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.

My New Endeavours

So this is my 60th post on Success In Selflessness. And there are some exciting things happening. Okay, no I’m not cured, I still avoid social situations as best I can and I’m still spending 70% of my time at home in bed, resting but I’m determined to get better slowly.

To continue my never ending battle of recovery, I’ve decided to do some new things. I’m setting myself a few challenges to aid in that quest.

First, I’m going to try to learn to skateboard. I’m neither graceful nor athletic. So that’s going to be really interesting.

Second, I really really want to learn to scuba dive. I’ve been looking for scuba diving courses near where I live and I think I’ve found a place. I always used to find the sea and the water really relaxing and even though I’d be learning in a pool, it would hopefully one day lead me to the sea to swim with sharks. That’s the dream. My new endeavours.png

Thirdly, I’m going to be diversifying the content that I create on this blog. First up, you may have noticed some new pages on the site. I’m going to be posting music related content as well as things about politics, identity, culture, and lots of other social issues. The most exciting bit that I’m planning is to create some videos to go alongside the content that I’m creating. So I’m learning how to edit video as I write this. Who knows, by the time this comes out we might even have our first video up!

This post is primarily a way for me to announce the new ways I’m going to be providing content but it’s also a reminder to never stop growing. Whenever I learn something new or achieve something I didn’t think I would, I feel great. I feel a rare sense of pride in who I am and what I do.

So my message to you this time, no matter how, when or where, learn something new and do something you didn’t think you could. Even if it’s leave the house to go to the shop. Or to read a new book, or start learning a new language or instrument. You’ll thank  yourself for it.

UPDATE: I’ve bought myself a skateboard so keep your eyes peeled for some shocking bails and bruises… 20160924_154556[1].jpg

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The Power of a Smile

I talk a lot about how the little things in life can really help people get through a day, a week, a year. It could be something as simple as a good song or bumping into an old friend or even something silly like tidying up the mini zen garden on your desk. All of these little things can make the tough days just that little bit easier and even though sometimes you don’t acknowledge them, they’re there if you look for them.

I made a new friend recently. For those of you who know me you know I’m not a huge fan of meeting new people. It often makes me feel physically sick. People often tell me that they’d never guess that I’m not a fan of meeting people because I seem so friendly and confident. Truth is, I’m just a very good actor. Meeting people, as I mentioned, makes me feel very sick. It makes me brain function at 1000mph and leaves me considering every single possible social interaction that we’d have in the next few seconds, minutes, hours and days.

However!

This particular person walked up to me with her friend (who I already knew and who all of this also applies to when I first met her) and came over beaming. Smiling like there wasn’t a thing wrong with the world and that made me feel significantly more at ease than when I saw her coming over.

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A simple smile made me feel significantly more comfortable with this new person. She came across as friendly and accepting. Luckily, she was actually friendly and accepting. She’s absolutely not the only person with a winning smile though. Most of the people I know and love greeted me with a smile. Whether it was at the first ever volunteering residential I went to (where I was unable to bring myself to approach anyone), at work or through other ways I’ve always had wonderful smiles around me to calm my nerves.

So I’d always encourage you to smile at that stranger you see on the train every morning, smile at your partners, your friends, your families. Whether it’s a polite smile, a toothy grin or a good ol’ hearty cackle it could be a huge thing. You never know when someone might need that small gesture of kindness.

If you’re in need of a smile, my glorious friends from all over the place have sent me photos (or let me trawl through their Facebook photos) and are here to provide a smile for you as they did for me.

 

Thank you to Jacqui, Deepan, Taz, Sarah, Zahrah, Amira, Jenny, Shaun, Emma, Rob, Victoria, Kate, Scarlett, Kishan, Cat, Zahra, Monet, Emmeline, Jack, John, Naomi, Amy, Katie, Louise, Reema, Sarah and Rosie and many many more for sending in photos, helping me to spread a little joy and for bringing so much joy into my life. I ended up receiving more photos than I could fit but here are just a small fraction of them!

Keep smiling, all.

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A little more Serotonin

So earlier this year, I got my serotonin tattoo and I loved it. You can find my previous post about it here. Primarily it was a tattoo for me to enjoy and to remind myself that I have survived my depression and anxiety for years. A secondary objective was that it would help open up a dialogue between people about mental health and would eventually, alongside this blog, allow me to encourage people to talk about their mental health as though it was their physical health.

