as my final project for university and due to everything that has happened this year, I came to it late. I gave myself about three months to learn about, develop and publish a magazine about mental health and creativity. It wasn’t easy, I did not get it completely right, but it was definitely the best thing I have done with my art. Throughout this issue I’ve been experimenting with different ways I can express myself through the design, layouts and trying to make sure the articles are broader in their themes. I want this magazine to be a collective work and not just my own ideas put onto paper, so I now have a co-editor. Lou Proctor will be working with me from now on, see her welcome on page 8. I also want to showcase and give people space to express what they want, so if you have an idea or work you want to show than contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR IN CHIEF
CONTENTS POETRY 10/70
SHARENA LEE SATTI
DISABILTY & MENTAL HEALTH BY Lindsay Leyson
SMALL VICTORIES BY Zowie Armstrong
50 SAVED BY ART BY Kimberley Burrows
HOLLIE ANA NINGYOU
KASH KOMATSU MANNING
BIANCA ROSE ROBINSON
ART OF PARP
IN LOVE, NOT LAW BY Caroline Green
ESCAPISM INTO ART BY Maithreyee Arun
MENTAL HEALTH: MY JOURNEY BY Dave Johannes
WHAT IS A PITIUTARY TUMOUR BY Jacqueline Naylor
KE.ELYANA DESEIGNER AND OWNER ROMI MIGUEL
FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR & DESIGNER KASH MANNING
A special thank y who contribute
They can all be fou and their QUINN BROWN
A constant contributor who will take on anything. Quinn pronouns are he/him and he is a trans man who is active within the trans community. Check out his stuff on Twitter @LeedsTransLad
Originally a digital illustrator. Kim has gone through a lot to find a creative space that works. She now paints & expresses herself in new ways. Check out her work on Instagram @ gleamedart
STEPHEN SMITH CAROLINE GREEN An experienced and skilled Career Development Expert who helps individuals and organisations achieve success in their careers. Check out her website www.thetalentcycle.co.uk
LINDSAY LEYSON A lover of museums, dogs and hair dye. Lindsay gives a unique perspective on how to carry on when something terrible happens. Her story is poignant and shows how to live.
A massive th Roj Naylor and for all yo
you to all artists ed to this issue.
und on social media websites. DAVE JOHANNES
An honest guy who has opened up about his own mental health story and will feature in the next issue. He is working to create a positive space on social media.
Check out his Instagram @ daves_positivity_hub
tudio (INSTAGRAM) /
MAITHREYEE ARUN A writer, artist, poet and experimentalist, Maith is a powerhouse of art. It seems to pour out of her. Check out her website www.linktr.ee/mmaiself
H - ART OF PARP ZOWIE ARMSTRONG
A teacher and writer of educational material, Zowie, has opened up her heart and given us a peek into how she survives each day as well as her plans for the future.
hank you to d Lou Proctor ou work
A photographer who also writes. Her work will be seen in multiple issues and her words are a way to help you get through the worst days Check out her Instagram @disposable_bands
Hello to you all... I
was a vegetarian, animal loving, single parent to my first 2 children when I first set up my own business as a pet portrait artist. I never had any sort of formal training in art, I just stumbled across my talent for drawing realistic graphite portraits in my early twenties and decided that it would be silly to waste it. After meeting my now fiancé and becoming pregnant in 2014 with my fourth child (our second together) I closed my business down. It became too difficult, working from home with a toddler, adding his own artistic flare to projects I’d spent 6 or more hours working on. I am very lucky that my partner earns enough money that I was able to remain a stay at home mum, with the intention to look for “regular” employment once the youngest started full-time school. Unfortunately, in 2016 I began to develop strange symptoms in my right leg. I spent the next 3 years attending appointments with my GP, a Musculo-skeletal specialist (who diagnosed severe spondylosis of my spine but wasn’t convinced that was causing the issues with my leg). I attended multiple MRI scans and in December 2019, I found myself under the care of a neurologist who finally diagnosed me with Freidreich’s Ataxia. Freidreich’s is a reasonably rare, degenerate nervous disorder for which there is no treatment or cure. The most obvious symptom is gradually deteriorating coordination (including slurred speech), which is accompanied by muscle wastage and chronic fatigue. It can cause multiple other issues such as blindness and deafness and ultimately reduces life expectancy. With the nature of my condition, I suddenly became aware that I have an unknown time-limit to produce any artwork I had been putting off. This urgency combined with the pandemic gave me the nudge I needed to write and illustrate a children’s book. I haven’t published it, but the race against my Freidreich’s has been won because the pictures have already been drawn. That was when I stumbled upon the opportunity to work for Balance. I had never considered being an editor as a career path, but I have the knowledge and skills to do it and long term, as my condition worsens, it should not impact my ability to do my job. It’s all still very new but I am excited to feel useful and productive again, something which my diagnosis made me worried I would lose.
Lou Proctor CO-EDITOR
EVA SLINGSBY - @evathepoet
A look at the events, people and news you should know about
BBC BRADFORD Bradford is on the airwaves! Between 6am - 2pm each day, Radio Leeds frequency is being taken over by the people of Bradford. This is a big step forward for the city and allows a new type of Yorkshire voice to be heard. Check it out online www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08zqp5k
DRAKE MUSIC Drake Music is a Disabled led art charity who specialise in using technology to breakdown barriers, so all can make and appreciate music. They create and recreate musical instruments to make them more accessible and help people to get involved with music. Check out their website www.drakemusic.org/
FUN & GAMES The Portico Library, Manchester is holding an exhibition about the games we have played for the past 200 years. Alsongside the historical games they are presenting work by Birungi Kawooya, Polly Tayarachakul & Gray Wielebinski. You can view the online version at www.theportico.org.uk/fun-and-games
NEW HOPE This year has been tough, we have been stuck at home with nowhere to go and seeing none of our friends. But there is now some hope, a vaccine has been found. It isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t perfected and we will see better versions come in the couple of years. But we are starting to go towards being able to be human again. That is hope!
Books A.A.Dhand Streets Of Darkness (Bantam Press 2016) When I heard a crime thriller set in my hometown of Bradford (West Yorkshire) had been published I needed to read it. Bradford is rarely the setting for novels, especially in the crime genre, despite a rich cultural heritage and a society with a large collection of unique voices. Dhand is one of those voices, being the first South Asian author to have a crime novel published, and he gives rise to a lot more through his work. The characters in Streets of Darkness are hugely representative of the diversity of the city, including the showcase of a mixed-faith relationship between lead character Detective Inspector Harry Virdee (a Shikh) and his pregnant wife Saima (a Muslim) â&#x20AC;&#x201C; something that is often frowned upon by the families and communities involved. Dhand shows throughout his work (both in this and the sequels) he is an obvious son of the city, as references for those who are intimate with Bradford - from numbered bus routes to detailed
descriptions of Leeds Road that are no different to my own memories â&#x20AC;&#x201C; stand out and paint a vivid picture of the surroundings. Whilst relying on certain crime thriller stereotypes (suspended DI, chief days away from retirement), the story does not suffer from them. The pace of delivery is spot on throughout, and Dhand perfectly captures the fear of Bradford being on the brink of sheer catastrophe. Murder, forced alliances, double crossing, vengeance and masterful manipulation all keep the reader wondering just what is going to happen next. Streets of Darkness is recommended for any crime thriller readers, fans of shows like Luther and The Wire, or even just people from the north of England wanting to read something without being London-centric.
Written by Roj Naylor
Akwaeke Emezi Freshwater (Grove Atlantic 2018) Emezi’s Freshwater starts with the collective pronoun and writes from the first-person perspective of multiple spiritual identities which all form part of Ada, the central character. Initially confusing and jarring, the reader soon settles in - growing comfortable with the concept of these different entities representing one. The reader’s easy descent into Ada’s selves mirrors the character’s own experience: “The world in my head had been far more real than the one outside – maybe that’s the exact definition of madness.” Ada’s mind is the novel’s main setting – with periodic glimpses and snapshots of what is happening in her life beyond it. Given the limited insights into ‘reality’, it is perhaps surprising to describe Freshwater as a sensory read. But the very physical depiction of Ada’s inner world – including both violence and embraces between entities – is consuming. So as we dig into Ada’s psyche, her feelings and the responses of her different components strike deeply. It is a powerful way to portray a character with multiple, conflicting, and often provocative facets
, and evokes deep empathy for someone who in other media might be lazily presented as incomprehensible, or even to be feared.
