World Mental Health Day – Tuesday 10th October 2017

How was it for you? Many friends were in school, some probably wore yellow to show an awareness. Others’ institutions wouldn’t let it disrupt their day I am sure. Last year I wore an awkward mix of many yellows, I had talked about my mental health struggles as part of my introduction to the school in assembly-it has helped when meeting now ex pupils and parents in the months since my final breakdown as a teacher and my resignation from my vocation.

So I know about mental health issues, I left the job that triggered many incidents for me so I must be fine now mustn’t I?

Of course not – I have struggled with these issues since a teenager back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, possibly earlier. it’s part of me. Triggers are many and varied. So Monday 9th circumstances saw me hit a rock bottom day. I knew there were positives ahead, I could mention and acknowledge them -this is new and very encouraging. But essentially there were also thoughts where I considered the whole suicidal concept -it’s not a choice I have ever attempted for real and I don’t want to but it’s an ever present escape that pops up and says hi in times of stress. So I am participating in #Inktober2017 on Facebook and Instagram, it is a daily drawing in ink project for October using a daily prompt, yesterday was #screech, today was #gigantic. I used these in my drawings to be open about my state of mind. I have blogged about it for several years now and don’t really care what response I get, it’s a topic I will continue to stick my head over the parapet to talk about  so that someone might not have to go through the same thing as me.

October 9


Today I have woken in a more positive frame of mind and taken part in the day and exercised at the rowing club this evening both on the rowing machines then out on the water and was able to show this as;

October 10


I have many supportive friends and family members who reach out. Tomorrow on the 11th I will attend one of the two Depression Support Groups I attend -we are sufferers who listen with empathy and support where we can. Sometimes when I am low I resist attending even though it’s the best time for me to go. The key thing s I can always be there to aupport others.

So my WMHD has been an exercise in recovery and reaching out to many others online. I hope your day has been a shared experience today.

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#Pedagoohampshire17…after

I left teaching, I attended a teachmeet in Poole in February and I went to Pedagoohampshire today. So what is going on?

Well today was my third visit to an event that started in 2015. Teachers and others connected to education gather, chat, listen to talks, participate in workshop sessions, chat with new friends and old, go away and try to mplement some change based on their new learning. These events happen in people’s own personal (non work) time so that shows commitment too.

I had a great day.

I was told how much more relaxed I look. I looked ten years younger. My art is great. My experience had value as how often do you get to talk to people who have actually left… I sold some art, I designed and received a tshirt. I chatted.

I really enjoyed attending and my thanks go to many who were there today or in 2016 or 2015 and the many other events we have met at. At the end a friend said which event will I see you at next? And I had to admit I wasn’t planning to be at anymore to be honest as. Am now out of the profession. I then received invites to be at events again in the future including this one – we will see.

Finally thanks to Martyn Reah the driving force and host behind this great event.

#Pedagoohampshire17 …before

Tomorrow morning I shall be up early and out to play with the A31, M27 and M3 On my way to Alton, Hampshire and Eggars School. I shall be attending Pedagoo… for my third year, I have previously attended as a teacher and presented about Solo Taxonomy, Mental Health and this time I will present as an ex teacher how you might look after your own Mental Health WellBeing so you don’t get to that same conclusion that I did, or maybe you shall.

Friends from teaching and various ed. conferences have called me brave – earlier I was feeling nervy and not brave at all. More so for taking my art as a stand than the mental health aspect that I have talked about before. 

I have a long term habit of sticking my head over the proverbial parapet I don’t have to anymore but I am still drawn to speak out. The good thing is I will be amongst many friends made over the last 5 years mainly.

I will blog how it goes and then provisionally at least draw my head down from the parapet and try to adjust to just being myself.

Perspectives …

I have just returned after spending three days visiting my father. We spent time, just the two of us. Sometimes we spoke, sometimes he slept and I sat, we had a drive out to view the local coast and we had lunch at a favourite ice cream parlour. The key thing is that since my mother died before Christmas last year his memory has been declining and also some other skills. This makes conversation difficult at times or at least confusing. 

Over the last few years both my parents health declined and my own mental health wasn’t doing too well either. Seeing my parents put life into perspective as I saw two active people lose that ability to freely move about and / or communicate. After my own breakdown last November I am still rebuilding and adjusting to a different life where I don’t have the full time commitment I had to teaching previously but I don’t always make the most of this and find myself a bit “at sea” with who I am.

