I’ve been blogging a while now, well at least attempting to come across as a blogger when really all I feel is like someone who spouts randomness but is lucky that some people like to read it! A lot has changed since my first blog and I get asked quite often, “What is Red Balloons?” “What are you about?” etc so I decided, now that I have a few new readers and I have officially launched Red Balloons as a living, breathing entity, I would explain who I am and what I do, as well as why. A little insight to the crazy world of CC!
Very brief history, I have suffered from Depression for many years now, although extremely luckily for me, it was quite deep under the surface. I had ways of managing it where I could even forget I actually had it. Last year though, I had the worst flare up I have had in over 13 years. A flare up that very nearly cost me my life. My metaphorical bath was over flowing at an alarming pace and I could not see a way to let the water out safely. All of the things I had tried so hard to bury in my lifetime were determined to escape. Quite simply, they were too strong and I broke, into several pieces.
Luckily again, my attempt was unsuccessful. If I didn’t believe in Guardian Angels before, I certainly do now. And what I have realised is, it wasn’t my time. I have things I need to do here, things to achieve, people to help, a difference to make somehow, even if only a tiny one.
Counselling and my lovely friend introduced me to writing as a form of therapy and from there, this blog was born. My first blog post got 21 views. I was over the moon! I don’t write for others, unless asked for a blog piece for a particular reason, but that people chose to read what I had wrote was a lovely feeling. I began to feel that maybe if I could explain what was going on in my life, it could help someone else who was suffering, it could help someone not feel so isolated and alone, it could help those who have never really had any dealings with Depression or other mental health issues understand a little bit more. Although the word is getting louder, mental health problems are still HUGELY stigmatised. I am determined to keep campaigning for as long as is necessary to try and ease this stigma, a mental health issue can be just as crippling as a physical condition. Just because you cant see it, or maybe dont understand it, it does not mean the damage is any less severe, that the pain is any less than that of a broken limb.
So, why the name? The Red part, although coincidentally my favourite colour, was in homage to RED January. This charity event as such (to do some sort of physical exercise every day for the whole of January) was such an instrumental part of getting me onto the path I am on now. It was the very start of me being able to mix my passions, mental health and fitness, as well as being able to raise over £300 for Mind. It was the start of me giving back, doing my bit to help in any way possible. Through RED, I have met a whole new family, I am part of an amazing community who I am so proud of! We celebrate each other, support each other, virtually hold each other up when we are not strong enough to do it ourselves. EVERYONE should have a community like RED. I truly believe the world would be that bit nicer a place!
Balloons? Well in the spirit of me being different my version of the balloon metaphor is the opposite of the standard image. As a rule, the balloons signify being able to let go. You put your worries/stresses into the balloon and then you let them go. Yeah, I supposed I get that. For me though, every balloon signifies a part of my life. When things start to go a bit tits up, a balloon breaks free and starts to float away. I lose control. I need to chase that balloon to catch it, to get it back in the bunch where it belongs. I need to take control and hold on firmer. Sometimes more than one balloon breaks free and it can seem nearly impossible to chase them all down, but I don’t give in until all balloons are caught and back as close to me as possible. Also, balloons are a sign of fun, of freedom, of happiness. How can you not smile at a big bunch of gorgeous Red Balloons??
From the blog, I went on to approach Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind to do more charity events for my local service. I have now successfully raised over £1000 for them through a 10km and my very first (brutal) Half Marathon. During the chat I got taken on as a volunteer, first for anti stigma, then peer support and finally, recently for Active Minds (all info can be found on their website 🙂 ) It was during certain discussions that a tiny idea I had, of what I would love to be able to offer, became public. Exercise had saved my life, in more ways than one. I wanted to show how exercise could benefit you so much mentally as much as physically. That you didn’t need to be ripped or a marathon runner or anything to be able to utilise it’s benefits. Everyone starts somewhere! Exercise, physical activity should be fun, not a chore. You should WANT to do it. It might start off a bit hard to get used to making time to begin with but if you persevere it WILL become a habit. It gives you time for you, doing something that only has good results.
Mind saw the passion I had, saw potential in my idea and encouraged me to go forward for my group facilitation and peer support qualification. I was also on the development team for National Mind’s new peer support toolkit. My confidence and belief started to grow so I decided to take the opportunity with both hands and take the leap. I set up a Facebook page to start to send the message out. Through an amazing friend, I managed to secure the perfect venue, that support me and my ideas. Then it was time, Red Balloons is now a fully fledged, active, physical, peer support group! I now have the exciting yet nerve wracking job of ringing HMRC and making it all “official” and opening bank accounts etc. The business side of it, not the most thrilling tasks but all exciting in their own way!
A brief description of what happens at one of my sessions, it is a mix of discussion and activities designed to get you moving. The activities will be chosen weekly by members, it could be anything from stretching to circuits to a team sport like rounders. All activities will be able to be scaled to a persons fitness/physical ability or an alternative option offered. Discussion wise, this is where people can be as open as they like or just listen. We will discuss barriers of exercise, why we feel people are wary of physical activity, discuss ideas to get us moving. I want my members to have ideal goals, maybe it will be to run a 5km, maybe it will be gaining the confidence to join a gym, maybe it is to make a personal pledge that they will do something for a certain amount of time a day. I want them to brag about their accomplishments, to speak excitedly about potential ideas, to be honest about how it is helping them or about anything that may be worrying them. I want to create a safe, open place where the emphasis is on being healthy, in all aspects, mind, body and soul. I want to be able to help people realise their true potential and to believe in themselves. I want to gain just as much knowledge and support from my members as I am able to offer them. I want to trap a sense of community spirit. Getting people to get together, to talk, to have fun, to get active, to support and to encourage.
It is very early days, I am riddled with self doubt sometimes but what I do have is passion and a huge belief in what I am offering. I want Red Balloons to float nationwide eventually. I have high hopes and big dreams. Sometimes I think maybe I am being too ambitious. But no, ambition is ingrained in me, as is the want, the need, to help others and give back in any way I can. I will do whatever is needed to get these balloons as high as they possibly could go!
So, in a nutshell, that is Red Balloons. My dream for a better life. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, details below. If anyone is in a place where they could help spread the word, newspapers etc, please get in touch. Your help and support would be hugely appreciated. On that note, I shall leave that here. Looking forward to Red Balloons third session on Tuesday 😀
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