In my last two blog posts I’ve been touching on my mental health and how it's reached a peak. How, my whole identity was being called into question whilst trying to get an official mental health diagnosis. I wanted to write a proper blog post about it and tell you my thoughts about finding your identity. What does it mean to be you? Do we really need to define ourselves in order to live? Do we need labels or are they useful? I will attempt to answer these through my own experience.
I had a bit of a crisis in my mental health. It’s such a long story but I suffered PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from May 2016 after a traumatic start to life with our now 5 year old. I was put on anti depressants, Sertraline, because I went to the doctors feeling suicidal. Read more about that here. They helped for a while whilst I was in recovery. I had a year off work to get better. But in the last 6 months I felt the anti-depressants were making me worse.
I have always hated Halloween. My faith in God aside, I just don't get why evil should be celebrated. When my Bible teaches me to think on whatever is lovely, pure, noble, right and true so that the peace of God will be with me (Philippians 4:8-9), I just can't see why anyone would want to focus on the opposite! When there is a general consensus that Halloween is 'just a bit of fun', I tend to disagree. As a Christian, I don't think this particular holiday should be taken lightly.
It has always been a bone of contention for me. Living at home at my parents and when I moved out in 2010, we would pretty much just turn all the lights off, lock the doors, and not open the door for anyone! Just hide away wishing it all to be over! But in the last couple of years, I've found my opinion changing. In my walk with God, I am called to shine my light, Matthew 5:15 states that people do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand and it gives light to everyone in the house.
By turning off all the lights, locking down the house and not opening the door to anyone, am I not letting Satan have his way on this already dark night? The meaning behind that scripture is about not keeping the gift of God to myself. To let it shine for others and illuminate His love to all.
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a strange relationship with food. I can only pinpoint a few times in my life when I’ve been a healthy weight. Apart from being pregnant, I am now at my all time heaviest weight.
Due to a combination of stress, poor mental health and being uprooted from a Church that was my spiritual family for the last 10 years or so, my eating habits have been out of control.
I tried Slimming World which seemed to work for a little while then became unsustainable. I tried following a book called ‘F.I.T, Faith Inspired Transformation’. That seemed to help for a short while too. Then I just gave up completely.
I gave in to what I was sure was an addiction I just could not control any longer.
''It was a simple trip to the supermarket. We only needed a few bits. ''Look at that," he said, shaking his head. I looked. "One for one. It's due to go below one come October". The bright LED numbers were winking at me, as I tried to make sense of it all.
"Is this because of Brexit?".
"Shocking isn't it?"
My mind started wandering. Brexit, North Korea, ISIS. Such fear, such uncertainty.
The buzz of the supermarket snapped me back to life.'
It is 3:30am. I am lying awake in bed, typing this on my phone, in the dark with my husband sleeping softly next to me. Anxiety is a funny thing. Stress and pressure can worry you to withdrawal all day long. And the overwhelm can lead to depression when it all gets too much.
There seems to be drowsiness all day. The thought of having to cope with all my worries makes me feel tired. Shut down mode. But as the day starts to turn into evening and my duties as a wife and mother draw to a close, a strange thing happens. After feeling drowsy all day and wanting to sleep, when my time is my own, I suddenly wake up! Thoughts start whizzing around. My brain is powered with plans, dreams, organising, full of hope and opportunity.
It's a wonderful feeling but the problem is, I need to get to sleep. Or tomorrow will follow the same dreary pattern. The cycle starts again. Tired, irritable and struggling through the day. But unable to sleep at night for the overactive brain.
Every time I think I'm getting closer to opening my hand made shop, I seem to stall again. I was reading book two of Genevieve Cogman's 'The Invisible Library' series, 'The Masked City' and there was a part I really identified with.
I didn't highlight the exact part of the text to come back to, so you'll have to bear with me on my sketchy memory! The book is fantasy, full of faeries and magic so I'll try to explain as best I can. Irene, the main character is trying to reason with one of the faeries that is a horse but is posing as a train. Whilst inside the train, she needs to get through to the engine room. She is talking to the horse and trying to bargain with it to open it's doors to let her through. This may sound confusing but the main revelation is coming up so bear with me!
