Mental Health Awareness Week: Where flowers bloom, so does hope

Mental Health Awareness Week blog series

Where flowers bloom, so does hope

by Georgia Scott, Communications Lead

I’m sure a lot of you have heard the saying ‘work to live don’t live to work’. I lived to work, to an unhealthy degree. After finishing my degree in advertising and marketing I dove straight into the world of public relations and loved every single second. Unfortunately it became every single second of my life – I worked a 9 to 5 but it was so much more than that. It consumed my mornings, evenings, weekends, and I had very little else in my life.

I started to fall out of love with my job and daily life took a toll on my mental health. Fast-forward to 2017 and things had gone from bad to worse. Everything started to fall apart and the mask I’d worn for so long was disappearing. I tried so hard to keep up that twenty-something, PR girl, city centre living, ‘everything is perfect’ persona, to cover up the reality – a girl who was lost, who needed help, had stopped taking care of herself, had gone through a lot and didn’t want to be here anymore.

I started calling in sick to work and turning down social invitations. I only went to things I had to go to. I knew it was time to go and get help and I’m so glad I did. I thought I’d leave my doctors appointment feeling like a failure. But I didn’t. My GP was amazing and I felt hope, relief and that I’d done the right thing. I knew I had a long road ahead but I felt ready to start heading down it, one step at a time.

Medication and one-to-one counselling was a really great combination for me. It was during one of my sessions that I was advised to find a new hobby – something therapeutic to help me on my journey. I’d always been creative, I went to art school and was always better at the creative subjects when I was at upper school, but I hadn’t done anything creative in years. I was excited to go out and try new things, and it was so amazing to feel excited about something again.

I signed up to a few different classes and tried out a few online tutorials. I gave card-making, knitting, and candle-making a go, but it was a floristry class that really caught my interest. I went to a flower crown class at a local independent florist studio and loved it. All of a sudden I was making arrangements at home and going to more classes. I made Christmas wreaths, bouquets, and so much more. My job was still very demanding but I drew lines where I could and now had something fun to do with the little bit of free time I had. Finding floristry gave me my confidence back and I will forever be grateful for going to that first class.








But after a while I hit the middle-of-the-rom-com moment. You know the one – the main character thinks they’ve got it all sorted and all of a sudden there’s a plot twist. Due to gaining a few new clients and projects, work suddenly started to take over again. This also coincided with a very negative experience in my personal life. I felt like I was back to square one, and I knew I needed to make big changes to move forward. I’d found myself on a career conveyor belt I didn’t want to be on, and in a situation that was no longer safe.

I started looking for a new job and moved back home. I loved working in PR but I needed to go part time and find something with meaning.  This wasn’t an option where I was. That’s when I found The Cellar Trust. A part time communications and marketing role came up and it felt like fate. I had the chance to do something I really believed in for a charity that did amazing work. I’d never wanted anything more in my entire life, so when I got an interview and was offered the job I was over the moon. As I’d be working four days a week I enrolled on a part time college course – a Level 2 BTEC in Floristry. I started The Cellar Trust and my college course in the same week and it felt like I’d pressed reset on my life, but in the best way possible.

I was never referred to The Cellar Trust back when I went to get help because I was living in a different city at the time. But The Cellar Trust came into my life in a different way when I needed it the most. It’s been nearly two years now and I’ve never looked back. I finished my college course last summer, bought my own house, and turned my floristry hobby into a career, running my little business on the side of my communications and marketing role. I feel so lucky to be able to do two things I love, and I’ll never take either for granted. I work with amazing, understanding, and kind people every day, who come together to make a real difference in peoples lives. I couldn’t be prouder of my journey and the perfect purple place I get to call home.

Mental health really is a journey and I always remind myself to be kind to myself on down days, which have of course been much more common during lockdown as it will have been for so many others. Very aptly, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 is kindness – please always remember to be kind to yourself and others, especially during these unusual times.

Mental Health Awareness Week: Cat in a hot tin hat

Mental Health Awareness Week blog series

Cat in a hot tin hat

by Kylie, Peer Support Worker

I do like writing alone, no one watching, uninhibited. The act of writing this, of completing it, of someone else reading it, is a challenge in itself. That old classic ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, that’s what I’m trying to do, because I know it’s worked for me, avoidance doesn’t. I still avoid, it’s my default, I have to use all my inner resources to push avoidance down the stairs, keep myself at the top head held high, in my best ‘OWNING IT!’ pose, resist that urge to run back down, help avoidance back up off the ground, apologise ‘it’s all my fault! What was I thinking?’, and seek solace together in the cupboard under the stairs.

My mental health has taken its fair share of dips and has shifted into various forms over my life. A few years ago, I was stamped with a brand new label-OCD. Not a fan of labels myself, I’m more of a vintage/charity shop/I found it on the street kinda gal. For some, labels are helpful, but I resent being put in a box, mental health is so complex, people are, we are blurry. But to explain something, you have to box it up, so here is a brief overview of my mind at that time (enjoy, you lucky thing).

