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

The Recovery Part 6: Celebrating Serotonin

Today was a good day for me. I did something which I’ve been wanting to do for years. I got a tattoo. I spent months trying to figure out a tattoo that I could get which I would love on my body for the rest of my life and would mean something to me and hopefully mean something to other people.

The tattoo I chose was this: 20160502_190830.jpg

This is serotonin. It’s one of the “happy hormones” and it’s something that my body and brain sorely lacks. It’s one of the causes of my long term depression and so it’s something that I’ve always tried my best to understand. Needless to say, I’m super happy with this.

“I know some people aren’t a fan of tattoos and they may think that this is a pretty extreme way of getting to talk about mental health and you may well be right but sometimes you need to do something a little bit strange to get people talking.”

Obviously this is primarily something for me. If I don’t have enough of this stuff in my body, I’ll get it tattooed on me in the hopes that it brings me a smile when I see it. I will never be without again. In fact this was the first time I’ve been genuinely excited about anything that I’m doing for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but this was for me and it’s one of the rare times I do things just for me.

However, there is another reason for this particular kind of tattoo. It’s not something people see very often and so people will hopefully ask about it. When they do, it gives me the chance to talk about mental health, my experiences and the experiences of countless other people who have mental illnesses. It will help to open up the discussions that are so often taboo.

“It gives me the chance to talk about mental health, my experiences and the experiences of countless other people who have mental illnesses. It will help to open up the discussions that are so often taboo.”

I know some people aren’t a fan of tattoos and they may think that this is a pretty extreme way of getting to talk about mental health and you may well be right but sometimes you need to do something a little bit strange to get people talking. This to me, isn’t just a tattoo. It’s a message. It’s a statement. If I can get even one person who looks at my tattoo to think a little bit differently about their mental health and the health of those around them then it will be worth it.

Let the conversations begin.

A

The Recovery Part 4: Being Your Real Self

I used to spend absolutely ages trying my hardest to hide parts of my life that I thought were uncool or weird. Even things I absolutely loved and really enjoyed. There was only one thing that I didn’t hide as much when I was in school and that was my love for Yu-Gi-Oh cards. I was amazing at that game.

I used to absolutely love anime, video games, manga, cartoons. All the nerdy things. Over time my nerd interests grew to include comic books, technology (in particular mobile phones and computers) and science. But throughout most of my life, I was absolutely embarrassed by all of my “awful” interests.

I’m not what you’d call “conventionally cool”, hell I’m barely even unconventionally cool. But I’ve been trying really hard over the last few months to appreciate myself in a way that I’ve always struggled with. I’m embracing all the things that make me, me. I’m trying to find my “Inner Babe” (T, I’m still working on it!) and I think it’s going well.

I’m actually sitting here watching some anime as I type and I’ve got to the point now where it’s more exhausting to try to hide my nerdy habits. I’ve got comic books next to my bed, Marvel bunting with my name on it (thanks V) and video games and controllers all over the place. Wireless charging pads litter my desk, Bluetooth headphones accompany me everywhere, my smartwatch (which is arguably entirely pointless) is part of my daily outfit. I have a cupboard full of old computer parts and a desktop computer which I’m slowly but surely building up to be a beautiful piece of kit.

That’s not everything that defines me though, I’m a musician, an illustrator, a youth worker and a singer. Those parts of me I never hid as they’re a little bit “cooler”… But all of these things are what makes me, me. I’m celebrating everything that makes me unique.

I hope you’re able to appreciate yourself too, all the bits that you don’t often consider to be excellent. All the bits that society wouldn’t generally consider to be cool, all the nerdy things, all the lame things, all the weird things. Love them all! If people judge you based on your harmless interests then screw them!

I’m trying my hardest to be my real self. I hope you get to be your real self too.

If all else fails, my mum says I’m cool…

A

The Recovery Part 2: On the Mend

So it’s been a few weeks now since I’ve started on my tablets again and put a lot of plans in place to make myself better. Some of my key goals have been small easy wins and some are slightly longer term and a little more difficult to achieve.

The small easy wins that I’ve managed recently are:

  1. Read! I’ve recently bought a poetry book by Sarah Howe called the Loop of Jade. It’s a great collection and focuses quite a bit on her dual identity being half Chinese and half English. (Similarly, I’m a British-born Chinese person.) I don’t read anywhere near as often as I used to so it’s good to be reading again.
  2. Get out of my room. This one seems silly but it’s so easy for me to lock myself away in my room and play video games all evening and ignore my housemate and the world outside of my bubble. But just trying to sit downstairs more often, staying for a chat for a half hour is a huge deal for me and often leads to me sticking around for much longer and enjoying myself.
  3. Be more creative. I’ve been trying my very hardest to set aside more time in my day for creative practices. Music (as always) is my number one, go-to creative activity. I’m singing more often, louder and with less inhibitions! Living in a house with another singer and musician helps greatly. I’ve also been trying to illustrate more as it’s something I always used to love doing. I try to create things I can give away to people and make them smile.
  4. Get to work. For the first few weeks of the year I couldn’t work. I could barely get out of bed, to be fair. But I found that the extreme anxiety of going back to work after so long was short-lived. The anxiety is still there but as I get used to it all again it’s fading quickly. The first week I was back I came in a little later and left a little earlier. Now I’m back to working full days and am easing myself back into delivering sessions and workshops.

