Thursday, 1 February 2018

It's #TimeToTalk

I suppose it is time I spoke up on here isn't it!?  It's been what feels like forever since I last wrote a post!

In all seriousness, today (Although there isn't that much left of today at the time I've finally been able to sit down to write this.) is Time To Talk Day.  A day where people are encouraged to speak up about their mental health.

Unfortunately, there are still far too many people out there who feel alone and isolated as a result of their mental illness.  Yes, we've come on leaps and bounds over the past 10+ years to break the stigma around mental health, but unfortunately that stigma does still stand in society, and it's those that suffer in silence that feel it the most.

I myself have suffered the affects of the stigma around mental health.  As you all know, mental health is a subject I feel so passionate about, and I will always encourage anybody who is suffering in any way to seek help.  Do I ever take my own advice though?  Rarely.

In fact, for the past 14 months I've suffered in silence.  Since the loss of my Mum, I've spent all this time taking care and worrying about everybody else, and apart from a short stint of bereavement counselling that I did at the beginning of last year, I've given myself next to no time to process the loss of my Mum.

If anything, I've played it down a lot of the time.  I've always been stuck in the mindset of "This is my problem to deal with, nobody else's.", and because of that I've found it incredibly hard to share my problems with others.  So I've spent all this time putting on a brave face for the world outside, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, then crumbling as soon as I shut to world out in the privacy of my own home.

This week, I was pushed to the edge and on the verge of a breakdown.  I couldn't do it anymore.  I needed professional help.  When I said out loud to Spencer that if I could trade places with my Mum right now I would, I knew I couldn't do this on my own anymore.

I decided to look at things from a different perspective.  I decided to look at myself from the outside.  As if I was listening to a friend tell me her problems.  I thought "If a friend was telling me what is going through my head right now, I would tell her that she needs to get herself booked in to see a doctor as soon as possible".  So that's what I did.  The very next morning I booked an appointment to see my doctor.

I personally find going to see my doctor about my mental health incredible nerve wracking. I convince myself they'll think I'm being ridiculous.  That I'm faking it.  That I'm just having a bad day.  Of course this is never the case.  Doctors very much understand that mental health is just as important as physical health these days, and my situation was taken very seriously.  I'm being referred for further bereavement counselling, as it's felt more is needed for me to help me move forward with my life, and I have been prescribed Citalopram to help me on a more short term basis to straighten my head out a little.

Whenever I get to the stage when I need to seek professional help for my mental health, I always feel a hint of disappointment.  Like I'm too weak to help myself, when in fact, it's the complete opposite.  Admitting that you need help is one of the hardest things you can do.  To actually go out and get the help you need and deserve, takes an incredibly strong human being.

I also realised I have nothing to be ashamed of.  Losing a parent is one of the hardest losses you will ever suffer.  It has a massive impact on your life.  In fact, your entire life changes forever!  Especially when the loss is sudden and a total shock.  That kind of trauma is going to have a lasting effect.

To anybody who is suffering low mood, depression, anxiety, or anything that is having a negative impact on your life, I urge you to please seek help.  Talk to somebody.  Whether it be a parent, friend, colleague, teacher, or even a doctor.  Please seek the help you deserve.  

Nobody deserves to spend their life feeling unhappy, and taking that first step just to talk to somebody can instantly help you feel like your problems are already halved.  There are people out there who want to help you, so let them.  Believe me, this is coming from the Queen of bottling things up.  I'm terrible for it, but as soon as I went to the doctors yesterday, I already felt a little lighter.

If you feel there is nobody in your life who you can turn to at present, then please call the Samaritans on 116 123.  They offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, about whatever is on your mind.

Whatever you decide, don't suffer in silence any longer.  It's time to talk...

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

What's In Store for Siobhan Emma in 2018?

That's a good question!

If I'm honest, for a while I wasn't even sure if there was going to be a future for Siobhan Emma in 2018.

I'm sure it's no real shock to you, what with my intermittent commitment to blogging throughout 2017, but I've really struggled in the blogging community this past year.  You're probably all sick of me talking about the loss of my Mum now, but the reality is, that event changed me, and one of the things that changed is my tolerance for pettiness.  You know what I've seen a lot of throughout the past year in the blogging community?  Pettiness.  So much pettiness.

