Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Challenging Stigma in Changing Times: My Journey with Time to Change

“Time to Change was a social movement to change the way people think and act about mental health problems. The campaign started in 2007 and closed at the end of March 2021.” (Time to Change website)

In October last year I received an email purporting to be from Time to Change, announcing the closure of the organisation at the end of March 2021. The news seemed so unlikely that I messaged the Time to Change Twitter account to check it wasn’t a scam email. Sadly, both email and news were genuine. As of March 31, 2021, Time to Change is no more. Their website and social media accounts remain for the time being, but visitors are met with the following stark message:

Time to Change closed on 31st March 2021, but the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems hasn’t gone away. We need you to continue changing how people think and act about mental health problems.

The closure has inspired any number of social media posts and articles. Most I’ve seen have either been written from a societal perspective (such as A ground breaking campaign that changed the mental health landscape by Brian Dow, Deputy CEO of Rethink Mental Illness) or by people who themselves live with mental health issues (the two categories are not, of course, mutually exclusive). I can’t speak from a broader society perspective and I have no direct lived experience, but I’d like to share what Time to Change meant to me.

Volunteering with Time to Change

My involvement with Time to Change began in November 2013. In the two and a half years since we first met online in May 2011, Fran and I had built a rich network of connections within the mental health community in the US, mostly in the state of Maine where Fran lives. I remember Fran jokingly asking if anyone in the UK lived with mental illness, because we didn’t seem to know any individuals or organisations here. It was time for me to step up and find out what was happening on this side of the Atlantic.

Time to Change was the first UK organisation I checked out and I registered as a Champion, as TTC called its volunteers. In no time at all I received an email with details of a local networking and social event. Turning up on my own at the Crisis Cafe in Newcastle was the scariest thing I’d done in a long time, but I received a warm welcome from Angela Slater, who at the time was Time to Change Regional Coordinator and Equalities Coordinator for Disability. I remember attempting small talk with the people I was sitting next to, some of whom were new volunteers like me, and the passion of the various speakers. I particularly remember talking with Darren Hodge who told me about Mental Health First Aid training. I enjoyed the experience, but as I’ve written elsewhere it left me unsure whether I was ready to follow up and engage fully.

I enjoyed the evening, but left feeling unsure whether I had the skills and experience to contribute to what Time to Change and the other organisations and individuals I had met were doing. This was no reflection on the warmth of the welcome. Rather, it was a voice inside me that told me I was not yet ready to engage fully.

It took two years for me to reconnect with Angela and actually volunteer with Time to Change. During that time I was growing and learning. I took the MHFA training and engaged in other ways, including an appearance on local radio to talk about my friendship with Fran and the book we’d begun writing. What finally tipped the balance was an online workshop Fran and I took with research professor, author, and public speaker Brené Brown on courage and vulnerability. Within days, I heard about an upcoming awareness event in the centre of Newcastle, to coincide with Time to Change’s annual #TimeToTalk campaign. I signed up as a volunteer before the voice in my head had chance to intervene. As I wrote in my diary, “Fear of engagement has always kept me on the outside, looking in on the arena. It is time to show up for my life.”

It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’d made in a long time. I reconnected with Angela and met several people I’d see at Time to Change events over the coming years, including Aimee Wilson who is now one of my closest friends. I’ve written about the event itself elsewhere but I want to quote something I’ve found to be consistently true as I’ve learned more about sharing space, time, and conversation with people with lived experience of mental health issues.

Some stories, whether of mental illness or the often-related issues of poverty, benefits, or housing, were undeniably hard to hear. But the atmosphere wasn’t sombre in any way. No matter the content, genuine connection is empowering if we are open to hear what people are saying. And there were moments too of sheer delight, laugher, and merriment.

I volunteered with Time to Change at Northern Pride for three consecutive years (2016 through 2018). As with the first event I volunteered at, the idea was to engage members of the public about TTC’s role, mental health, and stigma. We handed out leaflets, encouraged people to make mental health related pledges, took selfies, and answered questions. After one event I told a friend:

For me, what makes it so worthwhile is when I am talking to someone who might not be used to sharing about their mental health and I comment or ask a question and they are like “yes!” In that moment there is this really genuine human connection. That happened a few times today.

Time to Talk Day

One of Time to Change’s key contributions to raising mental health awareness was establishing the annual Time to Talk Day in February.

Mental health problems affect one in four of us, yet too many people are made to feel isolated, ashamed and worthless because of this. Time to Talk Day encourages everyone to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives.

Talking about mental health is something Fran and I do on a day-to-day basis. It is the basis of our friendship and the cornerstone of our book High Tide, Low Tide. I wrote What Does Having a Conversation about Mental Health Look Like? for Time to Talk Day 2019 because what comes naturally to me and Fran (most of the time) can sound difficult or intimidating if you are not used to it.

Having “a conversation about mental health” might sound daunting, but it simply means allowing someone to talk openly about what’s going on for them. It might be a face-to-face conversation, a phone or video call, or a conversation by e-mail, text (SMS), or instant messaging. Whatever works for you and the other person.

Confidence and Support

Working with like-minded and like-hearted people is healthy and rewarding. I’ve grown a lot in self-confidence, directly and indirectly, from being a Time to Change volunteer. I discovered I have something valuable to contribute on a wider stage and have felt supported in doing so. I’ve met some amazing people and made good friends, including two of my closest friends, Vikki Beat and Aimee Wilson. I’ve also connected with other people and organisations locally and online, including Newcastle Recovery College (ReCoCo), Launchpad, and LEAPS. I believe I’ve grown and become a better person.

It would be wrong to give the impression that everything has been “sunshine and rainbows,” though. I’ve had periods of crippling self-doubt about my role within the mental health community, including Time to Change, because I lack lived experience of illness or mental health services. Perhaps the worst bout came in late 2018 / early 2019, as I related in Impostor Syndrome, Self-Doubt, and Legitimacy in the Mental Health Arena. The support and encouragement I received from work colleagues and friends, including people who know me through Time to Change, made a huge difference and reassured me I have a role to play and a contribution to make. I will forever be grateful for their honesty and support.

