Category Archives: Mental health

Mental health and how I deal with mine.

#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.

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#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.

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?

Dreaming…what’s it all about?

I awoke at 06:30 in a slight panic and need to escape my dream, not the first time and I am quite sure not my last since I left teaching I have quite frequently had bad dreams about me failing in classrooms / teaching because of Poor discipline or breaking down mentally / emotionally. I have left, I am not going back to a classroom ever again because I know I have lost / used up all my mental resilience. I find myself talking to visitors to my art studio at the moment about my mental health ran out, came to the end of its tether.

My brain/ memories however won’t let go. I had the messages of support from ex pupils and colleagues. I k ow that most of the time I did a good if not excellent job but no more. That last statement still saddens me as I came out because I fell apart for a range of cumulative reasons.

Please do not offer me spiritual / religious belief based answers to my dreams because I will not be able to cope with such theories.

In reflecting, I realise how quickly I feel on edge in situations where I feel I have let others down. I must allow myself some space, forgiveness and aim to let go of things and thoughts, but it is not proving easy. Since I started essentially a new direction in my life officially on January 1st 2017 I have had several crises of confidence. However, at the same timeI can recognise that I have had many successes from:

– Glimpses of Brilliance (GOB) diary – loads of positives on most days

– I can do and am indeed more than “teacher”

– I can cope with things not working, mainly

– peace and quiet are actually pleasurable and I do not always have to be doing

Many thanks to those who continue to be supports and / or reach out. Some people. I have met in 2017 have found it odd to hear that I have mental health issues, but I can assure them that side will become apparent  at times.

Andy

– 

Purbeck Art Weeks (PAW) 2017

Well my biggest art adventure has started. On Friday May 26th I transformed a painted outbuilding shell into a working art studio. The dream of using our rustic outbuilding was achieved. So now I have a workspace to use. Admittedly if it is to be used in the winter it will need heating as it has the ambient temperature of a cave especially when the door is open six hours a day to welcome visitors in to my “open studio”.

I have artwork produced in the last four months (on Wed. 31st) in four exhibitions, I had a piece in one previous exhibition and I also have a range from greetings cards at £2 each to original pieces at £150 to offer. It has been a very productive time. I am now producing individual one off original hand drawn cards as well as my printed offerings also based on my art and photography.

My AndyKnillArt blog (https://andyknillart.wordpress.com) now features a weekly update but for the duration of PAW I am doing a daily blog to share how the experience is going.

If you are interested in any of the artwork please contact me on andy.knill@gmail.com, I am keen to widen my sales area which so far extends to Belgium and Qatar as well as Dorset.