Bucking the trend!

I was reading an article in Women’s Health while I was away about how we don’t “blow our own trumpet” enough and are more likely to dismiss our achievements in order to conform to what society expects us to be like.

I am here today, on this blog to say – sod that!!

If you read this and think I am so far up my own backside then fair enough. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I certainly don’t appeal to everyone! But today is about me celebrating me! I am my own worst enemy generally, I give myself way too hard a time, slag myself off, put myself down and just generally treat myself like crap 90% of the time. It’s sad but it is very true. I would NEVER treat another person the way I treat myself so why I think it is ok is a mystery to me. Maybe most of it is my mate Depression and his equally horrible bestie Anxiety. They really do have a sick ability to warp your mind! But then maybe a lot of it has been my past experiences and the way my brain has been “trained” to think over the years. I have never ever felt good enough in any aspect of my life. Never clever enough, never pretty enough, never nice enough, etc etc etc. I am sick to death of never being enough so today I am going to prove to MYSELF that I am enough. In fact, I can be pretty damn amazing at times!

So, it’s been 1 month since I last posted on here. I have missed the clicky clack of the keys way more than I realised. In that month, it has been a whirlwind! So, in no particular order, here are a few things I have achieved:

  • Passed my Access to Higher Education with a Merit overall! This means I am OFFICIALLY starting University to study Psychology next month! WOW!
  • I am meeting with the PR people of the Great North Run today as part of Red Balloons and Mind volunteer as they possibly want to use my story as promotional material! They will be filming and interviewing me and people who have kindly agreed to say a few nice things about what I am doing. Nervous as hell!
  • Red Balloons is sponsoring a match ball for the local football team
  • I pitched at Stockton Soup and managed to raise £160 from donations as well as gain some fantastic contacts.
  • Permission has been granted to run my Community Rounders Tournament on Bank Holiday and so far interest has been good!
  • I have been accepted onto a level 2 distance learning course in Counselling Skills
  • I have been chosen as a Mind Media Awards Shortlister for the Entertainment category! Not only do I get to read some simply inspirational stories, I get an opinion on who may win an award! I also get an invite to the awards themselves in November!

I look over that list and in one way I feel like I am reading about someone else. But no, that is all me! I have other projects in the pipeline too around helping mental health in my local area. I am so proud! I don’t do any of this for acknowledgement, but I deserve to be proud and feel comfortable shouting about what I am doing because I work damn hard! I FINALLY truly love what I do, and the fact that I can help others, well that alone is the biggest accomplishment I could ever ask for!

August is not going to be the quiet time that I was expecting and I am actually over the moon about that. I love being busy, I love being useful. I love brainstorming ideas, meeting people, discussing ideas and every single day growing a little bit more.

I have just come back from a 2 week unexpected holiday and for the first time in 2 years, I properly let myself go. I ate what I wanted, I drank enough to sink a fleet of ships and I didn’t really exercise at all. The thoughts were there but I just didn’t. Yes, yesterday had me feeling crappy especially as an epic headache put a pause on my first planned run. I was starting to slip into that place where I would wallow and this in turn would end up with me in a bad place. That I can spot these things now is an amazing thing for me. It shows I am finally getting the hang of controlling my thoughts a bit more (thank you CBT!) So, I made a plan! Not a detailed one as I realise I have been putting far too much pressure on myself.

I set my alarm for 430am and surprisingly got up without even snoozing my alarm once! I had my usual bucket of black coffee then laced up my trainers and got out for my first run in over 2 weeks. I was stiff, it was difficult but 2 miles later and I was done! Yes, I set off too fast but so what? Yes I ache now, but to me that is a pain of satisfaction! And I know what I need to work on. I was honestly beginning to think I had lost my love of running but I know now I had just dulled my spark. I was focusing on the wrong things and beating myself up every time I thought I had failed. There is no such thing as failure if you simply try! Sometimes trying is the hardest thing you will do in a day.