Employer Pledge Scheme

In 2018 I joined the mental health team at the company where I work, BPDTS Ltd. I knew of the Time to Change Employer Pledge Scheme and met with our Chief Exec and senior executive team to sell them the idea.

My main objective was to gain approval for the company to sign up to Time to Change’s Employer Pledge Scheme. It says a lot about our leadership team that my recommendation was approved unanimously. I’m looking forward to taking the initiative forward in the weeks to come.

It was very much a team effort, and we had superb support from our CEO down, but as Pledge Lead I can admit a good deal of personal pride when we were accepted into the scheme. The scheme itself has closed but you can still read our company’s pledge on the Time to Change website. The mental health team which I now co-lead has expanded considerably, and I look forward to even greater things as our company merges with DWP (the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions) to form a new digital organisation.

BPDTS CEO Loveday Ryder, Martin Baker, Lois White

What Next?

I will always be proud of my association with Time to Change and grateful for the opportunities and connections it brought me, but what next? There is so much more to be done. It feels short-sighted at best for Time to Change to close when society as a whole, and each of us individually, has been so severely challenged by covid. I will miss the sense I had of being supported and encouraged by an organisation I imagined would be a permanent part of the mental health landscape. But, as the final email from Time to Change to its volunteers makes clear, we can feel proud of our successes and commit to continuing the work.

Whether you have been part of the Time to Change movement since we began in 2007 or you’ve only recently joined us on this journey, you have played a significant role in changing the way we all think and act about mental health problems. Remember that each action we take, however big or small, has the power to improve attitudes and behaviour towards those of us with mental health problems.

And while Time to Change is closing, we can all continue to use our voices to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. Our enduring efforts will help to empower and support others to join us on this journey as we strive to create a more equitable society.

If you are wondering how the work and journey will continue, the Time to Change website has plenty of information and suggestions.

We encourage you to continue to challenge stigma and discrimination when you see it, hear it or experience it for yourselves. On this website, you’ll find a range of useful resources which will help you to take action.

There are lots of ways that you can continue to campaign around important mental health issues with our charity partners, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. Find out how to get involved with our partners.

You can still find Time to Change on their website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

 

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

What If I Never Do All the Things I Used to Do?

In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.
— Dave Hollis

A few weeks ago I was talking with a colleague about England’s road map out of lockdown. He said he felt cautiously optimistic and that he’d made a wish list of things he wants to do again when it’s possible. He asked if I’d made a list. I said no, it hadn’t occurred to me. That wasn’t entirely true. It’s not so much that it hadn’t occurred to me. At some level it feels wrong to me, even unhealthy, to make a list like that because I’d be wishing for things that are no longer possible or available.

Like most of us, I suppose, I spent the first months of lockdown imagining a time when things would start getting back to normal — or at least to something resembling how things were before. Being back in the office. Holidays. Meeting friends for coffee, drinks, meals, or days out. Hugs. As the weeks and months passed those hopes receded, but they still felt feasible. Out there somewhere a “near normal” future was waiting for me.

At some point, though, it dawned on me that things will never return to how they used to be. The impact of covid, of lockdown, of all the changes we lived through last year and are still living through, is simply too great for us to pick up where we left off. Vaccinations will allow us to move forward but right now, as England begins gradually to open up again, I can only see that many things I valued (and some I took for granted) have already gone beyond any hope of retrieval. Others may resume, but they won’t be the same. I’m not the same. We aren’t the same. How could we be, with all we have gone through?

The holiday cottage I’ve been going to for decades, the one that felt like a second home? I had to cancel two planned visits last year but what if I never get to go back because the lady who owns it — who is practically family after all these years — decides reopening is too much to deal with, with all the new restrictions, and the risk that people may cancel at short notice?

The Wateredge Inn in Ambleside, which is one of my favourite places in the world? Maybe I’ll sit there again beside the lake with a pint and my notebooks, but it won’t be this year. What if it’s never?

STACK Newcastle, my go-to hangout until covid struck, where I’ve had so many good times hanging out with friends, or calling in on my own for a beer and a falafel wrap? The venue is set to reopen and I dare say I’ll go back at some point, but with social distancing and having to book in advance the atmosphere will never be the same. What if it never feels warm and welcoming — a Marty place — again?

The Frankie & Bennie’s restaurant in Newcastle I’ve visited for years? There’s no “what if?” about this one — it never reopened after the first lockdown and is closed permanently.

My two favourite coffee shops, where I’d sit and write, or meet up with friends, and where I always felt welcome and at ease? I’m more optimistic about these but what if they never reopen fully, or are too busy and cramped to feel comfortable again?

There are bigger things to focus on, you might be thinking. Mourning the loss of my holidays, favourite coffee shops and bars hardly registers when set against the devastating hurt and loss others have endured in the past year. These are the “little things” of my life, though. The little things that are actually the big things. Because it’s not about the coffee shop, or the pub, or the bar. Not really. It’s about the connections they represented, facilitated, and hosted.

When lockdown first hit I feared my local friendships might falter because they were born — and thrived — in meet-ups for coffee and drinks, days out, and time shared face-to-face. In fact, they flourished and grew, as we replaced face-to-face encounters with online chat, voice and video calls. They transitioned, successfully if not always seamlessly, from in person friendships to online ones. And I have some prior experience and success with those. I do wonder how things will be, when we’re finally able to meet again in person, but as with the outer trappings of my BC (before covid) life there is no going back. Only forward.

So no, I don’t have a list of things I want to do again. “Like it used to be” or “like we used to do” are false hopes, illusions, to my current way of thinking at least. Instead, I will hold myself open to whatever is possible, available, present, and real.

 

Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

 

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Free Books for World Bipolar Day

To mark World Bipolar Day 2021 Fran and I are offering our books for FREE on Kindle for five days between Monday March 29 and Friday April 2, inclusive.

In High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder we share what we’ve learned about growing a supportive, mutually rewarding friendship between a “well one” and an “ill one.” With no-nonsense advice from the caring friend’s point of view, original approaches and practical tips, illustrated with real-life conversations and examples. Buy it here.

Friendship is a beautiful part of life and an important component of long-term wellness. No One Is Too Far Away: Notes from a Transatlantic Friendship is a collection of articles from our blog which shows that mental illness needn’t be a barrier to meaningful connection; indeed it can be the glue that holds people together. Buy it here.

