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.

Thanks for reading! Please share, subscribe and comment. Why not have a look at some past popular posts I've linked below!?

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

#TopWeddingTips PartOne : Don't Buy Wedding Magazines!

Normally my blog is diary or exploration of my life and views on Mental Health - especially now I've been on live TV! 😋

As part of new series, with the assistance of my W2B (Wife to be), we are giving you our input and the lessons we've learned- some of them are pretty shocking! So rather than throw away your hard earned cash, make your wedding special, meaningful and fun. Let us get to it...

#TopWeddingTips #1 - Use a Credit Card!

Some of you will have read the header and immediately dismissed it but hang on. There are TWO very good reasons to use a card.
Firstly, you will be placing deposits and buying things here and there and sometimes, it will hit you all within a few days - too often its unpredictable. You do not want to be spending money without good thought but you do need quick access and being able to spread the cost over a few months will help prevent you wiping out your savings (if you are lucky enough to have any!). There are some really good websites like MoneySavingsExpert and uSwitch that will compare Credit Cards, even for those on bad credit, and find the best 0% purchase options sometimes up to 24 months. Credit cards are just like your energy bills or your broadband, you have to switch almost yearly or they'll treat you like a mug.

Secondly, is the protection a credit card gives you. It's like a condom for your wedding buys! You will be buying from small business, whether its a photographer, the DJ or local seamstress. Even if you purchase through eBay/PayPal or trusted sites like Etsy or NotOnTheHighStreet, it can still go wrong. HOWEVER, as long as the spend is £100 on the credit card, you get extra protection (on top of whatever protection PayPal or the store gives) buy UK Law. Goods not delivered? They don't work? The company disappears? They go bust? If you've been on those 'Scammers' groups on Facebook then you know how easy it is for conartists to pop up and disapear - its only £50ish so people rarely go to the Police or Court and it takes hundreds of victims before people get caught. Rather than finding the money and energy to go to court (you're getting married after all and who has time to chase £98), you simply call your Credit Card Company and the protection in law means that after a few forms and sending them reciepts or contracts or whatever proof you have they will reimburse you. It happened with us on a holiday with lowcostholidays. They went bust but within a few weeks the money was back and we had rebooked. If we paid through debit card or bank transfer, we would have either got nothing or very little. Just make sure you pay it all off (if you can) before the end of your 0% offer and it means you get all that extra protection for FREE. This applies to EVERYTHING over £100, even if just one installment is on the card... (holidays, hotels, weddings, cars...)
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act provides additional protection for credit card purchases costing between £100 and £30,000. If you have a claim for breach of contract or misrepresentation against the supplier of the goods or services, Section 75 gives you the same claim against the creditor.
This is useful if, for example, the trader you purchased the goods or services from has ceased to trade or if you haven't been able to locate them. This additional protection only applies to credit card purchases, not debit card purchases. - Which? website, 2018

#TopWeddingTips #2 - Reception? Go Everywhere!

"Oh, this is my dream!" It is still worth checking other venues & hotels. Your savings and your heart will thank you.
Whether you want a Church and Hotel, like us, or maybe you prefer the 'all in one' in a lovely Hotel or the more personalised DIY of a Church and Village Hall or Clubhouse, you need to check all the options. We knew we wanted a hotel as we didn't want people worrying about getting home, rather than having the best party and going upstairs to their rooms (and even breakfast with us the next day). Having read advice online we were ready to get married on Thursday (an evergrowing choice to save £s)

When we went to our first wedding fair in early 2017, the very popular and extravagant hotels and venues already had peak Summer bookings for 2019 and even some for 2020. Your wallet will thank you for giving yourself time to plan and book and your heart will thank you for making the day more personal than a rushed 'prepackaged' option.

