I Always Need Reminding

So last night I was working late with a group of my volunteers and I was telling them they can follow me on Twitter (@albysaurus or @AlexSuccessIS) and it was the second handle that got us talking. They were confused about why it just ended with SucessIs and were waiting for me to finish that sentence. So I explained about this blog and how I set it up to talk about how volunteering has helped me with my mental health.

Over the years, as I started working longer and longer hours in the charity sector, I stopped volunteering and stopped writing about volunteering so much and so this turned into a general blog about my mental health.

Of course, one of my excellent volunteers would remind me why I started this blog. For those newer readers of my ramblings, let’s talk about my life. #itsallaboutme

I grew up in an Asian household. The expectation for me was to go to school, college, university and then become some sort of doctor, lawyer, engineer or high skilled profession. Unfortunately for my fam, I hated school and that had a huge impact on my mental health and eventually when I turned 18, I was diagnosed with depression and later on anxiety too. I had no idea what I wanted to do so I dropped out of university and started training to be a chef. I loved food and thought this would be a great option for me.

I soon realised that it wasn’t for me. I completed my training though and throughout that I started volunteering and running my own campaigns on various topics. This for me was the first time I felt any semblance of self worth. The first time I enjoyed what I was doing. I met so many amazing people who volunteered with me who I am still best friends with to this day. I’m even going to be a groomsman at one of their weddings in August this year.

I only started doing this stuff when I was about 20. 20 years I didn’t really feel like I was worth anything. I was told multiple times by my stuck up grammar school that I wouldn’t achieve much if I didn’t get all A*’s at GCSE (guess what, even my part time job at Homebase didn’t even ask about my GCSE results, let alone any other job).

It’s pretty great right? It took 20 years for me, but I finally felt like I was doing something useful, productive and helpful to the world. Now don’t get me wrong there were tons of ups and downs throughout my new career in a sector I knew very  little about and lots of breakdowns of my body and brain but without volunteering I don’t think I would have survived to this day.

So over the next few weeks, let’s explore how volunteering saved my life and how it’s still helping me survive to this day.

A

Happy New Year! So Long 2018!

Good lord, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything on here hasn’t it??

We’re only a few hours from 2019 so for all those who like to celebrate, Happy New Year!

I can’t believe that 2018 has gone so quickly. It feels like yesterday that I ran away to the other side of the world for a month and had the best time. I can’t believe Christmas is over already. Generally I love Christmas, people are happier, everything in London looks amazing and there’s just something magical about how the country reacts to Christmas. That said, Christmas time also leaves me feeling a little alone and quite stressed out.

Through no fault of their own, I always feel like a bit of an outcast with my family. I have nothing in common with any of them and we just don’t share the same interests. They’re all great but I always feel super uncomfortable at family gatherings. It’s hard to explain but it’s a thing. On top of that, the idea of Christmas parties, forced fun and interaction and everyone getting absolutely smashed does not add up to a particularly fun time for me. But, like I said, it’s almost over and I can look forward to 2019

This year coming up, I’m heading back to Australia. For more than a month. I’m going to be going for a year or two. I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while now but obviously didn’t want to talk about it until everything was sorted out! 🙂

For me, I felt so at home in Australia. My friends and family there made me feel super relaxed and welcome. The weather genuinely helped me feel more positive about life (apart from the constant sweat stains) and really made my mood jump up.

2019 is a huge year for me and I can’t wait to get out there and see if I can start a new life across the world, take some banging photos and make some sort of difference in another country.

So, once again, Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to a 2019 full of adventures and exciting times! 🙂

A

Don’t Meet Your Heroes… Unless They’re Wonderful.

You know how almost all of us have people we want to meet? Usually it’s celebrities. Sports stars, musicians, scientists, you know the type. But when was the last time you had someone “regular” that you wanted to meet? A regular Joe/Jane. A person who you’ve seen around or maybe spoken to once or twice online?

It doesn’t happen often does it? But for me, it happened! It all started with one of my favourite people [A] in the world who’s always supported this blog, my videos, my life in general including supporting me through break ups, awkward encounters, my lowest most depressed and anxious moments.