From here, Freshwater explores ideas of spirituality and gender in a way that is original and accessible. But it is perhaps Emezi’s depiction of the psychological impact of sexual trauma that is most effecting. They are masterful in taking an alienating experience and inviting us into the often detached and remote world of the victim. Emezi puts the spotlight on a multitude of selves that are so often overlooked – and as Ada’s personages write: “it is a powerful thing to be seen.”
Written by Sarah McCloskey
famous, larger than life ‘EFF YOU!’ “Where’s my coffee?” and “Get out of my way!” attitude, which we still all love her for. The podcast is just as forthright as the show. It is eye opening and interesting. Heartbreaking and infuriating. It’s absolutely worth a listen to. If for nothing more than to educate yourself about the absolute shambles of L.Ron Hubbard, Xenu and co.
Scientology: Fair Game. Fair play! by Nina Naughton As I have watched and gone through the journey of three seasons of Scientology: The Aftermath with Leah Remini and Mike Rinder. I was pleased to hear of their new podcast and was intrigued to travel further into the world of the cult with the famous duo. Listening to the podcast, just like the series, is just as much of an up and down journey. It’s difficult to completely comprehend the reasoning behind why an organisation describing themselves as a religion, would have written instructions on how to completely destroy someone for ‘speaking out’ against them.... but as this is a review on a podcast... I digress. Leah and Mike are just as straight to the point and brutal in their analysis of the cult. Mike’s ( just like in the series) repeated attempts of eloquence and trying to complete a sentence are sometimes snowballed by Leah. Sometimes he fails completely. Leah is there with her,
INSTAGRAM OF THE ISSUE @ARTFORBOOBS
RHIANNON HODGSON - @soh.su.me
THE MANY WAYS OF INDULGING IN SELF CARE Quinn Brown talks about what self care really means and how he looks after himself. (Trigger Warning: Talking about mental breakdown, suicide) I will be the first to admit I never really understood self-care when I first got diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I struggled to look after myself and always put others first until I moved back to Selby from Leeds and then moved into my own flat a couple of years after moving from Leeds. I suffered a mental breakdown and came close to attempting suicide and had to be taken to hospital. It was at that point I had to take charge of myself and actually take time out from a lot of things that I was gathering on my proverbial plate. I scaled back my commitments, I started doing things for myself like photography (which I thoroughly love), made sure I spent some time resting, as I have fibromyalgia and I felt much better mentally. But I don’t want to make this entire article about me. I want to share some of the ways you can indulge in self-care and some of it doesn’t have to cost you a penny!
READING - I love a good book and I buy my second-hand books from either Book Depository or World of Books. I’m still currently navigating my way through Dracula! OUTSIDE - Going for a nice, refreshing walk can alleviate stress and give you a much needed break from the confines of your home (especially in these times!) Even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes, it’s well worth doing. BLOGGING - I know this is technically not self-care but in my personal opinion, I find it relaxing and I enjoy writing as much as I do reading so this might be relatable for some people. BUBBLES - Bubble baths are one of my favourite things to do when I need to de-stress. Yes, men can enjoy a good bath full of bubbles! PHOTOGRAPHY- Anyone can take a good photo, no matter the device. I love doing it and I am sure that people who do it get a thrill out of capturing that perfect shot too! There are so many ways to self-care but the number one for me is to rest aplenty. You can only do so much before your energy gets drained, physically and mentally. Replenish where you can, drink loads of water and look after YOU.
“There’s magic in being seen by people who understand - it gives you permission to keep going”
Alock Vaid-Menon Beyond the Gender Binary
A pandemic can bring out the worst and best in people.
Britain has had a predictably mundane response to the apocalypse, I think. Everyone panic buying toilet rolls, gin and beans, then... that was pretty much the end of it. We’re back to acting like nothing happened and complaining about face masks, as if we aren’t living through an actual plague. People have lost loved ones, been extremely ill or lost their jobs. So let this be a reminder that it’s okay and normal to not feel okay right now. Our country might be forcing this ‘new normal’ on us in a desperate attempt to avoid a recession, but the truth is that there is nothing normal about living through a global pandemic of this scale. Social media seems to be inundated with people with inexplicable amounts
of Serotonin spouting things like ‘If you haven’t come out of quarantine with at least two new skills you wasted your time! But back in the realms of reality, a global pandemic really isn’t the best time to beat yourself up for not being productive.
Going forward try to be kind to yourself and others, acknowledge that everyone’s experience is different, and remember that these are abnormal times. There is no normal way to feel about them.
Amber Morris is a photographer, writer and a mental health sufferer.
COME OUT AND CLAY
ROMI MIGUEL TALKS ABOUT HER JOURNEY OPENING HER OWN BUSINESS, DESIGNING JEWELLERY AND WHAT EXPRESSING DOES FOR HER MENTAL WELLBEING When did you first realise you wanted to create jewellery? Tell us about yourself? My name is Rosaria Miguel but I am known as Romi. I’m a single mother, living in London with my three young children Skyla 8, Kendhi 6 and Keilah 3. I am a person trying to find their feet, passion, motivation and myself once again. In my previous life I mostly had a career/job in Retail management, my last job was an Admin Manager for a Distribution company. My jewellery business is called Ke.Elyana, which is the mixture of my three children’s names combined. (But incredibly sweet and personal)
I have always been interested in jewellery design. Over the last couple years, as I was staying at home my interest grew. Especially as near my home there is a small unique jewellery shop. Every time I pass by, I say to myself that I wish I could make something like they have displayed
all over their window.But I couldn’t find an affordable course near me, so I pursued other creative courses, like hairdressing and graphic design. Just before Covid-19 came my local adult college started offering short courses in jewellery making, I was trying to find the opportunity to sign up, when
lockdown began. While at home with the kids, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I found myself watching endless Netflix series and Youtube videos. One day I got a recommendation for a video about making earrings with polymer clay. So I clicked it, watched the video and I found myself absorbed. I was drawn into the method of making and the use of the material (Polymer Clay) as I have never heard of it. From then on I watched as many tutorials as I could, I started to read articles and do my own research. Finally, I was able to buy a small kit from Amazon, started to try it out and find out if I was able to do it and learn as I went. It took a few months, but I haven’t looked back.
What drew you into design? Why this type of jewellery? What drew me into designing? It’s the idea of being creative, being free to create or design something of your own that can put a smile on yours and somebody elses face. Then if someone likes what you have designed and created enough to buy it, it’s a bonus. Polymer Clay is a material I had never
heard of before. So, at first what drew me to was curiosity. “Can you really make jewellery out of clay, at home and be as creative as you want?!?” It also was something that I could afford financially, the material costs meant it was a type of jewellery I could make without spending a large sum of money.
Why is jewellery important to you? It has become a form of expression for me and hopefully is the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
What impact has making your art and starting a business had on your mental wellbeing? More often than I would like, I go through really low moments that can last for days or even weeks. In these moments I want to do absolutely nothing. I don’t want to see or talk to anyone. This started a few years ago after I went through a separation. There are times when I’m able to get out of this state pretty quickly, but there are other times when I’m not able to. Since I have started jewellery making, I have found that when I’m planning and
creating, I’m able to escape being too much in my own head or being in that depressive phase. Deciding to start a small handmade business is very scary, because in a way you are deciding to put yourself out there for judgement and approval, you are counting on people liking your creations. Then if they do like it, will they like it enough to buy it? When I first opened my Etsy store, the first order came from my sister, it didn’t feel like it counted but I thanked her for the support. After that days and weeks went by where I had no sales or activity in the shop. That was hard to handle. I just didn’t know what to do. Then one day I had a notification of an order! I thought it would be my sister again. But when I took a look I found that it wasn’t. This made my whole day a happy one, it was my first proper customer. Did it help at all during lockdown? I am not sure if being in lockdown helped my mental wellbeing much, but it has aided me in finding and pursuing jewellery making and start my own business
How does your creativity help you? Something that I have found out while creating my earrings is that my state of mind translates into my work. For example, for a while I realised that I just kept l eaning towards dark depressing colours, not really cheerful. When I realised this, I started trying to use more bright colours or being more creative with the colours and designs. I think also it has also helped me to start believing in myself and my capabilities a little bit once again, hopefully it will continue.
Where do you find your inspiration? Mainly art, I look to some of my favourite artists or artworks. While walking in the street, if I see a pattern I like, I try to draw inspiration from it. I try to draw inspiration from everywhere. I am still learning how to translate what I see and like into my creations.