Once the free offer is over the prices will go back to normal.

World Bipolar Day is celebrated each year on March 30, the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who is thought to have lived with a bipolar condition.

The vision of World Bipolar Day is to bring world awareness to bipolar conditions and to eliminate social stigma. Through international collaboration, the goal of World Bipolar Day is to bring the world population information about bipolar conditions that will educate and improve sensitivity towards the condition.

For more information check out the following websites.

 

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

It's ok if you don't. (Thoughts from the first covid lockdown, one year on.)

It’s ok if you don’t want to make the best of it
It’s ok if you don’t want to bake banana bread.
It’s ok if you don’t want to craft with Kirstie.
It’s ok if you don’t want to do a scavenger hunt around your home.
It’s ok if you don’t want to learn a new language.
It’s ok if you don’t want to have a quiz night with your colleagues.
It’s ok if you don’t want a movie night with your buddies.
It’s ok if you don’t want to have themed evenings with your beloved, your family, or your friends.

It’s ok to miss how it used to be.
It’s ok to feel afraid.
It’s ok to hate it.
It’s ok to be overwhelmed.
It’s ok to do this your way.

 

Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash.

 

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Nobody Is Immune from Stress, You Know

In my recent article 11 Things I Am Grateful for This Week I revealed “I’ve been experiencing a good deal of stress lately one way or another.” I thought it would be useful for me — and hopefully interesting for others — to explore what was going on for me at that time and how I handled things.

Why Was I So Stressed?

I sometimes get stressed about work or relationships, but this time the trigger was discovering the hot water tank (immersion heater) at home had stopped working. Looking back, I can see there were several strands to my stress and anxiety. The first was the immediate, practical issue of not having any hot running water and having to find someone to deal with it. I have a poor track record finding reliable tradespeople. I felt under pressure to engage someone who would do a good job for a reasonable price.

There were several other plumbing jobs which needed doing about the house, including drippping taps in the bathroom and kitchen, and a kitchen waste outlet that blocked easily despite my attempts to clear it out. I realised I could probably get these long-standing issues fixed at the same time as the water tank, but I could feel myself getting anxious about other household maintenance I’d put off and spent a long time trying to ignore. I was also scared in case bigger repairs came to light.

Most of all, I felt out of my depth. I couldn’t fix the issue itself and felt unequal to the task of finding people who could and would fix it.

What Actually Happened?

It started on Thursday February 18 when I discovered there was no hot water. I immediately went online (checkatrade.com) and looked for an electrician to see if it could be repaired. One came out on the Saturday. He said the element had burnt out but the tank was so old it needed replacing. To his credit, he wouldn’t take any money for the callout.

I wasn’t surprised. The tank was about thirty years old. It started leaking last year but I couldn’t find anyone willing to replace it. The leak stopped on its own and I pushed it to the back of my mind. I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I went back onling and put in a new job to replace the tank. Two plumbers responded. One seemed particularly keen. I send photos and we discussed what was needed. It was looking good but nothing much happened for a week, despite chasing plumber #1 for a quote. The tank began leaking again, causing damage to the ceiling over the stairs and massively increasing my stress. I isolated and drained the tank.

I tried plumber #2 again. He agreed to call round and quoted for the work within a couple of days. It was more expensive than I’d anticipated but it needed doing. He came on Saturday March 6, replaced the ancient tank with a new hot water cylinder, and also replaced the taps and kitchen waste outlet. From start to end, it had taken sixteen days.

How Did I Feel?

My main symptoms were discomfort and pain in my gut, elevated heart rate, and headaches. They became more persistent and problematic as time went on, and were most severe in the final days before the work was done. This was different from how stress usually affects me; I tend to feel a tightness in my chest and gut but not to this extent. I was very aware my heart was racing much of the time. I checked my heart rate and stress level on my phone and found them much higher than usual. It was disturbing but in a funny way it helped that there was something tangible that validated what I was feeling. It was real. I wasn’t imagining it.

How Did I Handle It?

I took practical steps to mitigate the disruption until things could be fixed. This included buying a water heater to heat water for baths/washing. I also researched as much as I could, which helped me engage with the tradespeople and understand what they suggested.

For the stress itself, I mostly followed the strategies in my Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). I shared what I was going through with Fran, other close friends, and colleagues including fellow Mental Health First Aiders at work. I also went out for walks (walking is one of my key wellbeing strategies) but the discomfort I was feeling got in the way of walking as much as I might have done.

Watching Grey’s Anatomy with Fran on Netflix helped a lot as a distraction, especially in the evening before I went to bed. Blogging and working on the reprint of our book No One Is Too Far Away also helped, as did exploring my thoughts and feelings in my daily journal. I reminded myself that no one had been hurt and any damage was pretty minimal. (As one of my friends puts it, no one died and no one caught fire.) I focused on things I had to be grateful for, which led to the blog post I mentioned earlier.

I reduced my coffee intake, and turned to peppermint tea when the abdominal discomfort was especially bad. I also cut down on bread to ease the bloating I was experiencing.

How Did Others Respond?

Without exception, the people I confided in listened to my grumbles without judging me or making me feel my issues were less important, serious, or immediate than theirs (although in many cases they were). With some I discussed the practical aspects of the work; what might be up with the water tank, what replacements might be appropriate, and what the work might cost.

Fran, Jen and others were supportive. (Fran had water leaks in her apartment at the time so could empathise on that level too.) Aimee asked if I needed to see a doctor. She didn’t nag me, though, and respected my wish to see if the symptoms eased once the work was done. She also sent me a hot water bottle to ease the pain, which was much appreciated! A conversation with Vikki the day after the work was complete reminded me that stress and anxiety can affect anyone, and ultimately inspired this article.

“I feel a lot less stressy now the work is done. It caught me off guard, how much it affected me, if I’m honest.”

“Nobody is immune from stress, you know.”

“That’s so true, Vikki. I’ve rarely known it affect me so much, though. It’s something for me to watch out for in future. I think it was different this time because it wasn’t something I could deal with directly myself. Also my not feeling confident about finding someone to do the work. (These plumbers were good, though, I would definitely use them again.) I’m looking forward to my walk later!”