She knew someone who had been struggling with their mental health [B] and she put us in touch. She also shared my posts on here, Facebook and Instagram. We started chatting nearly 2 years ago on and off and she is fantastic. Life has dealt her a bit of a shit hand but she has always powered through. Despite everything that she’s gone through, she is still going. And one thing I really, wholeheartedly, absolutely respect her for is sharing. We’ve had a fair few conversations about mental health. About her own and about mine. She spoke really openly and honestly with me very early on in our friendship and she knows exactly how much strength that takes. How much energy it takes to do that. How terrifying it can be. But she did it. And I’m so glad she opened up to me because I am so proud and honoured to consider her a friend.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog is fully aware how much I value the sharing of all of our mental health struggles. It’s something that I think we all need to do more to help remove that stigma. It helps us all feel much more comfortable sharing our struggles. It doesn’t have to be public like what I’m doing. It can just be sharing with one person you trust, but please do share. It will lighten the load.

Anyway, back to the point. Yesterday I got to meet Miss B and she is just as amazing and inspiring as I knew she would be. Everyone always says “don’t meet your heroes, you’ll only be disappointed”. But you know what? Sometimes you can and should meet your heroes. Miss A is one of my heroes and she introduced me to Miss B who is now one of my latest heroes and I’m very grateful for it. A little extra joy was brought into my life today and I am very glad I met one of my heroes.

Twitter Time!

So I’m a big fan of I Fucking Love Science. I think it’s a great website/Facebook page that busts myths and shares knowledge (and also have some very entertaining articles about flat earthers).  But the other day, they shared a post about a tweet. This tweet:

So according to her Twitter bio, Hattie is a lifestyle writer at Metro UK and writes regularly about mental health. This is one of her recent articles which I really enjoyed reading:

An open letter to anyone currently struggling with their mental health

I am now officially a Hattie Gladwell fan and will be looking forward to seeing more of her articles!

But that aside, the tweet above is what I want to talk about. Hattie set the wheels in motion a very long, sad but also reassuring thread all about the things that people have said about mental health. The responses range from things friends and family have said, to doctors and other mental health professionals. Some of the things are heart breaking and rage inducing. Like this one:

Now, I’ve not had any comments this extreme about my mental health but I know full well that this kind of comment is all too common. I’ve had tons of friends tell me stories just like Amy’s. As I was reading through all these tweets, all I could think about were all the people who have made shitty comments to me. Comments like “If you really wanted to get over your depression, you would have by now.”. There’s so much shit going around and I started to think again about how people are arseholes. But then I started reading through responses to each comment and it reminded me how wonderful the mental health community is. Almost every post had messages of support and reassurance (and a lot of “oh my God, I had the same thing”).

If you’re interested in mental health, which you probably are if you’re here, I’d highly recommend reading through this thread. It’ll help remind you that you’re not alone. Lots of people go through the same thing and this may help you realise that sometimes you have to exorcise toxic people from your life.

One big thing that I did notice though, was that the majority of the tweets were from women. I looked through close to 100 of the responses and found very few men. This makes me pretty sad that so few men were on this thread when the statistics show that adult men are much more likely to commit suicide. I would love to see the stigma disappear so that men would be able to feel more comfortable talking  about their mental health.

Anyway, I’ve had a job interview today and I’m tired. I’m off to get some sleep. Please check out the Twitter thread and please remember, you don’t have to put up with bell ends talking shit to you.

 

 

My Australian Adventure: Part 3

So far in Australia I’ve been out almost every day. When I’ve not got plans with friends and family my plan always consists of walking in town until I find something cool to do/see and spend some time doing that. Today and yesterday I’ve been feeling a little rough. My body and brain are completely exhausted. I woke up today feeling a dizzy and a tiny bit queasy, my legs are feeling weak and my head is aching. I was hoping this wouldn’t happen but I clearly haven’t been managing my energy very well. I get that when you’re on holiday you want to do and see as much as you can but I’m definitely in need of a couple days of lazing around.

At home, I plan my social activities very careful so that I don’t get overwhelmed but I spent the first couple weeks in the city walking until I get hungry, eating and then going to something and being back by 4/5pm. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot for most people but for me, all the noises, people and things going on in busy cities can get a bit much. My brain can only process so much every day and I’m struggling to keep it in check while I’m being exposed to so many new things at once.

