Category Archives: Mental health

Mental health and how I deal with mine.

Dreams? Nightmares? Self doubt?

I last posted directly on this topic in June 2017, here we are almost 11 months later and my last section of sleep included a “dream” that led to an upset me waking to start a new day. I still have “nightmares” which I think are based around my self doubt about if I was contributing in my last 10 years of teaching in the way I thought I had.

Was I doing any good for my pupils? Yes I cared but was the subject side good enough? I know that I struggled with the changing focus away from the individual child to the piece of data and its relative place on a “progress” chart. I taught people and parenting two sons with additional needs made me very aware of this and how trying to fit all children into predetermined shaped slots did not make sense. I myself was a peg that didn’t fit slots.

I clashed with managers, I challenged decisions but offered alternatives which didn’t always help my popularity. My enthusiasm for investigating new ideas made me friends internationally across the globe online and at a variety of education events but my interest and passion was questioned in the places that I taught within.

My mental health and parenting needs at home didn’t fit the right slot. I was open about my issues, uncomfortably too open for some that I worked with. I was the victim of bullying in at least three schools and my nerves and anxiety was fraying. In conversations with other teachers online with open mental health issues I discovered that working through up to 7 breakdowns that led to extended weeks / months off was rare, should I have gone sooner? To be honest I don’t know. I snapped in the end and know that I could never return to the pressures of the classroom. This all happened before I was ready or prepared for it. I am in my second year now of pre-retirement earning some money through part time work.

I have discovered that I can do other things, I can enjoy free time in the week and School term times. As I have typed this post a fight returns in me that yes I did a good job, sometimes even better but teaching broke me over my 28 years. Here is to hoping the dreams fade with time, my self confidence can build and I stop looking back as much.

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Taking the time …

A lot fewer blogs recently and generally for positive reasons. It is now almost the end of April. I have been working back on the boats on the river Frome for about a month. Weather has been variable affecting shifts but twice I have arrived early and before I open up I have taken a kayak out for a short paddle downstream to the First river bend to the right and where Monarch the steamboat is moored.

I have pulled back from rowing commitments as I realised I had over committed myself and the art, boat job and flat decorating needed to come first.

So now,we have a flat with the agents to rent in Swanage with decorating done. My second season of work has started with the boats, I have work in the Purbeck Artisan Yard and I am planning my studio for PAW 2018. The next month will get busy as the lead into and then the PAW fortnight.

Taking time out as a couple means that Anne and I need to take time when available to do things. Recently that has included drives out with lunch fitted around an art errand usually including a trip to Art2Card in Upwey. We like to visit Craig’s Dairy milkery and enjoy a bacon and dorset blue vinney panini. On Thursday we fitted in a trip into Weymouth and explored the south side of the old port. We discovered Revolver, a record store with vinyl, a coffee shop and retro items too. Then our walk extended to beneath the Nothe fort and a great lunch at the Stone Pier cafe with a view across the town and towards Durdle Door. We also found a new art store in ArtyCrafty.

Another recent trip for a car service was combined with a walk and picnic lunch in the New Forest. This afternoon we popped into the Artisan Yard to restock one of my cards and also enjoyed an hour paddling upstream on the river Frome from Wareham. Most of these activities have been on weekdays which in my previous work existence I could only do in school holidays. Today a Sunday afternoon on the river instead of planning and marking.

Our new life offers a great location and a variety of opportunities and it is gradually rebuilding my mental strength.

Pause . . .

Life just reared its head again and I found myself bouncing on a bungee emotionally. I have a potentially idyllic life in a fantastic place but head stuff gets in the way.

Action – education

So I have reduced people I follow online still in education because headlines about the visions from central government and who has published a book and … just make me feel completely inadequate. I can not teach anymore, I broke and recent nightmares have made me wonder when the cracks became unglueable and did I just push too far? Well obviously I must have done because I have seen I can be in a classroom as a visitor ie artist, but the main role – nope can’t even contemplate it anymore.

Action- commitments

The old Andy returned recently I said Yes a lot. I can do that and that and that and … what a surprise I find myself overloaded. So I have contacted and paused all ties with SSRC for the moment. I have art events and an art venue that I now belong to. I restart my seasonal role from Easter. That will do.

Action – health and fitness

I need to lose weight and I want to be fitter. To do that I need to get out there and exercise and eat less cakes, crisps, biscuits, roulade … I am surrounded by beautiful countryside and coastline. I own a bike,a kayak, a rowing machine for self torture, trainers, walking boots – they need using and it needs to reestablish itself as a part of my lifestyle. The boat work will help and as I intend to be pedalling to and back fromWareham a lot, that will help.

