We are all a little broken, and that’s ok.

Throughout 2015 I created a scrapbook to help distract myself when I needed to. Each page carries a positive message to help pull me through and see the situation from a different angle. I tried to make all the pages as colourful and textured as possible so that it felt real and replaced some of the more destructive things my hands could be doing. As a creative person, it was a great tool at the time for distraction and expressing my feelings but now, as a very sentimental person, the book is a great reminder of where I have come from. I hope that now, through this short video, these messages that I wrote to myself might help someone else who needs a little boost.

The music in this short video is my cover of ‘Holes’ by Layla – a song on my ‘Emotional Outlet Playlist‘.

Hope you enjoy.

Young Minds Parent’s Helpline

All of the funds raised from our production of Base Layer will be donated to the charity Young Minds after the final performance on Saturday 10th September. Young Minds are the UK’s leading youth mental health charity and work with young people and their families when they are struggling with a mental illness.

Young Minds

Young Minds run a confidential parents helpline used by over 10,000 people in 2013 to help direct parents to the right support for their families. Parents, carers, grandparents and professionals like teachers and social workers have used the helpline to try and help a young person under the age of 25. It can be very difficult to make the first step of making this call, but the Young Minds advisors are trained to help you explore your worries and understand what your child is going through. They might then pass you on to a mental health specialist for further consultation.

All you have to do is call 0808 802 5544 (free from a mobile or landline) between 9:30am and 4pm on Monday-Friday and there will be someone there to help.

There is also an online contact form to use if it is easier to write down your concerns rather than saying them outloud. Anyone can contact the charity when they are in need – they have heard it all before and no problem is too small.

The aim of the project is for Young Minds to be able to help everyone who needs them but they can only do with with donations from outside sources in order to further their work. Through our work on Base Layer we have already raised over £2000 to in donations and ticket sales. If you would like to help support the charity, our crowdfunding page is still open for donations, or you can buy a ticket to come and see the performance at the Abbey Theatre on Saturday 10th September, the profits from which will also be donated to the charity. Please help us support the work of this fantastic group. Mental illness is everywhere and everyone is affected!

Stars Can’t Shine Without Darkness

I am a very different person to the girl I was this time last year. In just under a month I will be heading off for my first year of university, and I am 100% sure that I am more prepared than I was 12 months ago. This year, having taken a step out of the education system for a while, I feel like I’ve grown up so much!

Until last September, my entire world was focused around school and the work I was doing there. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been if I had wanted an easier ride, but at the time it felt like all I needed was within that environment. When I left, it felt like everything had fallen apart – I didn’t have a centre anymore. Having struggled with the anticipation of this for over a year, when it actually happened my mental health suffered in a brand new way. But this lead me to something very important; a life lesson that I needed to learn.

It came from a youtube video that I saw in late September. Hazel Hayes is a vlogger and short film maker on the internet, and for the last 18 months she has been documenting her life in a series called Time Of The Month. Each month she films short sections of her life and edits them together beautifully into a half an hour episode, letting her audience know what she is up to and allowing hersef to reflect on the month that has just passed. At the end of these episodes, Hazel sets out themes and emotions that have been prominent through living the month and editing the footage and this section always, always makes me cry! I find myself relating to her story and her life so intensely every time, all the while trying to remind myself that I don’t personally know this woman (however cool I think she is!)

This is by far my favourite series on youtube at the moment and I look forward to seeing it every single month. One of the most impressive things is how authentic and honest Hazel is in sharing her life with hundreds of thousands of people. Sadly, in July 2015 Hazel experienced the end of a relationship and (luckily for me) she decided to share this experience with the world. The episode entitled August 2015 (the second after this change in her life) was published on 7th October 2015 with absolute perfect timing. I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling about leaving school and how much life had changed even though I thought I wasn’t ready for it. But then I saw this and Hazel said the words that I couldn’t find; she was describing what I was experiencing, so that I started to understand my own emotions. Everything that I want to say is in the video below, so instead of typing out word for word what Hazel says, I thought you could just watch the section at the end of this video.

