The Recovery Part 8: Success In Selflessness

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why the f*** is this guy sauntering back onto the web to tell us things when he ditched us for so long. Well that’s totally fair. I’ve been pretty shitty when it comes to blogging the last few months (not that I was particularly consistent before).

Well the short version is that I was taking a break from blogging as I’d run out of things to talk about. I’m sure everyone was getting rid of hearing about my recovery (though I’m clearly writing about it still) which is still ongoing, though I am doing better. Panic attacks are limited now to bed time when I have too much time to think (so I’ve been playing retro Pokémon games to fall asleep faster with less panics). Social anxiety is lessening, though please don’t put me in a room with a whole load of people I don’t know and tell me to socialise. I will cower in fear, hide in a corner and most likely hyperventilate.

My reason for writing this post is that I feel as though I’d lost my way with this blog recently. It started as a blog about volunteering and has become more about my mental health than anything else. I am certainly looking at diversifying the content that I put up here to include things that I find interesting (I hope you’re all ready for Nerdpocalypse) but again, lots of it won’t have anything to do with volunteering.

However I have a few projects in the pipeline which will be happening in the next few months and I’m super keen to share the first one with you. I’ll soon be turning 25 years old. A quarter of a century. I’m really lucky that, at this milestone, we generally don’t start to have gammy legs and broken backs. I’m reasonably healthy and able. So for my 25th birthday, my friends and I are coming up with a list of 25 random acts of kindness which we’ll carry out on my actual birthday. 25 is quite a lot and there are only so many hours in the day so we’re looking at doing small, thoughtful gestures. Here’s the list so far:Diem.jpg

  1. A meal for a homeless person
  2. Help an old person/person less physically able with their shopping or cross the road
  3. Sing for the sick
  4. Sing for random people to put a smile on their face. 
  5. Write and distribute positive notes to strangers
  6. Tape some coins to a vending machine for the next person
  7. Give strangers a flower
  8. Pay for a coffee for the next person in the queue
  9. Community clean up
  10. Pop up yoga session for people
  11. Give Blood
  12. Give random people a compliment

We only have 12 things so far so we’re needing lots more! I’m hoping for a huge group of people who can help me tick off every item throughout the day and I’m reaching out to everyone on the internet to help out. It’ll be taking place in London on Sunday September 4th, likely starting from Croydon first thing in the morning. I’ll surely need help carrying things from my  house through Croydon and into London.
If you’re interested at all, just pop a comment down and/or email me. 🙂 I would love to get someone along to help to document the day via video and social media as well.

I’ll be tweeting out using the hashtag #SelflessSunday.

It’s sure to be a Spectacular September Sunday of Successful Selflessness so please join me for part of or all of the day and help me celebrate my birthday in the best flipping way possible!

I hope you’re all feeling happy, healthy and loved.

A

Depression: “But you’re so happy!”

So after a long long time, I’m unfortunately back on anti-depressants. Over the last few months, my mood has dipped gradually despite my best efforts to do all the things that usually give me a boost. I’m still working on picking apart why I’m feeling like this so you’ll have to bear with me. Luckily I’m “experienced” enough that I was able to get myself to the doctors before doing anything drastic. So while I’m not thrilled that I’m back on tablets I’m glad that the doctors were so responsive.

People always seemed to be really surprised when I tell them that I suffer from anxiety and depression. The common response I get is; “Really?! You always seem so happy.”. And yeah, I always try my very hardest to be happy and if I feel rubbish then I at least pretend to be happy because sometimes, it almost tricks my brain into believing that I’m actually happy. But you’re right, it can be strange that people who seem so chipper can be secretly suffering in silence (not that I suffer in silence. I’m very open with my mental health.).

It can be really terrifying for someone to admit that they have depression and even harder to ask for help. If you know someone who’s been brave enough to open up to you about their mental health please support them. Even if all that means is supporting them to go to see the doctor. Or something as simple as checking up on them every once in a while.

I’ve been given a few days off to recover and been told to not do anything but I’m struggling. Lots of sleep and movies for me I think.

Before I finish and try to eat some good I want to share this:

image
This is the face of my depression and my experience back on tablets. Sleep deprived, puffy red panda eyes, nauseous, paranoid, extremely emotional, migraine filled, low on energy, no appetite (which has never happened before).