I’m grateful to everyone I opened up to. You really helped.

How Do I Feel Now?

It was amazing how quickly the symptoms disappeared. Writing in my journal the day after the work was done I noted that the headaches had gone and I was generally feeling much calmer. As measured on my phone, my stress level and heart rate had returned to their usual levels. It took a day or two for my gut to settle but even in the first 24 hours it was much better than it had been. A week later, none of these symptoms have returned.

Reflection

Looking back, I can see I did some things right. I didn’t ignore the issue, pretend it wasn’t happening, or delay in addressing it. I researched options, engaged with the electrician and plumbers, and was clear and concise describing what I needed them to do. I was open with friends and colleagues which helped a great deal. I didn’t keep it all inside, or pretend things were fine when they weren’t.

Inevitably, there are things I might have done differently. I could have chased the first plumber more when he failed to get back to me. The temptation to let it slide so I didn’t have to deal with things there and then led to several day’s delay overall, and left me feeling less in control than I might have been.

On the whole, I believe I will be better prepared if something like this happens in the future. I can plan for future work and home improvements rather than waiting until things break or need replacing. I already have a list of possible improvements and changes to work with in the coming months. I also intend to review my WRAP plan and update it to include the kind of symptoms I experienced.

Do you suffer from stress and anxiety? Do you know how to minimise its effects on you and move through it as cleanly as possible? Do you have any tips or strategies you would like to share? We would love to hear from you.

 

Photo by zhenhappy on Unsplash

 

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Positivity Rules! The poetry of Jules Clare

With great sadness, we have learnt that Jules Clare, aka The Jewelster, passed away on February 15, 2021. We are resharing this article in tribute to his great spirit.

Originally published May 2015.


Jules Clare was born in Wales in 1963. He is a Welsh Brummie Mackem poet. He supports Aston Villa. He is a born survivor. He has lived through and with a brain haemorrhage, ulcerative colitis, bi-polar affective mood disorder, acute rheumatoid arthritis and a deep vein thrombosis. He smiles a lot, especially in the face of adversity.

He is strong willed. He has been barred from the Surtees, The RAFA Club, The Kings and The Fat Brewer. All of these are shady drinking establishments in Crook. Nobody messes with The Jewelster!

He started writing poetry nine years ago during a mental health recovery phase at The County Hospital in Durham. He has not looked back since!

People love his sense of humour, his poetry’s directness, his delivery and his dress sense.

Jules puts himself out to help people. He has done a lot of work motivating mental health service users convincing them that they are priceless individuals who can reach any goal in their lives providing that they believe in themselves.

Positivity rules! You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t try!

At the time of writing Jules has had 67 poems published in national newspapers and magazines, had eleven books published and appeared on numerous radio stations; most notably the Mentally Sound show on Gravity Radio North East and James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.

You can find Jules' poetry on YouTube, Soundcloud and Facebook.

 


Friendly Miracles

I believe in miracles
I believe in my friends
They are truly spiritual human beings
In their own way
they're all sexy things
Yes, I believe in miracles
since they came around

Where did my friends come from?
Where are they going?
With a little love and understanding
they'll be there forever
supporting me, giving me space
setting me free, granting me grace

An Angel of Mercy
brought them into my life
Did they appreciate my smile?
Did they want to help me cope with strife?
They must have
because they never ran a mile

My friends touch me
I love the way they respectfully
hold on to my soul dearly
I guess that I am treated as a friend
By appreciating what they see
they give me self esteem

Yes, they make me believe in miracles
They'll keep me smiling until my very end

~ Jules Clare


Personal Respect

Life is not about winning
It’s about living
My mind is well and truly spinning
Yet I’m still giving

People treat me with little respect
I’ve formed my own Buddhist sect
Nothing affects me if I stay meek
I turn the other cheek

I give people love, peace and understanding
I give them the chance to be free
I can cope with their philandering
All I ask is that they let me be free

Life is about living
Life is about one moment at a time
It’s real and I’m not kidding
Living my life the way that I want
should not be a crime

~ Jules Clare

11 Things I'm Grateful For This Week

I’ve been experiencing a good deal of stress lately one way or another, and I thought it might help to focus on what’s been going well, and things I am grateful for. This blog post is the result and, yes, it did help.

Creative Focus

Fran and I recently announced we’re working on a new edition of our second book, No One Is Too Far Away: Notes From a Transatlantic Friendship, as the first edition is now out of print. The project has been a useful distraction from other things which have not been going so well. Last week I finished the Kindle conversion of the book and ordered a proof copy of the printed version which came the other day. My friend and fellow blogger Aimee Wilson asked if I was as excited about seeing it as I was with High Tide, Low Tide. I hadn’t really thought about it, but yes, I really was! There’s nothing quite like seeing your book in physical form and holding it in your hands for the first time.

Memes

When I’m struggling I tend to pull back from social media, and I have done so recently. That said, I came across two memes this week which resonated with me a great deal. The first reminded me of how good things can be with the right people at your side.

Always notice the people who are happy for your happiness, and sad for your sadness. They’re the ones who deserve special places in your heart.
— Helen Barry

The second is about boundaries and reminded me to pay attention to my needs.

Maybe what you’re holding onto isn’t really about them at all. Maybe it’s about you not wanting to let go of something that’s been around for so long, not wanting to part with a connection that’s been comfortable enough, even if it no longer is. Maybe you’ll find even greater comfort in the letting go, in the belief that you deserve more than they could offer, and more than you together were able to create.
— Scott Stabile

Something to Celebrate

We couldn’t meet in person but I recently had the opportunity to sing happy birthday via video call to one of my dearest friends. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did when she sang for me on my birthday last year, which was the day lockdown was announced here in England. I still have the audio clip on my phone and it brings a smile to my face any time I play it.

Endings and Beginnings

As you may know I’m a big fan of Traveler’s Notebooks and rarely leave home without one or other (or both) of my TNs. The smaller, passport-size, notebook is my memory journal. This week I completed the current insert and am about to start a new one. End of a chapter. Opening of the next.