What lessons have you learnt during the first year of running your jewellery business? It has been less than half a year since I started, everyday has been a learning process, but one of the main lessons I have learned so far is, when you have your own business you need to do a lot of your own marketing, presenting yourself and your product mainly on social media. This is something I am still struggling with, as I have never been a big social media person or very active on it.
What is your favourite part of being a jewellery designer? That somewhere out there someone purchased and is wearing something I have created with my own hands. Creating a piece of jewellery that people like and then receiving positive or negative (even the negative, as it helps me improve) feedback.
What are your plans for the business moving forward? To keep learning, improving on my craft and keep creating great designs. For the business my plans are to continue building my customer base, learn how to market myself and the business and to make the business sustainable and viable.
Check out Romi Miguelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s jewellery on her Instagram @e.elyana Or go and buy her amazing designs from her Etsy store www.etsy.com/uk/ shop/KeElyanaDesigns
KASH KOMATSU MANNING - @radpunkrock
Kashin Komatsu Manning talks us through her process, inspiration and how creativity helps her everyday. Tell us about yourself? I am a freelance Illustrator and Designer. I am currently an apprentice at a tattoo shop in my home of Hong Kong.
In terms of knowing when a piece is “completed”, you kinda just know, ya know? I’ve had people critique my pieces noting at how “unfinished” it looks when really I was really pleased with the outcome!
What’s your inspiration behind your work? A lot of my work serves as an holistic tool to either express my emotions and thoughts visually or to offer as a distraction of day-to-day struggles by creating silly little creatures. The piece (pg 24-25) is a direct excerpt of personal life experiences that delve into the topic of identity issues, specifically as a mixed-raced or multi-cultural individual in a world so fixated on differences.
What is your process when it comes to getting work done? I usually do a lot of research before actually diving straight into a piece. I gather and compile lots of reference images through Pinterest, and create several color palettes (but not too many or else I’ll get blinded by choice), and then sketch out around at least 3 to 9 different concepts to play around with compositions and character designs. I roughly sketch out two to three layers (on Procreate) before going onto outlining and shading. My work ethic has (ironically) improved a lot since graduating University, so I usually give myself 2 to 3 weeks to complete a project to put a bit of fire under my butt.
How does creativity help you in your everyday life? It’s essential! I believe it’s as natural and vital to humans as breathing air! Creativity isn’t solely confined to something visual, it’s literally about creating something - anything! From baking cakes, cooking meals, watering my plants, calling up friends, going out for a walk, doing some breathing and stretching exercises, you are still creating. Creating more memories, more blood cells, more energy.
What do you enjoy doing the most? I love being mindful as cheesy as that sounds. I enjoy journaling like a convict with the gratitude of a monk and reflecting on things until it becomes a mental reflex. I love going outside for walks in nature, as Mother Nature offers a great reminder that everyone grows at their own pace and change is inevitable. I enjoy spending time with loved ones. I also love creating and collaborating with other creatives! All in all, I love everything life has to offer!
What would be your dream project? I have several that I believe are all equally important to me, however the one I aim to one day manifest into reality is to create a tattoo shop that incorporates art therapy and other holistic means into the experience of getting a tattoo. I think thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a lot of energy and power behind both creating a tattoo and getting one done, and that pain and pleasure can be utilised as tools for the mind, body AND soul.
So, whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s next for you? Due to the on-going pandemic, my plans (along with everyone elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s) of returning to the UK have been postponed until further notice, so I am continuing my studies as a tattoo apprentice, as well as continuing to work freelance in illustration and design.
Check out Kash Komatsu Mannings on her Instagram @radpunkrock
KASHIN KOMATSU MANNING’S FAVOURITE ARTISTS Junji Ito An illustrator and writer whose comics are extremely dark and explore so many different, strange and outside-the-box horrors that one would never think of fostering a phobia for! A lot of his works’ inspirations come from Japanese folklore but also sprout from his day-to-day life. I’ve always admired his million-and-one ways to exaggerate an emotion through almost grotesque manipulation of the human facial expression.
Raymond Pettibon An illustrator that’s mostly known for his works in the late-80’s Southern Californian punk scene, especially the album and poster works for the band Black Flag. His works didn’t only touch on the taboo topics but pushed the envelope of what could be depicted as “art”, by having his works subject matter revolve around political & social issues such as police brutality, domestic violence and anti-authoritarian messages.
Robert Crumb A comic and cartoon illustrator whose works are mostly noted for his satirical depictions of post-war America. His earlier works served as an icon for the counter-culture movement of the late 1960’s and 1970’s in America with his psychedelic characters, but as his career moved on he refined his works to be more autobiographical, giving an personal insight into the artist’s life and mind.
BIANCA ROSE ROBINSON
I still need green to stop me feeling blue. I try to piece myself together without any glue. Boz (30/5/2020)
THE HARDEST THR
REE WORDS Lindsay Leyson on her journey through a life changing accident and accepting her new way of life... I am disabled. Three words. But theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve taken me almost two years to come to terms with and feel comfortable saying. Back in October 2018, I fell thirteen feet at a climbing centre. I broke both my ankles, six bones in total and suffered a dislocation. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had four operations since, with my last (and probably final one for the foreseeable future) in March 2020. As a result of the accident, I cannot walk without the aid of at least one walking stick. When I first had my accident I was purely focused on the physical aspects of recovery - how many operations would
I need? How long would it be before I was up and (metaphorically) running again? It had never crossed my mind that the mental side of my recovery would be a much longer, and more complicated, road. During my second week in hospital it finally dawned on me that my entire life was going to change, and there was nothing I could do about it. Before, whilst I had always carried extra weight, I was fairly active; rock-climbing, kickboxing, yoga, even just walking everywhere. In a clichĂŠd way, I had taken it all for granted. I realised the life I thought I would lead was never going to happen; I would have to forge a new path. In that moment, the road to recovery seemed long, winding, and unending - leading me away from my dreams and into murky darkness. I laid there in bed crying, tears pouring down my cheeks. I felt utterly alone, grieving for a life I could no longer have. Surrounded by darkness, I contemplated whether I would be able to cope or whether I should just drift off into sleep and never wake. The biggest thing stopping me, as daft as it sounds, was thinking of my dog. She and I had formed such a close connection once my family rescued her, and I knew she would have lived out the rest of her life feeling confused and abandoned, not understanding why I had never come home. That thought still comes back to me when I have a dark day.
It sounds awful - the biggest thing preventing me from ending my life was my relationship with my dog. I had a devoted and wonderful partner (now-husband, James), and my parents and brothers at home, but at that moment I felt that as humans they could eventually understand. My fluffball never would. So, at 2am on a Tuesday morning, I sent out an SOS message to groups of my friends, praying desperately one of them was awake.
I sent out an SOS message to groups of my friends, praying desperately one of them was awake.
Luckily for me, one was. I spoke to her of my darkness, my overwhelming grief, and thoughts of a life that was snatched away from me. I spoke of my emotional instability. I spoke of my inability to cope with everything. Waves of emotion poured out of my soul through the buttons on my phone like a tsunami. Thoughts overlapping - barely coherent as I was just desperate to get the words onto the screen. She listened to everything and talked me off of the ledge I was clinging onto with my fingertips. She refused to give me false platitudes and tell me things I should be thankful for, but instead validated my feelings. She may never know just how much she helped me, but I will be grateful to her for the rest of my life. For the next year or so, I cycled between varying stages of grief - denial, anger, and depression. Each would merge into another, just as the weeks and months merged together for my initial recovery. I was numb, going from appointment to appointment. Hydrotherapy turned into physiotherapy, which turned into
classes with other people recovering from accidents. Each class would either bring a small amount of improvement or push me past my limits and force my progress back by a couple of weeks. All the while, I was striving for a mythical goal of being ‘recovered’ and ‘fixed’. I would mention my struggles to friends or colleagues. I would mention that I would most likely be permanently disabled. Every time, I would be met with the same responses:
“You never know what the future holds!” “You’re still really early in your recovery!” “You’ll get better. Don’t be so negative about things!”
“ You’ll get better. Don’t be so negative about things!
It was so frustrating, because I was just trying to be realistic and accept my new life, but people kept insisting there would be some way of magically getting my original life back - the one I had
I kept wondering if I was doing everything I could to achieve this goal of ‘better’ and ‘fixed’. I forced myself to walk further, to exercise more, to try to become this celebrated figure of “Look, she didn’t let this accident beat her! She’s just as good as she was before!” In reality, I was tired. I was in pain, and I was fed up with people’s positivity when it wasn’t what I was looking for.