So yesterday and today I’ve been focused on trying to get my head back into a good space. I know it might seem like a waste of two days while I’m on holiday but I need the break from the fun to be able to enjoy the last two weeks in Australia. The main thing that I’m struggling with here is sleep. Even though I’m going to bed much earlier than I do in the UK, I’m not getting the good rest that I need. I’m regularly waking up in the middle of the night and super early in the morning and I’m having some freaky dreams that seem to be waking me up too.

One thing that I know I struggle with and I know lots of other people with mental health problems struggle with is the guilt of resting. Half of my brain is telling me “what the fuck are you doing? Get out and keep exploring. You don’t have much time here.” While the other half of my brain is telling me “stop. Just for a little while.” So while I definitely want to make the most of my time here I’m also here to rest and relax. So I won’t feel bad about taking a day or two to rest up and get ready for the last stretch of my holiday.

So many people feel guilty for taking time out for themselves but my message to people is “don’t”. I know it’s hard to just switch your mindset. It’s almost impossible. But try your best to remind yourself that you need a break to be able to get on with life. Everyone needs to rest. If you need to rest a little more than others, by all means, take that time and get your body and your brain ready for the next exciting adventure.

A

My Australian Adventure: Part 2

So I was just in Melbourne staying with one of my best buds and man have I been learning a lot about Australia. For example, despite it’s name the Huntsman spider isn’t poisonous and it builds some pretty spectacular webs. Gum tree sap is explosive so if there’s a bushfire near the a lot of gum trees, run as far as you can, as fast as you can.

Melbourne is a beautiful city which is full of culture, art, food and fun. I’ve had the chance to go to the Moomba Festival and watch some people jump off a pier into a notoriously stinky river to raise money for charities of their choice, visit a cracking museum/gallery which currently has a spectacular installation which consists of dozens of giant skulls piled up and scattered across a room. I’ve eaten amazing vegan food at Serotonin (which is now one of my favourite places on earth) and some great dumplings which remind me of home and climbed 1000 steps to get some incredible views of a stunning forest (I am very very unfit and now my butt muscles hurt so much I can barely walk…). I’ve also been hosted by one of the most wonderful friends and her incredible, kind and welcoming family who I’m incredibly grateful to have finally met after all these years!

This post though is going to be about a very specific thing I got up to with my friend, her boyfriend and a bunch of his friends. They organised a huge city wide scavenger hunt. 30+ people turned up to win prizes that were both pretty bad and absolutely brilliant at the same time. A toy watch, a smiley face plastic ball, a set of maracas and more. The scavenger hunt had us recreating famous images, paintings, photos, movies, solving riddles, finding hidden bottles of gin and doing some other wacky things. It was physically and mentally exhausting competing in a new city half way across the world while also meeting dozens of new people and trying not to fuck things up for my team but holy crap was it fun.

And that’s the thing. It was fun to play a game with people with no goal other than to have a bloody great time. We all have to get old but does that always mean we have to grow up? So many people complain about having to “adult” and how boring it is being an adult. I have made the same comments and I’m guilty of being a total buzzkill sometimes too. But I think the reason we end up bitter, jaded and whiny adults is because we forget how to play. One thing that I always used to love as a kid that would help me to destress was play. Whether that was with my Pokémon toys, my PS1 or football in the garden with a tennis ball. Now I often have to remind myself to play more especially when I’m working a full time job.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying plan an elaborate scavenger hunt for 30 of your friends every week (although if you do, I’d be up for taking part). I’m saying to try to go back to playing when you get the opportunity. Use your lunch breaks to play some games on your phone (or if you’re like me, on your 3DS or PS Vita) or go outside with your colleagues and play a game of football using your jackets as the goalposts. At the weekends don’t just go to the pub every weekend. I love the pub but this week has reminded me how much fun actually playing is rather than just sitting and drinking. You can still catch up with your friends but you just get to do it while recapturing some of your youthful energy. That’ll only disappear if we let it. We all say that we’re “too busy” and we can’t take a break but there is always something that can wait.

A couple friends and I have a semi regular Friends marathon, KFC/vegan kebab, alcohol and Uno. And you know what? The food and the booze is great but the Uno really brings us together the most through competition and smack talk. The scavenger hunt let me see the city of Melbourne in a totally new way and allowed me to meet a bunch of new people while having silly, wacky fun.