While these are huge steps for me, they’re such simple little things for most people so I’ve added them to my small easy wins. Getting out of bed at all should be on there for sure. Little things add up and make a huge impact. I’m still far from feeling well. I still get bouts of feeling very sick, spikes in my anxiety and still quite often it takes everything in me to not have a panic attack. All of this and trying my very hardest to keep a smile on my face for the sake of my work is extremely tiring. I finish most days exhausted and by the time I get home and have cooked and eaten, that’s it for me and I hit the hay and the struggle to wake up and get out starts all over again.

It’s important for me, and for lots of people recovering from mental illness to find a routine, find small wins, celebrate those wins and slowly build up to bigger things. My mood may dip multiple times a day but I’m confident that with everything that I’ve been putting into place I’m going to get better. I hope you’re all able to find something to get you back on the road to recovery and allow you to take control of your body and mind again.

Please feel free to get in touch with me and let me know if you have any routines and activities that you use to keep your mood up! 🙂

Yours sleepily,

A

The Gateway To 2016 And The Ones You Miss The Most

This isn’t going to be a generic 2015 summary and 2016 preview. I’ll do a little bit, of course, but that’s not the focus of this post.

Sure I achieved a lot this year. Met some amazing people and saw lots of brilliant things happen. I’ve also taken a few hits this year. My confidence at work has increased greatly but my confidence in social situations has plummeted. However, this isn’t a sad story so don’t reach for the tissue. I’m determined to be better so I know I will be.

Anyway, this post is more about the people I wish I could be with tonight. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a delightful evening cooking a baked lamb meatball ragu but I was meant to be in Newcastle with my extra families so I miss them tons. The brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles from the north, the nephews. All of them. I miss all my old Team v people (and I apologise massively for not keeping in touch with lots of you!). I miss my friends around the world. I miss my friends who live in the same town/city as me but I never seem to be able to connect with.

Admittedly I’ve been much less good at keeping in touch with everyone recently due to various self made mental barriers too. I’m working on it as hard as I can so I’m hoping I won’t be missing you for long.

But for me, and I’m sure everyone else I know, there’s that one person that I wish I could see right now more than anyone. Hopefully, like my person, they make you feel like a better person, they make you smile and feel comfortable. You might not speak to them often and might see them even less but whenever you do see them or speak to them, you’re excited to and it feels like nothing has changed.

So for your first kind gesture of the year, I implore you to drop that person a message, a text, write them a letter, visit them.

Happy New Year.

Love, smiles, and good vibes.

A

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 –

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

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

Don’t Complain, Campaign.

So it’s the time of the year where giving is encouraged. Times are hard right now and the news, media, papers, magazines are all awash with stories of woe, things that need to be changed. There are a lot of issues out there that need people working on to make sure that our country and our society changes for the better.

There are a bunch of things that I’m passionate about and lots of issues that I’m eager to tackle in anyway my time and energy will allow. For example, mental health. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I’m keen to get people talking about mental health. Trying to take power away from mental illnesses by acknowledging that they’re just a small part of what makes us who we are. I’m constantly planning, brainstorming and talking to others about potential campaigns that I could run to potentially tackle the issue and I feel like in my own very small way I’m already campaigning for change.

Lots of people, however, are what some call Armchair Activists or Slacktivists.

Urban Dictionary define an Armchair Activist as:

“One who sits in their armchair or desk chair and blogs or posts Activists issues on facebook without ever really doing anything about said issues or exercising any form of activism as it would require that person to actually leave the armchair.”

Wikipedia defines Slacktivism as:

“The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.”

I’ve been guilty of being a slacktivist before. Occasionally I still feel like one. However, I often get feedback about my efforts in trying to get people to talk about mental health and it helps me realise that even my small little blog and the openness in which I talk about my own mental problems and encourage people to do the same is helping a them come to terms with the hand that’s been dealt to them. This isn’t me tooting my own horn, or blowing smoke up my own chimney or another way of saying that I’m showing off. All I’m trying to do is show people that it’s not as hard as it sounds to campaign for something you care about. There are small things you can do, like blog and talk and share your story or the story of others (who are happy for you to do so). It might not feel like you’re campaigning, but at the very least, you’re laying the groundwork for a campaign. 
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are motivated enough to campaign about the things that matter the most to them, even though sometimes they work themselves to sickness! 
The message I’m trying to get across in this post is as the title says. Don’t just whine about the issues that you’re upset about. Get up out of your armchair or desk chair or sofa and do something about it.
If you’re interested in running your own campaign check out these links.
vinspired.com/cashpoint
Alternatively, search for an existing campaign and volunteer for that. Chances are, there are tons of campaigns that people have already started which would be happy to have some willing volunteers! 🙂 
SO
Don’t complain, campaign. 
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!