Luckily, I had one person who really understood. A friend I met in hospital who’d broken her ankle and had severe complications meaning she nearly lost her leg. We were on a similar path of recovery, and we could share our frustrations with those that wouldn’t ever be able to understand. Without her, the process of acceptance would have been much more difficult. We shared lots of time together talking about how we were navigating the world with our new lives, and how we were trying to deal with the mental health side of things. Meeting frequently helped ground me in a way I’d been unable to do myself. We encouraged each other to try new things. More importantly, we supported one another when we didn’t want to try something out of fear, or because we understood we would never be able to achieve those things again. spent so long grieving for. I wanted to scream at them. That life was gone, and I was trying to make the best of my circumstances, but they just weren’t letting me and it was affecting my recovery.
More months passed. I was still convinced that some miracle would happen, and I would be able to have a ‘normal’ life like before.
Eventually, James and I were ready to buy our first home together. We decided a bungalow would be best, as whilst I could manage stairs most days, it was difficult and painful. In June 2019, we found a perfect two-bedroom bungalow. One of the previous occupants had been wheelchair-bound, and as a result doorways had been flattened, there were rails in the bath and by the toilets, and the garden had been designed to be low maintenance with artificial lawn and a ramp at the rear. It wasn’t until we moved in August 2019 I started using these aids. I realised just how useful they were for me, and how much I actually needed them. It was then I started really thinking about my future, and what it would look like for me physically and mentally. In January 2020, I was told I’d need another operation. It was a desperate blow to my mental health for two reasons. Firstly, I had been looking forward to becoming more independent again, with driving and getting around. Secondly, and worse long-term, was the thoughts creeping back - “…maybe this operation will sort everything out and I’ll be all better. Maybe this one will change my life again and I won’t have to worry about navigating the world with mobility problems.” I had the operation in March 2020, and at my follow-up appointment I spoke with my surgeon about continuing care. Should I see a podiatrist next, or go back to physiotherapy, or maybe he could recommend something else? I was desperate to do anything to
continue getting better, as whatever progress I made was never enough. I was greedy for more. Always searching for the next recovery checkpoint to hit. Then I heard his response: “You need to stop bothering us and get on with your life”. Blunt? Yes. Hard to hear? Most definitely. Wrong? No. Did I understand that at the time? Definitely not.
You need to stop bothering us and get on with your life.
the off-chance something better might happen. I’ve been refusing to truly accept my newfound mobility problems because, despite my objections, the continuous stream of “you will get better, just give it time” somehow burrowed its way into my head and into my actions. I’ve had enough. I don’t need to worry about my old life, because by accepting my health now I can look at ways to open up my future in a way that’s fresh and new. James and I are looking into ways I can get back to really enjoying my life again. There are motorised 4x4 buggies that can scale mountains so I can go back to ‘hiking’. There are workout classes just involving upper bodies I can take. We can save up for worktops for the kitchen that slide up-and-down, so I can use them when I’m in a wheelchair and want to cook and create delicious meals. I spent the next few months railing at his words. How unfair they were. How there needed to be something extra I could do to make myself better. It would never happen. Instead, slowly, over these last few months, I have come to a few realisations. I’ve been putting my life on hold on
Acceptance of my circumstances has been the hardest mental block to overcome, but I’m pleased to say that, for the most part, I have come to terms with it. I still have dark days, but I allow those feelings to come through. James and I have a traffic-light system I use for my depression. Black for a ‘leave me alone’ day. Blue for an ‘I need some help because I’m feeling rough but I want some human company’.
“ There’s no shame in feeling upset, or sad when I realise there’s something else I wanted to do but won’t get the chance to. Grief is something that never truly leaves us, only blurs more heavily into the background over time. I continue to take my antidepressants, my sleeping tablets, and, after a few days, emerge from the cocoon.
There’s no shame in feeling upset, or sad when I realise there’s something else I wanted to do but won’t get the chance to.
Purple for ‘I’m coping well with the world today’.
So, after a two-year journey filled with difficulties and set-backs, here’s my conclusion: My name is Lindsay. As a result of an accident two years ago, I am no longer able to walk properly. I will always need a walking stick. I will never have a standing up job again. I will never have my old life back, nor do I want it. I will never get any ‘better’ than I am here, in this moment, in 2020. I am disabled. But, most importantly of all…
I’m okay with that.
Lindsay Leyson is a self proclamined museum addict, lover of hair dye, dog owner and a clutz. She also has the best taste in coats!
SMALL VICTORIES By Zowie Armstong
discusses her passage through mental health illness over the years, the shock that brough it to the forefront and the outcome... (Trigger Warning: Talking about mental breakdown and suicide)
Stop the Stigma Losing my son-in-law to suicide last year and seeing the devastation left behind, made me realise just how important it was for me to get help with my own mental health struggles. My hope is that by sharing my experiences with depression and anxiety it will encourage others to speak out about their struggles and ask for help, without fear of the stigma previously attached to mental health.
Start the Self Care Although these feelings have been a part of me since childhood, with an attempted suicide at the ageof 14, it wasn’t until 1996 (at the age of 22) that an official diagnosis of depression was received. Since that diagnosis countless medications were prescribed and tried but it wasn’t until this year, after having a breakdown that left me unable to speak properly due to a stammer, that intensive therapy was offered. Although therapy isn’t for everybody, it did help me and led me to try and make small changes to my daily routine in the pursuit of continued improvement. attached to mental health. Personally, my mental health has caused me to constantly question everything, feel worthless and convinced that people would be better off without me. Having no selfworth doesn’t just mean disliking yourself some days, it means having to sit on your hands so you don’t scratch your ‘ugly’ face off or lock a car door because at any moment you could open it and
fall into oncoming traffic, as a release from the feelings inside you.
chest tighten and breathing speed up as you’re helpless to control your own emotions.
Depression isn’t just being down, it’s not getting out of bed for days, eating, washing or cleaning because there isn’t any point and being alive is enough effort.
As unlikely as it sounds the 1st lockdown actually did me a favour, Without having to work or socialise there was suddenly time to do things around the
The other side of that is anxiety, waking every couple of hours feeling there’s something you need to do, walking frantically around the house not knowing where to start as it’s all too much to comprehend. Every day, fighting to keep yourself from spiraling into a panic, having your
house and concentrate on healing myself. Obviously, not everyone has the luxury of that time as they still have work commitments and although there are no secret tips to change your life overnight, here are a few suggestions that have helped me in recent months:
www.themix.org.uk - 0808 808 4994
Be kind to yourself. Not everyday will be productive and that’s OK.
Pat yourself on the back. Did you manage to wash-up today? Good on you!
Take things slow. Take your time making your favourite meal, chew every mouthful slowly and think about how much you enjoy the taste.
Enjoy the little things. The feeling of clean clothes against your skin or the softness of a blanket against your face.
Don’t fall into the trap of using alcohol and drugs as a release. While you may feel great for the evening, tomorrow morning will hit you like a train packed full of guilt.
Talk to someone... anyone! Don’t feel like you’re a burden because you aren’t, people care about you and want to help.
Deep breaths. Panic can strike at any time and isn’t easy to control. If possible, try find somewhere quiet to sit or stand away from others, close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing until the feeling starts to subside.
Be thankful. Consider what you have in your life and give thanks for the people who love you (even when you don’t love yourself), the roof over your head or the food in your fridge.
Whilst these might not work for everyone they continue to help me to the point where my stammer has practically disappeared.
My only wish is that anyone reading this knows that they’re not alone in how they feel because someone out there understands what you’re going through and wants to help you get through it. Keep Moving Forward Whilst writing this, we’ve just entered our 2nd lockdown and it’s increasingly obvious how important it is for me to keep working on improving my mental health level. With that in mind, below is a small list of actions for me to try and achieve every day in the hope they will help me through the next few months.
While these might not be achievable every day and some days there will be 10 minutes spent on an activity, the point is to keep trying. It’s fairly safe to assume that achieving as many activities as possible, on a daily basis, will not only improve my sense of self-worth but also quality of life. Although some days it seems like there’s still a long way to go, the small victories keep me moving forward. Dedicated to the memory of Gareth Anthony Gray, may you have found the peace you so sorely needed.
Be creative - No matter how small it is, whether a colouring book or a masterpiece, it’s still something I have made.
Learn something new - Research something that interests me or take an online course. Afterwards, I can be proud of myself for the motivation it took to achieve.
Exercise - Be it Pilates, a cleaning spree or a long walk, afterwards I can sleep well knowing those aches mean I’m alive.