I've been on something of a journey trying to find a business idea that will work for me. Having my own business has been a dream for as long as I can remember. From my creative Mum talking about owning our own cafe when I was a little girl. Her passion and imagination firmly planted that entrepreneurial seed then and there!
It's now February and here I am catching up with some new year encouragement. 2016 will be a year of restoration and more interestingly, refurbishment. What does the word mean? Restoring something to its former beauty and perhaps adding something of a new design or fresh feautures.
In my faith in God, these are also words I am hearing personally through my home Church, Southend Christian Fellowship. Words of newness, freshness, a new season, fresh annointing. And if you don't know God as I do, maybe now is the time to find out!
The other week we had the privilege of a little trip to Great Ormond Street in London for our baby boy Eli. His poor weight gain continues, even with the tube feeding and I hope finally we are getting somewhere! He has had some tests which are pointing towards Eli not absorbing his food properly. We just have to wait until mid April now for the results and a plan for moving forward. Admin these days, takes so long for everything to filter through! I just wanted to share with you some pictures and stories of our trip that I hope you find interesting enough to read on!
It was such a grizzly day on the drive up there but as always, I love taking pictures and as the spindly, winter barren trees whizzed by it reminded me of that great photographer, Ansel Adams. When I was at college, the brief time I studied photography, back in the days when we actually learnt how to develop film and develop photographs, rather than the digital age we live in now, we were meant to study artists we liked. I've always been in love with nature, even if my walk with God has been unsteady at times, He always brings me back to His wonderful creation. And so it was obvious I would be drawn to Ansel's beautiful black and white photography.
Here is my interpretation:
Even with a bit of digital tweaking, a filter here, a border there, it's still unfortunately rather fuzzy but that was because I took it in a fast moving car. I guess it just adds to the atmospheric quality of it! At the end of this blog I'll post some links if you want to find out more about Ansel's work.
The first night there we stayed in the patient hotel opposite the hospital. We all went out for dinner at a quiet Italian called 'Cagney and Lacey's'. The food was nice but nothing amazing. For me, dessert is always the highlight no matter how stuffed I am! So here is a little pic of me enjoying said dessert! A chocolate sundae, yum!
The next day was a bit horrendous. We had to be at the hospital at 8am and I'd been awake since 4am, unable to get back to sleep. At Southend hospital, timing isn't great and you constantly have to nag otherwise nothing gets done! So I was in this anxious state of mind but had to trust that they are much more efficient at GOSH! And they were.
Putting Eli under general anaesthetic was horrible as he really fought it! The staff said they'd never seen such a strong baby! On reflection, I loved this comment, as prophetically, speaking over Eli in God's presence, one of my words for him is that he will be a strong man of God. Just like who he was named after in the Bible, a priestly man, a strong man of God. So when I heard this, my reaction was 'yes! Get in!'. But it wasn't nice watching him fight it, I nervously giggled, which made me embarrassed as it's not really appropriate! But it actually did make me laugh how much he was fighting it! I was thinking 'oh come on Eli! Stop being so silly!'. However, I then burst into tears once I was out of the room! Talk about emotional!
Once Eli had woken up there were further annoyances. Which I won't bore you with. But suffice to say, once we'd got him settled, we deserved a break! My lovely Dad looked after him while my husband and I went out for a cheeky Pizza Express. We went to the one on Southampton Row and I found another photo opportunity with their pretty wine art display.
That evening, we went out for a curry. Yes, food again! It was my task to settle Eli for the evening while my husband, Nick, and my Dad went to the restaurant to get a head start on some poppadums and beer! Nick had left the hospital about five minutes to 8pm which is significant for a funny anecdote I hope will make you chuckle too!
I exited about half an hour later and stopped to take more pictures.
One of my favourite things, rainbow colours! To describe where I was geographically, I'd come out of one exit and was standing at the top of the stairs. I hadn't actually exited completely as I was fiddling around with taking these pics. The light display was a rolling thing of different colours bleeding into the next, so I took my time waiting for the best combinations!
