Introducing: What’s On Your Mind?

Those of you that know me will know that I’ve been racking my brains for a while now for a project that I could run with little resource on mental health. I myself suffer from depression and anxiety and know a lot of people with the same and other mental health problems.

Much of society doesn’t understand the concept of mental health and the stigmas surrounding it are unjustified, untrue and occasionally downright unpleasant. How can I as an individual try to tackle this issue? Well I’ve always encouraged people to talk about mental health. I did that first by opening up about my own mental ill-health. Slowly people began to talk to me and share their own experiences of mental health whether it was positive or negative. Whether they were going through it at that time or they’d been through it previously.

I’ve spoken to a bunch of people now and so I thought it was time to get their stories out there in a slightly different way. Talking about your entire experience of mental health can be exhausting, uncomfortable and lengthy so I decided to take snapshots of people’s lives.

I’ve asked people to write up their average daily thoughts hour by hour from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep.

I’ve got two aims for this project. The first is to show the general public that mental health affects people on a daily basis, that it’s complex, and that the stereotypes aren’t all they’re meant to be. There’s more to a person than their illnesses!

The second aim is that people who are taking part can see their thoughts written down and they can see all the little positives that they should start appreciating more and the negative things that they can potentially work on.

I’m also hoping that this will generate a bit of discussion and create a bit of a support network for those who have taken part!

If you want to get involved or want to find out more, please feel free to tweet me @albysaurus or email me alexquang1@gmail.com 🙂

Keep an eye out for #OnYourMind on twitter and instagram and stay tuned for our first post soon! 🙂

Shout out to Haaris for coming up with our hashtag!

See you all soon!

Well Well Well-being

Last night was a good night. Last night is the kind of night that helps to keep my mind at ease. The crowd, the beer, the band, the lights, the bass pulsing through my chest, the camaraderie and the new friends. Music brings individuals happiness. Live music brings people together to share in their happiness and I love it.

I’ve said it before and will always remind people that I love music whether it’s listening, playing or attending music things. The reason I talk about it so much? Because it makes me happy. No matter how angry, sad, lonely I feel music always helps make me feel better. It ensures my mental well-being.

It’s not just music that does this for me though. The people and things that I love will always ensure my well-being. When I feel at my lowest, when my depression hits me the hardest there are a few things I turn to. The first is usually music and alongside that a nice dose of fantasy be it in the form of videogames, books, tv, film, comics. The two combined take me away from my thoughts for a little while and give me some breathing room. Following that, I talk to my friends. They bring me back to reality but it’s not the “reality” that I saw before. It’s one that reminds me that I’m lucky to be where I am with the people I have in my life rather than a hopeless one.

The final thing in my arsenal of well-being is to do things for others. Nothing makes me feel better than helping someone. The smile that you see on their face when you’ve done something for them that they really needed. Cheering someone up when they’re feeling down. Most of what I do is about making things better for people whether it’s the mood of an individual or society as a whole.

So what’s the message I hear you ask? Well, it’s simple really. Find the things that you love. Do those things. Find your version of my chest pulsing music, my ukulele, my fantasy worlds, my supportive friends and my gifts to others. If you don’t know what your equivalents are, don’t worry. The best way to find out is to just do things. Simple as.

Anyway, to sign off, here’s a little dose of my happy to you.

Kindness Is Key

As I sit here at work with virtually nothing to do while I’m covering this event, I got to thinking. I’ve reached the ripe old age of 23 and it feels like throughout my very short life, things have gone downhill constantly. Not me. The world. Every day there are more and more conflicts over more and more ridiculous things. Sexism, racism, ageism and all the other “isms” are coming to light and are causing more and more tension between groups.

The issues are becoming common knowledge and the people are becoming more and more angry about it. Some people react to it admirably and try to solve the many problems through peaceful, sensible and responsible means. Others however are getting angry and are generating more and more hate. So what do I think is the key to solving the world’s problems? Simple. It’s a combination of things.