Take time to relax - A hot bath, candles and soft music? Clean sheets, hot chocolate and a good book? Turn off all devices and shut myself away in a cosy cocoon, admitting I need and deserve this time alone to recuperate.
www.themix.org.uk - 0808 808 4994
ETHAN CARNEY - @creativemind_studio
SAVED BY ART (Trigger Warning: Talking about mental breakdown, eating disorder, drug use and suicide)
I would like to invite you to imagine. Imagine that you have the biggest dreams of becoming a children’s book illustrator. Imagine that you have met your hero, Paddington Bear’s author, Michael Bond CBE, at his home in London after writing to each other for some time and gifting your illustrations to him. He inspired you to work hard and to pursue your passion. Imagine that your first year of university, undertaking an illustration degree, has gone tremendously well. You have worked tirelessly to make the beginnings of your qualification a success. Imagine that you have been given the incredible opportunity to be part of Davina McCall’s ‘This Time Next Year’ to make the dream of creating your first children’s book become a reality. Imagine that you have received the interest of Walker Books in London, who have published some of your childhood favourites and you can’t believe that you are in their headquarters talking about the book you will publish with them. Imagine your heart being so full it could literally burst!
Imagine your universe crashing down around you as your mum, your absolute best friend, your entire support network, has a severe stroke in front of you and you are helpless to stop it. Imagine your world shrinking smaller in total devastation. Imagine giving up everything that you worked so hard for to be a carer for your stroke survivor parent, who is now very dependent and very disabled. Imagine your world slowly going black as the retina in your one working eye detaches in a matter of days,
leaving you with complications, high ocular pressures and blindness. I’m Kimberley Burrows and this is the story of how art saved my life. I was born as a premature baby in Salford, Greater Manchester, in November 1988 with Congenital Cataracts that were overlooked until I was 4 years old. My childhood was spent travelling between Manchester and London to have many appointments and operations at Great Ormond Street
Children’s Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital. All I ever really knew was the strange game of waking up in the early hours of the morning, getting washed and dressed, travelling a long distance in the car for hours and then being in a hospital where I’d be in various states of panic, not knowing the reason I was there or what was going to happen to me. I didn’t know that my blurry world, out of only one working eye, was not how everyone else experienced living. I didn’t know that other people
didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have accidents the way I did because I had missed the footing of the stairs or where the door was.
far away from home and was the birth of what would later become a practice dedicated to reactionary, abstract, intuitive art.
Art was comforting during my extended hospital stays recovering from various eye surgeries. I always reached for the crayons and paper and scribbled away without
I was an exceptional student despite my sight loss from an early age, with limited help back then, but art was where I truly flourished the most. It was
thinking of creating anything in particular. This was very much the beginning of my art journey. Looking back, I now realise this was my way of dealing with multiple, complex feelings happening all at once. A need for escape. It was an instinctive response to feeling emotionally overwhelmed
my favourite subject throughout my school years before I went on to take it at GCSE level, receiving an A* grade. After high school, my sight unfortunately started to deteriorate further so going to college became difficult. I began to reach out to sight loss charities such as Henshaws Society for
Blind People, Guide Dogs, and the RNIB during this time to support myself as a young severely sight-impaired adult. This helped build my confidence, social skills, Braille skills and mobility skills with my Guide Dog, Tami. As my confidence increased, so did my interest in creating art again and I entered a competition to become the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s ‘Young Illustrator of the Year’ in 2014. After winning and creating regular work for their Insight Magazine throughout the year, I decided it was time to go back to art college and do everything necessary in order to receive my degree in illustration. Leeds College of Art seemed the most suitable. It wasn’t too far away from home and had a specialist course aimed at mature students wanting to get back into education and receive the qualifications needed to start a BA (Hons) degree. Travelling on the train twice a week with my Guide Dog, I was starting to live an independent life and truly enjoyed the higher education that was denied to me when I was younger. I went on to
become a Student Representative and Student Ambassador and received distinctions in all of my modules. My first year of university as an illustration student was equally as prosperous. I was the Student Governor, had won the Student of the Year Award 2016 at The Specialist Institution Awards and had even won the
Guide Dogs Partnership Award for 2017, with my Guide Dog, Tami, at the Annual Guide Dogs Awards. I received distinctions in all of my modules again and spent the summer volunteering at an underprivileged school in Kasambira, Uganda. There I helped to build and paint a playground for the children as well as
being involved with art and play sessions. I had the most amazing month while out there with absolutely nothing but my backpack and the love of the children and the team I was working with. When I came home from my amazing volunteering experience, I was contacted by ITV who asked if I’d be interested in being part of Davina McCall’s ‘This Time Next Year,’ where I could make my dream of being a children’s book illustrator a reality! I absolutely jumped at the opportunity and would record weekly video diaries of the work I was planning, the progress I was making and the publishers I was contacting. I met with Walker Books in London and recorded segments with them that would be used for the show, discussing the direction of the book I’d be writing and illustrating. During this time however, having started my second year at university and third year back in education, I started to fall into a deep depression. I missed the sense of purpose, community and belonging that I had felt in www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk
Uganda, that I didn’t currently feel while being a mature student living away from home in Leeds. I was feeling isolated and began to negatively focus on myself and my weight. Anorexia quickly developed through heavy restriction of calories and misuse of painkillers, but I finally felt in control of everything again, even though I was very far from it. I was sleeping all day from exhaustion, depression and malnutrition, but it didn’t matter as long as I could wake up and hear my talking scales declaring I’d lost another pound. That was the ultimate success to me. It was beginning to turn into a serious problem when I’d lost 4 stone and had a dependency to Codeine. I had to withdraw from university to go home and get better, but the worst was yet to come.
At the beginning of February 2018, my mum had a severe stroke while we were out enjoying a Sunday afternoon at The Trafford Centre. One moment she was guiding me and the next she was walking into me and mumbling nonsense before collapsing onto the concrete floor of a clothing store. Everything felt like it was spinning and I could feel the blood pounding in my ears as the events unfolded before me. Staff members came rushing with oxygen tanks and first aid kits, people were crowding around and trying to find out what was going on, my mum lay crumpled on the floor. I couldn’t stop crying and could barely see or remember the ambulance journey or hospital waiting room through the constant waterfall of tears.
a situation I was drowning in. I was very much alone. When my mum was well enough to come home, it was still extremely difficult for me to accept everything that had happened. She looked different, talked different and acted very childlike. I missed the person I knew and loved. How can you grieve for someone who is still technically alive?
I could no longer set aside the time to record video diaries for ‘This Time Next Year’ and ITV quickly dropped me from the project. I was so, so heartbroken as I had worked incredibly hard up until this point. I was open and honest and had told them everything that was happening in my life with my eating disorder and my mum’s stroke, but they
My life had changed now and my mum needed me. Every day for the next few months I would go on the bus with my Guide Dog to visit my mum at the hospital while she was recovering. I took care of the animals and the house in the evening, whilst still neglecting my own nutrition, to maintain that sense of control and power over
I spent a lot of my time doing the best I could with gardening, housework, cooking and caring, but it was all too much for one person to cope with, someone who had personal problems of their own that still needed addressing. My eating disorder was ever persistent and I was the lowest weight I’d ever been.
had tight deadlines to work towards and I was never invited back to the show.
In early September, I noticed something strange happening with my vision. It was like I was looking through a lens of tv static. I assumed I wasn’t feeling well and went to sleep to try and rest my eyes
but it was still there when I woke up later in the day. The morning after, I had dark floating objects across my vision. I was used to small floaters but this was something else; like an underwater scene of shadowed octopus legs swimming above me. I could barely see a thing and was horrified. In previous circumstances I would have rushed to my mum who would have driven me to the hospital, but what could she do now? Through tears I had to take myself back to the place I had been avoiding where my mum had had her stroke, The Trafford Centre, and go to the opticians for some assistance as it was the only thing I could think of doing. They sent me to Manchester Eye Hospital in a taxi where I was told that the retina in my one working eye was detaching and that it was a very serious issue. I was to have an emergency surgery after the weekend, but not before my vision changed again and a black curtain was pulling across everything I knew. The next morning, everything was black.