Walks Shared

For the past year, local walks have been my only exercise and chance to get out of the house. Fran and I haven’t been able to meet online as much as usual recently, but we adjusted to the challenge and shared video calls on my evening walks instead. I’m grateful that I got to share the sights and sounds of my local neighbourhood with her.

Staying Connected

This is relevant pretty much any time, but with everything that’s been going on I’ve been especially grateful for friends who get me and are invested in the connections we share.

Optimism and Hope

Despite the ongoing vaccination programme and the government’s roadmap for the coming months, I’ve been finding it really hard to feel positive about the near future — or the future in general. One of my favourite hospitality venues, STACK Newcastle, is taking bookings for April when they hope to reopen. Last summer, as we opened up from our first lockdown, I was on the STACK website as soon as it opened, but I’m not feeling it this time. April feels too early, whatever the roadmap might suggest. What does give me hope, and reason to be grateful, is the opportunity to reminisce with friends about times shared in the past, and plan new activities together, be that walks in the park, a garden picnic, or trips away.

Sunny Days

After weeks of cold and wet, we’ve been blessed with milder and drier days, which means I’ve been able to take more walks and go a little further. Last weekend I walked to the Ouseburn stream which I’d not visited for a while. Being out on my own gave me chance to think — and to not think — about what’s been going on recently. That was a blessing. I had my Passport TN with me (of course!) and I enjoyed taking photos of my notebook out “in the wild,” and sharing them afterwards on social media

Like Minds and Hearts

I’m happy and proud to be an active member of several Traveler’s Notebook groups on social media. The TN community is my happy place, where I can meet up with like-minded (and like-hearted) folk whose passion for journaling is shared generously and received warmly by all.

My Vaccination Date

Earlier than anticipated, I received a letter this week inviting me to book an appointment for my covid vaccination. My first jab isn’t for a few weeks, but it’s booked now and is one less thing for me to wonder — or worry — about.

New Opportunities

Completely out of the blue this week I received a twitter message from Bipolar UK, which is the UK’s largest charity for people living with bipolar disorder. The message led to a phone call which I took on my lunchtime walk. I can’t go details just yet but it represents a great opportunity for me, and I am excited to press on with it. At a time when I was feeling stressed out and not very effective at anything, it gave me a real lift.

What are you grateful for this week?

 

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

 

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Announcing a New Edition of No One is Too Far Away: Notes from a Transatlantic Friendship

Some of you may recall the publication in 2018 of our second book, No One is Too Far Away: Notes from a Transatlantic Friendship, in which Fran and I shared the very best of our blog posts and articles. The title has been out of print for a while, but we’re delighted to announce that a new edition will be published soon by Kingston Park Publishing.

“Friendship is a beautiful part of life and an important component of long-term wellness. When Martin Baker met Fran Houston online he never imagined they would develop a friendship that transcends time zones and international boundaries.

“In No One Is Too Far Away they share essays from their blog which show the deep-rooted value of shared experiences. Through their writings, they demonstrate that mental illness needn’t be a barrier to meaningful connection; indeed it can be the glue that holds people together.”

The new edition presents sixty selected posts (originally published on our blog between March 2014 and October 2018) in chronological order, with a new introduction. Working on it has evoked many memories and emotions — and not always the ones I might have expected. If things go well, there may well be a volume 2, bringing the collection up to the present day.

Watch this space for updates. We don’t have a publication date yet but it will be available in print and for Kindle from Amazon, and in print from Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.

 

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

I Don't Need Them Any More: The Day Fran Relinquished her Stash of Meds

Trigger warning: medication and suicidality

stash (stæʃ)
COUNTABLE NOUN: A stash of something valuable is a secret store of it.
Synonyms: hoard, supply, store, stockpile

A few weeks ago, Fran sent me a photograph. I immediately recognised the meds containers lined up on her bathroom cabinet for what they were, and what they represented.

Martin: Your old stash?

Fran: Yep.

Martin: You’re ready to let go.

Fran: Yep.

Fran had a stockpile of medication when we met in 2011. I don’t remember when she told me but it was never a secret. It wasn’t easy to accept that my new and frequently suicidal friend kept a quantity of potentially fatal medication, but I came to understand it was important to Fran, and paradoxically protective. We discuss its significance in our book High Tide, Low Tide:

Most of our conversations on the subject [of suicidality] focus on exploring and defusing her suicidal thoughts, but we occasionally touch on how she imagines she would kill herself. In her autobiographical essay “Lessons of the Night,” she wrote: “I still do have a stash of pills because I do feel that people should have that right, especially when you are old and everyone else is making decisions for you.” We talk about what her stockpile represents, why she keeps it, and whether she anticipates ever disposing of it. I have never told, or even asked, her to do so.

when i was very ill a friend gave me a lethal amount of pills.. i never asked why.. i was just grateful to add to my stash.. the strength it took to resist that temptation was herculean.. many times i’d take them all out affectionately counting them and googling their effectiveness.. i needed the insurance to escape.. perhaps because this was the only thing in my life i had control over.. and i needed to do it my way, not everyone else’s way..

You might disagree with my acceptance of Fran keeping a potentially lethal collection of tablets close to hand, but my reasoning is threefold. First, I would have no way of knowing for sure if Fran had complied with any order or suggestion of mine to dispose of her tablets. Second, an overdose of tablets is statistically less likely to be fatal than other methods she might adopt. Third, and most important of all, I believe it is important to keep the dialogue open between us, and for Fran to take responsibility for her safety.

No matter the opinion of others, her stash has been a vital component of Fran’s strategy for self-preservation for many years. She voluntarily disposed of approximately half the tablets some time ago. Persuading or forcing her to get rid of the rest before she is ready would not only damage our relationship, it would deny her the opportunity to reach that decision on her own.

And now, after all these years, Fran had reached her decision. Ironically, she has no recollection of halving her stockpile back in 2013. She wasn’t at all well back then, following a traumatic summer traveling in Europe. The following is excerpted from our book:

We always knew the summer would be an immense challenge for Fran, and anticipated an extended period of rest and recuperation afterwards. Instead, she returned from Europe needing to find a new home, pack up her belongings, and move from the little house she had lived in for seven years.

