Tag Archives: Mental health

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.

Reflections…ongoing

So it’s Sunday. Yesterday was a positive day. A week in which I lost two days to very deep lows both linked to seeking support from secondary care mental health services locally, seems ridiculous that applying for help causes more uncertainty in my self esteem. However, as a couple we have fought this battle many times with social services, post adoption support … We live in a country where needs often are not or can not be supported, but to access the services that are available you have to demonstrate great #stickability which of course is difficult if you are already struggling and also on your confidence in challenging systems or professionals in their own field.

So this reflection bit, based on my first five months in my new home county:

– I love Dorset and especially Purbeck. I now live in an area where countryside and coastlines are readily available and are so beautiful. My and family interests in leaving behind the suburban traffic noise we lived amongst previously are not missed.

– my job here did not work out, I did not fit into a particular close knit team, c’est la vie. I loved actually teaching the pupils, I would liked to have fitted into the team but it wasn’t to be and I made the wise decision to pull back straight away in the circumstances. 

– I have made new friends and acquantances already by talking to people I meet and especially through the companionship I have found in the Swanage Sea Rowing Club. I get to exercise three or more times a week, I am allowed to help coach junior rowers, so the teaching aspect is still there.

– at last we approach completion of the sale of our property in Essex which brought much stress and tension from July to October especially. This means we are financially stable and will be able to look forward and make choices without the burden of mortgages etc.

– my wife, Anne, very sensibly suggested that after 28 years without any career break I might take a work break and readjust. I have been revisiting as constantly felt I should be back working,  but having removed teaching which I have used to define myself for so long, there must be a break and I think today that I have actually accepted it.

– my mental health has dived lower for an extended period than ever previously but I am working at it. Anne is being very supportive as we work at our new life together. Next we apply for the local “Steps to Wellbeing” programme, we have found a very supportive GP practice in the Corfe Castle Surgery. I have joined the Swanage Depression Support Group who are a great group of people with whom I have a common demon. I am going to work to fight the suicidal thoughts and response to flee that went through my head especially in the period mid September to mid January, honesty is helping with that.

– I have had an alternative therapy approach to solving shoulder issues which has made me look at how my body works in a new way and it has been a positive experience.

– I was given lots of supports by some of the local artists especially Sue and Kate during the pop up beach hut season on Swanage seafront in the run up to Christmas. I have booked a table for April 1 – no, it’s not a joke for @AndyKnillArt to see if others want to buy some of my photography and / or art. This idea foundered for a while with the mental health dips but I hope to see it move forward this year at whatever pace I can cope with.

– we are renting for the first time and the property is fab. A dream to live in the countryside and see a range of wildlife every day,this gives a great sense of privilege. It brought its own lows at first when I was here on my own almost rattling around. Anyone know an easy foolproof way to earn a £one million so that we could stay here forever – I like it that much. I have dug out paths long hidden under overgrown rough grass,started to look at skills I can l learn locally so that I can restore features like the drystone walls. I was going to keep a record and will do this where I will map the property as we learn more about the fauna and flora that we live amongst.

– shared places, I mentioned that we love Purbeck – from National Trust properties at Corfe Castle and Studland  beach, Swanage bay and headlands at Ballard Point and Peveril Point. Durlston Castle and national nature reserve with its links to local heritage and quarrying. Country pubs like the Square and Compass and Scott Arms. Walks out onto Houns Tout,Swyre Head where we can look out over the Jurassic coast and the local diverse geology.

and so on and so on and …

I came off Twitter,five years of networking and around 8500 contacts. I am fine without it, I have read 
books again, I have joined the library, I try to be outside in the fresh air at least once every day. I stopped blogging but as you can see it is a reflective outlet, so it’s coming back like this post. Thanks for the feedback from new readers and for acquaintances from education and so on who are part of that Twitter legacy.

I still use FB but cleared 400 contacts out, a more select circle that will grow again slowly I am sure but with me in a far better place to use it and keep life in perspective.