Its okay to ask for help, it’s okay to feel (and look) like this. I’m at a low point of an uphill struggle to get better but I’ve taken that first step (again) to admitting I need help which is half the battle.

A

We need to talk about your kids.

Dear adults,

I’m 24 years old, working at a charity aiming to get more young people involved with social action and I love my job. Outside of work, I try to volunteer as much as I can, I play music, I sing and I try to make people as happy as I can, however I can. I love to learn about science and technology. I’m a smart phone tinkerer and computer enthusiast. I love comic books and I love food, cooking and eating. When I’m not at work I’m an introvert. I’m happy in my own company and big groups of people I don’t know make me extremely anxious. At work, I’m more than happy to make myself look like an asshat so that the people I work with don’t feel the way I feel in new situations.

Your children, your friends children and the children of the people you barely/don’t know are just like me and also completely different. Your kids share a lot of my hopes, dreams and passions and also a whole lot of my fears, worries and anxieties.

I’m writing to you to try to convince you to allow your children to make their own choices in life. Chances are, you’re good parents who only want the best for them. They have unlimited potential that they can only reach if they have someone believes in their vision, their decisions and their passions. I worked with a group yesterday who told me so many stories which inspired me and broke my heart at the same time. They feel pressured to follow traditional education routes when their passions lie in the creative fields, they feel pressured to make money to become “successful”. The men in the room feel like they can’t be themselves, show their emotions and show they care. The women in the room feel like they either have to sit quietly and act “ladylike” or have to shout and be a “bitch” to get their voices heard. But when we debate together with peers, there’s a mutual respect for everyone’s beliefs.

These are the values that you’ve managed to instill in the current generation. But these are also values that we all fail to respect and show. The young adults that we have in this country and all around the world are not the lazy, rude, apathetic people that your peers may paint us to be. We are proud, passionate, creative people who are fixing the problems created by generations past. We don’t care all that much about who caused these problems in the first place. All we care about is that everyone whether they created the problems or not, work together to fix it. They’re doing their bit. What are you doing? Convince your peers to listen to reason. To talk to our young people. Work with us. Respect us. We are well informed. We dig around and find facts that aren’t often reported in traditional media. We’re the experts in the digital age, the age of information and we’re happy to help.

I alone, have thousands of ideas floating in my head. I find it hard to articulate them all in this post. But I can guarantee you, your kids, your friends kids, kids you don’t even know have even more. One of the young people I spoke to yesterday said that we’ve always been told that you need to play the game to change the game. After a little discussion we decided that we’re no longer going to play your games. We’re making our own and it’s about to become very popular. We know full well that there are textbook answers to issues in the world but we’ve read the textbook and clearly they’re not effective. We’re writing a new one. We could use some support.

If, after reading this, you’re not convinced, at the very least, don’t forget that we’re going to be the ones that will be looking after you when you’re old. It’s much much harder to do if we don’t have everything we need to do that.

Yours Sincerely,

Alex Quang

 

Do you have anything you’d like to say to the “adults” of the world? Drop it in the comments and let them know!

The Generosity of Strangers and the Power of Music.

So if we’re friends on Facebook or if you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I’ve been planning a gig with my friend for the Playing for Change Foundation. We ran the gig on Monday night and it was AMAZING. We gave ourselves (stupidly) only two weeks to plan it. This meant sourcing artists, a venue, negotiating terms with said venue and getting a large enough crowd to make sure that our artists weren’t singing in front of an empty room! Luckily we pulled it off. We found some incredible artists some with powerful voices to get the crowd up on their feet and some with smooth, calming tones perfect for relaxing to. I also ended up singing, partly because we needed more people and also because I love music.

It’s safe to say that I was astounded that these incredible artists were so happy to give up their Monday night (yep, Monday night gig) to perform for us. Some people I’d only met once or twice and some I’d known for a few months. Only Jade, my fellow organiser, had I known for any real length of time. But I knew two out of three of the other performers, not particularly well, but I knew them and I knew they were good people. One is a powerful activist with the voice of an angel, the other is working towards being a counsellor, with so much soul in her voice! The third and fourth, one who I’d only met a couple times and one never before (and Jade) work on a social action programme are powerhouses in work and music. All the people we had involved with the performing side of the gig were involved, in one way or another, in making the world a better place to live in, in creating a more peaceful, healthy, fair and happy society for us and our future generations and I’m so proud and so honoured to have been able to perform alongside these beautiful people.