Then a lady in full hijab (the black dress and letterbox slit for her eyes) came out and said in a Middle Eastern accent 'is open?'. My casual reply 'oh yeah, I think it's open, yeah go for it'. Then the lady rushed down the stairs, pressed the exit button, which didn't work and then gestured to her partner/husband waiting outside it was shut! I was watching all this as I started packing up my phone. She came back up the stairs and I also watched as we couldn't go back in the exit! I then panicked and said rather dramatically 'we're trapped! We can't exit this way, how do we get back in?!'.
Then I watched again with relief as this lady went to the lift and I was commentating that that was how we would get back in 'ah, in the lift, ok', as I followed her. It was so surreal and like something out of Monty Python as she then beckoned me with her finger saying 'come, this way' in her accent and hurrying away as I tried to keep up with her!
She then led me down some stairs and we reached an emergency exit as she explained 'quick! Alarm!' and pointing to a sign cautioning of the same if we exited this way! As we finally hurried through the exit with the sound of bells ringing, I then did quote Monty Python as I said 'quick! Run away!' - I think it's from The Holy Grail - 'Right men, run away!'. But I'm not sure she got the reference and was running away down the street anyway as soon as we'd got through! Ah, I thought it was hilarious anyway!
The Indian restaurant we went to was called 'Salaam Namaste' which means something like peace, welcome, hello. Here's a little photo of the dips for the poppadums which I thought was quite pretty.
After packing up from the hospital on our last day in London, visited a lovely little gift shop which has my favourite kind of quirky, creative, design led items. Called 'Volte Face'. Here are my spoils:
The Writer's Tool Kit had to be my favourite, I love this sort of thing. It contains lots of inventive prompts for writing a novel I will probably never get round to! But I love the idea all the same. And when I do find the time, at least I'll know where to start with this! Just Google 'Sioux Bradshaw writer's tool kit' for more info. Or contact her at Sioux_bradshaw@yahoo.co.uk.
I had to buy something for Eli of course and he loves these square board books with shapes, colours and patterns. The first time I got them out, I positioned them in a tall tower with the top one opened out with all it's pages on display, perfectly balanced on the top. Eli just giggled and bounced up and down in excitement!
Amongst this lot are also some craft washi type tapes. I was very attracted to the 80's neon colours! And the blue/green/turquoise patterned one has a picture of black cats running through it. I love cats so it had to be bought!
Lastly I noticed these handmade cards and really loved them. It's the kind of design I will be aspiring to for when I eventually open a handmade craft business. The artist is Petra Boase and I'll post a link to her website with all the other links in this soon to finish blog!
So I hope you enjoyed a foray into our trip to London. Despite the horrors of all the medical procedures, we had a pretty good time. And Eli didn't seem affected by the bad bits either. So I just want to thank my Church for this, anyone from Southend Christian Fellowship who is reading this, on our prayer team. I know we were totally covered in prayer and I thank God for prayer power and my family in Christ. Love you guys. Not leaving out my very supportive husband and my Dad who just ploughs on despite feeling his age! (My lovely Mum couldn't make the trip as she hasn't been well, but that's another story!)
So, those useful links and photo credits for you:
Photo credit of the London header photo:
A few pictures taken by the artist Ansel Adams. The very last one was the particular one I was thinking of that inspired my photo.
The Volte Face shop, their Facebook page:
Petra Boase, her website:
Great Ormond Street Hospital:
In June last year I wrote a blog about the 100 happy days challenge. I thought it was about time I gave you an update on how I got on. Well, as I'd guessed, alas, dear reader, I did not finish it! In fact I was even a little surprised how far I did make it... 20 days! A fifth of the way, not too bad considering my history of mental health. (See my previous blog with the poem 'Presence' for more of an insight on that particular subject).
It started like any new thing in my life. I was quite excited with it and felt motivated. And looking back over the photos, I remember the momentum of this continued until the 20th day where I just felt I'd had enough of it. Suddenly, on day 21, I just couldn't be bothered with it anymore. And I wasn't that fussed I didn't finish. I just felt I had to be 'real' and if 20 days was my capacity to keep up a positive attitude then no big deal really.
