A little update

Hey everyone, how are you all doing? I hope you’re all well and in good mental health today. I’m going to talk to you about Burgh Castle and my recent visit there without the the Burgh Castle Almanac Gathering group and how I felt about that. I’m also going to discuss my podcast with Laura Drysdale, the BCAG’s organiser, in which we speak about all things mental health, as well as how we want to take the Burgh Castle project further when it officially ends.

The entrance to Burgh Castle fort

I was asked by our film maker Julian Claxton for a few clips of me at my favourite spots in Burgh Castle, so went there together and followed social distancing rules. I nearly snapped his hand of at the chance to go, as I hadn’t been to Burgh Castle for over three months and have missed the place so much. When I’m there, I can ground myself and I feel that all my worries just float away with the sound of the wind through the reeds, and I come away feeling really good.

The only disappointing thing about this visit to Burgh Castle is that the rest of the group couldn’t join us. That made me feel a little low that we weren’t all together, sharing the experience. Burgh Castle was looking beautiful and our visit there was lovely. Julian made me feel relaxed and chilled and we talked a lot about my journey, about how far I’ve come on the road to recovery, as well as living with mental health issues. We also talked about local sports and how we’ve missed watching the football.

Nearly three weeks ago I recorded a podcast with Laura Drysdale, a director from the Restoration Trust that runs our project. We talked about how far the project has come and I asked here if she would still take part in the group when it officially finishes. I’m going to leave the link to the podcast here so you can have a listen. Here’s the link to the podcast episode https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/eernq0

Only a short read this time, so thank you for reading. I wish you all good mental health and a very good week.

To medicate or not to medicate

Hey everyone, I hope you’re all well and in good mental health. Today, I’m going to talk about medication and why it has such a bad reputation. I’ve also started to do a podcast, with a couple of people lined up to interview in the coming weeks.I see so many people slating others for being on medication. Some people need it to help them get back on an even keel, and only for a short period of time. I also know people need to be on them for a longer period, or maybe even for life, because of their mental health issues. When I used to go to the doctor, it seems like all he wanted to do was stick pills down my neck, but now this attitude is changing for the better

Social prescribing is now being used in a lot of areas, and I think this is a positive thing. A doctor can help or suggest different ways of getting help, or put you in contact with support groups in your area, or even help you to rejoin the community by recommending you take on a volunteer position. This will help you gain confidence, or even just connect you to social groups you may be interested in. You might not be offered any medication at all.

For some people, this might be enough to help them through their problem, and they won’t need to go back and see a doctor again because they’ll be in a better place. But some people still might need to, because they’re still struggling. A doctor might have to try various medications out on them to get the right balance which, in my opinion, is the right thing to do.

I had a lot of changes to my medication because initially they didn’t work. My psychiatrist told me one drug would work great, but instead it made me angry; I was snapping at people a lot, and that isn’t me, so I had to come off it straight away. I have been on tablets that made me eat a lot, but I don’t need any help in that department at all. I’ve been taking the pill I’m on now for about six months; they were increased by one a day to help me sleep better, and they seem to be the right mix for me. The hardest thing for me to deal with was that I wanted an instant fix, but when it was explained to me they take about six week to start working, I started to relax and not panic so much.

Thanks for reading. I wish you all good mental health.

How heritage helped John reconnect to the world

How heritage helped John reconnect to the world

https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/stories/how-heritage-helped-john-reconnect-world

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we hear from a participant of a National Lottery-funded project that uses heritage to help people living with mental illness – even during lockdown.

Man lying with artwork

John Durrant

“I’ve lived nearby Burgh Castle for so many years and had never been. Now I don’t think I will ever stop going.”

John Durrant

Through the Restoration Trust’s Burgh Castle Almanac project, John Durrant has been exploring the history and landscapes of Burgh Castle Roman Fort in Great Yarmouth.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked John about his experiences with the project before and during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Listening to talk
Stories in stone talk. Credit: Laura Drysdale

 

How did you become part of the Burgh Castle Almanac project?