So there we go. CC’s trumpet has been well and truly blown today and I personally think it was a hell of a good tune! It does feel weird and I will no doubt feel like a self obsessed idiot when I publish this (Rome wasn’t built in a day after all) but I bucked the trend. I gave a proverbial finger to anyone who thinks it is wrong to shout about how awesome you are!

Thanks Depression, you are definitely changing me for the better! Whether you like it or not! Thank goodness for my stubborn streak  😉

Love

CC xx

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#getinspired

It has been ages since I have blogged two days in a row! And two pretty positive posts at that! Get me! But after watching the London Marathon again, I was just overwhelmed with so much emotion, inspiration and motivation. I am seriously in awe of those people, who completed those 26.2 miles in the hottest recorded weather. Who all have their individual stories. Some of pain, of hurt but of determination and the passion to succeed and raise money as well as awareness of causes close to their heart.

Hearing their stories is so inspiring. You really cant ever know what is going on in someone’s life until they open up. People who have lost loved one’s, people who have nearly lost their own life, people with loved one’s in hospital or treatment. Yes, running something like the London Marathon is a big personal achievement and recognition of Snapchat-35456296.jpgsuch a feat is deserved, What I also think, especially for those running for others, it is such a selfless act. For those who are not trained athlete’s, it is putting their bodies through some serious work, even pain! Wow!

I watched with so much pride for my country. Proud to be part of the London spirit, even from my sofa in Teesside, I could feel it. The hashtag was #getinspired and I so have! I was gutted I never got a place in 2018 but looking back now, I know I hadn’t been in the right head space at all to train, so it would have either ended up with me deferring or (more accurately due to my stubborn streak) being dangerous for me. Mentally and physically.

I am so determined to run it though. I have one of my bucket list run’s in September – the Great North Run. Training has started already. To get a place in 2019’s London Marathon would be the icing on the cake for this year. To be able to run the most famous marathon in the UK and raising money for Mind would be utterly amazing. Certainly one of my greatest physical achievements. Especially as I wouldn’t call myself a runner so to speak. I just do ok.

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The thing is, I want to push past my own limits. It is easy to fall into a comfort zone and just do what you know you can, what you know you are good at. I know I can bosch off 5km regularly in under 30 minutes. I know I can squat with the best of them and can sweat my tiny baps off on a circuit I create myself. What I want is to push past what I believe to be my limits. At the moment even the idea of 13.1 mile is daunting! But I know I can do that, because I already have. In a decent time too!

I want to beat my demons and I want to inspire others. I would LOVE to be the reason that made someone take up running or taking up a sport or fitness routine that they have always wanted to. I would love people to think, well if she can do it, I can do it too! Of course you can! You can do anything you want to. You can’t let you tell you otherwise. It wont be easy but then I believe that anything worth having never comes easy. There will be days, even weeks where you simply cant be arsed but you know what a success is? Doing it anyway! In fact, most of the time, those runs/games/workouts are the ones that end up feeling the best! Even if you are cursing yourself in the middle and wanting to quit.

There is so much help and support out there, if you want it. Maybe you are like me and apart from helping others, you prefer to work solitary. That’s fine. It’s about you. What works for you. What you want to gain from your experience. Whether it be finishing a particular race, raising money, setting an example for your kids, trying to lose/gain weight or just simply to get fitter. Maybe you want to be inspired to do something that doesn’t have anything to do with sport, exercise or fitness. Maybe you want to start volunteering? Or how about a career change? What about going back into education? Or simply learning a hobby that has always interested you. Inspiration comes in so many forms and means something different to everyone.

To me anyone who does something to help someone else is a MASSIVE inspiration. Yes, being selfish is necessary for your own mental health. I 100% agree with that. You cant help anyone at all if you cant help yourself. But those that dedicate their lives to others are just hero’s in my eyes. The emergency services, the army, those that volunteer, those that fundraise for good causes and those that are just there for those that need them, whether it be a simple message, a cuppa and a friendly ear or taking someone away from reality for even just a small while. These people don’t do these things for recognition but they sure as hell deserve it and they deserve a massive well done and a hug!