I've found Social Media as a whole to be quite toxic this past year in fact.  I've hated being on it, yet, for the sake of my blog and being able to promote it and grow it, I've felt obliged to be a part of it, and I think this has eventually lead to the regular radio silence for my part.  I've only been able to take so much at a time before I needed to back off again.

Because of my feelings towards Social Media this past year, I've felt like I've been constantly at war with myself about the future of my blog.  On the one hand, it's no secret that I love to write.  Blogging has been a huge part of my life since discovering this world all those years ago on an evening when I should have been writing my dissertation instead.  My writing is something I've always wanted to get out there, I would love to grow my blog, and I'm very much aware that along with growing a blog comes a shed load of interaction and promotion on Social Media.

The reality is that I can't do one without the other, but every time I logged in to Twitter, the first thing I would read was yet another blogger spat, or underhanded comments being thrown around.  I felt like I was on the school playground again.

I couldn't see how I could achieve my blogging goals without the Social Media side of things, so slowly, I was coming to the conclusion that maybe blogging just wasn't for me anymore.  I didn't feel like I fit into the world that the bloggersphere had grown in to, and I was ready to bow out quietly, pretty certain that not many people would notice anyway.

Then yesterday I completed my final session of the stress control workshop, that I first talked about in this blog post here.  The final subject was based around our general wellbeing, and the importance of helping our wellbeing to flourish.  The course leaders gave us tips on how we could help our wellbeing flourish, and one of those tips was of course to invest more time into our hobbies.

Apart from reading (Can you tell I love anything to do with the written word?!), I couldn't think of anything I love doing more than creating content for my blog.  I love taking beautiful photography and writing what is hopefully great content for my readers, and I realised that I wasn't willing to just give that up.  Instead, I needed to come up with a solution.

There's no denying that Twitter is one of the biggest platforms to help promote your work.  As much as I hate being on there, I have to accept that.  So instead of avoiding it, I'm going to set myself small pockets of time to spend on there, whether that be to promote my blog or chat to others.  Maybe 20 minutes a day at the most.  The rest of the time I'm going to start using Buffer to my advantage and schedule as much as possible.

So heads up; if you speak to me on Twitter and I don't get back to you straight away, I'm not ignoring you, it just might take me a while to respond because I intend to keep my time on Twitter to a minimum.

Instagram isn't so much of an issue for me.  I enjoy the visual side of things; not just the photography, but the Instastories too.  I'm also yet to have a negative experience on Instagram.  I find it much easier to stay away from anything toxic on there, so this is where I plan on doing the majority of my promotion.  I plan on posting more regularly, and making use of the Instastories feature more too.

Now, lets move away from my hate of all things Social Media and move on to the things about the bloggersphere that I actually love.  Writing.

What kind of content am I planning for Siobhan Emma in 2018?

When I first started blogging I started as a beauty blogger, dabbled a little in food blogging, and eventually settled into lifestyle blogging.  When I moved into the realms of lifestyle blogging, I pictured myself covering topics like beauty, fashion, and travel to name just a few, and I have tried, and sometimes do enjoy writing about things in these areas, but an area I have touched upon this year, that I never dreamed I would write about regularly just two years ago is mental health.

Turns out I bloody love writing about mental health!

Having been on my own mental health journey over the past few years, it's a subject I've grown to be incredibly passionate about.  I find it incredibly easy to write about this subject, and in 2018, I want to delve into the world of Mental Health more.

In 2018 I will be exploring some career prospects that will involve my passion for helping people through their own mental health journeys, but that's a post for another day, and as a part of that, I would like it to become the focus of this blog in the new year.

As well as giving advice based on my own experiences, I want to share happy little moments in my every day in a bid to show that even in our darkest times we can still find little pockets of good.  I want to share tips on how to lead a happier life, and I want to help people work on their general wellbeing, because as I learnt today, if your wellbeing is in good shape, you will have less stress in your life, and less stress leads to less anxious and depressing thoughts.