The crowd were also pretty special. We had way more people come along than we expected. 50+ people, casual acquaintances, friends, friends of friends, complete strangers from upstairs even some of the staff from the pub (more on that later). The people who came primarily were also people working to make the world a better place. Many work in charities, some are nurses, volunteers, campaigners, activists, artists, fellow musicians and everywhere in between. Even if they weren’t working in one of the “social” sectors, the fact that they came along and supported the charity and the gig and us, means they came along to help us change the world.

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Our wonderful Gen, absolutely killing it on stage!

Finally, a huge thank you to the venue. I can’t express to you just how generous these strangers were. We booked the venue on short notice on a night where there are few events. They provided a stage, amps, microphones, stands, stools, extra lamps, tons of extra chairs, a member of staff at our own little bar and a whole host of smiles. A few stick in my mind in particular.

Emmanuel, the bouncer for the night popped in periodically, bringing audience members and listening in. He complimented us all multiple times and I learned that he’s a saxophonist and has been playing for over 17 years.

Rosie, who was working the main bar upstairs, came down before we started and helped us set up the room. This doesn’t sound like much but we asked for the room to be changed multiple times. Sofas moved, stage put out, extra chairs put away then brought back out. She did this all with a huge beautiful smile and she even stayed for a little chat. She’s a good egg despite our indecisiveness and our very particular plans.

Maria, who was our amazing bartender for the night, wasn’t feeling great. But she still worked with another beautiful smile, paid us a heap of compliments and made sure we were all sorted and ready to have a cracking night. I left one of my cables at the venue after Monday and when I went to pick it up, she greeted me with that same infectious smile and told me how glad she was that she worked downstairs for the night. It’s a small gesture on her part but it means the world to me.

On top of their amazing team, they gave us the venue for free. So if you’re ever in the Shoreditch area and are looking for some of the best staff in town and the nicest beer garden ever, go on down to the Water Poet. You won’t regret it.

We couldn’t have achieved any of what we did without the help of amazing artists, volunteers, audience members, venue, staff and supporters from afar so to everyone who came along, thank you for your generosity!

You can still donate to PFC here.

Music is a powerful tool for change and a valuable learning tool for young people and adults alike. Help us spread the message of peace through music.

To hear more music check out my YouTube channel here where I’ll be uploading some videos from the night and follow some of our other singers below. (More to be added in due course).

Kath: @kaffwyatt (tweet her to get her singing more!)

 

Campaign Bootcamp Blues

So I made it home this morning around 1am after a very long and very tiring week at Campaign Bootcamp. The last two posts I’ve written were written while I was there and they mostly focused on my anxiety and how I was coping with that throughout the week. This post will be slightly different. Campaign Bootcamp is obviously a huge deal. It costs the best part of £3000 to take part per-individual and has training from some of the best campaigners around. It’s also in massively high demand with around 250 applicants and only 34-ish places. So in appreciation of this great training and community, here are the top 4 things that I’ve taken away from the week.

1. Knowledge

Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat. Knowledge is super broad and you do learn something new every day but I’m talking about vast amounts of knowledge and information. Whether it was about values, theories of change, other world issues or existing campaigns, I learned more than I expected to. Lots of that knowledge came from within the group itself and it was all made so accessible for the less experienced campaigners in the room. So even though it might seem like a bit of a cheat, it’s important to remember that knowledge is power. The more you know…

Learning outdoors in the sun is the best way to do it. 

 2. A Kick Up The Arse

When I arrived at the training we all had to introduce ourselves for one minute. And while everyone else went up and spoke about themselves and all the campaigning that they do, I spoke more about the fact that I wasn’t currently a campaigner. I’m more of a teacher, instructor and supporter. However, now that I’ve spent the week with some of the most ridiculously experienced and passionate campaigners there are, I feel like I’ve been given renewed energy for running campaigns rather than just supporting them. Keep your eyes peeled for more. 
A nice chat by Shami Chakrabarti was certainly… Sharmi-ng! HEYOHHHHHHH!