This scavenger hunt reminded me to play more and it’s a damn shame that it took a trip half way across to reinforce that to me. Hopefully this post will help you play more and stress less! Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Post 1000 steps. Tip for future steppers, don’t take a back pack full of camera gear.

A

Australia Part 1

So after over a decade I finally got myself out of the UK for a little while. I’m currently staying with my uncle and cousin in Sydney, Australia. I very rarely get to see them so I’m super stoked to be spending some time with them all. It’s only been a few days and jet lag has made things a bit slow but I’m getting the hang of things over here and learning a bit more about the city. So here are the things I’ve learned already.

  1. People are very considerate in public.

In my three days here so far I have barely seen anyone smoking in the street. I’ve been told that people just don’t smoke in the street or in public unless they’re away from other pedestrians. It’s not a law apparently. It’s just good manners.

2. Its very clean.

Alongside that, the city is remarkably clean considering how many people and tourists go through the city every day. The suburbs are even spotless. It seems that people just don’t litter as much and/or the waste management teams in Sydney are fantastic. Either way it’s great.

3. The shops are fucking great.

It was a little bit rainy today so I went and did some shopping instead of doing all the sites. (I want the weather to be banging so that I can get some dope pics for the gram). The three main stores that I went to were EB Games, JB Hi Fi and Books Kinokuniya. By comparison the stores in the UK might as well be a car boot sale. Kinokuniya and JB were particularly impressive. I’ve never seen a bookstore with such variety before. Western literature was abundant as per, but the thing that surprised me was the selection of comic books, manga, merchandise, and entire Japanese and Chinese sections to the store. JB Hi Fi is a strange mish mash of different things. Video games, dvds, PC gaming peripherals, phones, tablets, laptops, drones, cd’s, vinyl. You name it they had it. Also they had some banging deals on so I bought an iPad which I’m typing this on right now!

4. Nature is scary, brilliant and annoying.

On my visit to Toronga Zoo, I learned about a lot of different creatures. From the cute to the demonic. The Lyre Bird can mimic the sound of anything it hears. It is fantastic. The variety of snakes and spiders that can kill you is pretty special. But most notably are the lorikeets who are so obnoxiously loud (as my cousin put it) that they wake me up every morning at sunrise.

5. The beaches are more amazing than I imagined.

No words. Just look at these photos.

A

nyway, it’s early days yet. I’m going to Melbourne soon and will be in Australia until the end of the month so I’ll be sure to share my learnings with you.

A

Brain Freeze

So I’ve not really been on the radar much over the last few months. I’ve barely written on here, I’ve not made a video for over six months and I’ve not really even seen any of my friends.

Now the vast majority of my friends know what’s been going on with my life and completely understand why I’ve not been around but I’ve not really spoken much about my mental health and how that’s been affected.

So if you’ve read any of my most recent posts, you’ll know a lot has been going on. While I try my best to stay positive and keep my mood up and keep going with everyday things, I am finding it extremely difficult. This is neither a call for attention or a cry for help. I’ll be fine. However, I’ve always believed that sharing my experiences may help others who are going through a similar situation.

Right now my brain is a big ol’ pile of scrambled nonsense. My memory is shocking. Long and short term memory has suffered a lot recently. My brain has decided that remembering things isn’t what I should be focusing on right now. I’ve forgotten things from years ago which people have been telling me about and forgotten things from yesterday which I need to know to get shit done.

My body and mind are constantly tired right now and while I’m exhausted, I’m struggling to sleep. There are a lot of evenings where I’m too tired to even eat, but too buzzed and awake to sleep. This has made work really really difficult. In my job, I’m required to be cheery, happy and personable and right now, I’m just finding that really tough. And that is by far the thing that drains me the most.

My motivation is at an all time low. I don’t want to do anything other than sit home and play videogames. I don’t want to think, I don’t want to work. I am so exhausted, so drained and so demotivated that the idea of applying for a new job is inconceivable.

At the same time, I’m being made redundant. Which you’d think would be good considering where my mind is at the moment. I know I want to take a break from work to look after my brain but at the same time, my brain is in overdrive worrying about where my next paycheck is coming from and what I want to do with my life.