Grief. That’s what it was. I was grieving. But it wasn’t for a person or a physical thing, I was grieving the life I used to know. That girl who went to school and sat in those classrooms and performed on that stage was gone and it didn’t feel like there was anything else to go to. I didn’t know what I wanted because I just missed it. I needed to give myself time to grieve that life before I could enjoy this new one.

Hands down this was the most important thing I realised this year, because then I could start make it better. I’d always thought (perhaps quite naively) that grief was only about losing someone, I’d never thought about it in any other context so I couldn’t articulate it. But once I understood those feelings, I could start to move passed it. My mental health began to improve and I started to get on with life in the real world.

It now feels like this was the lesson that sent me on the journey to adulthood. This is all sounding very cheesy, but genuinely crying at the seven minutes at the end of this video was the first step on that ladder. So, if you ever happen to read this Hazel: Thank you so much for sharing what you felt because I’m sure that I am not the only person who was helped by your words.

This video also gave me a big leap towards the piece that became Base Layer (our devised piece of theatre aiming to reduce the stereotypes surrounding youth mental illness that we performed in July) because I thought that if I had been helped by someone sharing their thoughts and feelings, perhaps my journey could help someone else. There is a recording of our performance of Base Layer here or you can buy tickets for the final performance on 10/09 here

Grief is a natural human emotion that occurs way more often than we let ourselves think. It’s OK to feel loss and sadness when something changes in your world (no matter how small you might think it is) and the best thing you can do is to acknowledge that and let yourself grieve. Something will eventually make you so happy you could burst again, but that wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t had the sadness. It’s a very hard thing to remind yourself when the chips are down, but Stars can’t shine without darkness.

Stars can't shine

The Chain

One of the things that help me the most is music. I have a playlist on my phone called ‘Emotional Outlet Playlist’ which has music to listen to at all sorts of moments. There are tracks to make me cry; tracks to make me smile; and specific tracks to listen to at crisis points. I am hoping to be able to share a series of these with you, but who knows how regular that will be able to be!

So, for now, this is my cover of The Chain by Ingrid Michaelson. It’s a song that, for me at least, is a lot more than just the words being sung. The atmosphere that is created is what has helped in those moments. I recorded it on the baby grand piano we had in a cottage on holiday this summer. Hope you enjoy it.

Tickets for the final performance of Base Layer are now available on the Abbey Theatre’s website. We will be performing there on Saturday 10th September, so make sure you don’t miss out! To find out more about the production, go to the Base Layer tab on the blog.

Post Show Blues

Although Base Layer is not completely over (details in our recent post ‘Base Layer 2.0‘) the main bulk of the project we have been working towards is over. We spent a very intense three weeks with our cast and crew creating and performing the piece and then all of a sudden it was done. Hence the onset of ‘Post Show Blues’

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It is definitely not a feeling unique to the world of performing – I’m sure that the time after running a marathon (for example) would have very similar vibes! One thing that seems very clear to me is that the blues are not only unique to each individual person, but also to each project. There are many different styles and forms of the blues; it could probably be scientifically investigated!!

The crying mess
In the days following a final performance, anything relating to the show environment will make you burst into tears. I’ll give you an example from my experience:
The end of January 2015. We had just finished a run of Beauty and the Beast at school – my last school musical so it was a pretty emotional time! The last performance was on a Saturday evening, the next day I was sitting at my desk in my room trying to organise my life. I was writing lists of work etc that needed to be done, and I thought ‘I’ll be able to do those questions tomorrow afternoon because I’ll come home straight from school’ And then the flood gates opened. With the show on I hadn’t come home straight from school all term so just the idea that I wouldn’t have a rehearsal to get to and therefore could do my maths homework set me off all over again! In fact I have the tweet to prove it:

Capture

Feeling like nothing good will ever happen again
This is in fact a common trait of most forms of Post Show Blues. Feeling like that project was so good that nothing will ever be as good ever again; no show in the future will ever live up to what you were part of. In fact nothing at all will make you as happy or as fulfilled as that project. When you go from such a heightened sense of enjoyment, to what feels like nothing it can be quite a drop. Of course there is always something just around the corner for you to throw yourself in to, but that can be hard to see and focus on when all you want to do is skip back a couple of days and do it all again.