I can’t even begin to describe this time of my life. A blurring of days and months. Emergency surgery after emergency surgery; needles in my eyes while I was awake under local anaesthetic to relieve the build up of pressure, my own screaming ringing through my head and the operating theatre. Lying face down in a leather pillow which was attached to the end of my hospital bed to constantly position my eye correctly for healing. I wasn’t allowed up unless it was for the basics of eating or self care. My other retina followed suit and detached 3 months later in December and this time a silicone buckle was inserted into my right eye to keep it in place, as it had detached from a different angle. I could barely keep either of my eyes open from the constant weeping, all of the hourly eye-drops I was having and the swelling and heat from my burning face where the buckle was trying to reject. The only thing keeping me going was the alcohol during the Christmas period where I’d drink myself silly to forget how www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
much agony and discomfort I was in. The painful realisation lurking in the background, that I still could not see after months of hospital visits. I had tried to restart my second year of university and quite frankly, it just wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t working out. I had started a month late because of my first retina detaching and the current brief I was trying to work on during the second detachment consisted of making an animation over the festive holidays. I would have regular panic attacks in the workshops, having to sit through visual instructions with a room full of sighted peers, knowing full well that I could not make something on my own name. My final operation was in February 2019 when a thick membrane was found to have grown over my left eye where the retina had detached first. I woke up from this surgery with stitches in my eye rather than a gas bubble as before, which proved to have been a misjudgement of kindness by my surgeon as the stitches presented me with more problems. Two stitches www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk
became deeply embedded causing me a delayed recovery, shooting pains in my eye and my face and constant headaches. I had to withdraw from university again as too much time had been taken out for recovery and I had not really made any work since my eating disorder started a year and a half before. I had so much emotional baggage at this point that I was constantly carrying around with me from the PTSD of my surgeries and witnessing what had happened to my mum. It was a black fog that was suffocating me. I was experiencing my first intrusive thoughts of suicide. Even though I was trying to start my life anew as a blind person and finding new ways to cook, clean and provide self care safely and efficiently, the biggest obstacle to my degree had become myself and my mental health. I simply didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to create anymore. How could I? What could I even do as a blind person? What the hell did I have to say that was of worth? My previous practice was digital, professional and imbued feelings
of nostalgia using Adobe software and a Wacom tablet to create charming characters and settings. I absolutely could not do that now with no useful sight. Why was I even trying to be in university with the younger people, the next generation of talent? I was already past my youth and my adulthood was a complete disaster. My eating disorder was my normality now, and my dark thoughts and deep depression were my roommates. I no longer knew happiness.
Kimberley Burrows will continue in the next issue due on March 10th 2021 Check out her Instagram @ gleamedart If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed in this article, please contact www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
In Love, Not Law
“ I also obj
‘Caroline and Adrian have invited you all here to be part of the celebration of their love and life together. They are aware of their own good fortune, and conscious that tomorrow is never guaranteed.’ These were the words spoken at the start of our Celebration ceremony, in April 2019. It’s crazy to think (and little did we know) what was waiting for us and the rest of the world the following year. The story of us actually began back in 2006, ironically at a Wedding. He was an Usher for his brother, who was marrying one of my oldest friends, for whom I was a bridesmaid. Our relationship moved fast, with us living together only three months in and buying our first house together soon after. We talked around the future a lot, but only later did we have our first ‘proper’ conversations about whether ours would include marriage and babies. Different, but equal. I’d grown up in the ‘80s, on a diet of Disney films, where a boy meets a girl, they get married and live happily ever after. They probably had children along the way so I assumed I’d follow suit. Adrian however, being older than me, had already thought things through in more depth and had decided children and marriage were not for him. I took time to reflect and ensure I was making the right decision for myself, but found quite easily that I agreed with him on the child front. Whilst this would mean a different life than anticipated, I felt it would be equally enjoyable and fulfilling as it would have been had I decided to have children.
Both vastly different paths, both with huge gains and huge sacrifices. Over the years however, I have struggled with this being considered ‘unacceptable’ by some. I hate the way that women who don’t want children are so often portrayed as cold and hard, as I wouldn’t say either of those describe who I am. I love children, 2020 has been torture not being able to hug my nieces and nephews, but I just decided that I didn’t want to be responsible for one... for the rest of my life! I already have issues with anxiety and didn’t want to bring a child into that mix, where I would definitely want to mollycoddle them.
ject to the idea that you have to fit into a stereotype of an ‘earth mother’ or ‘career woman’.
I found this view that society has did affect my wellbeing. Initially. I had many years of answering those ‘When is the baby coming?’ questions, that are downright annoying for women across the planet. It wasn’t a decision I wanted, or felt I needed to discuss or justify. However, over the years I learnt that the more I talked about it, the easier it became. I don’t want my own children and that’s just fine, I feel it is a bit like women starting to be more open, discussing ‘social taboos’ like miscarriage, it’s ok for us to talk about these things and often, it helps. I also object to the idea that you have to fit into a stereotype of ‘earth mother’ or ‘career woman’. What about the rest of us? What about the mums who are regretting their decision, the ones happily balancing work and mum life, the desperate-to-be-
a-mum’s whose bodies can’t quite agree, or the child-free by choice who want a balanced life with their family, not just a career? I know from running my company, The Talent Cycle , that achieving that career and life balance is key for many of my clients. As a Career Development Specialist, I help clients identify and move forward with their own unique career path. Whether they are looking to change, or dealing with enforced change through things like redundancy, we are all individuals. Why can’t we make our own unique choices? Whether that is about our careers, our homelife, or how we balance the two. We literally have more choice in the cereal aisle at the supermarket than society allows us about our own life choices.
The ‘socially acceptable’ life choices don’t stop there. Adrian and I had some challenging conversations, where we discussed how we would like to mark our relationship. This was a difficult time for us, one that could have broken many relationships. We are so committed to each other (despite the lack of rings or paperwork) that we found a way through, largely down to good communication. Eventually agreeing that marriage was not for us, and until very recently there being no alternative such as a Civil Partnership for an opposite-sex couple, we decided to simply enjoy the wonderful relationship we have been lucky enough to find. But after some reminders the future is never guaranteed, we decided to celebrate our wonderful life with a Celebration. This would be a gathering of our friends and family where we held a ceremony to thank everyone and celebrate ‘us’.
Our first step was to work out exactly what we wanted to do and how. We are in no way anti-marriage, we’ve been honoured to attend many Weddings of our friends and family, but it just didn’t sit right for us. It’s an institution we didn’t want to be a part of, one that felt linked to religions we don’t believe in and one that has ostracised the LGBTQ+ community for so long. We also didn’t feel that the alternatives available, like a Humanist Wedding, really suited us. We wanted something that was ‘just us’, so we hired the services of a Celebrant who we were drawn to as she describes what she does as simply helping people to ‘celebrate life’. Jill ( www.cavershamcelebrants.co.uk/) began by finding out about us and our relationship history. We’ve had 14
wonderful years together (and counting!) but things have not always been a bed of roses in our lives. We’ve found a lot of ways to support our wellbeing and mental health in order to deal with some of these challenges. We started the Couch to 5K together (yes! Even seeing him lycra didn’t put me off…), to hobbies like creative crafts. But what has really helped more than anything, is the support we provide for each other and the support we get from other relationships with our friends and family. This is why we wanted them to join us in our Celebration. It wasn’t simply about celebrating our
relationship, we wanted to celebrate and thank the other wonderful souls in our lives too. Discussing all of this with Jill really helped us to form the details of our Celebration, it was a useful and joyous time. When it came to sharing our ideas with everyone else however, we were somewhat nervous. We thought people may not understand and of course, there were some questions. We did everything we could to help explain the idea to people, such as including information in the invitation about the similarities and differences to a Wedding. I was particularly nervous after looking for some advice and guidance online as what I found was unhelpful or downright scary (tales of family rows at being deceived that it wasn’t a legal ceremony). However, our friends and family were amazing from the moment we told them. Through the lead up to the day (including my female friends organising some ‘nothen dos ’) and then onto the day itself, it was everything we hoped it would be and more.
We are so “ committed to each other (despite the lack of rings or paperwork) that we found a way through, largely down to good communication.
A year later, stuck in lockdown and kept away from our loved ones. This has made us even more certain what a great decision the Celebration was. At times, to go against ‘the norm’ in all these ways has been a real challenge. It takes a strong mindset and a complete sense of ‘self’, but I am so glad I have done it. I am in an equal partnership with the man I love and having had the benefit of working from home this year, we have been able to spend more precious time together. Simple things, like having lunch together, every day. He’s also been a huge support when it came to setting up my business. I love that The Talent Cycle has been so successful in helping people in those times of need. All of this has inspired me to write my first book, ‘In Love, not in Law’ to share our experiences with others, so they don’t feel alone and have
a guidepost for organising their perfect Celebration. I hope in the future to write more about Career Development, because at the end of the day, we are all different. We all have different things that make our heart sing and it’s that variety is the spice of life. If ever there was a year that could remind us of what matters in life, then 2020 has to be it! Let’s stop beating each other up over our differences, and celebrate them instead. ‘In Love, not Law’ available to pre-order now via www.thetalentcycle.co.uk.