I began hearing voices from the age of 12 and as a teenager tried to take my own life. I was diagnosed with a mild form of schizophrenia, but it wasn’t until 11 years later following a psychotic episode that I discovered I had been misdiagnosed and I actually have emotional unstable personality disorder.

Since then I have been trying to understand my illness.

“I don’t drive, so the fact I was offered transport to get to the castle was a big factor in my decision to join.”

A facilitator of the Burgh Castle Almanac project contacted me to see if I wanted to take part. I don’t drive, so the fact I was offered transport to get to the castle was a big factor in my decision to join.

Blackberry picking
Blackberry picking

 

The first time I went I really didn’t feel like it was for me and didn’t think I would be going again, but my partner persuaded me to give it another go. Now I am part of the furniture! The group is so non-judgemental, you aren’t judged if you miss a week, but they also care and see if you are OK if you do.

Before lockdown, what did you do?

So many things! We met every fortnight, sometimes small groups and sometimes more of us – it was really flexible.

We had different professionals visit to help us relate to Burgh Castle including a writer, a geologist and a butterfly man.

“In my life I went through a long time not feeling connected to anything. The project gave me that connection back.”

Another time, we visited the Thames Foreshore project in London – walking right along the riverbed was phenomenal. That same trip we went to the British Museum. One of the other members of the group actually has a Saxon find on display there. He also found a Roman coin in a molehill near Burgh Castle when we were on one of our walks.

Walking group in nature
Walking at Burgh Castle. Credit: Robert Fairclough

 

Mindfulness walks were another thing. I was sceptical at first but walking and paying real attention to the sounds of birds, the wind blowing and taking in the smells really did help me reconnect with nature.

I’ve lived nearby the castle for so many years and had never been, now I don’t think I will ever stop going.

Has the project impacted your mental health?

Big time!

In my life I went through a long time not feeling connected to anything. The project gave me that connection back. I looked forward to going on a Tuesday and being laughed at (good naturedly!) for getting stressed about art projects.

The group is like a big family, if we see each other struggling we take notice and offer support. I’ve made friends I never would have met if I hadn’t joined.

Group through pinhole camera
Burgh Castle Almanac group

 

Now I’m connected to the world again I want to take this experience as far as I can and I want to give back to the project and people what they have given to me.

How has coronavirus (COVID-19) and the lockdown changed things for you?

I work to manage my mental health by trying not to get weighed down by too much news or social media. Each day I say something new and positive to myself including the fact that this situation will not beat me – I will beat it.

In terms of the project, we have definitely not stopped.

We meet on Zoom every week where we talk and complete challenges such as mindfulness maps to stay in touch with each other and heritage.

Zoom screenshot
Meeting on Zoom

 

We also have a closed Facebook group with more than 50 members where we post creative challenges. In fact, lockdown has meant the group is more active than ever and remains a way we can pick up on if someone is having a down day.

“The group is like a big family, if we see each other struggling we take notice and offer support. I’ve made friends I never would have met if I hadn’t joined.”

I’ll admit, the situation was disheartening at first, but the communication and support is still there and so helpful.

When lockdown ends, we will meet up again and there are so many positive things to plan and do for the project. I’m excited and so thankful we will have the opportunity.

More information

The Restoration Trust’s ‘culture therapy’ model is designed to help people with mental health problems benefit from heritage, arts and culture. We also spoke to the Restoration Trust’s Director, Laura Drysdale, who told us how heritage can support mental health.

The Burgh Castle Almanac is a partnership between the Restoration Trust, Norfolk Archaeological Trust, Access Community Trust and Norfolk Museums Services. It is part of the wider National Lottery-funded Water Mills and Marshes Landscape Partnership project.

Every project The National Lottery Heritage Fund supports must achieve our inclusion outcome: a wider range of people will be involved with heritage. Read our inclusion advice to find out more.

 

Shall I talk or listen

Hey everyone, how are you all? I hope you’re all in good mental health today. I’m going to discuss with you talking about your problems and discussing when you’re struggling and in a low place. I have changed from not wanting to talk to anyone about my issues, to now asking for help if I’m struggling. I ask for help because, for me, if I don’t I go downhill quickly.