Quoting the show in everyday life
Everything that anyone says is a quote. Even if its not quite the same, you can totally make it the same! Even if the people around you don’t know the quotes, you still make them because we can’t let the performance die! With Base Layer, we have had a lot of ‘What are your favourite sweeties?’ (Actor: Emily Webster) whenever anyone asks what your favourite of something is, or just speaks about children generally, and also ‘A blue bee!’ ‘That’s quite funny!’ (Actors: Tom Holmes and Mae Lankshear) whenever an insect flies by. 

Suddenly having time to think about all the other things in life
During a run, however long that is, I have zero headspace for anything else. Even vital things like eating and sleeping often take second place to thinking about the piece I am involved in. But then when that is taken away, suddenly there is a whole lot more space for the things you didn’t want to think about before. This is a massive one for me. Post show blues almost always brings on some sort of panic about the next big change coming up in my life, or how many things I haven’t been sorting out during the run. All of a sudden I have way more time to mither and worry and overthink which is never good for my well-being!

Loneliness
I have spoken before about how close you become with people when you put on a show together. Whether you knew each other before or not, the rehearsal and performance process will always bring you closer because you spend so much time with these people and expose so much of yourself emotionally. At the end of the run, you probably aren’t going to see them as much as you have been. All your routines will change and you won’t have rehearsals to keep you together (at least for a while). That can feel pretty lonely and scary when you have become so close and is maybe one of the biggest causes of the blues.

Capture

So what should you do about it? Well, for me at least it’s a little bit like ‘Going on a bear hunt’ – You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it. One of the worst things I ever did was try and persuade myself that I was ok about a run being over. I tried to put on a happy mask (for myself as well as everyone else) and told myself I wasn’t allowed to wallow in my sorrows. But that just made it worse and it meant that I suffered for longer and couldn’t move on to the next thing as easily.

I feel very hypocritical as I type this because I am so bad at remembering this when I’m not feeling great: It has to be ok to be sad sometimes. Everyone is always telling me that I can’t be happy all the time; that the best times only feel so good because others weren’t quite up there, so Post Show Blues is really just showing you how much you enjoyed that time and that it meant a lot to you – even if you didn’t realise it a the time.

Therefore, my top tip for post show blues is to embrace it and make sure that you don’t forget how fantastic it was. I like to create scrapbook pages and photo collections as keepsakes of a particular project. This isn’t for everyone but it allows me to fondly remember all the good moments and grieve (yes I do use that word) a little now that it is over. This was a scrapbook page that I created after a show I was in earlier on this year.

Lucy decided to pour her creativity into cake form the day after Theatre of Minds, so we had celebratory cupcakes that day.

Post Show Blues will be different every time, but they are never bad enough to stop me going back to the theatre for more. Who knows where the next project will be, but I’m sure that when that one is done I’ll think it was the best thing yet.

If you missed out on seeing Base Layer in July, make sure you keep an eye on the blog for details of our next performance (10/09/16) or check out the recording of the performance on Saturday 16th July here.

Theatre of Minds presents: Base Layer

If you missed out on seeing our performances in July, look no further! We recorded the performance on Saturday 16th July, and that is available for viewing here:

One in three children in every classroom suffers from a diagnosable mental health condition; you never know who might be affected. Theatre of Minds is a project, set up by young people between 15 and 19, to give a voice to those children and those around them.

This is a recording of our show, Base Layer, performed in July 2016 to raise money for mental health charity Young Minds. Within the performance we used spoken word, music and physical theatre to try to let anyone affected to know that they are not alone.

Thankyou to everyone who came to any of the performances of Base layer – you made the event very special for us all. If you weren’t able to make it on the night, we hope that this recording will allow you to get a flavour of what those in the live audiences experienced.