I think I have rambled enough for this post, let’s keep seeing how 2017 goes, onwards…

Curious but happy being where I am, geographically …

It’s Friday, it’s the evening and in London’s Docklands I am aware that many friends and acquaintances will be / have been gathered for the TMBETT17 or similarly titled event, then on for a meal where there will be lots of animated talk….

Just a short greeting to the people who I have spent many hours chatting with online and at a variety of ed events. I am now away from that as no longer employed in education. In lucid happier moments I miss the camaraderie but not the stress.

Several of you said to me back in November, since my sudden departure and since,  how my experience would be valuable to others, but to be honest while generally more invisible online these last three weeks it is not an avenue that I will be able to explore for a long time if at all. Like the pupils I only met for 10 weeks and many more previously it’s the people I miss but at the moment I am not always comfortable around others.. 

My personal post classroom journey is ongoing and I seem to have decided this week to let my blogpost speak out once more. For GeoDebs I am still recording a daily GOB journal entry but not blogging it. If / when you leave teaching try to make it a controlled departure where you have control and a plan in place. Just jumping out is what I did but at some personal cost that I am still living through.

So why did I post? To say hi really, so hello to all of you who have visited BETT or will be attending tomorrow in your own time / own expense. If we have been in contact previously I hope work is going ok or better and if it isn’t make sure you have others to talk to, offload to etc. Make time for you and yours and look out for each other.

Andy / Mishmash / Raffle Guy ……

Distressed, seeking help…

Today I had my second meeting with Community Mental Health locally to see if I could / should access the secondary level resoutces. I have been extremely anxious about this twice this week. I rang on Wednesday to see  if there was an outcome from the previous meeting 15 days before. I couldn’t take the call and Anne had to take over  as I was so anxious.

Today I received a copy of a letter they had sent out 3 days after my appointment but not told me – cue anxiety. I was very nervy today. Expecting same outcome but completely wiped out by it. 

Just an update I suppose.

Making a difference

A difference to me, to the property where I live, to my state of mind.

Over the last few weeks since my visit to the GP on 14th November I have tried a number of diversions to distract my mind, work my body to just be. Some days these aims have not worked. Successful activities so far include retail therapy, local walks, errands, visits to local sites eg Corfe Castle, exercise, eg cycling or sea rowing training.

Since  we moved into our home in Dorset I have wanted to start investigating and developing the grounds. So far this was mainly limited to leaves – leaves on the grass, leaves in drainpipes and drain holes. 

Then I looked more carefully about the out- building behind our garage. There was a lot of overgrown parts that just called to me to explore so im the last week or so I have started to do that. I have raked, pulled out plants, added to our growing garden pile (? Compost heap to be). 

Discoveries have been more extensive stonework than previously thought. Then I spotted some stones in the ground and I have removed matted overgrowth to start to reveal what lies beneath. 

This will be a long project but I am sure we will leave a positive mark on this property. I will continue to identify new species of garden birds as we put food out for them. I will learn tree species, plant species and animals. I hope to grow some vegetables but this will also be a new adventure. 

The photos below show some examples of recent before and currently shots.


This is a more positive thread to working on my mental health.

A chance to talk

I watched the news this week when a piece came up about a closed group on Facebook for men with infertility issues to talk to each other.it was a clear video report and I went away to investigate further.

I have admitted to a  number of things about myself through this blog over its time. It truly is a mishmash into the ongoing process of life and learning about new things and about myself.

Yes I am infertile. There it’s said. A dark secret held onto for many years that has tortured me for various reasons that I have probably created more myself but like Mental Health a secret held onto for many years.

I now have a forum where I can talk openly. I am not sharing those conversations here but it is another valve / release for negativity that has helped my mood lift this week. Not because infertility has been a relevant issue for me for a long time but because it is a skeleton ejected from the cupboard of my mind.

I have been lucky in meeting friends able to talk about their mental health openly and we look out for each other.