Today, I challenge you to think of one thing that you would love to do. Anything at all. And I want you to believe that at some point, whether you start now or in the future, that you will do it! Start a little action plan. Do a mind map. Do some research but ultimately, take that first step into the unknown and you never know how your life might change. This time last year I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be in the situation I am now, with so many new opportunities on the horizon. Some potentially very exciting ones! Each step forward is a step to my future, even if that step is a stumble or a fall. It’s still forward.

I cant change the past but I sure as hell can change the future and I will. I was put on this Earth for a reason. Plain and simple. And it wasn’t just to annoy the hell out of people! 😉

Thank you to all you AMAZING runners today. Enjoy this moment. You deserve it. Be proud!!

Love

CC xx

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Sunshine on a rainy day

This song has been on loop in my head all morning and to be honest I have no idea as I haven’t heard it for years, but it did get me thinking. It is actually quite appropriate. Not because of the good old English weather being as random as it is, but because it is actually a good metaphor for how I am feeling at the moment.

I know it’s been a while since my last blog post, I tend to neglect my blog a bit when I get busy, but it’s also because when I am in a better place, I tend to think that people don’t want to hear the random ramblings of what goes on in my head. I get concerned that although I am in a good place, others might not be and I don’t want to rub my ok’ness in their faces. Does that make sense? Probably not. It’s me. I think I know what I mean.

If I am honest it has been a bit of a crazy week or so. Pretty much all being good! Things seem to be falling slowly into place. Which if I am honest makes me a bit nervous. Like if I do something to upset the balance it will all come tumbling down around me. I hate the way that my brain works! I am trying so hard to appreciate the good days and it feels so good to really feel the smile on my face but why cant that be the end of it? Why do I have to think 5 steps ahead? It is so frustrating. I want to live in the moment but it really seems to piss off Depression and his new addition to the CC family, Anxiety.

Depression alone was a horrible place to be in. The feelings if worthlessness, misery, despair and hate BUT I knew where I was with it. Things made sense. I felt like I deserved to be there. Anxiety? That is a whole new experience, and if I am honest, what a shitter of one! I feel like I am walking on eggshells and I hate not understanding. Although I am notably very self aware with my issues, this is completely new water, and treacherous at that! It’s like Depression knew he was losing a grip on me so he called in for some back up. Sneaky bastard.

Now, like I say, I am actually in a good place. Sat in the garden, sun on my skin, birds singing, 90’s dance music on in the background and lot’s to look forward to. The familiar click click of the keys on my laptop are as soothing as ever. Something seems to be in the background though and I cant for the life of me put my finger on what it is. I know it isn’t good though. It seems dark, like a smudge on your sunglasses. Cold, like the random breeze that catches you and reminds you it is still actually only April. Like a warning that things can change in an instant. The thing that messes with my head is the not knowing. I can deal with stuff when I am in control, when I know the facts and I can plan. I am definitely a planner, even if I do catastrophize and plan for the worst, it’s still a plan. When I cant plan, I start to lose control a bit and then that is when Depression and Anxiety see a nick in my armour and start to pick.

Thing is, they don’t realise that I am on to them and like fuck am I going to let them drag me back to where they have had me most of this year. It has taken me a lot of blood, sweat, tears and broken nails to get myself out of my hole again. I’m currently in the process of cementing the buggar up! It used to be my safe place. Cool, dark, quiet and safe. I felt like no one could get me in there. The thing I have realised is, I was actually in the hole with the thing that could hurt me more than anyone or anything ever has. ME! Until I learn to love myself, truly and completely, I am not always going to be safe for myself.

So, along with all the other, more material things, like uni and my nutrition course and training for the Great North Run, I am now more determined than ever to sort out my head, once and for all. The distraction and avoidance techniques are fail safes and have helped me this far, but I cant keep relying on them long term. Not on their own. As the fear of failure is too strong. I am depending on my success too much and if something was to go wrong, something out of my control, it could potentially destroy me. I am more a straw house at the moment. I want to be made of bricks!