The BEST wedding fairs tend to be in Autumn and early Spring (because suppliers are too busy in peak season) but that doesn't mean you can't go to venues and look; sometimes pop in and see the venue set up for an event that day. We'll discuss Fairs in more detail in a future post.
Source: BBC, ONS
We live near Heathrow and I found a Hotel with the package I really liked the look of. For the price, the rooms were amazing and, for me, being at the end of a runway was pretty cool. The price/package looks reasonable too compared to the insane prices we've been showed before. Seeing the place was a concrete labyrinth put me off a little bit. When we saw the windowless dated yet huge box as the Reception venue it made me skeptic. OK, it filled our weekends going to every Wedding Fair and hotel within 30 minutes of our Church but we found a MAJOR brand hotel with much nicer rooms and venue for MUCH less. It was closer to our Church too and our hearts and wallets thanked us for checking it all out. It will take weeks and months of weekends to check out all the options - even if it is just for the freebies you get or the ideas. The ideas might be "let's do that" or "we will never do that".

Oh, and you definitely want to get married at the weekend? Rather than throw away good money for the privalige find a Corporate hotel. Our hotel is mostly corporate which means that Saturday was CHEAPER than the Friday (they would lose their regular 3-5 days conferences). Bear that in mind! Plus, if it is good enough for businesses making Million Pound deals or Donald Trump's Dumps, then its good enough for us.  What matters is how you use or decorate the space.

DO speak to people at the venues, not just take a brochure or a website. Again you might get some freebies but they'll also tell you how to get the best from them to make it YOUR day - if they don't then you know they are just for people who have FAR too much money!

We'll have more info on researching Churches and Hotels in future posts.

#TopWeddingTips #3 - Don't Buy Wedding Magazines! Use Pinterest

Definitely take in all the ideas and advice you can and then collate them as you feel they are relevant but never in paper form...
Brides, Elle, Hello!, Empire, Cosmo...
All on one app you can Screenshot!
OK. The headline is a bit of clickbait. Some of the decent magazines will set you back anywhere from £5 to £19 per month. Some of their articles will be free online but I suggest you use an app/website like Readly. For us, we got a free trial and a discount subscription through a mobile phone provider or broadband or something but its a website that allows you see the latest edition and most of the back editions for hundreds of magazines, not just weddings. We read some of the big brand magazines but also the more regional ones - so you could see real weddings near you (over the past few years!) and not just adverts. It's not just UK, but Europe too. I can't read much German but you're only looking at the images and screengrabbing your favourite ideas really.  Click here for the full list of 'Wedding' mags.

Once you collected the screengrabs from the magazines put them on a shared board on Pinterest and then as a couple you can go through. Each of us added different things and so were able to combine what we both liked. You can organise them much better rather than having cut outs and print outs strewn about your home (which is going to be filling up with other things for your wedding!). Maybe you still want a physical or paper idea board, but at least you've narrow it down online. Over the 18 month, it saves trees and money.
Have a look at our board, which needs some organising at some point!, here: 

We liked adding stuff and then sitting in bed on a Sunday morning with teas and coffee narrowing down the pins and sorting them. You can also search Pinterest for ideas like invites or to save photos you've taken from things you've seen at fairs. Save links there too so it's all in one easy place. Use it as inspiration to make your own - or enlist those around you! We'll discuss more next time but trial your ideas at your Engagement Party - its a 'Dress Rehearsal" for your reception!


Have you got some advice related to these three posts? Maybe some HORROR stories? Or things that went right for you? Comment below.
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Stigma is the scariest part of Live National TV #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Sometimes I wonder if I should hide my identity. If employers and local gossipers google my name and become frightened of the monster I must be. It's a corner of my psyche I fight with every day like the anxiety of the withheld caller on your mobile phone. It can be really hard. Sometimes I apply stigma to myself through this fear.