Do you have skeletons in your cupboard that you would like to set free?

Ups and downs, the cycle of a day

I am writing this blog to share, vent, diffuse…so many reasons or excuses, you decide.
I am a teacher as most readers know, so I am now in the 5th week of my summer break. Traditionally a time to spend with family, relax, let go of school thoughts, go away for a while, then wind self up in the last week as I prepare to go back into school.

This summer is my new beginning, a move to a dream job teaching, not managing others, with chances to be creative and outdoors. An opportunity to bring my extended family together in a new place in a great location. That is all still going to be possible so why is it getting to me?

Well complications over selling and buying properties and delays … mean that the choice to be in our new location for the 9th of August has been and gone. The various companies involved in the reason for the loss of one sale are being elusive. The follow up process not moving at the speed we would like. It is causing frustration. As part of the interim measure four of us share our three bedroom terraced house, space is at a premium, there is nowhere to hide for those moments on tension.

I have had many good points this holiday, many spent with family, ex collleagues, ex pupils celebrating the start to a new stage yet my mind and body roll from one extreme to the other.

I am participating in #DrawAugust where I sketch (at least one) a drawing each day and post it online – I am doing this on Facebook and Twiiter where I am combining it with #Teacher5adaysketch. Today’s drawing shows how my mood has varied today. I have had the happy smiley, finding it difficult to take compliments about the way I work with my classes. I have had the neutral where despite nagging doubts about the pace of progress towards the new life I have offered the whole family, not just myself there have been great thoughts that neutralise or even balance out the mood. Then there are the silly things I allow to niggle away, the gnawing and gnashing of my jaw in frustration where my mood drops and my boat seems to start sinking.

So why post this, because to be honest blogging is my release. It doesn’t matter whether people read it, it is like a tap. I can alter the flow. When I was younger and I felt low I would bottle it up, I wouldn’t share and I would fly off the handle and get very shoutey, I would slam doors. I was not great to be around and I apologise to my siblings and parents for that. Those outlets didn’t make me feel better. I have used exercise, sketching, walking, crying, hiding in a darkened room to various extents to release the internal pressure. I reflect I have a mind which is overactive, I don’t always advise such a thing. So today as the day has progressed, I am not in the mood to exercise, I want to hit out but I don’t, I want to scream but I don’. I want to hide but I don’t – so I blog and I will post it once on FB and Twitter as a link and it will stand as evidence of one day in my head. Some say I shouldn’t be this open but I suffer from depression I have a Mental health issue and I want others to know that it is not easy on some days. 

This August the 31st I am going to host an online chat as part of #teacher5adayslowchat3 and talk with people online about this mental health thing that impacts on many of us, that makes others judge us. Then on September 17th I am opening myself up in a room with other people, mainly teachers ( nobody might turn up) to have a conversation about mental health from the teachers perspective as the sufferer rather than the supporter. 

As I have written this post the therapeutic effort of putting my thoughts down by drawing, then typing (and correcting) have brought me to a calmer place. If you have read to this point, thank you. If issues like this affect you and you don’t have an outlet say hi – I am on Twitter at @aknill, I am on email at Andy.knill@gmail.com. If that scares you, I am sorry and ignore my offer.

I am now back to midway between picture two and picture one. 

Phewwwwwwww.

Stick your head up high and wait …

Enough … Is a post I wrote on http://Staffrm.io this weekend. As a parent, teacher and mental sufferer the three were thrown into hiatus with the political decisions about funding for disability payment reductions in the budget, declaration that all schools should become academies and the school day should also be longer. Both of these buy into my own anxieties as the parent of two adoptive sons with additional needs who I want to be able to support towards more independent adult lives. Also as a teacher I see my work/career subject to whims that are not well argued for and a cause of unnecessary. Hange for myself, colleagues but more importantly for successive cohorts of children who are used as Guinea pigs for politicians to tinker with.