Action – Me

Yes, my brain has entertained #those thoughts, no I am not going to. I am going to just have to learn to accept that I have a life that can and should be enjoyed, oh and enjoy it. I have a wonderful wife in Anne to share that life with. I know there are more people out there that I get on well with but you are not my main focus. I don’t need to travel for great surroundings as I have them here. I live in a great location as the roebuck confirmed this afternoon and the hares yesterday morning and the partridges and pheasants and …

So, yes the Black Dog has me in its shadow right now. I recognise it, I know what it is, I know actions that I can take and I have started to implement them. Blue sky suit man, super penguin, man overboard volunteer etc will all be back but for now I am going to try to:

Just be me.

Fitness update

Sunday Feb 4

Well one fitness device has been used this week. I used the concept 2rower on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The first row was 15 min. The last two have seen me row 5000m each time in just under 22minutes. This is slower than I was doing before I took part in Artisans on the beach and the training tailed off. I am finding adjusting my breathing pattern difficult and am not pushing stamina too much yet.

Today I walked around Corfe Castle so a bit of step climbing and descending.

The bike is due to be used on Tuesday. I will report back after that. I have no plan for my first kayak yet.

Declaration of intent: Feb. 01 2018

I, Andy Knill, do here declare that I now own three fitness items that I will use much more frequently from the above date. I will bore my blog readers senseless or give them an aspect of the blog to avoid if they do not want to see my exercise records.

The items are in order of purchase:

1) My bicycle – bought with money for my 50th birthday in 2014. Used but grossly under used. I have had the generous offer from Dave Furmage to get out and do some morning cycle rides in and close to Purbeck which I need to take him up on. I also need to travel into Swanage for rowing club sessions on 2 wheels not inside a box with 4 wheels. This will mean repeated return journeys up Langton hill which should help my stamina over time. By the time I return to my work at Wareham Boat Hire I wish to cycle on a regular basis to work via Stoborough Heath and on the return journey will have the “pleasure” of Kingston hill up from Corfe Castle.

2) My single kayak (SOT) – bought in August 2016 on arrival in Purbeck before the family moved down from Essex. It has been out in Swanage Bay, Studland bay and on the River Frome. It needs to be used more and in the company of our family double SOT for some family outings. I want to relearn my paddling skills which are useful at WBH too.

3) My concept2rowing machine bought secondhand from another member of Swanage Sea Rowing Club this evening. I have already reopened my online log with Concept2 that I started in Autumn 2001. I have added some recent Autumn 2017 rowing sessions from Instagram that I captured.

It won’t be living in a cosseted carpeted room but it will be used as I need to prove to Anne that I am going to use my fitness equipment. I fully understand her concern / skepticism. At the same time as knowing I want to use fitness as an ongoing strategy for my physical and mental wellbeing I will have to be aware of not overdoing it – this is an aspect of my fitness that in the past has led to illness more than injury to halt my progress.

So watch this space …

Back to school …

This afternoon I shall be working in a school during the working week rather than visiting an after hours training event like TMPoole (Nov. 2016) or Pedagoohampshire17 (Sept 2017).

Working, yes; teaching, not as such. While taking part in Artisans on the Beach at Swanage in Nov/Dec/Jan I was approached by a primary school teacher from a local school. They are studying Landscape art and she wondered if I would be willing to come in and work with Years 3 and 4.

Today after communication by email, and cancellations due to funeral / flu I am going in today to do two separate introductory sessions. I shall write more about the experience on my art blog AndyKnillArt.com.

I am looking forward to this as I have been invited as a local artist, my teaching background was unknown to the teacher. I see this as a positive wellbeing step for me as school buildings should not have to be a place to avoid.

Post afternoon post to follow.

Retraining the mind and body to push themselves

Well my second men’s training session since Christmas. Last week it really was a struggle, a good warm up just over 2km and then a 10km Row where my energy levels fell apart between 6 and 8km but I finished in what I consider a slow time at 44min 40ish seconds. This week I wondered how I would hold up to a better attended session and mention of our first race ahead on March 10.

A good start with a warm up of 2.1km. We go through a stepped series of exercises to loosen up for using the ergs (indoor rowing machines later in the session). Then a 5km Row on 25spm and I managed 20min 43 seconds. Again I need to keep working on developing my muscle memory when it comes to inhaling and exhaling at the right time. Then we swopped with others and did a series of weights based exercises, most focusing on developing our explosive start to the rowing stroke / catch and using our legs much more than our arm strength.

Back to the ergo for a pairs exercise 500m each to simulate a racing start on 10 x 3/4 strokes at 28spm, then lengthen to 10 full length strokes at 28 spam, then drop to 24spm for remainder of 500m. Pairs swop after each 500m. We did 4 each so I had rowed 9km in tonight’s session. I got my 500m pace down to 1 min 47.8s which was very pleasing.

Final exercise and one I do not do well at – 70 press-ups and 70 sit-ups. No opting out, I did easier versions of each but managed the full count at last and then some stretching. I know I had worked out hard this evening. The title comes in because I want to gradually raise the limits I can perform to again, this is both a mental and physical challenge to calm the mind and breathing while exercising harder. I have done it previously and I want to again.