I'm also considering investing in private counselling next year too.  If this is something I decide to go ahead with, I will share some of my journey with you.

I'll also share lifestyle posts from time to time too, but mainly, I will be focusing on mental health.

Now, I just ask you to bear with me whilst I establish some sort of schedule.  It's something I'm going to be working on over the next few weeks, but obviously with the festive season upon us, it could be a struggle to get it sorted before the New Year.

What I do promise however, is a fully running blog by the start of 2018.

Bring.  It.  On.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

My 6 Top Moments from Disneyland Paris | November 2017

I can't quite believe my birthday do over trip to DLP has been and gone already.  For those of you not already aware, I decided to have a bit of a second attempt at my birthday in Disney this year.  Last year I went all out, staying in a Disney Hotel, dining at all of the wonderfully themed restaurants as a way to celebrate my 30th birthday in style, only for my Mum to suddenly pass away two days before that trip.  As you can imagine, the trip wasn't all I expected, and what was supposed to be the most magical way to bring my 30th in, was laced with sadness.

This time was a much more budget friendly, more fleeting trip to Disney, but I can easily say that I had the most amazing birthday weekend away (Although I did get a little grumpy towards the end of the trip - partly due to lack of sleep; partly due to inconsiderate, rude people!).

Instead of doing a trip report series like I have been doing for my previous DLP trip (I promise the final two days will be on their way to you soon!), I thought I would do a little round up post of my favourite moments during my 2017 birthday trip to the happiest place on Earth...

Waking up in DLP!

I may not have stayed in one of the wonderfully themed Disney hotels this time around, however, we did stay in one of the Disney Partner hotels, so I still felt close enough to the magic to feel like I was waking up in DLP on the morning of my birthday.

I'm a real adrenaline junkie at heart, and love nothing more than spending my days in theme parks.  I love the feeling of escape from real life, and nobody does it better than Disney.  Waking up on my birthday with a day full of rides, Disney shopping and a fun dining experience (More on that later!) ahead of us had me practically skipping into the shower to get myself ready for the day.

Riding the Tower of Terror...Twice!

The Tower of Terror is hands down my favourite ride across both parks.  The theming is amazing, the cast members are incredible, and I love the anticipation of that first drop.  On this trip we rode it twice.  Once in the day and once in the evening.  The evening ride was so much better.  When the doors slid open and revealed the two parks all lit up it was truly incredible.

Spending My Birthday in Walt Disney Studios

In fact, I just had the most incredible day in Walt Disney Studios.  Usually I'm all about the main Disney Park, and had pictured us spending the majority of my birthday there, but this didn't end up being the case at all.

Apart from a quick trip over to the main park to eat in Hakuna Matata, we spent all day in Walt Disney Studios.  We only rode a few of the rides, and had a really chilled out day browsing through the shops, taking in the sights, and just enjoying each other's company amongst all of the incredible theming.

My absolute favourite parts of the studios is the Ratatouille area and Toyland.  Both are so beautifully themed, and I could spend hours exploring the areas and taking in all of the small details.  I love that in Toyland you feel like you've shrunk to the size of one of the toys, and only just noticed on this trip the huge foot prints in the pavement as we walked through.

Gazing Upon Sleeping Beauty's Castle

You'd think that after three trips in the space of a year that I would be bored of the castle by now, but no.  It never, ever gets old.  There's nothing quite like taking your first steps onto Main Street and gazing upon the castle for the first time.

When that moment comes with fake snow and the music from A Muppets Christmas Carol being pumped through the speakers all the way down Main Street; even better.

You have to see the castle in both the day and night too, because both settings are truly sights to behold.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show

Ever since learning about Buffalo Bill's I've been desperate to head along and see what all of the fuss is about, and on the evening of my birthday, we finally decided to bite the bullet and pay for tickets to the show.

I'll admit, this was a pricey event to head along to, but oh my goodness it was worth every penny.

We went along to the 9:30pm show as we figured there would probably be less children at that one (We were right!), and I had the most fun evening.  For £62.00 per ticket to sit in Category One, we were treated to an amazing feast, and an absolutely brilliant, interactive show.