So, the antidepressants will be a main factor in my daily routine now, and I am OK with that. They work. I am also making the first tentative steps into the world of CBT. Counselling was very beneficial but I do believe I got what I needed out of that. I know now that bad things happened and they weren’t my fault. What I need to do now is retrain my brain. Although I do try to find positives, I want to change my negative thought processes. My overthinking needs to be addressed but most of all I want to understand me, as much as I possibly can. When I can understand myself, hopefully that will take me onto the next step of self appreciation and even self love.

Ultimately, if I cant love me, how can I expect anyone else too. And lets face it, as bat shit crazy as I actually am, I do tend to have some pretty awesome qualities…….. so I am told 😉

Ok lovely people, that is enough random crap from me. Off to enjoy the sun! While we still have it. Have a lush day wherever you are. If you are having a bad day, just have a day. Those dark clouds will move eventually

Love

CC xx

A letter to my past self……

Dear little CC,

I know sometimes you think that there is no point any more. I know since you were small you have often felt like you lived in the shadows. That to be brutally honest it was the safest place to be at times, out of the way. Making no noise, crying silently into your pillow wondering why all this was happening.

I know it can be scary, hearing things you cant see. Your imagination running riot and turning up the music as loud as you can without drawing attention to yourself. I know you think you should be able to do something to help, that in some ways you even think somehow it is all your fault. It was never your fault. None of it. You were just a child.

What you will learn is that life can be really cruel. It will shot a lot of awful stuff at you. People will hurt you. Physically, emotionally and mentally. You will retreat. You will numb yourself to save yourself from the pain. Yes, the physical pain hurts but the real pain is the emotional pain. This is what will make you who you become. It will shape your future as you will be able to use your experience, your empathy and your honesty to help others. You have to learn to talk first. This will be one of the hardest lessons that you ever have to learn. How to talk and to attach emotion to things in your life, things you spent so long detaching yourself from.

There will be people that you put your trust in, who you lean on and who you love, that will leave you. Some reasons will be easy to understand, some will be heart breaking, some will be frustrating and some you just need to blow a kiss to the door closing behind them as they don’t deserve to be in your life. Trust me, I know there will be times when you feel so lonely, that you feel like you have pushed people away but you will be left with the most amazing people in your life. The one’s who love and support you in every way. Who are with you through the good, the bad and the absolutely ugly. You will drive them batty in every way as you are a hormonal nightmare! A complete mardy mare! But not once, even the newest people to enter your life, not once will they even think about ditching you or walking away. These are the people that are worth their weight in saffron!

CC, you are not broken, you are not wired wrong, you didn’t do anything to deserve the cards that were dealt, it was just how life panned out for you. What is important to remember is, it is an illness. Depression, anxiety and all the others, they are illnesses. You couldn’t have prevented them any more than you could have stopped catching a cold. The thing that you will do different is you wont succumb. You nearly will. It will very nearly destroy you. You will feel like you have lost everything. But you will fight. You will change and grow and turn all the negatives into positives.

You will live your life completely arse over tit. First baby at 19, married at 25, baby number 2 at 27. Then after a pretty much complete depressive breakdown at 32, you will realise that it is time for YOU. You will realise just how much you have to live for. You will reach people through a blog, through your volunteer work, through TV and radio and social media. You will be honest and real including sweaty, crazy selfies that show just how much exercise helps you. This will be your calling, this will be your reason for being. You will start university, yes university, at the ripe age of 33 so that you can go on and help people who have suffered like you. You will achieve things you never thought possible. You will be win awards and run half marathons and fundraise for charity.

CC, bad days will always be there. There will be days where you feel fat, ugly, worthless, lonely, unloved, hurt and all the rest. Depression is a liar! It will trick you, it will make you tired, it will make you lose motivation, it will have you thinking you should quit what you are doing because you think you will fail. DONT QUIT! Every time a voice in your head tells you “you cant” do something, you will go ahead and do it! You will get called stubborn but let me tell you, that is one hell of a quality to have. It is what will keep you alive and keeping you fighting, not just you but for everyone else who suffers.