When I was young I never asked for help, because I didn’t want to be seen as a weakling or as a mad person, but things would get me down very quickly; my anxiety would set in and I would start getting pains in my head and stomach and then I would start sweating. I would then start getting negative thoughts that would tell me, “Why are you doing this? You’re rubbish, you’re no good, you’re useless.” Because I was still young, I didn’t have the tools to help me get through crises like this, so when the suicidal thoughts came, that was when my mum had to call the police – on several occasions – because we didn’t know where to get help from. We weren’t getting help from the services that we needed, and the police were the only people that seemed they want to help us. I can’t thank Suffolk Police enough for the assistance they gave me and my mum when I was younger. They’re the reason I’m still here.

I’ve been in out of mental health services all my life, but was never given the help I needed because I was miss diagnosed in 2006 with a mild form of schizophrenia. In 2017 I had a psychotic episode and I was put back under my mental health team. There was a long wait, but I eventually had a mental health assessment and I was told I had emotional unstable personality disorder, with compulsive components and psychotic episodes. I was put into something called Recovery College, and that started to give me some tools to cope when I’m struggling. Another thing I learnt was that it was okay to ask for help if I was having a bad day; this led me to starting to speak publicly, as well as through blogs, about my mental health.

I never thought I would be able to ask for help, or even admit to people that I was finding things difficult. For me, talking about if I’m not coping is the way forward, but I know there are people out there still struggling to get their feelings out. There are different ways you can do it: through writing, poetry, drawing, singing. I also found out that sitting in a group and just hearing that someone is going through something similar, and learning how they deal with it, was a way for me to go home and try new coping strategies. I’ve found that really helpful.

I can now listen to, and speak about, my feelings. I’m lucky that I can do both. I’m not saying it’s an easy road to get on: it’s taken me years, but what I am saying is, please keep trying to learn of new ways to help yourself and don’t give up at the first hurdle. Keep fighting and you will get to where I am today. I still have bad days, but they’re limited.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I wish you all good mental health.

‘Inside the Burgh Castle Almanac’

Hey everyone. I hope you’re all well and are in good mental health. Today, I’m going to talk to you about what we’ve been getting up to with our Burgh Castle Almanac group. We have Zoom meetings every week, and I’m going to show you some of the arts and crafts we’ve been doing during these calls, as well as share with you one of the member’s archaeological finds.

When we meet up on Zoom every Tuesday there are about ten of us, including our resident artist, Ian Brownlie, who joins us and sets us challenges, which we have to post by 6pm the same day.

The task this week was to draw the mindfulness walk we regularly do around the Burgh Castle fort. This proved quite a challenge for me, as I know what I want to put down on paper, but don’t know how to draw with my pencil; I don’t know if any other people in the group feel the same way. When we finished, we had to make a ‘ding’ sound, so I got on Youtube and used a doorbell, while some of the others had little bells which sounded great. The drawings where all unique, telling everybody’s individual story of their walks. We were also given three materials that we had to make something with, but weren’t allowed to start until we’d finished our chat.

Here’s my mindfulness map

I thought I’d share some facts about the BCA group. Thanks to the organiser Laura Drysdale for providing me with this information; I’m shocked that it’s been this many times that we’ve met up!

  1. In all, we’ve met 58 times in person.
  2. We’ve met 7 times online.
  3. Average online attendance is 11 people. I think that’s pretty similar to meetings before lockdown, though it may be a bit more .
  4. Around 45 people all together have taken part in BCA sessions, excluding experts and artists for one-off events.

In a few weeks time, I’ll look at all the data we’ve assembled across the whole BCA experience so far.