As our chat history shows, she nevertheless decided to get rid of half her meds as she decluttered and prepared to move home.

Martin: Thanks for the photo. That’s quite a stash. Did you realise you had so much? I imagine this is the first time you have taken them all out for a while?

Fran: Yes.. I never have.. I will keep some.. And get rid of others..

She sent another photo later.

Martin: Is that all you are keeping?

Fran: Yes..

Martin: Well done. Proud of you. How do you feel?

Fran: I feel OK.. Could have let go of more.. But glad of what I did do..

Coming back to the present day, Fran followed through on her intention. We discussed it on our call that evening.

Fran: I took my meds to the police station today and handed them over.

Martin: How did it feel?

Fran: It felt good. It didn’t feel big and dramatic.

Martin: I sensed that, when you were talking about it the other day. It is a big thing because you had them for years, but at the same time it’s not dramatic, because it’s the right time for you to give them up.

Fran: Yeah. I was doing all this clearing out in my apartment and it just made sense to clear that out too. I want to get to a place where I only have things that matter to me in the apartment.

Martin: And you don’t need them any more?

Fran: That’s right. I walked half an hour there and half an hour back, so I got my exercise too!

Martin: Win:win!

To say I’m proud of her doesn’t begin to capture how I feel. It’s not that she was doing anything wrong and has finally seen the error of her ways. Far from it. There’s a tiny part of me tucked away somewhere that wonders how things will be for Fran in the future, without her stash of medication, when it’s been part of her life — and part of her wellness toolbox — for so long. We’ll take that as it comes. What I’m absolutely and unreservedly proud about is that Fran took this decision on her own, and feels so good about it.

Fran is not alone in having stockpiled medication or other items related to suicide, such as goodbye letters. Whether these were felt to be protective (as Fran always considered her stash) or not at the time, people I’ve spoken to who’ve chosen voluntarily to relinquish them speak of relief, or of it being a big step in their journey towards wellbeing.

Do you have any similar experiences you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear from you.

 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

The Awkward Armadillo: A Journey Into Writing

By Aimee Larson

Several years ago, I came across a memoir called Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I have to admit, as I stood at the bookstore, I did not know who Jenny Lawson was. According to her bio, she was a well-known blogger called “The Bloggess” and this was the first book she has ever written.

I stared at the front cover, a taxidermied mouse that was holding up a skull in similarity to William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. My random soul appreciated this very book cover, and I knew I had to get this book. I did not know about her writing style, and to be quite honest, this was the first memoir that I even thought about reading.

I checked out the book and remember running over to my then-boyfriend (spoiler alert: now husband) and showed him the book as though I found a unicorn. He smiled at me, not at all surprised that I picked a book based on the cover. I can always appreciate randomness, add in animals, and well, you have my heart and soul as a reader, and let’s be honest, my kid-like energy creeping up for topics and anything that I found of interest.

Fast forward that night, sitting up in bed and reading my first memoir. Jenny Lawson, I found out, dealt with many battles of mental illness. Not only that, she was random and absolutely hilarious through her storytelling and the odd events in her life. I finished the book in one sitting. I sat there, absolutely amazed. I couldn’t help but feel similar and yet different from Jenny.

I have fought through anxiety for as long as I could remember. Growing up as a kid though, no one really wanted to label it. I was thrown into the “she’s just shy” label even though I felt like I was trying to keep my heart from beating out of its chest with any small group or large group setting. No one ever wants to admit when something is not right, with themselves or individuals they care about. No, I didn’t have any mental illness label till much, much later. Not till I was in my middle 20s and had fought for years through my depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses that soon got labeled once I saw a therapist... again.

A few days went by and suddenly an idea came into mind. I had always wanted to write a book. I am not the best with grammar, and I always made excuses for myself. The monsters of self-doubt digging their useless comments into my brain.

“Why would anyone be interested in anything you have to write?”, “You’re just going to fail and waste your time, just like you always do,” among other lines that kept smashing into my brain and holding me back from what I wanted.

No, I always limited what I wanted if I thought I was going to fail. Why waste your time on something that will not be successful? My answer to that is this, there is no such thing as wasting time if you are working towards yourself. This is the same thing that goes through mental health. When one is experiencing depression or anxiety, there is this demand that we are not allowed to give ourselves self-care. That we are lazy if we decide to take that bubble bath we have been craving. Or perhaps take an hour to read that book we’ve been putting off because weren’t getting anything done at work or at home.

Spoiler alert, self-care is getting things done. Self-care and the ability to recognize when our brains need a break is one of the most important parts of life. Through many trials and errors, I continued to push myself past the point of wanting to shut down. I kept trying to work unpaid overtime at my job to show that I was doing my best. I kept beating myself for not cleaning the house when I felt like I was at the very edge of tears. Not because anything was specifically wrong, other than my brain is my worst enemy at the time.

My boyfriend, even before we got married, has always been the most supportive person in my life. He just knew from the vibe I would bring in, that the monsters beat me up pretty good that day. As soon as I mentioned or would even start saying “I should start cleaning...” he would say “Nope, not allowed. You’re taking an easy. Let me grab your favorite blanket. Do you want to stay in the bedroom by yourself, or do you want company?” It took me a while to get the hint, my brain was an absolute jerk. One that at times undermined my own values and tried to hide what I really wanted in this life.

Weeks after reading Jenny Lawson’s memoir, I started writing my story. My story growing up with Anxiety. My experiences witnessing my dad withering away on and off from depression. My own journey through this odd thing called life. It was not easy, there were many times I stared at the screen and wondered “why is my story important?” I couldn’t answer that for the life of me. Until many months later, I did answer that question to myself. There are many individuals that feel they need to be silent due to mental illness. That they need to tuck away self-care because it’s a waste. That there were individuals fighting their own monsters every single day and trying to scrape up another reason to continue to breathe.

The Awkward Armadillo was not easy to write. I took many breaks for the past three years writing my book. I think that was the best part though. I wanted a book that was pure and yet raw with emotion. I wanted to tell my story in a humorous way because, well, life is strange and sometimes we just have to shake our head and be, like, “Really, life? Do I really need extra life experience points in this route?”