You will make a difference CC. You will help more people than you could ever realise because you will be you. In full, raw and uncut honesty. You don’t sugar-coat anything. You are straight to the point, no bushes beaten, you say what you think, sometimes before you actually think, but you are sincere. You love with all your heart and you will give everything your all. You will put yourself out there, you will receive criticism and everyone will have an opinion on you and your life but you can handle it. The good and the bad as it is all for a higher purpose. It is all in the hope that one small raindrop can eventually cause a tidal wave and mental health stigma will be fought.

Dry your eyes CC, put that cheeky smile on your face and remember, bad things happen to good people but those good people take them and use them. You are in charge of you and who you become. You are strong and you are independent and Depression will not define you.

You will be proud to be you one day CC!

Love

Today CC xx

 

Life is like a poker game

Do you ever feel like you have been giving a seriously crap hand? Like, you try to do your best, you haven’t committed any serious crimes, your drinking can still just about be classed as recreational and you do try and do your bit to help others, even if you do turn into some kind of crazed animal at certain times of the month (ladies, we all do it). Yet, someone, somewhere, depending on what you believe, sometimes seems to take great pleasure absolutely messing with you.

I was having a chat with a lovely man today, chatting about my story and Red Balloons and stuff and he asked me, “do you think these things in your life have been a test?” I suppose I never looked at it like that, but yes! And along the lines of a bloody hard maths test with like 75 questions to answer in 10 minutes with no calculator and a broken pen!

Do you know what, yeah, I have had a lot to deal with in my short 33 (yes, short!) years of life. I am starting to realise more and more that things like my life don’t happen much to “ordinary” people. Yet, to me, in my slightly warped little mind, these things obviously happened to everyone. I shouldn’t whinge as there are so many more people worse off than me. I don’t need to talk about things with people, they don’t need to listen to my crap. I just need to get on with things. Put that incident in a little box in my brain, not deal with it and my mind is of course so HUGE that those boxes will never effect me again. Can I say, what a load of…….. poo!

I am very aware that people have things a lot worse than me. But, those people aren’t me. Everyone copes with things in very different ways. I spent so much of my life losing myself so that things that had happened could mentally “unhappen” that I ended up losing myself and my self worth. I ended up losing the whole point. But it wasn’t a choice. This is what I want to stress to people today. I would NEVER choose to feel the way I do. I would never choose to be so exhausted. I would never choose to feel like such a burden. The very same way I would never choose to have the flu. Or a broken bone.

IT IS A ILLNESS!

Depression is a very real, and at times, very destroying illness. You basically rot away from the inside. The worst symptom, sometimes not even being aware until it is very nearly too late. Or in a shocking increase of scenario’s, until it actually is too late. It can kill you. Yet, people still struggle. People still play ignorant. People still judge. Ignorance is bliss and all that. If you don’t broach the subject, it’s not real. If I don’t ask how she is, she wont be able to tell me and I can still pretend everything is A OK.

Do you know what? I get it. I get the fear behind mental health. It’s a very scary subject for a lot of people. It is hard when you are reading stuff or listening to stuff to not start to psychoanalyse yourself to a certain degree. The way you do when you Google your symptoms as you have had a bad head for a week and it tells you, you have a brain tumour or something.

What we need in this country, somehow, is more knowledge. More information. More teaching. We need to start teaching primary school children the signs. We need to start teaching them that it is an illness. We need to stop the media sensationalising people negatively who suffer with mental health problems. Did you know, a schizophrenic is much more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else? Ask yourself, how much do you REALLY know about anxiety/depression/bipolar/PTSD etc. Did you know Alzheimer’s is classed as a mental health illness? Would you be able to spot the signs if someone around you was suffering in silence? If you thought someone was, what would you do? Honestly?