I enjoy my time with Dad, yes there are conversations that make no sense. I have to think about volume and diction. Memories of past events emerge sometimes that I have not heard about before. I visit Thanet where I spent my secondary school years and have visited ever since – I see changes but places trigger memories too.

Why did I choose the title perspectives? I suppose because I have gone from someone who was frequently rushing about to one who has time to sit, listen and look. I express this in blog pieces, my artistic output and my self reflections. Slowing down time sometimes admits doubts about self worth and my purpose but I do now find myself challenging these or rolling with a mood because I know there is a brighter side ahead. This change is positive. Next Saturday I have offered a session at an education event on Mental Health wellbeing,  I guess from the perspective of one who has left the teaching profession – some friends have called me brave for doing it, maybe I don’t really know but I am aware that teachers under stress are not alone and if I can help someone use strategies to stay in work or make that big decision to step out then it’s been worth it. I miss teaching young people, not admin, pressures, constant referral to targets and data – I went into education to share learning with young people. Sometimes they are hard work but they were my reason and I miss them in that respect.

I am lucky I am able to sit back and take time out I just need to appreciate it more and stop setting myself targets or looking for evidence of achievements – as a friend once said ‘Can’t you just be?” – at last I have the time to be.

All in a day…

September 3rd, Sunday – so a possible busy day as it is a working shift day. I awake to 06:30 alarm and didn’t snooze it for a change as today I wanted to go for a paddle on the River Frome before work. Once I had showered breakfast was accompanied with the view of two young hares in the front garden / drive. In conversation with visitors to my stall at yesterday’s craft fair I still realise that for many people a sighting of hares is rare or they have never seen one. We however are blessed so I watch them grazing on the grass that waits for its next cut, then chasing each other in the drive and under one of the cars.

After loading the kayak / sit on top I set off for Wareham. On the way through Stoborough the traffic is brought to a halt by a black and white crossing – cows on the mooove not a zebra crossing. Onwards to unload and park the car up on the Quay, free until 10 am. Waterproof, hat and buoyancy aid and I launch from the public slipway on Abbott’s Quay. I head downstream today to see how close I will get to the mouth of the river – an area I have told customers about but never seen for myself. The river has far more moored boats than when I paddled this way in the winter. Steady paddling past a wide range of motor and sailing yachts sees me pass Redcliffe then Ridge slipways and yacht areas. Eventually I reach the widening and tidal markers at the mouth of the Frome. I watch some swans, take some photos as evidence – 9 o’clock and a 35 minute paddle. Returning is harder into the wind and tide. It takes 35 minutes to return as well and I am pleased to have beaten the time we advise customers in motor boats to take. measured later the return journey is about 4.6/.7 miles in 70 minutes.

I collect the keys for work and unlock / set up a mini fleet in case any customers brace the wet conditions. I do a fair bit of bailing water and then settle in the hut/ office. No customers are forthcoming so closed for 1pm, everything re secured and a drive home via Swanage where the sea is quite choppy in the breezy conditions.

A quiet afternoon reading books, social media messages and then blogging while watching wind blown rain outside.

I miss teaching …

https://staffrm.io/@andyknill/RTDb1qeDlp
I dreamt, I woke up sad, I know it’s a mini dip and I will do things today but I will feel flat. I shared this on Staffrm.io a teaching mini blog site that I joined a few years ago and I still contribute to occasionally.

To be honest as many of you know blogging posts are my steam escape valve, I vent in writing and it helps me. I have never been widely read like some in education but that’s fine, it is helpful to my #mentalhealth.

Mentally I could teach but not emotionally I would just be waiting for the first slip up and cave and I owe it to myself and all around me not to do that again. It’s taking time to let go but at the end of the day 28 years and 120 days is a long term habit to unpick.

Dips, rise and just stable

Still undulating with uncertainty in my mind from two days ago but lots of rises too. I have spent two evenings listening to live music at Swanage Carnival Week’s marquee – a great release and last night I sketched one of the bands too. I placed the pictures of Dana Immanuel and the Stolen band on Instagram and they have liked the b & w and coloured pictures post. Speed drawing needed.

On Monday I did a large panoramic piece after shaking myself up a bit. Then later I took part in the Carnival week 1000m open water swim, there were 36 of us and many wore wetsuits. The water temperature was good. I wasn’t last  it took me a while to get out of the wa Today it has rained and been very windy most of the day. I have posted various pictures completed in the last week and these include a range of picture sizes.