Check out Caroline Green’s website and her book ‘In Love, Not Law’ which can be pre-ordered at: www.thetalentcycle.co.uk
IMPOSTER INSIDE By Eva Slingsby
The assassin is attacking, away impostor! Why must you wrap me up in perpetual cries? Let me feel the life I can see before my eyes! The assassin’s hands grip my chest so aggressively, I feel nothing but emotional stress incessantly. I’ve been okay for some days, but now the fog has returned from its sojourn, And there’s nothing left but to yearn for my burning heart to heal. WHY, IS IT SUCH A BIG DEAL? Maybe it’s the breakup, but it doesn’t feel like it is. Perhaps it’s caused a shake up under the surface. The pain from that feeling certainly isn’t worth this. Away assassin! Impostor how have you infiltrated? I want to be the successful young woman I can be, None of this is real, why does it feel so to me?
ART OF PARP - @artofparp
Escapism represents a tendency of humans to seek delusions of the mind, to purely imaginative forms of activity or entertainment as a distraction from unpleasant realities of life. Daily, you can witness different people partaking in various forms of escapism. As we delve deeper into this ‘Age of Anxiety’, as W.H. Auden writes, “our passions pray, but to primitive totems.” I wonder how during these ‘uncertain circumstances’ escapism is the easiest form of dealing with the paranoia of the unknown. A way of pursuing normalcy in the chaos, a way of calming the unnerving thoughts of doom that may menace the mind in the darkness of the night as we stare deeply into the empty walls that surround us. We escape dire situations of discomfort every day by daydreaming of a hopeful alternative. We escape loneliness with momentary pleasures of human connections. With an excuse of ‘finding ourselves’ and letting go of our inhibitions, we escape by using stimulants for our brains. Who is to say that these coping mechanisms don’t add value to our innate individual human experience?
We are constantly seeking meaning within the meaningless, and if it helps develop a sense of stability for us, we are allowed to involve ourselves in our choice of escapism. The genres of Sci-fi and Fantasy are thematic representations of escapism, and we are no one to shame those who wish to escape into that realm, for their comfort. This sense of comfort helps people deal with their insecurities by blurring their problems rather than confronting the fear of realization upfront. As quoted by Auden, “to meet one’s madness, when what mother said seems, such darling rubbish and the decent advice.” I believe too much of anything can be harmful to our good. If sci-fi fanatics, use film logic to legitimate events in the real world with magic and teleportation, it will be difficult to rationalize the workings of the world. Similarly, when our vices turn into habits, we need to step back and analyse our route of escapism. Whether it is positively or adversely affecting our life, or if we have fallen into a cycle of comfort with it. When human connections become a co-dependent survival led by habitual comfort, we need to step back and analyse our relation with oneself and others. This cycle of comfort causes us to rationalize our tendencies as habits, our wants as needs, which persuades us to escape further away from realization in a situation. Inspired by the poem “Age of Anxiety” by W. H. Auden
BIANCA ROSE ROBINSON
I stress myself out staying on the straight and narrow. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not part of my conditioning, but could go back to it tomorrow; living my life how I see fit, not scared to break the rules. And if I find it morally just, Tell me - whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the fool?
MENTAL HEALTH MY JOURNEY Dave Johannes goes through his journey towards good mental health in the first of a two part piece. (Trigger Warning: Talking about mental health illness)
hat is mental health? Mind, an organization that offers advice and support regarding mental health issues, says good mental health is about your behaviour - what you do. It goes on to say that good mental health is when: “You care about yourself and you care for yourself. You love yourself, not hate yourself. You look after your physical health – eat well, sleep well, exercise and enjoy yourself. You see yourself as being a valuable person in your own right. You don’t have to earn the right to exist. You exist, so you have the right to exist. You judge yourself on reasonable standards. You don’t set yourself impossible goals, such as ‘I have to be perfect in everything I do’, and then punish yourself when you don’t reach those goals.” As you can see, good mental health is not simply an absence of poor mental health and this seems to tie in with my personal experience of mental health
issues. In this article, I will talk you through some of the mental health issues I have experienced, when they began, the steps I have taken to combat these issues and where I am now.
What mental health challenges I have experienced... Mental health issues are sometimes just generalised as Depression but this is a wildly inaccurate way to look at mental health. Mental health disorders include (but are not limited to) Depression, Anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Eating Disorder, Schizophrenia and Psychosis. My personal experiences, from what I’ve discussed with doctors, fall under the categories of depression and anxiety. Now you can certainly check NHS guidance and information on all of these disorders but here, I will outline some of my personal feelings and behaviours I’ve suffered. My experiences/feelings/behaviours can be characterised as/by:
DISCONNECTING A sort of fuzzy, impenetrable static that drowns everything out. FREEZING Unable to focus or do even routine, simple tasks. HEART RACING/RAPID-BREATHING For me it was very quick, shallow breaths. PANICKING When trying to tell someone what was wrong, I sort of burst into an animated, terrified rant. I felt like I was losing my mind. CRYING This was an odd symptom. I didn’t know why I was crying but the tears started pouring down my face. FEELING TRAPPED/SUFFOCATED Almost like walls are closing in around you and drowning. OBSESSION Going over something that bothered me, over and over again in my head. SELF-LOATHING Telling myself I’m ugly, I’m stupid, I’m a bad person, I’ll never be loved, I’ll never be respected, etc. TALKING IN INFINITUDES ‘I’ll always’, ‘I’ll never’ etc. EMPTINESS Crushing, despairing loneliness, like being naked and alone in the void of space. ELATION Yes, this one seems counter-intuitive, but I definitely fluctuate between being on cloud 9 and in the depths of despair. Historically, I’ve spent less time in the middle and am either riding highs or drowning in lows.
There are probably others that I have missed out, but the above paints a picture of the sometimes painful reality that I and many others (perhaps even the majority?!) have to learn to live with. If you have had experience like this, or of any other mental health disorders, rest assured that you are not alone, you are valued and there are many ways to work at taking care of your mental health and be generally happy.
My mental health Where did it go wrong? It’s not actually easy for me to see exactly when it all went wrong but I do vaguely recall the age I first began to have occasions where I wanted my life to end. A little background might help. I have some vague, early memories of being picked on in primary school. I wasn’t desperately lonely and I had friends. I was subsequently separated from them though and being raised catholic,
when the time came to start middle school, I was sent to a catholic school in another town. My overall school experience was nothing especially good or bad. I never picked on anyone, never really provoked or argued with anyone and avoided fights. I was small and skinny (and probably one of the shortest kids in school up until year 10) but I was a bit of a scrapper. So despite some verbal bullying throughout my childhood, I never really suffered much (if any) physical bullying. I tried to make people laugh and tried to get along with all the different personalities at school and by high school, ended up feeling somewhat liked by everyone (or at least, not disliked) and yet loved by no one. I could hang out with just about any group, but I was not truly a part of any of them. Alone. My home life growing up was not an enjoyable time. Out of respect to my family, I have chosen not to go into too much detail. It’s strange in that I know 100% that it wasn’t constant misery and yet I www.mind.org.uk
very much struggle to recall happy moments (aside from the occasional visits of my elder siblings). I will only summarise the feelings of that place. Long, long before I moved out and went to university, my house started feeling like a prison and stopped feeling like a home. I believe it was when I was 13 or 14 years old, still a catholic at that time, that I started praying to God to kill me. Despite the loneliness and self-loathing that was beginning to build up, school was actually some respite from the aggression and misery I witnessed and experienced at home. Even though I didn’t fit in
or feel loved, I could forget about everything at home and have some fun playing some sports (badly), have a joke with friends and focus on my school work. My life very much became a battle of ups and downs, where it felt like I could grab at happiness sometimes and I could work to improve things, but life was generally not very good at that time. These dark and desperate feelings come and go and the highs and lows have continued throughout my life. The feelings seem to
have grown over the years where I’ll feel elated and happy every day for days to months before facing a crushing low. Sadly, the more times you experience these lows, the magnitude of the misery seems to increase and, early/mid last year, this ended in me coming rather close to a suicide attempt. I had told myself that no matter what I do, the misery won’t ever end and the darkness will always be closing in. I was very fortunate that at this time, a friend caught me in the middle of searching online for the
necessary ‘materials’ to effect the end of my life and talked me out of suicide and into searching for professional help. I have attempted many different things to try to stop the misery and the self-loathing over the years. At present I feel mentally stronger than I ever have before.