Ignorance is bliss. But ignorance also causes stigma. Ignorance can kill. There are so many stereotypes about mental illnesses, too many to list unfortunately but let’s take Depression. I don’t spend all day every day crying – although yes, when I am on a downer my chances of crying is greatly heightened. Something I hate as I hate crying. I don’t spend all day in bed with the curtains closed, although I do tend to have regular day time naps IF I can fit them in as I don’t sleep well at night. I do that as a form of helping myself NOT as a factor of my illness. I get washed and generally brush my hair. Or at least I try to make it semi presentable. I keep as clean a house as I can with a hyper 4 year old boy. I volunteer, I exercise, I go to college. Yet, I am a sufferer of severe depression. To look at me, or to read my more positives blogs, I am sure there are some cynics out there. But please, it is very real to me. It is very painful to me. It can be very destructive for me.

The difference for me, the same as for many others I know or have read about, is, we take the cards we have been dealt and we use them to our advantage. We might not win the game by obvious tactics, but we take what we have and we make it work for us. We have perfected our poker faces and it’s game on! We don’t let our circumstances make us a victim, it makes us a fighter. Although we have days where we feel very weak, what we are actually doing is becoming stronger. We want to get better. I want to get better. I will do anything I possibly can to get better or, probably more accurately as there is no standard cure, get to a place where the bad days are very few and far between. I use my bad things, my memories, my emotions and I place them in my passion to help others. I will talk honestly about my story because I don’t want anyone out there thinking they are alone.

If I can help the bloke on his way to work, if I can help the lass sitting at home with a cold cup of coffee, tears running down her face as the bairns run riot, if I can help the teenage beauty queen or the war veteran who believes in the British stiff upper lip; if I can help any of these people, nothing I have been through or felt will be in vain.

This is my path now. This is where I am meant to be, doing what I was put here to do. My age means nothing, but my experiences could do. My honesty and integrity are the cards I will use in this game. And I will never give up talking the talk. I will never give up being the voice of those who aren’t as able to be as vocal.

And I wont give up in general. No matter how impossible this “test” might seem at times.

CC xxScreenshot_20180315-164329.jpg

 

 

Barriers

Barriers are everywhere! They are a nuisance even if they are there for a reason. They stop you leaving a car park without faffing on having to pay, they stop you sneaking into your favourite places for free (I would assume, not that I have ever done that…… ahem), they stop you from getting close to Tom Hardy at public events! But the worse barriers are those that you put up yourself, in your mind. They stop you realising your full potential, they stop you trying new things, they delay spontaneity, they make you believe you are not worthy of what is on the other side. They are basically a pain in the backside!

Now there are loads of different barriers I could talk about, but as I am all about the healthy lifestyle and exercise I bet you know where I am going with this. Yep, the fact that so many people seem to actually FEAR physical activity. Setting up Red Balloons and it being what it is, I expected it to be a slow burner. The thing is, I believe 100% in what I am offering and I WILL make a difference. Red Balloons WILL be a success. I want to make exercise fun, easily accessible, something that people WANT to do, not just need to do. The benefits far outweigh any negatives.

So, lets look at the barriers that could be affecting people. I am one of these people, I have broke through many to get where I am, but let’s be honest, there will always be another one somewhere along the line. What changes is your ability to believe in how strong you are, the belief that you can smash through this barrier, like the others. Instead of looking and focusing on the problem, you will look for a solution. It is all a form of training your brain to access that confidence and motivation. It is not a quick journey and it sure as hell isn’t easy. I am over 2 years into mine and I still have so much else I need and want to do. They say patience is a virtue, it may well be, but it is a bloody hard skill to learn. Yes, a skill because without it life gets a lot more messy in my experience.

Barriers I have discovered/learnt:

  • Confidence
  • Motivation
  • Cost
  • Thinking your fitness levels aren’t up to scratch
  • Social anxiety
  • Physical ailments
  • Lack of access to facilities
  • Thinking that it will be like school (I HATED PE and all I would do is walk or dance like a tool)

There are many more than this, you may have your own and I know you will be aware of them. Some people may call them excuses, to a degree I would sometimes be inclined to agree in certain circumstances but they are your personal battle. No one has the right to belittle them, make you feel bad for thinking like that. No one knows what is going on in your mind or your life. I have learnt and proved that NO ONE knows what is going on behind closed doors. This is why I want to help, support and encourage. Yes these battles may seem completely impossible to win but I am here to say “Yes you can”. We can always find a way. Screenshot_20180310-091114.jpg