Sometimes I feel it is a little exhausting to be that positive 24/7. As I mentioned in the first blog of 100 happy days, for me, my life is a rollercoaster of emotion and so much can happen in one day! I'm slowly learning in my walk of faith (with God) to take one day at a time and if I have a few days where I want to enter my metaphorical cave, I'm not going to beat myself up about it. The only danger for me is not allowing myself to dwell too long in that dark place or I find it harder and harder to climb out!
I remember when first dealing with the depression side of things. I used to get really frustrated when people would ask me what the reason for being depressed was. 'What's causing it?' people would ask. I just felt these people didn't understand it at all. But then someone lent me a book about 'the human givens' approach. This was before my walk with God became a central part of my life.
And I learnt from that, that actually, there is always a trigger for depression, but what I hadn't realised was happening, is that I would feel like I'd suddenly ended up in this dark place with no idea how I got there. But when I received this revelation, each time it started happening I was able to look back and say, 'this event here started me on a downward spiral'. 'That event there was the trigger'. And I learnt that as long I caught it at the beginning, as long as I didn't let it go too far, I could dig myself out before I felt completely buried with no hope whatsoever.
These days I pray through it and allow God to handle it. But of course I still have days where I won't let Him in to help. Whether you believe in God or not, it's all about choices. You can choose to wallow or you can choose to do something about it. It's never that easy and sometimes I just enjoy wallowing, it's comfortable. I guess it comes down to balance again. Don't beat yourself up if you need to just rest, feel a bit negative, want to indulge in some wallowing. But equally, don't let it go too far and continue to the point of a depression you have no idea how to come back from.
It's all about managing it. The more you go through it, the more you learn how to deal with it. As with any hard thing in life. As we used to say when I once worked as a prison officer (just thought I'd throw that in there!) if you don't know how to do something, then do it as often as you can! The more you practice, the more you refine it.
So let's leave it there and finish off with some happy reminiscing on my part as I show you my top ten of the 20 happy days.
A little while ago I bought a journal which came embossed with the idea of being a place to write things down that are 'too good to forget - thoughts, memories, ideas' etc. Day three's happy moment was spent writing and gluing in here. Not only do I consider myself a 'writer', I am also an emotional hoarder. I love to document special memories, thoughts, feelings, ideas. This little journal is further evidence of this!
My baby boy, Eli, was only about 2 months old when this was taken. I've read him stories from as early on as 6 weeks old and he's always reacted to them, even that young. Watching and listening and drifting off when the story was over. On Day 5, this was a lovely moment, reading 'The Owl and the Pussy Cat' and watching him fall asleep.
On Day 6 I met a friend at our local 'Birdwood Bakery' for coffee. She'd also had a new baby a month before Eli was born. It was so nice meeting a fellow Mum and really encouraged me. If you've been following our journey, Eli has severe reflux disease. Being a new Mum is hard enough without all the things we've had to contend with. So it was nice to know I was doing ok. The bottom half of the picture was taken in 'The Range' to show the joy of spending some birthday vouchers. Then the last photo shows what I actually bought! Oh the glee of a craft shopping spree!!
On Day 7, my happy moment was amusing myself with 'Wreck This Journal' by Keri Smith, having what I call a 'Dad shandy' (made with ale as oppose to lager!) whilst waiting for a curry at my parent's house. Happy days indeed! And if you didn't know, 'Wreck This Journal' is fab, it gives a prompt on every page for different ways to ruin the journal. It includes things such as 'bury this page', 'freeze this page', 'take this page in the shower with you' and so on. I love this sort of thing!
Day 8 just happened to fall on the day of my book group. Considering this had been a dream of mine for ages, it's no wonder it was my happy moment. It's since dissolved but out of it I've made new friends that we just meet for drinks once a month in a pub instead and discuss life, love and babies, as well as books! The other pictures show the exhibitions that were on at the time at our Focal Point Gallery in 'The Forum', Southend-on-Sea's library. As the book group started from here. And I had a bit of time to kill so I had a wander round. Books, culture, art, yes we do have this to offer in Southend! We are no longer just another rubbish seaside town. Check us out! (Link at the bottom of this blog).
