Category Archives: Mental health

Mental health and how I deal with mine.

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.

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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.

#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.