Empathy is essential and knowledge is power. Many people in the UK are getting angry at those bloody immigrants stealing our jobs and our benefits. Working all the jobs whilst also not working at all. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but how much is your opinion really worth if you don’t do any research and refuse to learn, forever remaining ignorant? If you’re pissed off about immigrants, talk to them, calmly. Listen to stories of why they’re here. Learn the difference between asylum seekers and refugees. I’ve used immigration as an example, but the same rules should apply to all other kinds of things (racism, feminism, sexism etc.). Understand other people and be open to listen. Do not pity, just try to understand. Put yourself in their shoes before you make a judgement.

The most important thing in my opinion though, is kindness. Kindness is key!

We’re a species designed to live in groups. We don’t leave our offspring to fend for themselves once they’re born. We also don’t call them our offspring. We congregate in social groups whether in person or online. We’re constantly finding ways to make being a part of a group easier. However, if you’re in a group, you tend only to stick around people who show kindness and those who are unkind to members of the group are shunned and exiled. Why should this be different on a larger scale? If you show kindness on a larger scale, to everyone you meet, bonds form and they form strongly. It creates a chain reaction of kindness and it makes people act differently towards one another.

“But Alex, nice guys finish last! What’s the point?”. Welllllllll not quite. Being kind puts people in your corner and people will look out for you. In fact, the guys at ASAP Science have made a video about how nice guys actually finish first! Check it out. Society thrives on kindness. There just simply isn’t enough of it around at the moment. We’re fueled by hate and anger because it sells papers and gets people watching the news. We’re in a virtually endless cycle of anger but it is possible to break out of it. Just be kind and watch how things change for the better!

A

New Year… Old Me?

I’ve been neglecting my blog somewhat recently especially over the Christmas break where I was refusing to do anything at all! But I’m alive and awake again and first things first, happy New Year!

There are a few different things that I’d like to write about this time. First of all a little bit of appreciation for all things 2014. Obviously this is a super short version of things I’m grateful for!

2014

1. Work
There was a point in 2014 where I wasn’t particularly enjoying my work. My depression was kicking my arse and I didn’t feel like I was up to the job. However it’s extremely important for me to recognise that without work, a routine and meeting the people I’m trying to help I wouldn’t be feeling better now and I wouldn’t be enjoying my work! 2015 has me sticking around with work with a new exciting role!

2. Friends
Well, there’s not much I need to say. I have amazing people around me. Not necessarily geographically, but you know what I mean. My friends always always support me through the roughest times and celebrate with me when the good times come! Even the friends I don’t see or speak to very often, whenever I see them, it’s like I saw them yesterday. We can pick off where we left off with no problem whatsoever.

3. Music

Whether it’s listening, gigging or writing music, I feel better when I’m around it. Music is one thing that almost everyone listens to and it’s often one thing that can instantly make people happy and I hope that I can make more people happy with my music!

4. Volunteering

I’m not doing as much as I used to at the moment but the little bits that I do always leaves me feeling great. I get to try new ways to help out the people on the programme and our little gang of mentors. Keeping volunteers motivated has never been easier than when I’ve got my mentors around!

2015

Lots of people talk about turning over a new leaf every New Year. It’s understandable, it’s a symbolic clean slate for the upcoming year. I’m not knocking those who make resolutions, but why do we need to wait for a new year to attempt to better ourselves?
I try my hardest at all times to make myself better than I was yesterday. I don’t want to wait for a new year to do that. Also, nothing that has happened in 2014 will be forgotten! The hard work that I put into 2014 will carry over to 2015 as will all the bad things. To me, there’s no clean slate. That’s not a bad thing though. If you lived 2014 to the fullest, that energy and positivity will carry over to 2015. 
Making a resolution is a great idea. New Years may be a good time to do it, but don’t forget you don’t need a calendar to resolve to do something. If you want to do something, DO IT! Don’t wait for a new year to do it. Just go for it. There’s no better time than the present. (I understand the present is new years day, but you get the gist.)
A

Blue Christmas

Christmas is a holiday which is widely associated with a fantastical magical feeling of good will, gift giving, love and joy. But is it always? Not for plenty of people.