I imagine going on Live TV is really hard but its even harder when you tell the world, with your face and name forever seen, that you tried to take your own life. I was asked to go on Victoria Derbyshire's show. I was overwhelmed. Going to the BBC and being on TV is an awesome level of epic. Plus I have been a shortlister for the Mind Media Awards for the past two years and have been very impressed with the shows efforts to talk about mental health. Using the recent storyline in Coronation Street, where the main character has been suffering suicidal thoughts for several months culminating in taking his own life, the show wanted to discuss whether openly talking about suicide using soaps is right and the way Coronation Street handled it.
"Just because it's hard to talk about, doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it."
I was nervous. As we all would be. But this is putting my face on national TV. Not everyone reads the newspapers or listens to the radio but everyone would see this. What if I freeze? What if I'm stupid? What if no one cares?

I made sure to get into Central London really early and my faithful Bluted helped keep me calm. I'd rehearsed in a mirror some of the key points I'd wanted to make but also an idea of what answers I would give to each question. The other guests and everyone on the production team were amazing. I felt put at ease. The makeup lady was lovely and engaging and the people on the floor cracked a few jokes to help us feel at home. I met my fellow guests, one from the Samaritans and one from the RadioTimes. The massive studio is much smaller in real life. Suddenly video clips from the soap are being played and Victoria is introducing herself to me.

Then it clicked. Everything fell into place. I didn't completely forget there were cameras but the years of amdram and being the pantomime dame paid off. I said what I felt and mixed in the phrases I had rehearsed with my reflection. Before I knew it, I was off. We spoke how respectful the show was and how fantastic and level the actors were. I was astounded by how this soap wasn't an over the top stereotypical soap - which is a difficult thing to do. The full video is below.

I have fond memories of "Mark Fowler" from BBC's EastEnders and I remember how he thrived, not just survived, with HIV. His story was hopeful, even with the traditional heightened drama of the soap world. We've seen the main character take his own life, now I want a character like Mark Fowler to give mental health the approachable and thriving view.

As quick as we started, it was done. Our mic packs were off and we were making our way out of the building. I had to get the tube straight back to Uxbridge and get to work!

I was buzzing. Maybe it was the tinted moisturiser but it wasn't until I was sat on the tube that the sweat started pouring.

I checked my social media. What did the world think?
The tweets were lovely. New followers proud that I have spoken so well. People sharing pictures of their TVs with my face on their Facebook walls. This is including people I had and had not prewarned to watch BBC2. For the next few days, I was on top of the world. I had spoken eloquently, made the points I'd wanted and no one hated me. In fact, people I barely knew or didn't know at all were sharing my tweets and video clips.

That feeling last two days. Maybe I'm sad but I had started to investigate who had posted or 'liked' my posts and tweets - or even those posted by others. The same few names were missing. From every post their names were not there. Names I felt should have been liking and sharing. Names I felt should have been shouting from the rooftops. Names, that if our places were swapped, I would have been sharing and liking their posts and even dropping them a text message of "well done". These were names I wanted to be proud of me. Yet one of them "hadn't had the time" to watch any of my live TV debuts.

I launched a poll on twitter asking if I'm an embarrassment. That's the only possibility, right? Why else would you ignore such an achievement? Unless I'm not special or important to those few names. They had the effort and time to post about other things.  Things I consider them not as important as the male suicide crisis let alone moi on live national news TV. It really hurt me.

Therapy from years ago tells me to confront it. I think my life experience and maybe a bit of "Eureka from RuPaul's Drag Race" tells me to focus my mind and energy on things I can control. Why waste your energy on toxic feelings or people? I can learn not to expect this kind of interaction from those names and they won't hurt me again. I am learning that if those names are embarrassed by my life and triumphs, then maybe they don't need to be in my life. You have the power to choose who is in your life.

My future is strong. My fiancee and I get married in April next year. Those who support us and love us, who celebrate us; they are our true family.

I won't let those names hurt me anymore.

But it goes to show, the worst part of Live TV or even talking about your experience of mental health, is that there are some people who care more about fear, discrimination and stigma.
Maybe more than they care for you.