So I wrote a post and I have then actively sought online support from many that I know / have met / follow to see if they would agree to share it further. The article will be promoted throughout the next week as we head up to the Easter break. This afternoon it has hit about 1500 views in a weekend an achievement I have never made with a post previously.

As an experienced teacher and parent I believe it was time to make a stand, what do you think?

This teaching thing is tiring …

Well, one week passed. I went into school twice this week. Each time I completed a half day and taught one lesson, the second visit was a bit longer as I was in school over lunchtime and stayed after school to mark the set of books from our two lessons this week.

So what did I do? Taught a lesson each time, slipping back comfortably into the role where for an hour my attention is focused on up to 30 12/13 year olds. Setting tasks, answering questions, chivvying, asking questions, pushing for accuracy in work, stopping disruptions from developing, being interested in a range of individuals with different personalities – after 10 weeks of not doing this I was tired after each visit, but I enjoyed it, back in my element. I also met other staff, answered queries about my health, where had I been … More interaction than I had become accustomed to.

So week two, the programme says two more half days. The same plan? No, I have asked to up the amount of teaching and will be delivering 4 lessons, so less meeting, talking and more teaching. I have calculated that if everything progresses steadily I want to increase the number of lessons each week so there are no jumps and my stamina builds apace.

One of the nicest and most supportive elements has been the support of pupils, staff and friends online who come from so many different avenues of my life. They have responded positively to my posts here, in staffrm, on Facebook and Twitter. Mentally I have felt strong, physically I realise is going to hit more more than I hoped but I can work at that a week at a time. The support and comments about my honesty in posts is also touching. I will continue to be honest about mental health because I want it to be a more open point of discussion. I know from my own experience that since 1999 and my first absence from it that it is less of a taboo but there is a long way to go and it takes time for people to feel more comfortable about others bringing it to the fore.

So onto week two …

Patience isn’t easy, but I’m working on it…

So Wednesday was a good day after two BD (Black Dog) days. Well, good news, the week continued positively and I had three positive days consecutively, but I was worn out on Friday. The new gym subscription saw me exercise Wednesday and do Bodybike class (all indoor cycle classes depending on trade name involve same sort of thing) on Thursday evening. I also went to the Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead Market, Essex with my wife and Mother in law, the gardens were lovely and I admit they sparked ideas for planned long term project with science department at school linked to John Muir Trust Award scheme and Greater London National Park proposal… A slip but a positive one. 

Friday saw me very weary in the morning but a visit to local nature reserve without lots of young families on the Wind in the Willows trail meant it was quieter. Identified two new unknown spottings – immature cormorants and their lighter fronts and Pintail ducks. Watched New Zealand v Tonga in the RWC and played taxi drive for youngest son.

In the evening on Twitter found myself drawn into chats about teacher workloads and new GCSE specifications – or lack of approved final specifications. So yes, work related but again one of the key pressure areas for departments this year preparing for September 2016. I had chatted with a few colleagues on Facebook on Thursday evening and it was nice to have some contact again. I feel guilty when absent – not surprising and I know, … Also completed paperwork so I can see Occupational Health and rang employee support service who I will recontact once I have had second GP review.

It’s Saturday, I woke early and watched YouTube clips which means I will have to get Cedric my cello out again soon and challenge myself to play after watching videos by the 2cellos who I was aware of already but also Emil and Dariel, two American teens who are the junior equivalent of the Croatian pair. This morning sees me doing the 9.15 Bodybike class. On Thursday after class Andy, the instructor, enquired about how my running training is going – doing a 10km on 1 November – I admitted lots of cardio but no running as I find exercising outside alone my mind wanders and I am avoiding that at present. It turns out he and I have both gone through the #mentalhealth mill and he offered support which is appreciated too. As he said even though I struggled at times on Thursday, I was in the class and I finished it – two positives.

So, for those of you reading my posts and commenting on here or via Twitter (@aknill) thank you for your continued support it really is valued.