There are Thousands less fortunate than me who are going to be sending Christmas alone, be it in a big empty house or on the street and we should try our best not to forget that. Remember all the things we’re grateful for and try not to take anything for granted. Health included.

I bang on a lot about mental health and in my opinion its for good reason. Mental ill health can make even the most joyous of occasions dull, horrible and scary. For the last six or seven years or so I’ve struggled at this time of year. Lots of people do but for different reasons.

This time of year is where I feel loneliest, despite the good spirit and the family that I have around me. I love my family and I know my family loves me, but I never feel comfortable with them. I’ve virtually nothing in common with any of them. It’s something I’ve felt for a long long time, but it’s extremely clear and very obvious when I’m forced, one day a year to spend it in the sole presence of my family.

It’s something I just can’t explain. That’s the place that I feel most alone, when I’m surrounded by people who love me most. However, while I’m uncomfortable, lonely and horrendously awkward at this time of year, I am still grateful.

Grateful to have family at all, grateful to my friends, grateful to have food on my plate and grateful to be alive. I’m not a fan of spending Christmas day with my family. But for one day a year, I’m happy to sit through a day of good food, bad games and even worse music and tv. It’s significantly tougher than even the most taxing days at work, but it’s worth it to see my family have a good time. Besides, it’s not unusual that the more I pretend to have a good time, for parts of the day I do end up enjoying myself.

Other people have it much tougher than I do though. Mine is just one example of depression and mental ill health taking over the holidays. If you know someone who’s going through a particularly tough time this holiday season, make sure that you’re there for them. It’s always easier to get through things knowing you’ve got someone in your corner.

And for those who struggle with these kinds of things and particularly over-thinking which I’m sure plenty of us do. Have a look at this little gem, courtesy of CollegeHumor.

Christmas is always blue for me, but blue isn’t all bad. I really get time to reflect on what’s important, who’s important and what I can do to get to the point I can genuinely enjoy the holidays again. Besides, blue is one of my favourite colours.

A

You’re Only As Good As The Company You Keep


With the recent happenings in my life I’ve been very aware of the people that I surround myself with. I’ve recently started uploading songs I’ve written and had a really nice response from my friends. Alongside this I was also featured in a video for vInspired that you can watch here. Again the response and reaction I received was fantastic.

It made me think though, my story isn’t unique. It’s not exceptional. It’s a story that I share with so many incredible people albeit with a few details changed.  Today, I’m going to mention very briefly some of the people who inspire me most.

First of all, Kate. A good friend of mine, surprisingly I haven’t her known that long but it feels like I’ve known her for years. Also you may well have seen some videos of us singing together online. She suffers with ME but not once have I heard her complain about it. Instead she works tirelessly (and often to the point of making herself ill) to help others. She’s putting packs together for parents of severely I’ll children, she’s a top class dance teacher and she mentors. These are just a few of the things she does. Well played, kupkake.

Danielle, another close friend who is not only one of the smartest people I know, but the most thoughtful, kind and ethical people I know. She recently secured a job with an amazing charity in Newcastle. Besides that she constantly supports me to be better, more confident and for some reason finds my bad jokes funny. If I could have half the brains you have, I’d be a happy chappy!

Victoria is a close friend of mine who not only inspires me by regularly overcoming the things that make her feel most awkward. She’s got the brains and the guts to do things that scare her and for me, that gives me the strength and courage to challenge myself and do things I’d otherwise never do.

Naomi is another one of my closest friends who battles through everything with gusto! She’s the person who taught me that even when things go wrong you have no choice but to battle through it. If you don’t do that, if you just give in, how will you be able to help those who depend on you?