The tattoo was certainly not something that I’d be writing a follow up blog about, but here we are! It’s been as amazing for myself as expected but it’s certainly helped a lot of people learn about mental health and has got a lot of people talking to me about their mental health which has resulted in me referring them to various services and quite a few have even ended up seeking help from their doctors.

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Back when it was fresh

The greatest experience I’ve had though was at work one day. I was running a session for a group in Shrewsbury and lots of them asked me about it so we paused the session and had a great open discussion about the tattoo and why I got it. My session was completely derailed but I had the opportunity to be really open about my mental health and they were able to have a really open discussion.

After I got home, I’d received a message from the people who organised it telling me that the discussion had gone on long after my session had ended. This was literally the best news I’d heard.

To me, my tattoo is art. And to think that a simple bit of art done by a random guy in Southgate (who talked a lot about smoking weed which was a little concerning while he was sticking a needle into my arm) has had such an impact on people.

As always, I’m not trying to blow smoke up my own arse, it’s just amazing how something so small and seemingly insignificant can help to tackle stigma, open discussions and challenge perceptions on a topic.

Still here, still awesome

The little things matter. I’m not saying you have to get a tattoo to open up discussions about mental health. I’m just challenging you all to find a small thing that you can do in your day to day life that will help people to be more open about the issues that affect them. It could be something as simple as challenging questionable view about racial stereotypes (which we should all be doing) or telling a story of how an issue has affected you or someone you know.

It could be anything. Just don’t do nothing.

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A Successfully Selfless Sunday

So as many of you may have read, it was my birthday at the weekend and my friends and I thought we’d do something different this year. Every year I end up going to a bar, drinking more than is usually responsible and regretting life choices for a long time.

This year we planned something a little different. You can read about the plans here.

Due to some questionable planning on my part, we didn’t make it through the whole list, but what we did achieve made me really proud. Proud of myself for making such wonderful selfless friends. Proud of my friends and my family for being so willing to get stuck in and for giving up their Sundays to make other people smile. Proud of the public for not only taking part but paying it forward.

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Some of Carl’s best cards!

The main thing that we did for the day was writing out lots of positive, motivational and inspirational messages and hand them out to people along with a flower and a few chocolates.

I knew from the get-go that we weren’t going to change the world with this small act of kindness, but it brightened an otherwise very grey London day, for us and the people we were handing gifts out to.

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My beautiful team of volunteers for the day

One of the most exciting things that I’ve seen is that friends who live too far to join in in person carried out their own acts of kindness wherever they were as well. I’ve been getting letters, texts, messages from people all over the place telling me about their random acts of kindness for other people. You can see some of the examples below! One thing, that I know is the case for lots of my friends, is that these random acts of kindness aren’t unusual for them.

So many of my friends spend all their time and energy trying to make other people’s lives better but it’s really rare that a truly selfless person will list out all the things that they’ve done other people.

They rarely  get to see the impact that they have on the world and that breaks my heart a little bit. So my final birthday wish is for you to be a little bit selfish so that you can make sure to spread more selflessness. I wrote a whole post about it ages ago and it’s important to me that you recognise the amazing things and impact that you have on the people around you and the world.

Good deeds don’t always get recognised, but they deserve to be. Often they do, of course and that’s great. But sometimes people won’t notice that you’ve held a door open, or paid them a really nice compliment or helped them in any way.

So to all of my friends and family, the worlds teachers, campaigners, activists, doctors, engineers, youth workers, fast food servers, bus drivers and everyone in between, celebrate your contribution to the world, give yourself a pat on the back sometimes. If you’ve helped someone smile today, you deserve it. Kindness deserves recognition, even if it’s from yourself.

Recognition today goes out to all of my friends and family who helped me to spread some cheer. Those who came on the day, those who donated items for us to use, those who carried out their own acts of kindness in response to this all deserve my gratitude and appreciation, as well as all my birthday well wishers. You helped give me the perfect birthday!

Every act of kindness will be appreciated. I appreciate kindness wherever it’s come from. I want to celebrate kind acts that you’ve carried out. Comment them on here, or tweet me. Have yourselves a wonderful, kind week.

A

 

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

Mental Health Awareness Week: Tag

So it’s come round again pretty swiftly but we’re slap bang in the middle of MHAW.

The delightful Becca has tagged me to talk about my mental health. You should go check out her post here. First things first, thank you to Becca for sharing her story, answering these questions and helping to make talking about your mental health normal. Now, I’m sure regular readers will know a fair bit about my journey but here goes! (Warning, this is going to be a long one.)