Tonight I intend to attend my support group as I need to as the support will be welcome and a chance to see how others are doing too. Overall I am stable and that is fine.

Who am I? And What value am I?

Yep, for regular readers and friends – it’s a dip. I recognise it as such even though the sun is coming through the window. It’s not going to be allowed to have my whole day but to start with I am going to roll with it.

When I was teaching I increasingly made it my business to connect and network especially as social media allowed links overseas as well as across the UK. I felt this enhanced my professionalism and the teaching and staff training / management that I did. Several of my senior managers questioned why I would bother – I am still convinced that I was correct and they were misinformed, but whatever. I developed networks for things that I was interested in – Solo Taxonomy practitioners; a news sharing geography connection. I enjoyed the late night edchats with colleagues in the Southern Hemisphere for example.

Now my networking as I work at becoming an artist and one who earns some money from it means that I tend to connect on a more local scale. Yes there are still social media links and looking at each other’s online status / presence  but much more connection is face to face and that is generally enjoyable.

I think this morning is one of those transitional – what is my purpose soul searching moments. I have almost let go of the “teacher” label but getting ex pupils to not call me Sir or Mr Knill is harder. I feel that many education links now make little sense and just remind me I can’t cope with that anymore, it proved to be detrimental to my mental health.

However, becoming an “artist” means baring my soul through my work, peoples reactions and so on. My hide is not always tough enough yet and I find myself being scared.

Meanwhile at home I have gone from head stuck in work mode for 60+ hours per week to having time to relax, work etc. I am not good around the house as I don’t notice things that passed me by previously.

In conclusion 

 A lower start to my day which I know will pass

Reflective and a culling of my LinkedIn contacts and profile

An appreciation that the sun is shining outside

Knowing that later I may do some art but only if I feel the calmness return

Have a good day yourselves.

Just saying…

I went out for a walk in time for sunrise on Tuesday morning and posted this on social media afterwards as it sums up how I feel about my change of direction.

I used to work for employers (schools). I still have one employer for my freelance part time job where there is structure and tasks that must be done but an opportunity to interact with customers. My main focus though is using my art to recuperate in periods of doubt, this week being one, and develop my work as an artist who sells.

I am changing how I work, no longer am I ruled by timetables, bells, deadlines set externally. My life doesn’t have a daily timetable – it varies and this still suits, in the future I may need to timetable in art time but I am enjoying the flexibility for now. I see friends and ex colleagues starting their six week holiday – I don’t have holidays, it’s not a dads statement just what it is. I have two set work days (even these can change) and then five days to use in a variety of ways. I still rush around too much at times. In six months I have created an art vehicle (AndyKnillArt.com) that has seen me publically try and see if people like my work enough to part with their hard earned money. It was a big risk for me personally especially at a time when my mental health is still on a rollercoaster, although less steep drops now. I have responded to the Interaction of visitors, and buyers. I have discovered that through theee commission based events that the ensuing stress levels this is not an area for me to work on at this time at least, but I have been trusted to do this three times already with both photography and art. I have tried new texhniques and media, attended art group, met a range of other local artists, some of whom I would happily call friends now. I have settled in 11 months into a new setting and got to know many new people – I am home now here in Purbeck and I live my surroundings even on the wet and windy days.

Shadows laid to rest

About seven and a half months ago a combination of circumstances including a decline in my mental health saw me leave my last full time role and the teaching profession frontline for the final time. My last visit to the school buildings was a surreptitious trip to collect my belongings at about 7 in the morning before staff were about to avoid meeting others except those supervising my visit.

Since then I have spoke with many of my ex pupils, some of their parents and some ex colleagues. The school premises however were an area I had no reason to return to, but had a shadow for me,

Today I ran a stand at the school’s Summer Festival. I was on the school grounds again but in plain sight. I found out about the event from friends involved in the school. I contacted my ex headteacher to see if he and staff would be ok with me being there, his reply was positive.

I did not take much financially, but got to raise awareness of my art work. The key for me was that the shadow of creeping back into school is now laid to rest. I found it very touching that after 35 weeks of the school year my 10 week stint was still significant for a number of pupils who have had several staff since. 

There will always be others who will not want to communicate, I respect this but today was another significant step for me. I continue to have nightmares where teaching situations go “wrong” and it is going to take a long time to finally let go of my teacher role after 28 years plus,  I hope it does come sooner rather than later.

Dear reader, have you had circumstances where you have laid a “shadow” to rest?