Mental health is one of the most important aspects of life. Yet, it is so hard to speak up or put into words exactly how and what we are feeling. The only way to get better at expressing ourselves is by releasing that out into the world, whether that is through writing, art or communicating. Every day is a battle worth speaking for.

To this I say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE in your fight.

About the Author

Aimee Larson is a socially awkward girl who lives in the suburbs of Chicago, IL. She is a poet, writer and author of The Awkward Armadillo: A Mental Health Memoir. She hopes to dive into writing more books, including fantasy and poetry books.

Follow Aimee on Facebook (personal page, author page), Twitter (@AimeeBooks), and Amazon (author page), or email her at Larson4506[at]gmail.com.

 

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend's Guide to Bipolar Disorder (Revised edition)

A few weeks ago, Fran and I reported our new creative partnership with Kingston Park Publishing. Today we are delighted and proud to announce the publication by KPP of a new revised edition of our book High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder.

When we launched the first edition back in 2016, I commented that “writing a book — a book like ours at least — isn’t about the book itself. Not really. It’s about connections.”

Throughout its four year journey from inception to realisation, our book has brought me and Fran into contact — into connection — with folk we simply would not otherwise have met. Some call it networking. Some call it platform building. It is both these things, and much more. It is what happens when you find your feet on the right road (what Spock described to Kirk as one’s “first, best destiny”) and open yourself to what the journey may bring.

Those words are no less true today, a further four years down the road. Our book has met with considerable success, led to important new friendships, and opened the door for us in many ways. A major highlight was a feature article by Bob Keyes in the Maine Sunday Telegram. We are particularly proud that Bipolar UK lists High Tide Low Tide amongst its top books on bipolar disorder.

More important than success or kudos, though, is knowing our book has helped people. That’s why Fran and I wrote it in the first place, and why we’re excited to release this new edition. The book’s content itself is unchanged but we’ve corrected a few inconsistencies and brought the references and resources up to date. The Kindle version has also been updated to improve readability. With a new publisher and price point, we hope this revised edition will carry our message of hope to an even wider audience.

Published by Kingston Park Publishing, High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder (Revised edition) is available for Kindle, and in print from Amazon and other booksellers.

Amazon COM: Print | Kindle
Amazon UK: Print | Kindle

For further details and sellers see our books page.

Copies of the first edition (Nordland Publishing, 2016) may still be available from Amazon and other sellers for a time.

 

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Team Marty (Because No One Can Be Everything for Everyone)

Find your tribe. Love them hard.

When you’re in a close mutually supportive friendship like Fran and I are, it’s tempting to feel your friend should be there for you all the time. It’s unhealthy, though, to pile expectations onto the other person like that. It can stoke resentment on their part and disappointment on yours when, inevitably, they are unable to meet those expectations. Fran and I were talking about this the other day. She told me she’s happy I have other people in my life because meeting all my needs would be too much for her. It started me thinking about those other friendships and how grateful I am for them.

I won’t embarrass anyone by naming them but these are my people. My tribe. Team Marty. I couldn’t be who I am, do what I do, without them. There’s no significance in the order I’ve written about them or how many words I’ve used. I’ve separated some roles out, so there are more sections than there are people. No role, and no friend, is more important to me than the rest.


The friend I turn to first when I’m struggling or unsure because she gets it. Who says “I know what you mean,” and usually does. Who shares her experience and values mine. The friend who is honest about her fears and doubts, mix-ups and mistakes, and hears mine without judging me.

The friend who understands my passion for writing, because it’s hers too. Who bounces ideas around with me and shares the ups and downs of the creative process. Who celebrates my successes. Who inspires me to think bigger and bolder, and not limit my ambition.

The friend I feel at home with no matter where we are or how we’re connecting.

The friend who keeps me honest and calls me out on my shit when I need someone to do that. Who respects my abandonment issues without indulging them.

The friend who lets me in close.

The friend who reminds me there’s a rhythm to connection. That sometimes I’m not the person she needs and that’s OK, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong.

The friend who shares the delight of simple things; coffee shops and bars, music and laughter and honest conversation.

The friend who trusts me to be there.

The friend I check in with first thing. Who kept me company on my commute (when commuting was a thing) and still does through the workday. Who shares her love of art and music, and hopes and fears and plans and dreams. Who gently asks if there’s anything I need.

The friend who makes me laugh despite the state of the world. Who asks how I am and won’t let me get away with “I’m OK” without asking again just to be sure. Who is there for me even though most of my problems pale in comparison to hers. Who trusts me with her darkness and knows the questions to ask.


Do you have a tribe, a team, people you go to and who come to you? Take a moment to appreciate them, their role in your life, and your role in theirs.

 

Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

How to Be Kind and Clever

I’ve played Taylor Swift’s most recent album Evermore a lot since it came out in December. Four lines in particular caught my attention, from the song “Marjorie.”

Never be so kind
You forget to be clever
Never be so clever
You forget to be kind

Let’s take a look at what it means to be kind and clever; clever and kind.

Never Be So Kind You Forget to Be Clever

I mentioned my idea for an article inspired by these lyrics to my friend and fellow blogger Aimee Wilson of I’m NOT Disordered. She immediately understood what I meant.

“Maybe something like the importance of looking after yourself whilst supporting someone else?”

“Yes! That’s exactly the sort of thing I was thinking about. Being there / being helpful / being kind on the one hand, but also being “clever” about boundaries.

There can be an uneasy balance between wanting to be kind on the one hand and being clever (or wise) about it on the other. It might appear a good thing to be relentlessly and selflessly kind, but in my experience selflessness is profoundly unhealthy. Unchecked, it can lead to emotional and physical burnout, frustration, and codependency. In my mother’s case, a lifetime of supporting others exacerbated a deeply rooted self-doubt and led ultimately to anxiety, depression, and despair.

I think it helps to see boundaries as being kind to yourself as well as to others, rather than as erecting walls that keep you apart from other people. Self-kindness can take many forms. I explored a few that are meaningful to me in an article I wrote last year. The first of these was boundary work:

Kindness isn’t always easy, whether it’s showing kindness to others, accepting it from others, or being kind to yourself. Kindness isn’t fluffy, soppy, or superficial. At its heart, kindness is about honesty, respect, and maintaining healthy boundaries. I’ve done a lot of work this week on my boundaries, to see which are truly important and protect me from harm, and which are walls my ego has erected to defend an inflated sense of self-worth. It’s tough work but I feel I’m making progress, with the help of friends I trust to be honest with me. That’s kindness in action, right there.