Pete 1. My previous boss and the gent who gave me real world experience of helping people. Sustained goodness that is still going on now. I was but a mere cog in a complicated machine of organising but I was always made to feel like the most important cog. I was taught, supported, guided and mentored and I wouldn’t be anywhere without the time this man invested in me. Check out Citizens UK for more info on what the organisation does.

Pete 2 moved down here recently from Newcastle to gain more access to theatre and work. Let’s face it, moving to an entirely new city takes guts. Not only that, but Pete is one of those people who just exudes friendliness. I challenge you not to love the guy.

Rob, my bae. Another man who moved down here for work. In his dream job for a year. GUTS. Also one of the people who you don’t have to pretend around. He taught me to loosen up a little and enjoy life a little more.

Zahrah. Old 6th form classmate who I fell out of touch with until she got in touch about the work I was doing. Now she works at vinspired and is kicking arse there. Zahrah teaches me every day to just be real. Do what you need to do and love whatever that is. No one is as real as kiwi.

These are just some of the MANY people who inspire me. These are some of the people who make me a better person and I’m so thankful for it. Don’t forget to notice those around you and how they impact your life in a positive way. I wish I could list more but this is already an insanely long post. Make sure you appreciate those around you. They are the people who help shape the person that you are.

A

The Holiday Spirit

The holidays are coming! The Coca-Cola advert has been on the TV, John Lewis with their annual dose of heart warming, Sainsbury’s with their historical Christmas advert. It’s all kicking off.

Even in the office, we’ve been singing Christmas songs. Tinsel now adorns much of our furniture (much to my dismay). Christmas cheer has spread throughout the office. Madness!

We are, however, coming off the back of Black Friday and Cyber Monday which are two HUGE shopping days in the states which is a sort of unofficial kick off for the Christmas shopping season. Lots of people rush to the shops to take advantage of the slashed prices and even in the UK, Black Friday took over. People fought, rioted, stores were flooded with customers. Police were even called and shops were closed down.

There are a few views on this phenomenon from our cousins across the pond. Some think it’s a great thing that we can get so many deals so cheap. It’s crazy that these people can sell these amazing items so cheap right? Admittedly, yeah we all love a bargain but is causing riots in stores worth it?

Others see Black Friday as a day of selfish capitalism, furthering the power of the corporations where we’re told that to be happy we need these items and these corporations are “helping” us out by slashing prices for us! Again, I can see that too.

Another point of view is that people who look down upon those who went to shop and fight for goods for their homes are filthy peasants who behave like animals for luxury items. What about those who wouldn’t be able to afford it without the sale? Who knows?

I took advantage of a few little deals on Black Friday. Things I’d like to use to spread a little happiness. Admittedly I didn’t do the trip into the shops, I purchased online with a purpose. I want to focus on the positives though. Post-Cyber Monday, there was Giving Tuesday. A day all about giving back to those around you, your family, friends, community. This is a movement which is significantly smaller than Black Friday, and even it’s little brother Cyber Monday but gaining momentum. I don’t know if it’s because I’m in a giving sector, but it’s growing.

I’d highly encourage you to take part in the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. 25 acts of kindness in the lead up to Christmas day.

Also, recently I was featured in a video for vInspired, a charity that set me on a path of kindness and social action. We’re signing people up for the Thunderclap for tomorrow, so get stuck in and get involved if you can! Share with everyone and donate anything you can afford to. 🙂

These are just some of the little things that you can do to help others. Feel free to get in touch if you want more opportunities to help. I’m sure I can help you find a bunch of different opportunities!

Pillars of Friendship

There are several things that I consider to be essential to a good friendship. Some of which I’m good at, some of which, admittedly, I suck at. There are also loads of things that I think we should all be getting out of our friendships and I think I’m really lucky to have friends who stick by me and I get so much from, despite occasionally being a bit rubbish. Hopefully I’m able to give back a little as well!

In terms of the things that we should all be giving to our friends below are my most important.