Nurture 17/18

My New Year’s Eve blogpost I have now done for several years but in a slightly different format as teaching headings are not necessarily relevant, balancing my life is however.

Work

A new phase completely, no more teaching. At first we considered the idea of me just having a year off – no attempt to work, but that felt wrong to me. I launched AndyKnillArt as a web blog on 31 January. I will review its first year on the first anniversary on www.AndyKnillArt.com. My art has earnt money, I have exhibited and participated in many events – a great success overall. In March I secured a part time job at Wareham Boat Hire with Matt and Julie Jones. The season saw me working at Abbot’s Quay, Wareham until the start of October. I love the outdoor nature of the work, standing in the river, talking with passers by and customers and guiding on safe use of our fleet of craft. I have learnt many skills and I look forward to my second season in 2018. Both of these offer much free time which has been spent with family, especially Anne.

Family

2016 had ended with Mum passing away. 2017 has mirrored this as Dad has passed away too. This time I was with him at the end and felt very privileged to be there to support him. Liz and the New Zealand clan came to visit while over at the start of the year and explore a little of what our new area has to offer. More contact with Jonathan to start the year after a low end to 2016. From May to November came a gap. We have now seen him but the circumstances were difficult and we hope contact can be more regular in the future. Living as a family unit across three generations has taken some adjustments but generally works harmoniously and of course we do live in such a beautiful place. We have also purchased a property to let out in 2018 as an investment for the future.

Exercise

At times too much, at other times gaps have opened up due to overlapping events and a need / desire to pace myself more sensibly. So ongoing membership of Swanage Sea Rowing Club although craft fairs and work at Wareham meant that after the Three Rivers race in March I didn’t compete in any other events until the Swanage Supervets event in October. I continue to help with Juniors on a Monday. My overall fitness has benefitted and rows over the tidal race at Old Harry and along the coast to Dancing Ledge have been highlights in seeing the coast from a different perspective.

My river work in Wareham helped my fitness with lifting and shifting equipment and also meant I did more paddling some in work craft and some in my own kayak . I have also paddled the entire coastal perimeter of Swanage Bay now. More kayaking is needed in 2018. I have underused my bike, it has been used to and from some rowing sessions but I haven’t really done any extended rides. I have achieved a nonstop ride / drag up Kingston hill which I was pleased with. I have walked quite a bit on local trails, some with Anne and some alone.

Learning

Two new jobs, setting up a business and learning other new skills has meant a busy year for learning. Learning I wanted to do in connection with new pathways. I have extended my art skills with attendance at Swanage Art Workshop with Anne which has given us a shared interest and led to new friendships. Art skills, purchasing equipment, self employed tax returns, working and selling at art/craft events including printing, mounting and framing work. The list goes on and on. Using a petrol driven mower…

Connections

After a poor January I cut most of my online ties for a while and closed whole accounts. I am now back online but with far fewer links / contacts and many are new ones that have been formed in the last year. It is difficult to believe when we are in Swanage that we have not been here longer from the number and variety of people we know, are friends with, who we stop to talk with as we make our way around town.

I have remade some of my education connections but steer away from discussing matters in education. I only taught at TSS for 10 Weeks but the lasting connection I made with pupils continues even over a year on and that is immensely satisfying.

Health

Physically I went through a bad passage after straining a shoulder at rowing training and receiving treatment. Otherwise physically, scratched insect bites have been my worst problem, generally I have been physically healthy. My mental health has continued to vary but the differences between high and low are not as wide as earlier in 2017 and suicidal thoughts are not my instinctive reaction to unease. I attend two groups now in Swanage and Wareham where I have made good friends, joined in with facilitating at meetings and even attended a training course with MIND.

I am not making specific plans going forward: we will rent our new property out, I will do Art and work on the river, we will spend time with friends and drinking / eating in various local coffee houses, pubs…, we will spend time together, especially Anne and I. We will continue to watch our wildlife and enjoy our location. We may welcome some of you to visit us. We will look after ourselves physically and emotionally.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversaries

Yesterday it was the first anniversary of my breaking down/apart in work in front of clients. Today is the first anniversary of my admitting  that was enough and resigning from a career that I was just into my 29th year of.

I have been very conscious of this the last two days and also what I now have as my life and how lucky I am to be in the position I am now in, in terms of where I live,what I do workwise and my family around me. The temptation to wallow is there but I don’t want to wallow because I don’t need to. I have produced several new pieces of art yesterday. I went out and into town today, something I didn’t dare do at this point last year. At the moment I have taken some time out and am enjoying watching  wildlife in the garden. A quiet weekend ahead I think where I can reflect on how lucky I have been and also come a long way in the last year.

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.