Being wisely kind also means respecting the boundaries of others. Sometimes, the wisest and kindest thing is to recognise that the other person doesn’t want or need our help right now.

Never Be So Clever You Forget to Be Kind

Boundaries are not an excuse or apology for failing to help people when help is wanted and you’re able to provide it. On the contrary, maintaining healthy boundaries means we’re better prepared to be kind when the opportunity arises. In the words of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

It’s worth remembering that kindness benefits you as much as the person on the receiving end. Done right, it’s an exchange which leaves both parties enriched. In the words of singer/songwriter Ruth Bebermeyer,

When you give to me,
I give you my receiving.
When you take from me, I feel so
given to.

And it’s never been more important — more clever — to practice kindness. As the coronavirus pandemic took hold around the world, the Mental Health Foundation chose kindness as the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 “because of its singular ability to unlock our shared humanity. Kindness strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity.” Or, as Fran put it in her essay Kindness is the Key for Maine-based mental health non-profit Family Hope, “Social interactions can be lifesaving or death provoking. When people are aware and understanding they can be the tipping point between life and death.”

Being too clever, or overthinking, can get in the way of kindness. It’s too easy to find ourselves meting out our coins of kindness as though others need to deserve our consideration. I touched on this in 16 Ways to Be Kind for last year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Did you ever see someone asking for help, on the street or online, and pass them by because maybe they’re not genuinely in need or you wonder what they might do with the money? Put your suspicions, judgements and counter-arguments on hold for a day and take the next person you meet at face value.

In similar vein. Aimee Wilson suggested doing one random act of kindness each day in a guest post for us at the start of lockdown last year:

I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter recently purchasing an item from someone’s Amazon wishlist and I thought that was a brilliant idea! You could also send a nice email or even just a thoughtful gif or quote!

Kindness doesn’t always mean doing something specific for someone else. It can be as simple as living genuinely and honestly, as this unattributed quotation attests:

There are people in your life whom you unknowingly inspire simply by being you.

I was blessed the other day to receive two random acts of kindness and appreciation. One thanked me for the posts I share on social media, saying, “They really help.” The second thanked me for my support, compassion, and friendship. I had little idea my life impacted on theirs so positively. Their kindness meant a great deal to me.

Getting the Balance Right

I’ve included several quotations in this post, because other people’s wisdom and experience can shine a light into our lives. But it’s an act of self-kindness to acknowledge our own wisdom. As I was writing this article I came across something I posted on social media a couple of years ago. It was a photo of clasped hands with the words “Always help someone. You might be the only one that does.” With the image I’d shared a few words of my own. Rereading them, I smiled. They are relevant not only to this article but also to my life at this moment. I share them here for you.

Yes, healthy boundaries are important. Sometimes we need to take care of ourselves before we are in a place to help others. And sometimes we are not the person they need. But that doesn’t negate the simple message that we can all make a difference. YOU can make a difference. Be the person, perhaps the only person, who doesn’t turn away. Who picks up. Who dares to care.

 


Main image: Balcony Concerts, by Catherine Cordasco. “I would like through this illustration to show solidarity, generosity, creativity between people even with social distancing. We are all together and we all support and take care of everyone!” Submitted for the United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives. United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash.

 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Announcing Our New Creative Partnership with Kingston Park Publishing

Fran and I are excited to announce a new creative venture that we've been planning for some time.

Kingston Park Publishing will publish a new revised edition of our first book High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder. It will be available in print and for Kindle. Watch this space for further details.

We encourage you to follow KPP on their website, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

The first edition of High Tide, Low Tide: The Caring Friend’s Guide to Bipolar Disorder is still available for a limited period from Amazon and other booksellers.

 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

LOST: A Short Film on Drug Addiction

By Sachit Grover

My motivation to make this series of films with the dance group STTM (Stories Told Through Movement) was the fact that there isn’t much talk about mental health within the South Asian community. Recently, Bollywood films like Dear Zindagi and Chhichhore have started talking about mental health, but it hasn’t been talked about in a mainstream fashion. I wanted to team up with STTM dance to have this talked about more publicly. We felt this collaboration would be beneficial given that we would be able to maximize our reach. A lot of people like dance videos while others prefer watching short films. We thought a combination of both would garner a larger audience.

In the first episode of LOST, Lea and Shruti are introduced. In this series, Lea is the daughter of Shruti and Vijay. The first episode focuses on a dance segment between Lea and Shruti to the song Aashiqui (The Love Theme). In this first episode, Shruti is a figment of Lea’s imagination. That’s why there are numerous cuts throughout the song (with and without Shruti).

In the second episode of LOST, Vijay is introduced and the family troubles are showcased. Vijay and Shruti fighting about Vijay’s drinking takes a toll on Lea and she feels like she is unable to live a normal life. Vijay also ruins the family dynamic since he turns to alcohol in every situation. The family has the chance to go to a family gathering, but Vijay ruins it by being drunk and ruining the food Shruti prepared for the event. Lea tries to tell her mom that she should stand up for herself against Vijay, but Shruti refuses. Shruti states that due to cultural norms, she can’t just leave Vijay. This is very commonplace in South Asian culture. Frustrated, Lea leaves the room while Shruti follows.

In the third episode of LOST, Lea and Shruti have another dance segment to the song Judaai. This song is used to show the growing tension in the family. After the song, Lea is shown struggling to keep up with the pressures of her chaotic family dynamic. Lea is shown going down the route of utilizing drugs to overcome her pain. Drug abuse is highlighted in this episode.

In the fourth and final episode of LOST, the family dynamic is further tainted. Lea then gets high and imagines what her life would be if their family was “normal.” After everything, all Lea can ask is “what if?” Basically, Lea is never given closure after going through this traumatic experience.

You can find the full series here.

To check out my work, subscribe to me on YouTube. You can also follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

You can find STTM Dance on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.