1. Time

Give your friends a bit of time whenever you can and a lot of time when you’re able. Friendship is a give and take and it’s always going to be tough when you’re working, volunteering, studying etc. but it’s worth it. Time is something that we all feel like we’re short of but for the people that are most important to us we need to make a conscious effort to make time. This admittedly is something I’m a bit rubbish at. I work quite a few evenings and weekends and volunteer a lot of my spare time. I’ve recently been trying to make more of an effort to see people I love and if not see them, at the very least text or call them to let them know I’m thinking of them!

2. Energy

Energy is something that I lack generally. A normal day takes it out of me completely and by the time I’m done at work I just want to sleep. However, I forget that whenever I see the people I love spending time with, it gives me energy. No matter how tired and miserable I feel my friends give me energy and hopefully I do the same for them! 🙂

3. Support

Whether it’s support with a particular topic, or support with a piece of work or even just supporting the fact that they hate that celebrity for wearing odd socks, supporting your friends is important. When your friends really need your support, try to help in any way you can. After all, you only get what you give and when the time comes where you need support, it’s always nice to have someone in your corner. 

4. Appreciation

Being grateful for your friends is key. Don’t take them for granted and assume that they’re always going to be around. Appreciate the little things they do for you. The random texts just to see how you are, the stupid un-funny in jokes which somehow make you cry with laughter. Don’t just appreciate what they do internally though. Let them know that you appreciate what they do for you. Whether it’s by subtle little gestures like buying them a coffee or a little gift or just by awkwardly telling them outright “I appreciate you”. If you do that without blinking, eyes wide as possible, looking them dead in the eye and smiling showing all your teeth, they’ll love it. Trust me.
It’s all swings and roundabouts. You only get what you give. What goes around, comes around. These principles apply to family, friends and everything in life. I chose to apply these four things to friends though as today is the day I’m feeling extremely grateful for the people in my life. I’m a very lucky guy and I really do appreciate the people I have in my life. 
A

A Glorious Return

So I’ve been experiencing some pretty awful writers block recently which may be a result of my recent panic attacks and dip in mood. However, I’m feeling significantly better now and I’m keen to get back on the blogging scene!

I’m very lucky to have had a really good week and been able to do the things which often lift me out of my funk. I even managed to socialise four times in one week! Tuesday night I went up to Newcastle to stay at some friends new flat before they headed down to London for graduation. On Wednesday night I went for dinner with an old friend in Newcastle. I went for a lovely dinner with people I volunteer with/volunteered with on Thursday and got the worlds messiest burger. Friday I managed to head out with some more old and new volunteering buddies for a chilled out evening in a nice bar by work. Good food, drink and company. What more could I want? I also had a really great week at work, speaking to hundreds of young people about running their own community projects and receiving some fantastic feedback from the event organisers. This set me up for a dynamite weekend.

So far this weekend, I’ve been writing songs, rewriting old songs, listening to music, playing music, singing along with music and reading about music. It’s been a pretty music fuelled Saturday. But as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, music is something which I love, something which makes me feel better all the time no matter how low I’m feeling.

All the songs that I write though, aren’t just to cheer me up. I always try to write songs for people who might also be going through a rough time and need cheering up. Besides music and friends, the thing that always cheers me up the most is knowing that I’ve made someone happy, made someone smile and helped to change someone’s mood for the better.

As some of my Facebook friends know and some of my twitter followers know, I’ve uploaded a few of my songs for people to have a gander at. I received some really nice feedback saying that I managed to put a smile on faces. This was pretty ace for me. My mood was dipping, my body and mind were exhausted, but the fact that I managed to make my friends smile with the music I created means that I was able to combine the three things that cheer me up the most.

If you don’t believe that cheering someone up will make you feel better about yourself, your mood and life in general, I challenge you to give it a try. And just a bit of shameless plugging, please find the three songs I uploaded just below. Right there. If you’re having a bit of a lousy Saturday, hopefully I’ll be able to brighten it up for you! Enjoy, smile and have a good weekend.