I use to work with one of the participants over ten years ago, and he would always talk about the archaeological finds that he found from doing digs on the beach. His sister is a part of our Facebook group and she posted pictures of a piece of amber he found which he gave to her. This member has been coming to Burgh Castle since he was 14 and says that in that time, he’s found loads of pottery. Quite recently, he found a Roman coin and the transcription read ‘The return of happy times’, which is what we called our first exhibition, held at the Time and Tide museum in Great Yarmouth. I think the whole of our group now look at mole hills in a different light, as this is where our friend finds his treasures.

This is the peace of amber

This week there were around 11 of us on the Zoom call, and we were sent some more arts and crafts materials in order to make a wire ball. First, we had to to put some rice in a freezer bag and make it the size of egg. I tried to do this, but the blooming freezer bag popped on me and the rice went all over the floor and my table. A few choice words were said, ha ha.

This is what we where making this was one I made earlier on the project.
Here’s my spillage

So I couldn’t make mine in the end, but some of the other members made some and they looked really good. We’re also looking at producing a BCA t-shirt design, and there are loads of ideas floating around from everyone about what it should look like.

Once again, I wish you all good mental health and thank you for reading.

Quotes that have helped me

Hey everyone: I hope you’re all in good mental health today. I’m going to share some quotes I’ve found online over these last weeks that I can relate to. I’m going to give you a little snippet of how much they each mean to me.

So, the first one is this:

“There is a way through this, you just haven’t found it yet.”

I think everyone suffers from anxiety in many different ways. One of mine is that when I create a blog, I worry that no one will like it, or no one will read it or my admin team won’t understand what I’m putting down. I also think that once you learn how to deal with your anxiety in the right way, and you can kept it under control, you can turn it from a negative thing into a positive one. I’ve struggled with turning it from negative to positive; it didn’t happen overnight – it took a long time to get to the positive – but I’m still working on it now and the best advice I can give is, don’t give up.

The second quote is:

“I think you have to try and fail, because failure gets you closer to what you’re good at.”

When I was younger I thought I was the biggest failure going, because I didn’t think I was good at anything. I now look at this quote and think, “OK, yes, I did fail at some things in my life, but I must be doing something right, especially when it come to me doing a blog: I was rubbish at English at school, but I’ve now got a successful blog, and I know this from the comments and the likes I get from the people reading my stuff.”

The third quote is:

“To that one soul reading this: I know you’re tired, you’re fed up. You’re close to breaking, but there’s strength within you, even when you feel weak. Keep fighting.”

I wish I had seen this quote when I was younger. I wanted to end my life on several occasions, because I didn’t have the support from from the mental health services that where meant to be there to help. This quote just makes me feel empowered to keep fighting, and to learn new tools to help when I’m struggling with my mental health. If you feel like this, please keep on fighting – you’re worth it.

Here’s the last one:

“Pay attention to the signs that indicate things aren’t going well.” ❤️.

This one I can relate to the most, because when I was younger, I never paid any attention to how I felt, and because of that I was often in a low place. Since then I have started to get help from my partner, services and friends, which has given me the tools to identify when I’m starting to struggle. I can then go and put myself in a safe place, and with the right tools I’m not sitting and dwelling on the the negative.

Writing this has made me feel really positive, so I hope that some of what I’ve said will help you if you’re struggling.

I have a saying I repeat to myself every morning and every night: “It’s not going to beat me – I’m going to beat IT.” I hope this helps you too.

Thanks for reading. I wish you all good mental health.

How Music helps me

Hey everyone, how are you all? Hope you’re all in good mental health. Today, I’m going to talk to you about why music plays a big part in my journey of getting to grips with my mental health, how it helps me deal with hearing voices in my head, and how it helps me beat the negative thoughts I have.

So, when washing up, I see images of me cutting my fingers off and hear voices telling me to. At first this really started to freak me out, and I had to stop what I was doing and take a break from it because it was terrifying. I managed to get hold of an iPad, which then allowed me to listen to the radio or YouTube. This was the best thing I’ve done, because it kept my brain active and nothing negative or dangerous would happen. Then, I came across this artist on YouTube called WaTTz: his music is not usually my style – grime rap – but I love how passionate he is about his music and it has helped me a lot just listening to what he does. And the other side to this is, you should see me trying to sing along to his song and dance while washing up! The neighbours laugh at me as they know I don’t care: I’m having a good time. Here link to his song talk about it https://youtu.be/PMt5hoFd-IM.