Dave Johannes will continue his discussion in the next issue.
ETHAN CARNEY - @creativemind_studio
BROKEN Let me stand with the lost, the broken The peoples whose voices are unspoken Let me raise my vocal chords in their silence Send waves screeching like sirens I stand with those hidden rocks disguised as diamonds A little rough around the edges Grounded deeply from the earth The ones who don’t realise What their own life is worth I’d rather stand with the broken the needy The ones who silently scream Hear me I’d rather walk with lost The ones who have suffered misfortune at every cost Yet still rise up like a tomorrow’s sunset Like tomorrows full moon, Those who value life and have not been fed From a silver dripped spoon I’d rather drink from the open sky Listening to the hardship of those who cry Who struggle to make ends meet but eventually get by The ones who don’t bullshit To fit into societies norm The only generation left of the human form People that are in need of helping hand Yet you’re given a life beating heart One that’s dissected into little pieces Which releases more love that can ever be found I’d rather surround myself with the broken Because the truth will always be spoken And the respect will always be there No hidden hypocrisy just people who genuinely care I’d rather stand with the Broken Sharena Lee Satti
What is a...
PITUITARY TUMOUR Jacqueline Naylor
“It’s not like...a proper brain tumour...” “It’s not cancer, so it’s not that big a deal.” “Oh, I’ve read about that. It isn’t as bad as a real brain tumour.” These were some of the responses I got when I told people I had a pituitary tumour. Of course these are all correct statements. A pituitary tumour is not on the brain, but it is within the skull. It is right next to your brain, meaning that even though it isn’t attached it can affect your brain. Also, even if they were able to remove it (this is classed as brain surgery) there is still no guarantee they would be able to tell if it was cancerous or not.
I have no idea what it’s like to have a “brain tumour” but I can imagine it’s pretty bad, and I don’t for one second think that what I have gone through over the last year is as bad. But that doesn’t mean that my life hasn’t been turned upside down and inside out by this type of “not a big deal” tumour. Imagine one morning you wake up and all your hormones have been turned up - like a tap which previously allowed just the right amount to drip into your body has all of a sudden become turned wide open, unleashing a torrent. This has been my life for a while. I first found out I probably
had a tumour on Christmas Eve last year (2019). I sat in the doctor’s office where she tried to comfort me by saying “It really isn’t a big deal, most people don’t have any symptoms at all.” The problem with this statement was that I already had symptoms. Some innocuous, some pretty serious, and others that were making my daily life harder. I had only recently recovered from surgery to fix a broken foot and realised that some of the issues I was having weren’t caused by, or side effects of the painkillers I was on. I was suffering from daily headaches, fatigue, mood swings and getting so cold that even in the summer
I was wrapped up in layers. From September onwards my periods stopped and my breasts grew three cup sizes. So “most people don’t get symptoms”, but I sure as hell did.
lot more but I think you get the idea - it controls most of your bodily functions and actions. My tumour meant my prolactin levels were high. This hormone in women is known as ‘the pregnancy hormone’ as it allows us to lactate and feed babies.
I decided pretty early on that I wouldn’t let anyone but my closest know until I had an official diagnosis. I was sent to see an endocrinologist, who sent me for an MRI. Unfortunately due to a global pandemic, I ended up waiting three and half months to get the official diagnosis. This time was hell.
I have never wanted children, so there felt somewhat of a betrayal between me and my body.
A pituitary tumour sits on your pituitary gland. This gland is the Master Gland whose role is to regulate what hormones are released. It helps sense what your body needs to function and sends out signals to all the different organs and glands to maintain a good environment. It also secretes a variety of hormones into your bloodstream - iit controls your metabolism, growth, sexual maturity, reproduction, blood pressure, sex drive, stress levels, preg-
One day at the end of February I had had enough, something had to give. My headaches were so bad I couldn’t sleep properly - I would wake up numerous times with a start, like someone had punched me. I could hardly eat because I felt incredibly sick or I would actually throw up, and my body had changed so drastically I couldn’t stand to look in the mirror.
After my initial diagnosis, I found myself rapidly getting worse. My symptoms were multiplying and I was so anxious and stressed that it made everything worse.
I decided a few things that day
First - I would get some herbal help. Second - I would stop trying to make myself be a “proper grown up.” I would work from bed and nap whenever I could. Third - I would eat what, and when, I could. I would stop trying to force myself to “eat properly” because it only resulted in me being sick. Finally - I declared I did not cause this to happen to my body. The changes were not my fault, so I would stop punishing myself through being disgusted by what I saw. (This moment has become an utter blessing, more on that later). These things did not change what was happening to me, but did allow me to relinquish control by forcing me to realise that I didn’t have it - not of my body or my mind. There were just too many other things at play for me to do anything other than rest. Unfortunately rest would be a long way off because I was in my final year of university (for the second
time as I’d had to defer for the broken foot) and I was determined to finish and finally get my freaking degree. I finally started on medication for my tumour in late April, but they came with their own side effects which piled on top of the ones I already had.
punch-your-phone angry (this really happened) and I would go for days without really communicating. This was not who I am. I am not a super touchy person, but I am with my partner. I don’t say “I love you” to a lot of people, but I do to my family and close friends. I have
from the symptoms my tumour and thyroid (yup, that got added on too) gave me, topped up with side effects like abdominal pain, loss of appetite and insomnia, I knew I needed extra help. I decided to go to online therapy. I have been to therapy before, but never online. I found having someone who I could just talk to about everything and anything helped. With it being online, I didn’t even need to leave my bed. I didn’t necessarily get any better, because that wasn’t really the point. What it gave me was an outlet somewhere beyond the confines of my house and my partner where I could truly be honest about just how much this situation sucked.
Beyond the physical effects, this tumour was having a massive impact on my personality and relationships. I am not outwardly loving to a lot of people, but it became harder to be intimate with my partner, both physically and emotionally. I found myself getting super angry, like
flash-in-the-pan anger it’s never really that fiery and it’s over really quickly. I come from a family of storytellers, we are chatty and talk a lot about everything. So this was a drastic change from who I really am. Once I realised that not only would I still suffer
When I had started the medication I noticed some unexplained weight loss. I hadn’t changed any eating or exercise habits - I generally dance everyday, take long walks regularly and eat what I can when I can. This wasn’t just a ‘little bit of weight’, this has been over four stone in 8 months. (I still don’t know
why, when it will stop and what’s causing it. That’s for another doctor’s appointment). Then I started to change shape - literally. I went from a pear shape to an hourglass. My breasts didn’t go down, so now they are massive. My face changed shape, my lips became more pronounced and I lost weight everywhere. This is a lot to process about yourself in a super short amount of time and I needed someone, somewhere, who would let me talk about it incessantly. Because I no longer fitted my clothes, I no longer looked like myself. I had to be able to speak about how utterly shitty it was to not have control...yet again. Being in therapy gave me a space where I could process all this. As with most women in this day and age, I have been somewhat obsessive over the years with my weight, how I look, and kept my rolodex of hate towards myself. But I have spent the last few years trying to get beyond that and live comfortably within my body.
By the time I finished University in August my tumour symptoms had reduced and the side effects had dulled somewhat, meaning I could genuinely rest. I spent the next month just doing whatever I wanted. Every single moment of these days were me just doing whatever my mood fancied. I needed it more than
going to lie and say everything is perfect, because it genuinely isn’t. Around the time of my period my hormones still go out of whack and I either become someone who can’t sit still and shut the hell up, or I become really morose and feel really lonely.
I thankfully have the best partner in crime anyone can ask for, who is caring, loving, strict with me, laid back and ultimately understanding. We both know it will pass and eventually I will get past this, but until then no one can tell me “It’s just a pituitary tumour”. This condition affects every single person who has it differently. From my reading and discussions in support groups I have found that lots of people get no symptoms. But also, that a lot of people get symptoms worse than mine. Some have had to have brain surgery, some have had chemotherapy, whereas some didn’t even need medication. However, this condition is serious and it can kill (on rare occasions). So all I ask is until you have lived with something, don’t assume you know.
I realised. After this month, I felt calmer, rested, even balanced. It was a miraculous feeling after so many months of what felt like someone testing me.
Check out Jacqueline Naylor’s Intagram @robertafraggle For more information about pituitary tumours at:
It’s now December 2020, nearly the one year anniversary of me being told I had the tumour. I’m not
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.â&#x20AC;?
James Arthur Baldwin
Remember This House