Finally, I don’t want to see people. Even my closest friends. On the flip side, however, I want to be with my friends and want them to know that I’m not avoiding them and that I’m not angry or upset with them. This is arguably the hardest. Logically I know my friends are the most supportive people in the world and won’t ever think that but there’s the other part of my brain that worries that if I don’t see them, if I’m not in contact with them, they’ll not only stop checking in on me or stop inviting me to things but also that they’ll forget me entirely.

Now I know that all of this is a big mess in my mind. Thoughts that can’t be sorted, feelings that can’t be organised. But in time, those feelings and thoughts will sort themselves out. I just need to let my brain remember how to function. I just need to let my brain take a break and reboot. My brain has crashed and I just need to take the time to ctrl-alt-del my life back in order. And that’s okay.

A

What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

So I’m not going to write a long post today. I’m very tired and very ready to go back to bed for about 9 days. It’s the time of the year where I (and many others) feel the most pressure to go out, get pissed and have a “good time” paying double for drinks and being crammed into a venue or someone’s house.

For the last few years at New Year’s I stayed in. On my own. Playing games and watching Jool’s Holland and I’m going to do that again this year. I’m not going to feel guilty for looking after my brain on this day and I don’t think you should either! Don’t get me wrong, if you want to go out and party, by all means go for it! We should all be able to do what we want without any guilt and without any pressure.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/stories-42411707/staying-in-this-new-year-you-re-not-alone

I was recently in this video with the BBC talking about New Year’s with two other people with mental health problems which I think  you should definitely check out if you can.

New Year’s is just another day.

Either way, whatever you decide to do, happy New Year!

A

2017 – A year of ups and downs.

So if you’ve read my most recent posts, you’ll know that life has been a bit mental this year. I was made redundant from a job, someone I respected passed away, my gran became really ill. More recently I found out I was being made redundant again and my gran passed away this weekend. All in all this year has been a bit of a shitter.

However many downs there have been I think it’s also important to remember the ups too. Good things have happened this year and whether they’re big or small, I think they’re worth mentioning. So after four days away seeing some amazing people in Newcastle, I’m trying to refocus and re-evaluate life. Before I start spilling my brain all over this blog though, here are some of the big and little things that I’m grateful for.

The Big Stuff:

My Friends

The fact that I know I could go to Newcastle and stay with two amazing people any time I need to is amazing. The fact that so many of my friends have been checking in with me and have been kind enough to offer me beer, food, a comforting ear, a day of singing and music or a conversation to take my mind off life is massively appreciated. One of my friends is even spending Christmas with me this year and will be flying over from Australia. Most importantly though, none of my friends have made me feel bad about skipping out on social things to take time for my brain and my family.

My Family

No one likes their family 100% of the time but I really think most people genuinely love their families. I really do love my family. I don’t always show it and I definitely could do more for my family. But if this year has shown me anything, it’s that my family is great (not that I didn’t know it before). Whether it’s the family a few doors down or family from across the world this year has made my family even tighter than before. I appreciate my family a lot.

My Job

Okay so I’m being made redundant but one thing I’m really grateful for is how flexible they’ve been with me. I’ve been allowed to work from home whenever I need it and leave at 5pm and finish the day at home. My colleagues have been amazingly understanding and I’m really grateful that I ended up in such a good team.

The Little Things:

Video Games

So the little things might seem trivial but I’m going to start with video games. I love video games. I play with people I’ve never met online and I play games that friends have recommended me and I talk to them about the game constantly. It might seem silly for a lot of people but for me, especially this year, videogames have been a fantastic escape for me into a fantasy world or twelve.

Internet

Okay so I’m not talking about social media or YouTube or anything. I’m talking about broadband and WiFi. I was paying a silly amount of money for internet that was barely working. But I changed WiFi provider and I now have super fast super reliable internet. So yeah it allows me to enjoy things like Netflix and YouTube which is another great escape.

My Camera

I’m not the most active on YouTube any more and I’m not the greatest film maker or photographer in the world but fuck me, taking the camera out for a day of shooting video or doing a photography tour is absolutely amazing fun.

Sidenote: If you’d like to come along on a photography tour of London with me for the amazing Project Parent come along to the event page here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/181144485778845/

So as I mentioned at the start, 2017 has been a bit of a shitter, but it’s not all been bad. Thanks to everyone who’s made my 2017 slightly more bearable and occasionally a whole lot of fun. Still though, fuck 2017.