When I have negative thoughts in my head, I tend to sit there and let them get worse, so a negative thought could turn into self harm. If I hadn’t dealt with them, it would have ended up with me having end of life thoughts. But now I’ve learned how to deal with them and not let them beat me, so I will turn to music to distract my mind. This time, I turn to a different genre of music – Meatloaf – and I find it really helps to ground me when I’m in a low place. Here’s a link to my favourite meatloaf song https://youtu.be/3QGMCSCFoKA.

When I’m struggling to get of to sleep, I would just lie there and my mind would go off all over the place. Because of this I would struggle even more to get to sleep, but since meeting my partner, she has introduced me to meditation music and I love it, especially when she’s not around. I will put an eight-hour track on in YouTube, shut my eyes and let the music do its job. I also find this style of music helps if I’m on public transport by myself. It helps me tune out and also helps me ground myself. Here link to one of the 8hour tacks on YouTube I use https://youtu.be/857bt64SomQ

The reason I do this blog was one of my admins is posting music on his Facebook each day, and is now doing so in our Burgh Castle Almanac group as well. It’s really made a positive impact on my days, so thank you, Robert, and I’m going to let him post the last song here. And here a link to Robert song https://youtu.be/ZF4Z6smOrZw.

Thank you for reading. I wish you all good mental health and hope we’re back to normal soon.

My Inner tune

This song resonates a lot with me, obliviously not all the lyrics, but a lot of them. I have been struggling lately with the voices in my head, talking to me as if they were sitting right next to me. But i’m lucky enough to have a lot of support of loved ones and family. The tools i have been given to help with this situation have helped immensely. But these words feel like i have wrote most of them.

‘I’m friends with the monster, that’s under my bed, get along with the voices, inside of my head, you’re trying to save me, stop holding your breath, and you think i’m crazy, yeah you think i’m crazy.’

This is how some people make me feel, they think i’m crazy, and holding their breath for the next ‘episode’.

‘I ain’t here to save the children, but if one kid out of a hundred million, who are going through a struggle, feels and then relates, that’s great”

I love this verse, its how i feel, if i can just help even one person understand, they are not alone, then that would make me very happy.

‘Turn nothing into something, still can make that, straw into gold chump, i will spin Rumpelstilskin in a haystack, maybe i need a straight jacket, face facts, i am nuts for real, but i’m okay with that, its nothing, i’m still friends with the…..Monster that’s under my bed….’

This bit to me, means even though the situation i am in seems grim, there’s something good i can make out of it, i’m going to turn the haystack into gold. And even though i know i have a mental issue, i’m ok with that, i will and can survive.

Is there a song that resonates with you? Please feel free to share.

Keep well and safe.

p.s. I apologize for the explicit lyrics, but does not detract from an awesome song.

Please have a listen to this song Eminem ft. Rihanna The Monster https://youtu.be/EHkozMIXZ8w

What I’ve been up to in during Covid -19

Hey everyone, how are you all in this weird and scary time? I hope you’re all doing great, and coping the best you can in these circumstances we are in at the moment. I’m just going to talk to you about what I’ve been up to since Covid -19 has came up.

When I first heard about this virus, I wasn’t taking it very seriously, I didn’t think it would’ve spread world wide like it has. I didn’t think it would make people panic, buy stuff they didn’t need. I  didn’t think it would bring lockdowns either. There are so many divided opinions among the populus, causing upset and anger, when we should all be fighting this together, as one.

I’m so glad we have this opportunity to still meet every Tuesday even though it’s online. Today we did arts and craft, Ian Brownlie the artist gave some ideas to us and also sang a couple of songs, including the Funky Almanac song which some people participated in. It was really good just laughing and and enjoying ourselves and we saw a 1 minute film of of our project today which Julian Claxton has done wonders with. He is now working on a 3-4 minute film for a month’s time, then a longer one for the end of the project.

