Scented Candles and #SelfCare

Human nature seems to like maintaining the status quo however when that is the routine deaths of 100,000 people each year linked to issues with mental health care, I can’t help feeling something can and should change.

Whilst the male suicide rate was at its lowest in 2017 (since 1981 when the Office for National Statistics started) it is still the biggest killer of men from their teens to the time they should get their bus pass. In 2017, 5,821 people ended their own lives. 4,382 (75.3%) of those were male.

There are many ways to tackle this and different organisations are taking different multi-pronged approaches. In fact this week sees the Mind Media Awards which does a fantastic job of promoting sensible and careful conversation of mental health in the press or on films and TV. It also rewards those programmes, journalists and producers who undertake this difficult conversation and encourage people to talk and seek help. I was very proud to be on the shortlisting panel for the awards for a third year running and as ever found it a rewarding, enlightening and humbling experience. You can watch the event live via the Mind website.

One of the prongs to tackle this killer is the idea of self-care. In the ever hectic world where stress is the biggest cause of absence at work, helping people make healthier decisions can not just save the NHS millions or decrease your waist size but actually steer people away from the edge. The image of having a relaxing bath, or sitting still for 5 minutes of calm with candle or wax melt can at first feel quite… ladylike. But why should there be anything wrong with looking after your mind if it’s OK to look after your body? 

I asked on twitter: When was the last time you did nothing? Just focused on a raindrop, sat still, silently noticing the world around and what your senses' sense?

Every vote was either 'Rarely' or 'Never'.

One of the ways I practise self-care is to sit still and practise some simplified mindfulness with a wax melt or a candle to focus on. How does it smell? Can you see the flicker of the flame or the wisps of fragrance raise from the pool? Taking 5 minutes to notice these things allows your body and mind to reset from the chaos that is your pinging emails, buzzing text messages and banging of children or telephones. 

Below is a video review for Pick N Melt who reached out to me and given the nature of my blog and social media wanted my view on their products. The Mrs-to-be and I adore a Yankee Candle so went in with high hopes. It would be nice to spend some money on craft-made UK candles and wax melts? 

I have been blown away by the beautiful scents available and how well the fragrance remains. I've used big brand wax melts before and ended up with 'scent-less' wax lining my bin after a few hours but the 'Seville Orange' has been going for almost 35 hours now and it still smells like we've zested our own fruits right there. It's not overpowering but it is strong and lasts really well. I'm really impressed with the value of money their monthly subscription pack provides - a perfect gift for Christmas or for you to share with your friends and promote a bit of #selfcare.  #BeTheMateYoudWant.

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Remembering Family at Weddings: I Don't Really Want To...

This is a question I've been avoiding for a while.
On paper, it seems a nice idea to have a candle or a sign - perhaps even some photographs - of loved ones who have died and so are unable to attend your wedding day. My problem is that I don't particularly love my alcoholic Mother who drank herself to death when I was 13. is one of the many sites that have heartfelt articles on remembering your deceased family members and I think the idea of honouring someone close, especially when they have helped shaped who you are today, is a lovely tribute.  This particular article talks about mentioning them in the order of service, using their favourite flowers or piece of jewellery. The only proposition suitable for my dead mum is raising a glass to her but I'm not sure saying "Cheers" to so someone so dependent to booze it cost them their marriage, dignity and life is something worth writing home about. 

Part of writing my blog is to help me understand and process how I feel and what I think about certain issues or situations. It is also a great opportunity to hear your honest feedback through social media and the comments below. I guess what might seem alien is that even though she finally died in 2003, I don't think I have forgiven her. In fact, I'm still quite annoyed with her. It's not the anger I felt when I was a teenager - time has mellowed this pain to that of a mild itch.

I remember sitting on the hospital bed in which my Mum died and holding her hand.  I told her that despite everything that had happened, I forgave her. I didn't really forgive her and I still don't but I couldn't let her die thinking her only Son hated her. I was 13.

I was on BBC's Victoria Derbyshire - Click for more

We've already decided that at our wedding there will be 'nods' and elements highlighting mental health; so important to the journey that the bride and I have made to reach this day. Just in case you haven't seen my mug on TV, heard my effeminate voice on radio or my trotters on the stage: my story starts as a carer for an alcoholic Mother and leads into mental health as a teen and adult suffering workplace discrimination culminating in a suicide attempt in 2015.

Given that my Mother played a key role in creating a dysfunction home of my childhood which in turn warped the cogs of my mind and altered my programming - should I be thanking her? As an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, I know forgiveness and learning to love again is key. However, I will never really know the what and the whys that drove my mum to find relief in her dry white wine.       Continues Below...

All of this brings me back to the idea of remembering that lost loved one. They helped shape who you are today. There can be no doubt that the actions and inactions of my Mother were a huge influence in the avenues my life has travelled. Perhaps rather than raising a glass, I could raise a middle finger? Despite everything, look how far I've come and look how far I will go.

What would you do?  Do you have a loved one you're not entirely sure you want to remember? Do you just ignore them and gloss over it? Or should I stop my whining and do a small tribute so I'm not being such a monster? Leave a comment below or my Facebook page.

After everything, she is my Mother. 

Regular Blogging is hard....

I'm still available for Media things :) 
Click Image to view on SkyNews
Regular blogging is hard. Especially when you work two jobs (or thanks to some crossover it has been three!).

For those of you new to my story, I had an incredibly difficult time with a past employer which led to attempt to end my own life in 2015 and employment tribunal action for discrimination. It's taken a long time to get comfortable with my mind but also feel healthy enough to take risks.

To take big risks like going into a new full-time office job. A job with similarities to the one that nearly killed me.

I've been in my new job for just over two weeks so I'm able to look back without too much impact. It would be an understatement, however, to say it was easy. The days leading up to my new job were a holiday - even with the stresses of Summer Holiday Eurotunnel or a wheel nut disappearing on the French toll routes. The night before the new job, however, was a concern. Outside I tried to wear my old mask of 'Stiff Upper Lip' and 'Soldier on Through' but inside I actually felt scared.

A lot of my concerns are pretty normal. What will the people be like? What are the expectations? Where is it? Will they be understanding? Will they make judgments?

In the hours leading up to my start, all my mind would focus on is: "why am I taking the risk?"

I was happy where I was. OK, I need more money for the wedding but... I loved working in a school. I love the caring, funny yet devastating way children can be.

I have had one blip. It was two weeks in. Perhaps a shadow from my mental health diagnosis? 15 minutes from the end of the day, I'm pretty close to being on top of everything. Bam. A tonne of work hits my desk. This load behaves like an ignored parking fine: its grown from being a small fluffy annoyance into a cave-dwelling angry twit and has sharp pointy teeth. It could have been avoided. It almost ruined my night. The next day I crack on into the workload and realise that unlike the 'toxic waste dump' that I worked in during my lowest point (back in 2015), that the expectations of me and those around me were pretty reasonable. I wasn't forced by evil glare to stay late and try to solve every woe. Actually, with a good supporting team around you - even a bad day can be OK. In fact, the worst day so far was pretty good when I compare it to that company that nearly killed me.

Read more on my front page -
I am very fortunate that my colleagues and superiors are nice, approachable and reasonable. I guess I should have expected that as I am now working for the NHS but as we've discussed before on this blog sometimes the biggest stigma we face is the threat and fears that our mind creates.

After all, everyone is human, mostly. 

NEXT TIME: More Wedding Tips & Visiting Caen