A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Fjci_OX2Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDP0CDO4UsU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RarOWXqrWTQ

The Three Amigos – Journey to the Best

So, what the hell do I want to do with my life?
I’m Jade and this is my story so far…

Having spent four years at university studying Music Performance, I thought it was a complete waste of time and money. I love music and believed that university was the only way to get into that industry. But when I wrote my dissertation I thought “hang on, I just proved to myself that I could get into the industry without doing a degree”. I spoke to lots of people in the industry, the majority of whom got to where they want to be without getting a degree first. I had to go through my degree to realise that this wasn’t the only way to get to where I want to be. I’ve spoken to loads of people who have been trying to get into the industry, they asked me how I got the job at the Think Big Hub and I really wanted to tell them that degrees aren’t the only way to get into the creative industries. It really gets me aggy thinking about it!

As long as you’re passionate, are willing to volunteer and  get the unpaid experience, it gets you so much further than if you just have a piece of paper. No one has ever asked me for that piece of paper. Unless you absolutely need a degree to go into a career you should consider alternatives. I’m not knocking university, I learned a lot about myself there and it was great for me on a personal development level, but career-wise, not so much. I did also get a lot of events experience there, which I may not have got my current job without. I have thoroughly mixed feelings about university. Degrees prove a certain type of intelligence. Lots of people are viewed as stupid if they don’t go to university, but people forget about the other types of intelligence. For example, hard work, grafting and moving up the scale.

Now that I’ve got some experience in the events industry it’s helped me a lot as it’s helped me get experience to move on to start a career rather than just looking for jobs. After however many years of “education” it took this 4 month internship to help me narrow down exactly what I’d like to do. I always knew I wanted to work with music but this has confirmed my choices for me.

So, Anisa, what the hell do you want to do with your life?

Well, I spent a whole year applying for uni and from age 5 I always thought that I wanted to go to uni to study maths. About two weeks before results day (or D-day) I sat down with my family who told me “you don’t have to go to university if you don’t want to”. In that split second I decided that I didn’t want to go which was really strange for me as I thought I’d always wanted to go. From then my plan of action was to look for apprenticeships and jobs but a lot of the jobs I was looking at required lots of office experience, so I decided to go for an apprenticeship. On results day I realised that I could have got into uni and I declined my uni place. I was a bit upset but I thought I could pay £18k for uni or I could spend time earning that money.

I got a call from Future UnLtd telling me that they had an opportunity for me, within a week after that, I had an interview with them and then another with Think Big and I found out that I had an apprenticeship. This was all really fast paced and from the 3rd of September I started with Think Big as a business admin apprentice. No one expected me to get an apprenticeship that quickly, myself included. It was a fantastic boost for me and my own confidence.

The youth sector wasn’t ever a path I expected to take but it’s given me experience in different sectors and while I’ve been set in my ways to go into corporate and mathematics, but this has made me an all rounder. I’m going to finish my apprenticeship and see how it comes. Things are always changing. Myself included.

So, Alex, what the hell do you want to do with your life?

Well, my life has had a series of twists, turns and unexpected events. I followed my family’s wishes and went through the education system. I was awful in my A-Levels and ended up having to do an extra year in college. Eventually I got into university and went to Birmingham City for a year. I hated it. I left and ended up training as a chef for a year. While I was working and studying, I volunteered.

This was a turning point for me. I have suffered with depression for a long long time and volunteering helped me and is still helping me recover. I fell in love with the sector and was lucky enough to volunteer with a gent named Pete and eventually got the job I’m in now.

It’s a short version of my story, but I’ll upload my full story of self soon. Much like Anisa and Jade, I never intended to work in the sector. Unlike them both, this, at the moment, looks like the sector I want to stay in. Experience is what I want, returning to my previous role in community organising as a full time employee is what I’m hoping for one day once I build up my resilience, experience and knowledge.

A big thanks to Jade and Anisa for joining me on the ol’ bloggosphere today! #Collaboration #TeamworkMakesTheDreamWork #DreamTeam