I love a bit of history and so Day Nine's happy moment was spent browsing through this magazine. A vintage look at the past of 'Woman's Weekly', showing the ideologies and fashions of the 1950's. I find it so interesting to look back and see how far we've come, how things have changed.
Day 10 was the simple joy of family time. Watching my baby boy start to make gurgling sounds and dinner with my husband for some quality time. What more can be said?
Being a woman of size, I am of course a die hard foodie so day twelve's happy moment was this divine salad. I cannot convey to you enough how gorgeous this was! An Abel and Cole recipe of which I'll post the link at the end of this blog for you to try out. Fry some halloumi cheese with a bit of olive oil and freshly crushed garlic. Then arrange some rocket and melon on a plate, add the halloumi and a squeeze of fresh lime. Add your seasoning, a bit of black pepper and a sprinkle of herbs. Oh my, it was so yummy!
This day had to be my favourite out of all the 20. My parents looked after Eli, my baby boy while my husband and I had a day out at the BST festival in Hyde Park, London. It was such a fantastic day I could waffle on and on about it! The top right photo was a great memory of the day. We sat down to have our beer and ended up chatting to these two lovely ladies. (And a third who declined to be in the picture). On the left was Daisy, myself in the middle and Sertia (no idea how you spell that so I've written it more phonetically!) a lovely Irish lady. We ended up having a fab discussion about faith and I love that sort of thing! Any opportunity to share the gospel or just have a little debate, I'm there! One of the conversations went like this:
Daisy: So what does your Jesus look like?
Me: Well, you know, quite traditional I suppose. Long white tunic, beard, longish shaggy hair. That kinda thing.
Sertia: Oh yeah, that look's kinda trendy at the moment.
Me: What, you mean like a hipster?...
Me: Jesus was a hipster!
Daisy: That's gonna go viral, someone's gonna make a song out of that...
Cue the words 'Jesus was a hipster' in a sing song voice!
It made me chuckle at the time. Then when I googled it later, I found this phrase had been knocking about on the internet for a fair while already! I found some images but here's one I made myself!
Another great thing about that day, was the opportunity to pray for someone within about ten minutes of getting into the venue! Again, I love that sort of thing. I saw a girl crying and felt the urge to go and comfort her. I went for it and asked if I could pray for her. She was open to it and agreed, then I found God giving me the words after to speak into her situation. I love how He does that! So when we were chatting to the ladies mentioned above, I was high on the Holy Spirit!
It was just such a great day and a perfect way to have some quality time with my husband. Arcade Fire and Band of Skulls were also brilliant. I do love a good festival or gig.
The last of my top ten highlights, day 19, was when I had some free time while my parents looked after Eli. At first my plan was to just rest and read. But I found myself a bit restless so I decided to bake! I find it so therapeutic, I love to have Classic FM on in the background to make it truly relaxing. Of course, it's not quite the same these days trying to bake with Eli around! My cake of choice here was lemon whoopee pies. They're basically like a cake sandwich! So you put the lemon cream cheese filling in the middle to sandwich them together. In America you can buy them already packaged as 'Moon Pies'. But they are a bit processed. These were yummy if I do say so myself. As for 'The Casual Vacancy', I would recommend it for a good read. A bit sad mind you. And now it's been adapted for the BBC. J.K. Rowling does do well for herself!
So, there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed an insight into the things that make me happy. Please do get in touch if any of you have undertaken the challenge. I'd love to know how you got on.
Here are those helpful links:
More on the 'Human Givens' approach:
Photo credit for 'the cave beam led my way':
For more info on 'The Forum', Southend-on-Sea's library and our Focal Point gallery:
The Abel and Cole recipe for the halloumi and melon salad:
Lemon whoopee pie recipe (mine came from a baking recipe book but this will work just the same):
I'm Julia, Just Creative Julia, jolly pleased to meet you!
Welcome to my creative lifestyle blog, established 2014. My main sections are: creativity including crafting, poetry and interior design; well being including mental health, recipes and my faith in God; personal including parenting and my general introvert deep thoughts. You can also have a browse in my shop and Etsy shop.