 3. Resilience

The first two days were particularly difficult for me this week. I am not a huge fan of meeting new people, especially all at once in a place where I’m not comfortable! I had to take myself away for an hour or so, the first few evenings to recover a little from panic attacks. I was very close to leaving and not coming back. However, everyone was so supportive and so open and welcoming. I also remembered over and over about the opportunity and how hard it is to get on to bootcamp. I resolved to stay, even if I didn’t speak to anyone the rest of the week, I would stay. I even managed to put up with all the forced dancing!
A circle of dancing. Not tribal at all.
Luckily, MJ had a ukulele so I managed to feel better pretty swiftly. But I really had to work to stay there and be resilient. If I hadn’t forced myself out of my comfort zone I’d have missed out on some of the greatest people I’ve ever met! 

 4. People

I wanted to learn a lot and start putting things in to practice in my own life, work and campaigning. I met some of the most incredible people this past week. I knew calibre was going to be high when I walked into that room and I knew there would be people with more years of experience than I’d been alive for. I even got to meet and have lunch with Shami Chakrabarti.
What I really wasn’t expecting was to feel such love and warmth from people I’d only just met. Throughout the week I got talking to a bunch of people about everything they’ve been doing and why they do what they do but also about what they love to do when they’re not working or campaigning. 
Even besides that, there were some people who I was able to mess around with for no reason. People I was able to complain to/with. People who I was able to avoid dancing with. The culture was incredible and I knew at any point I could walk up to anyone and start a conversation with someone without feeling like I was being a pain in the arse. 
A little camp fire quiz session with Olivia the quiz master. 

So despite the rocky start and the crazy brain making things just that little bit harder, I’m glad I got on to Campaign Bootcamp, I’m glad I stuck it out and I’m so glad to have met everyone that I did. I’m actually feeling a bit lost without 30+ people around me at all times but I’m making the most of it by watching Blue Planet.

Oriana and Dora, the best buddies a guy could ask for!

Finally, Rachel, Tamara-Jade –

Campaign Bootcamp

So for the last two days and for the next four, Campaign Bootcamp is my life. It’s an intensive week long campaign training course. It’s not a cheap thing to do but luckily I managed to get a scholarship to get on the course which means I didn’t have to pay a thing!

Around 225 people applied. People from all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, genders and even countries have applied and I was one of the 35 people to be selected to be on the course. It’s an amazing group of people who are campaigning and working all across the sector from climate change to immigration. From youth work to positive money. The range
of people who are here is astounding and the skills and knowledge they have is not only impressive, but humbling and somewhat intimidating too.

Luckily everyone is remarkably nice which means that my perception of intimidation from them is all down to my own mindset. For those of you who know me well will know that I kind of hate making new friends and it really does make me feel extremely anxious. As I’m typing this, I’ve briefly retired to my bedroom to listen to music and to relax and calm my nerves. It does almost feel like a shame at the moment that I’m not making the most of the social opportunities here but I’m hoping that my anxiety will subside over the next few days and I can overcome my fear of meeting people!

Day one was all about getting to know one another and trying to make us feel a little more comfortable around each other. While I know that I can chat to people without them turning me away my own nerves and anxiety are currently preventing me from doing so. To a lot of people it’s really easy to just strike up a conversation with people and click with them but for me I find it infinitely more difficult! I have of course spoken to people in group activities and when they talk to me but I have been finding it really tough to approach people, especially since my most recent breakdown. That has left me in a particularly anxious and delicate state but I’m determined to make the most of my opportunity here and not let anxiety hold me back.

Today was day 2 and was all about strategy. It was a very up and down day, my mood was pretty low coming into the day and again, it’s made the social side of things really difficult. I learned plenty and heard a seriously inspiring story from a lady about her experience of surviving a forced marriage and how she dealt with her own depression and anxiety and turned that into various campaigns and powerful articles. What a lady!

My main take away from this so far is that my anxiety is currently debilitating and in turn is greatly affecting my depression but I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t ruin my week. I just have to keep reminding myself of the pride that I have that I made it on to the course, the importance of why I’m here and the appreciation for the opportunity. Don’t waste this opportunity, brain.