  • What mental illness do you have?

I have depression and anxiety.

  • When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed with depression when I was 18 and still in college. The anxiety was when I was around 22.

  • Who knows about it?

Almost everyone I know. I try to be as open and honest about it as possible though that doesn’t always happen! The first person who knew was my ex who to this day I’m grateful to for supporting me and getting me the help I needed. We don’t speak anymore but I’ll always be thankful for helping me to get better! The first friend who I told about it was one of my closest friends and my sister from another mister. That was the hardest thing for me, just coming to terms with it all. I was so scared that it would alienate me from other people because I wasn’t normal.

  • Do you receive treatment for it?

I’m currently on a pretty decent dosage of Fluoxetine (I think it’s called Prozac in the states). I’ve been on more different tablets than I can count and have gone to counselling multiple times but believe it or not, the idea of talking about it to help me recover is still quite scary.

  • Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything?

My anxiety and depression stop me from doing a lot of different things. Though I’m outwardly a very chatty person, I despise meeting new people fearing that they may hate me. It regularly stops me from going out and socialising with friends. So often, I decide to stay at home rather than see people I really want to as I’m so scared of talking to people that I don’t know. My mental illnesses also stop me from doing some really basic things too. It often leaves my body completely exhausted and I sometimes struggle to get out of bed, speak, eat, drink or even breathe sometimes. I’ve also (not for a while, thankfully) once left a restaurant because I couldn’t decide what to eat.

  • Is there anything in particular that has helped you?

Music, art, comic books, videogames and volunteering. Oh and food. I love food. Music is my favourite way to unwind and calm myself down. I love to sing and play. There’s something very therapeutic about creating something. Whether it’s a piece of music, a piece of art, a delicious dish. Or just saving the universe from monsters and aliens. Of course the other huge thing that helps me is having good people around me. Friends and family are not to be taken for granted. Whenever I need it, I seem to get a text or call from my best friends. Whenever I go home to see my family, we chat all night, we eat and watch Grand Designs. My work also helps me greatly. It’s a job I love and getting to work with and support other young people to help their communities and themselves gives me endless pleasure.

  • Can you describe what it feels like to have your mental illness?

It feels like a prison of thoughts. Every single interaction I have, whether professional or social is an absolute ball ache. I go through all the possible scenarios that could possibly come out of this interaction. What if I say something that offends them? What if I say something embarrassing? It’s exhausting. It’s a constant feeling of ineptitude and inability to function normally. It’s comparing myself to everyone else in society and to societal norms and trying to fit those molds. It’s like an elephant standing on my chest and daggers poking my brain. It’s more often than not a complete numbness to everything in the world. Pleasure is an uncommon thing and it’s very rare that I feel truly happy to be alive but I want to get back to being happy again.

  • What is a common misconception about your mental illness?

That it’s as easy as flipping a switch to turn it off. The number of times that I’ve been told to just get over it and stop being so miserable is impossible to count. It’s also the least helpful thing in the world. If I could do that I would do that in an instant. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world who would want to suffer with depression and anxiety. I know so many people who I’ve worked with, volunteered with, spoken to online who are fighting the same fight as me and it’s probably the most common thing that is said to us. 13245324_1854977518062911_6991456438909472387_n.png

  • What do you find the most difficult to deal with?

The guilt. It’s unfounded, unfortunate and irrational. I would never feel guilty for breaking my leg and not being able to do something yet for some reason, not being able to bring myself to go out and see people because of my mental illnesses fills me with so much guilt. I feel guilty that I miss birthdays, gatherings, parties, dinners. I struggle to do any of that stuff unless I’m in control and I’ve planned every detail and know exactly who is and isn’t going to be there. I feel so guilty for letting people down and disappointing people but if it was the other way round, I wouldn’t ever feel like they were letting me down. They’re just looking after themselves.

  • Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

First, thanks for reading this far! It’s always a struggle to talk about these things so openly but it’s important that I do. I would love for more people to do the same so that I can make sure that we’re not going to be stuck feeling bad about our illnesses. As always, just make sure that you ask your friends how they are. Offer to support each other, look after each other, be kind to one another and make sure that there’s always love and compassion at the forefront of your mind.

Also, just generally don’t be a dick.

As this is mental illness tag, I’m tagging everyone who’s reading this. Drop it in the comments below if you’re comfortable doing it or write a blog post of your own. Otherwise, please feel free to like, comment and follow me for more mental health posts. 🙂

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