All funds raised through this project (in ticket sales and other donations) will be donated to Young Minds – the UKs leading youth mental health charity. If you would like to contribute our crowdfunding page is still open and any donations, however small, will be gratefully received: www.gofund.me/theatreofminds

ORGANISATIONS

Young Minds
Leading charity dedicated to improving the mental health of children and young people.
www.youngminds.org.uk

ChildLine
Children and young people up to 19 can contact childline to talk about anything, big or small.
www.childline.org.uk

Youth Talk
Counselling services avaliable to young people between 13 and 25 who live, work or attend school in the district of St Albans.
www.youthtalk.org.uk

Kooth
Free online counselling for young people, qualified counsellors avaliable till 10pm.
www.kooth.com

Thank you to:

Ms Shepherd, Mrs Hawkins, Miss Hosegood and all the staff at Beaumont School, Emily, Clare, Rhian and Emma at the Trestle Arts Base, Tina Swain at the Abbey Theatre, Andy Gray for technical support, Rachael Peacock at Sandringham School, Anthony Rowlands for help with fundraising, Matt and Jade at Young Minds, Syriol Jones for help with advertising, Jane Johnson at the OLLIE foundation, Debbie White at the Herts Advertiser, Kat Cormack, Kate Newton and Julie Allen from the St Albans City and District Council, Mary Crabtree, the front of house team, Rebecca and Katie for marketing material

Our show was a non-professional, all-profits-to-charity event in which we drew inspiration from a wide range of sources; plays, music, books etc. All materials used belong to the authors.
Materials used: Monkey Bars by Chris Goode, Albertine in Five Times by Michel Tremblay, Love and Information by Caryl Churchill, After the End by Dennis Kelly, Cutters Don’t Cry by Christine Dzidrums, Macbeth by William Shakespeare, 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane, What it feels like to have Anxiety by Meghan Rinks, Performance Anxiety by Mind, Every Brilliant Thing and Lungs by Duncan Macmillan, Mess by Caroline Horton, Charlie and Lola Theme by John Gresswell, Engine Fire by Silent Partner, Lost Boy by Ruth B, God Moving Over the Face of the World by Vitamin String Quartet, We Bought a Zoo by Jonsi, La Campanellla by Franz Liszt, Intertwined by Dodie Clark, Say Something by A Great Big World, Holes by Layla, Sun by Jonsi, Teardrop by Massive Attack

Thankyou to Katie Walton for filming and editing the video, and we hope you enjoyed the performance.
If you would like to donate, visit our crowdfunding page and help us support Young Minds.

Emotional Hygiene – #MHAW2016

Mental Health Awareness Week (#MHAW2016) is this week: from 16th-22nd May. The theme is relationships, and how our relationships with other people affected and are affected by our mental health. When we think of ‘mental health’ we jump to illnesses; we think depression, bipolar and eating disorders, and yes these are very important things to discuss (we wouldn’t be here otherwise), but that is not the whole meaning of the phrase ‘mental health’.

The definition: a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.

Or in other words: the wellness of our mind

Mental health, just like physical health, has a scale and we are all on it somewhere – some of us are just healthier than others at this time. When I was doing GCSE PE we learnt about the definitions of health and fitness. Fitness is about ‘being able to meet the demands of the environment’. Being healthy is about ‘being a state of complete physical, MENTAL and SOCIAL well-being, not merely the absence of disease’. In order to be healthy our body, mind AND relationships all have to be working properly, and if one pillar goes down (no matter which one) we need to look after ourselves.

In this TED talk, Guy Winch (a psychologist and author) speaks of emotional resilience and how we need to learn to look after our mind, just as we look after our body. I would strongly encourage you to make the time to watch the video because it is certainly food for thought:

“How is it that we spend more time taking care of our teeth than we do our minds?”

A very good point! We learn at a very early age that we have to brush our teeth twice a day to keep them healthy; we are told that we have to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to keep our bodies healthy; so why is it that we aren’t so worried about our minds?