A

P.S. Look how nice this place is when it’s sunny!

Mental Health Awareness Week

So this week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and it felt like a good time for me to get back into the bloggosphere, even just for this one post. It’s been nearly two months since my last post on here and the reasons for that are various.

Life has been hectic. Lots has been going on, good and bad! And so I thought it would be a good chance to tell you all about all the things that have been going on with my mental health. So I’m going to write about the good, the bad, the achievements and the setbacks.

The Good

I’ve had lots of good things happen the last few months and I’ve been able to get a lot done. I’ve achieved a lot and am generally feeling really proud of myself. Work is going great, I’m really getting my name out there and getting s*** done!
I’ve spent the last few months trying to get my life on track and I’ve been doing my very best to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve been trying to do more things by myself which I’d always struggled with. For example, I went to the cinema by myself for the first time ever. It might sound stupid and it might be a bit weird but I did it! It wasn’t easy though. I had to invest a lot of time and effort into it. 
First thing I had to do was spend money. I booked the ticket online in advance, VIP seating, 3D screening of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. I also went out to get some food an hour before the screening started. 
The next thing I had to do was tell people I was doing it! Once I’d told people I was going to go, I felt like I had to go. Backing out was no longer an option! 
The last thing I had to do was compose myself! After having eaten my meal I went into the cinema and very nearly had a panic attack so I had to compose myself. I just tried to think about the mission. 
I made it through and saw the film, beat my anxiety and ended up having a really good day. Don’t get me wrong I left the cinema feeling very shaken and completely overwhelmed but once it all sunk in, I’m really proud that I made it through that day!

I’ve also done a lot of stuff on Instagram with the #cheerupchallenge. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, my #cheerupchallenge is a series of posts highlighting all the things that I do to keep my mood up. If you’d like to follow the journey just follow me on Instagram @alexquang or click the link at the top of the page in the social media section!

The Bad

My mood has been undoubtedly lower than usual however my mental health in general has been a lot better! I can’t figure out a reason why my mood is lower but there are a few contributing factors. 
There’s been lots going on with my family which has contributed to my mood dipping. Lots of my family have been having troubles. My aunt is ill and my gran took a tumble and I’ve been doing what I can to help out. 
As a result of my lowered mood and family commitments, I’ve been seeing my friends less which again has a massive impact on my mood! Hopefully I’ll be better soon, with more free time and be able to go up to see the gang in Newcastle and of course those a little closer to home! 🙂 
Unfortunately also, I’ve been able to make good on the idea for my #OnYourMind project. It’s something I’d definitely like to come back to soon but at the moment, I’m not able to manage the idea as well as I’d hoped (hence the much simpler #cheerupchallenge). If you would like to help out though and contribute/organise, any help would be appreciated. Just email me at alexquang1@gmail.com! 

Overall

All in all, it’s been a mixed month. Right now I’m feeling a bit down but my mood overall and my resilience and ability to deal with my depression and anxiety has increased massively! I’m productive, able to pull myself up a lot easier and a lot less likely to fall into a deep depression. All the hard work seems to be paying off! 
If you’re interested about mental health and have any questions, by all means drop me a line and ask away! I can’t guarantee a clear answer as the topic is very rarely clear but I’m more than happy to share my story, the things that worry me most and how I cope. 
Alternatively if you need more structured help check out the sites below, find your local mental health services and counsellors or visit your local A&E if you’re fearing for yours or someone else’s life. 
A

On Your Mind update and the new challenge!

It’s been a long long time since I last posted! Sorry to all who read, but I’m hopefully going to be back on track pretty soon.

As you all know, I’ve been working on collecting some stuff for a new project #OnYourMind which is still happening! It’s just taking a bit of time to collect a bunch of stories. It will be launching pretty soon and it’ll be a limited run of hopefully around five or six posts!

I’ve also set myself a new challenge on Instagram which you can follow me on from the top of this page called the #CheerUpChallenge. One of the reasons I’ve not been posting as much is because my depression has been extremely trying recently and once I finish work I don’t have enough energy to do anything else. The challenge is going to be simple. Make a conscious effort to do the things that make me feel better!