You don’t have to be a member of a gym or a running club, do you know what? You don’t even have to leave the house! Although I will say, I do strongly encourage even 5 minutes outside somehow for its other benefits, Vitamin D for example. The biggest part of this whole process is finding something that you enjoy. It may be yoga, it may be an aerobic video, it could be dancing round like a loony with the kids (one of my favourite things to do ever!), it could be walking the dog, going for a run or shotting weights around. In regards to gear, you don’t need fancy gym stuff in the house, you don’t need the latest Tikiboo leggings and whatever trainers are advertised as “the best”. Saying that though, I am craving the new Nike Reacts! But what I mean is, look around you and see what you could do. Try squats when waiting for the kettle to boil, lunges (are the devil) during an advert break, step ups on your stairs while the kids are brushing their teeth. All these little things add up and cost nothing, the added bonus, no one will even see you. But you will have that little feeling of, yes, I did that. Every day your confidence will grow a little bit more and something new could be added.

Another tip, what have you always wanted to do? Get back into swimming? Run 5km? Learn to lift weights? Go to a class? Learn a full dance routine to one song? Join a gym? Write it down. Somewhere you can see it pretty much every day. I am a fan of Post It notes for these kind of things as they are shiny and colourful. Having an ultimate goal, no matter how impossible it might seem at that moment in time, can be the ultimate motivation. Try and imagine how you will feel when you smash it. That sense of absolute euphoria, confidence, pride, general amazingness. On your bad days, try and focus on these feelings. The important thing is doing what you want to do, what you will enjoy. You cant do something because someone tells you it is good, or that it helped them, or that it is the newest trend. Enjoyment is key because then it isn’t scary any more, it isn’t a chore. That will be what reaps the biggest results. Trust me, I have been there.

Ok, let’s be honest. We all have bad days. Days where we barely want to open our eyes never mind do anything. What I need to say is, this is ok too. Have a bad day, embrace the bad day, do whatever it is that you need to do to self care. Rest is essential to a healthy lifestyle. I know to those that actually know me, I am being a huge hypocrite right now as I struggle massively with this part of my life, I actually need help to relax. I need people to pretty much force me to stop and even then I cant always enjoy it. My illness forces me to believe that if I stop I wont start again, so I go too far the other way and risk burning myself out. As horrible as it can be, sometimes you have to go in your head and listen to those voices that the louder voices try to continuously swamp. Those small voices are you! The loud voices are whatever issue you may be dealing with. Those loud voices WANT you to fail. They want you to believe you cant do this, that you are not worthy of trying to do something. I am telling you, you are!

The first step isn’t doing the moving or the exercise, or even believing you can. The first step is wanting to. Do you want to be fitter? Do you want to be stronger? Do you want to want to manage your weight and learn more about a healthier lifestyle? If you do, then you have started your journey. Well Done! That is the hard part over. Now, it’s time to start planning. This is where you may need help and support. This is where I, or your family and friends, or your GP or whoever is available in your area come in. I am here to help you believe in yourself, I am here to help shout the message of how exercise is essential for mental well being as much as it is for physical benefits. I am my own walking case study. I am doing this all from my own journey. I know the hard parts, the darkest days, the days where you feel a failure. But I also know the amazing days, where you beat your internal enemies, where the endorphins make you feel superhuman, when you hit a mini target you have set.

So, get that sledgehammer and SMASH that first wall. You CAN do this, you WILL do this and I cant wait to be on this journey with you. I have my cheerleader outfit and pom Screenshot_20180310-091022.jpgpoms at the ready! Woooo, go you!!

Hugs

CC xx

Why Red Balloons? Well, let me tell you…

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!

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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.

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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 😀

Much Love

CC xx

email: ccoulthard0413@gmail.com

Facebook: Red Balloons

Instagram: @girlwiththe_redballoon

Twitter: @balloons_red