Here’s the link for the 1 minute film please

So this Covid -19 has put the Burgh Castle Almanac project I’m involved with on hold because we’re not allowed to gather in groups at the minute. As a group we have decided to still stay in contact online by video chat, and it’s so good to see everyone and hear from them about what they have been up to. The good news is that the project is still going to happen, past its official end date, so when things go back to normal we will carry on with the project. Happy days. 

What also has happened is they have sent us some arts and craft stuff to do through the post which is awesome. But what the hell do I do with it. The first oast parcel was some foil that we could make something with to go in our exhibition once thing go back to normal. I received a second parcel yesterday, we wasn’t allowed to open them till today and we received some fablon and acetate. Take a look at the pictures below.

It’s important for me to take part in this group cause I get so much from the group and I hope I give something back to the group. I for one know that once the project finishes I’m going to do everything I can to kept it running some way or another.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all good mental health in these times.

.

.

.

.

Open your eyes to nature

Hey everyone hope you’re well and in good mental health, I’m going to be talking to you today about Burgh Castle again and what we got up to last week. We attended the Norffolk Makers Market at the Forum in Norwich and then on Valentine’s Day we attended Buckenham Fen with a bird expert, Mark Cocker, where we went to see the roost of birds.
It was one of the arty people that came up with the idea of going to Makers Market at the Forum, where we showed them how we could make roundels like we did for our sculpture model we did at Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail.

These are the willow roundels read below to find out what we do with them.


We would get some willow that at been soaked in water so it was easy to work with, two pieces to make it stronger, so then we had a frame to work to. We would then get this strong tissue paper that had been cut into a circle of 8cm diameter. We would glue peices of tissue paper to the willow and cover the paper in glue. We would then get bits of nature that we collected from Burgh Castle and also cut up magazines to put on the tissue paper in any arrangement that we liked. We would then get a smaller circle peice of paper, and put that on top like a sandwich. Once that was done we would glue that top piece of paper as well, and then we would hang them up to dry for a couple of hours. But with the amount of people that was walking through the Forum they where drying quite quickly. We had 604 people coming to our stall.
The best thing for me was that when we opened the stall we had a couple of young men from City College come and take part in this activity They wanted to learn so much from what we wer doing and they were asking questions about the project we were involved in and what else we got out of it. And there was the retired teacher who came along and loved what we were about. We also got BBC Radio Norfolk Voices team come down and interviewed a couple of our members about what we were getting up to, which is great. Also the amount of people that wanted to leave a donation for materials cause they just wanted to say thank you for our stall.

These are the final result hanging to dry


So that now brings me on to the next thing we got up to. On Valentine’s Day we went with Mark Cocker to look at birds and the nature at Buckenham Fen in Norfolk. It is a nature reserve, well what can I say ,it didn’t disappoint. We got there around 4pm and there was a small group of golden plover, and there was already geese flying over, ducks eating the grass and we were even treated to Chinese Water Deer, a couple of them running around. Also there were some hares hopping about – I was shocked of how quickly they can move. There also was a river running along the site, if any of you like fishing you would be well in your element.


Then we were treated to 3 barn owls flying over the other side of the river which was a fantastic sight to see, and as we walked further around the site the owls that were flying over in the background started to come nearer to the river so you could get a closer look at them if you had the binoculars on which was great. When I got back I rang my grandma and told her what I had seen as she loves owls.
We started to walk to near the beginning of the site to see the main attraction of the roost, which I had ever only seen on television. The birds started to gather all around us in the sky then they seemed to group together and well what can I say, the noise and the the sght of 20,000 birds that were flying turning twisting all in synchronised movmement, it was amazing. The only downside was that I didn’t have a decent camera to catch it with. If you’re into your wildlife then go check out your local nature reserve and lose yourself in such beautiful scenery and the noises.

The sun set at Buckingham fen captured by another participant.


Thank you for reading hope you have enjoyed another round of up what we have been up to on our project.