I have always had an overactive imagination plus I am an overthinker, sometimes I can’t breathe from how vast I go, I have to stop myself for fear I will never come back. It can be more a feeling, a sense, something existential, I’m not here, this other force, a power over me. I thought it was all orchestrated- life. I thought my husband was a robot, I thought my husband was Jesus, I thought he was the devil (not just a handsome devil, he would interject). I was sure the devil was out to get me, everything was building up to that moment, there were signs everywhere, it all made sense. If I didn’t look too hard, if I kept pulling myself back, if I ran from every situation, took myself out of it, shut it out, don’t say it, don’t think it, avoid these thoughts at all costs, I can stop or at least postpone it from happening. If I spoke about it, it would become true, if I stayed in the room with all the signs, symbols, colours and numbers, the devil would appear, I would go through the matrix, I was on the Truman show, the big reveal would be out.

The end of the world was in my head, I had the power to make it happen, if I succumbed to it. Avoidance, block it out, that was how I tried to cope, but it didn’t work, the intrusive thoughts gnawed away at me, the paranoia continued to find me.

I received help, my therapist explained that my thoughts were the ‘O’ – obsessive thoughts, and I used avoidance, escape and blocking out as my ‘C’- compulsions. I underwent exposure therapy, I would put myself in situations or do tasks that would provoke my intrusive thoughts, rather than distracting myself from these thoughts or escaping from the situation I was in, I had to sit with it. I believed I would die, I was dying or was I already dead, that the therapist had been in on it all along, the end of the world had begun. But I continued, I knew I had to do it otherwise I would live the rest of my life in fear. I made progress, I slowly began to trust the idea that my thoughts didn’t manifest everything into existence, I hadn’t yet willed these catastrophic things to happen. I looked into the abyss and survived. I still had the intrusive thoughts, the woman on the edge still lived in me but overtime she became a less intense version, with shorter lived episodes.

Which brings me on nicely to the hot topic of the moment, it would seem illicit to try and write something without featuring a little bit part from Coronavirus. As reports started to come in about this new virus spreading, moving its way around the world, I could feel the woman on the edge (complete with tin hat accessory) breaking back in full technicolour, starring in her upcoming show ‘Cat in a hot tin Hat’, ready to belt out her new and improved repertoire including ‘Maybe this time (it’s the end of the world)’, and ‘There are worse things I could do (then create a pandemic or 2 )’**.

I considered trying to get in touch with my old therapist, am I responsible for this pandemic, is it because I haven’t been thinking positive thoughts, I’ve made this happen. I was also able to look at things rationally, I felt grateful I had sought help, that I had made huge progress and that deep down I know (I think!) this pandemic isn’t on me. I’ve also come to the conclusion there are things I will never understand or know how they operate, I have to live with the fact I can’t be reassured everything will be ok, and fearing it won’t change it. This time has made me reflect on how far I’ve come, but also made me aware that I have to keep challenging myself, there are still things in my life I’m avoiding, things I want to do but I hold myself back from. So I’m trying, I’m trying to expose myself to those things that scare me. I tried to avoid writing this, giving myself every excuse, I wasn’t capable, but I knew I’d feel better for doing it, and I do.

** I send my apologies if those musical references are missed, and made purely for my own satisfaction.

Mental Health Awareness Week: Finding creativity again

Mental Health Awareness Week blog series

Finding creativity again

by Sian Mason, Peer Support Worker

As a child, I always loved creating, whether it was through arts and crafts or through creative writing. It brought me so much joy to sit and draw, inundating my family with the scribblings of a small child which they have kept and treasured.

As a young teenager, my love for creating blossomed, and then withered just as quickly. At secondary school I chose to do an art BTEC, which was the worst thing I could’ve done for my creativity. Being told what to create, how, and with what media, very rapidly sucked the joy out of creating. After all, creativity is rooted in imagination and personal expression, and it felt like those things were being locked in a cage by an art teacher following a curriculum.

Then mental illness hit me like a ton of bricks. I had always suffered from social anxiety, but the depression (and what would later transpire to be borderline personality disorder) began to take root and ensnare me. It was like a weed in my mind that I couldn’t get rid of and it was growing faster than a shy 14 year old could ever keep up with. And so began my descent into darkness; my imagination died, and so did my ability to create.

Fast forward to 2018 and I was visiting my local zoo with my family, where we found a small rock with a unicorn painted on the front. On the back were details of a Facebook group, ‘Love on the Rocks UK’, requesting that we post a photo of said rock on the group page. So that’s what I did. Next thing I knew, I had ordered some acrylic paint pens, found some rocks, and was sat painting. And so began my climb back into creating and, most importantly, enjoying it.

Love on the Rocks UK is an amazing group of nearly 100,000 people, a community in which we all paint rocks, post a photo of them, and then hide them somewhere in public for people to find and enjoy. Skill isn’t required in our community, just the collective desire to put smiles on the faces of strangers. There is no criticism in this group, just pure joy, positivity, and kindness. 100,000 friends.

The creator of the group has developed a scheme known as ‘Comfort Pebbles’, a group of almost 1000 people who are creating rocks and sending them to hospital and hospice patients affected by COVID-19. Families who aren’t allowed to see their poorly loved ones during these uncertain times are able to write a message on the back of the rocks, and give them to their loved ones as a source of comfort to them.

Being involved with Love on the Rocks UK, and Comfort Pebbles, has given me an avenue through which I have been able to find my creativity again. Since joining I have also taken up needle felting and crochet, which I am really enjoying. The simple act of painting rocks has allowed me to find who I am again, and for that I can never truly express my gratitude.