If you’d like to take part too, feel free! @ me on Instagram and use the hashtag #CheerUpChallenge!

I will be back soon, I promise!

A

Even on the best of days

Today was an odd day.

I got back from Manchester feeling thoroughly pleased with two days work. But at the same time, very anxious. See I had a gig to go to. An amazing band called The Staves. My anxiety came from the fact that the person I was going with had to cancel because of work. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find anyone else to go with so I was going to have to go alone.

As the time went on and the gig got closer my anxiety grew. I’m someone that refuses to go to a restaurant or a cinema or the theatre alone. I’d sooner eat my own arm than attend something like that alone. I asked everyone I thought might be interested if they wanted the ticket for free but it was, sadly, too short notice.

Eventually I mustered up the courage to go alone in the hopes that the music would pick me up as it usually does. Throughout the evening I went from highly anxious, very self conscious and extremely uncomfortable to being just about okay enough to enjoy the sound of those three beautiful voices.

At one point I was close to having a panic attack and I almost left part way through. Luckily, The Staves are not only incredibly talented, they’re also hilarious. They managed to keep distracting me with music and their surprising potty mouths. If you hear them sing you’d never expect it but it was brilliant.

The problem is I was constantly so anxious and I’d worked myself up into such a state before the gig that my brain wasn’t working properly. My memory of the evening is blurry. I remember them being amazing and hilarious but nothing beyond that. No specifics.

Even on the best of days I feel anxious but there are things that help me cope. Today it was The Staves, their beautiful faces and spectacular voices and music. They managed to stop me from breaking down in public and having a panic attack in a venue full of a few thousand people. It’s likely they won’t ever know what they did for me today and do on a regular basis. Today I took my first step to becoming comfortable enough to do more things like this by myself! Cheers, ladies!

Also keep an eye out for our first post for #OnYourMind coming soon! If you want to find out more, check out my previous post, tweet me @albysaurus or email me alexquang1@gmail.com

Neglecting Blogs Is Bad For The Soul

Again I’ve neglected to write on here recently. I’ve been trying hard to relax and take it easy and completely forgot to blog! I’ve definitely felt a bit of a hole in my weekly schedule without the blog.

So today, I’m going to go back to the idea behind a previous post of mine. Appreciation. I’m going to be writing about the things that I’ve appreciated over the last week or so. These can be the big things like a huge event or the little things like someone smiling at me in the street. So lets get started.

1. My Basic Human Rights

I’m well aware that my family and I aren’t super rich. But we earn and we have everything we need. Food, water and shelter. I’m able to live comfortably with a fair few extra luxuries as well but I never forget how lucky I am to have these things. 
I’m also free to say and do what I like (with the obvious exceptions of murder etc.). People won’t always agree with my opinions but it’s their right not to. I can belong to a faith if I so choose, but at the same time, it’s totally fine if I don’t. 

2. Music

I’ve been diving back into going to gigs recently with tons more to come. There’s nothing better than live music. That feeling of the bass hitting you right in the chest, the anticipation of the act coming on stage, the buzz you get from the crowd. You can’t beat it! Even if I’m not at a gig, I’ve been writing, recording and singing lots of songs. It’s a relaxing task which I can do at home whenever I like! 

3. Science and Technology

There’s no denying that technology is taking over. People are spending more and more time on their phones, computers, tablets and games consoles these days. Scientists have even found that people suffer from lack of concentration and increased anxiety when they’re separated from their phones for even a short amount of time. It’s not all good, but what I do appreciate is the time, energy and effort that goes into developing technology and science. Phones these days have more computing power than the systems used to send humankind to the moon. When I think of the huge steps in innovation that people are achieving these days it fascinates me, especially when we think about the real world applications that are possible!

4. The Tolerance of Society

Another thing that I really have started appreciating is how tolerant people are these days. Sure, in isolated incidents people are intolerant, even with the rise of less tolerant political groups, they’re still outnumbered. I’m also very appreciative of how intolerant people are of bulls***. #FoxNewsFacts took over twitter recently and it showed how people were absolutely unwilling to accept the rubbish “news” that Fox news are spouting. 
Don’t forget to appreciate the little things that happen throughout the week! We’re powered by positivity. 
A