I say these things as if I have the answers, but in fact I am very hypocritical! I do not look after myself as much as I should. I like to be busy and I am always striving to be as happy as I possibly can be (which I’m told no one can achieve) and this means that I struggle when things aren’t perfect or I’m not rushing around like a mad thing. We all need to look after our mental health as if our mind were our teeth or our leg.

So, I ask you to take your first step today – watch the video and learn a little more about your emotional hygiene to make your quality of life better.

I leave you with this: Why is this the most common reaction to a psychologist?

'not a proper doctor'

Base Layer: A production by young people for Young Minds – come and join us in supporting young people’s mental health. Tickets available here.

#itaffectsme

For the last decade, Laura Darrell has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. After receiving help from a lot of people, Laura has reached the other side and now she wants to give something back to the world.

Earlier this week, Laura set up an online campaign to spread awareness of mental health issues on social media. To support the campaign all you have to do is post a picture of yourself with a postit note and the words #itaffectsme written on it. The title is a reminder that we all have been or will be affected by mental illness at some point in our lives. Whether directly or indirectly through someone that we know and love, we are still affected and Laura wants to remove the stigma surrounding this. ‘Mental illness has no prejudices about who it affects, so we should have no prejudices about it.’ writes Darrell on http://www.itaffectsme.co.uk/ 

The reason I decided to post this here is that Laura’s message sits inline with our reasons behind Theatre of Minds. We want to create a piece of theatre showing that no-one can escape mental illness because it is everywhere. What you see on the outside doesn’t give you someone’s whole story, and so the people suffering aren’t always those you would expect. This theatre project will not only raise awareness, but also funds for the charity Young Minds (a young people’s mental health charity). If you would like to support our project, you can find out more about our crowdfunding campaign here.

If you would like to find out more information about #itaffectsme, the guardian published an article this week in support or you can search the hashtag on twitter.

Theatre of Minds supports #itaffectsme

#itaffectsme

#itaffectsme

Mental Health A-Z: An interesting read

Scrolling through my facebook timeline last week, one article in particular caught my attention.

Mental Health A-Z: E is for Eating Disorders

A student named Emma Healey, had shared her story with a blog called The Gryphon – The Student Newspaper of Leeds University. What struck me about her article was the feeling of truth that came from reading it. Her sister was affected by an eating disorder and spent time in hospital while Emma was away at university, and so she tells the story of a struggle with anorexia from an outsider’s perspective. She talks of how affected her family was by her sister’s illness; how mental illness ‘plagued’ their lives and how helpless she feels to do anything about it. The article felt very emotionally raw, and the negativity of it was actually inspiring, because it reflected the brutality of the situation.

Often people are only able to share their story after the events have occurred and they are well on the way to recovery, which gives their approach a positive and hopeful edge. Of course, this would give a very important message: that things will get better and your troubles won’t last forever, but I admired the honesty oozing from Emma’s article on The Gryphon. Emma’s family are still in the middle of their battle, and her article ends on a wish, not a hope: “I wish more than anything that she could be better. There is nothing I would not trade for that. But, my god, I am so proud of her for trying.”

The Gryphon are publishing a whole series of articles about mental illnesses and their affects on people, in order to raise awareness. The Mental Health A-Z takes you on a journey through some very moving experiences and is definitely worth a read.

A Period of sickness affecting the body or mind

I have unfortunately been ill for the last few days; just a virus – a sickness bug – but my days lying on the sofa have made me think a bit more carefully what that word really means: ‘illness’.

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of ‘illness’ is A disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind. But I think that it means more than that.

Due to my horizontal state, I missed out on a workshop that I was supposed to go on earlier this week. Illness, physical or mental, seems to make you not be able to do the things that you want to do: it makes you miss out. By missing out on things that you love, something is taken away from you. I can only go on what I have experienced, but from my perspective, illness makes me not me anymore.

People suffering from an illness, whether physical or mental, deserve the same care, help and attention. By spreading awareness about mental illnesses in young people, I hope that we can start to break down the stigma so that people suffering from a mental illness can benefit from the same respect as anyone suffering physically. Even the dictionary definition accepts that an illness of any part of the body has the same impact on someone’s life – society needs to too.