I loved all of the actors and thought they did a fantastic job, but I have to say the absolute stars of the show were the animals.  They were incredibly well trained.  There was a point when I thought one of the horses was in distress, and was starting to get upset, only to realise a few moments later when the horse jumped back up and trotted off that he was just acting!  I then continued to scowl at the horse for being such a good actor and making me worry about him!

Also, there is a moment where two buffalo are actually acting a fight scene!  Given it wasn't anything brutal.  They were just circling the arena with their horns clasped together, so I can assure you that at no point in the show were any animals harmed or distressed.  The fact that they acted that entire scene though - with no human prompts may I add - just totally blew my mind!

Being Sat Next To Somebody Important During The Wild West Show

So, we were definitely seated next to some pretty important people during the Wild West Show.  The man sat next to us looked like he was old enough to have been one of Walt's best buddies, bless him.

We suspect he is either somebody very high up in terms of the production of the show, or maybe even an original cast member on stage.  Either way, he was highly respected by the cast members performing that evening.  Many of them jumped out of the arena to come and shake his hand, and he got many waves from the actors mid-performance (Spencer was pretty sad when he realised they weren't waving at him!).  He also got a huge handful of gold coins at the end of the show when us mere mortals were only given one each.  Not jealous at all!

Who ever he was, he was clearly pretty important and well thought of by all staff working that evening, and I'll be honest, it was pretty awesome being sat next to him!

He very kindly gave us his and his wife's cowboy hats at the end of the show too, as he said he was an Indian anyway (Maybe the original Chief Sitting Bull?!).  Although we already had our own cowboy hats from the show, I told Spencer we had to bring the ones we were gifted home with us too.  It was such a kind gesture, plus once we figure out who the hell he is we might have something to brag about!  I jest of course...maybe...

Goofy's Incredible Christmas Show

Being a shorter trip I only wanted to see one light show so as not to take up too much time away from the rides and fun.  With a brand new show lit up on The Tower of Terror, I knew this was the one for me.

I absolutely made the right choice.  Both Spencer and I really enjoyed it.  The use of the Tower of Terror was incredible, as well as the buildings surrounding it, and the addition of Goofy, Mickey and Co. on the stage just in front of the light show was such a lovely addition.  It added a little something extra that the other shows don't have.

It was a lovely way to finish off our evening in the Studios, made me feel incredibly festive, and even left me with a few tears in my eyes.  Truly magical.

There were no doubt so many other moments from this trip that would bring a smile to my face, but these are the real stand out moments that will stick with me for years to come.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Losing My Mum | One Year On

One year.

One whole year since my Mum passed away.

It feels both long, but not long at all since I lived that absolute nightmare of a weekend.  In one sense it feels like a lifetime ago since I was sat by her side in the hospital bed, not allowing the grief to consume me.  Not allowing myself to break when I knew I had so much to sort out.  Yet at the same time it only feels like yesterday.  The words you wish you never have to hear, that your Mum isn't going to survive by the doctor ring just as loud in my head now as they did the very night he said them to me.  The phone calls I has to make to family, friends, informing my Mum's manager that she will not be returning to work.  I went in to organisation mode, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I remember her funeral like it only happened a week ago.  The absolute gut wrenching feeling in my stomach as the hearse rounded the corner to her house, and knowing that my Mum was in that coffin.  The shock I felt when we arrived at the chapel at the sheer amount of people stood outside, waiting to pay their respects to my Mum, then feeling myself almost break with an overwhelming feeling when we walked inside the chapel, following closely behind my Mum, to see that there were even more people waiting inside for her.  The sea of East Midlands Trains uniforms stood there waiting for her was the moment I cracked.  My Mum was a manager at Sheffield Train Station, and was very well thought of by her staff.  I'd be surprised if there were even any staff left to run the station for the time my Mum's service was happening, there were so many of them who came along.

Following on from the funeral I had months of sorting my Mum's affairs.  My Mum never made a will, and trust me when I say it drags the process of everything out a hell of a lot more.  I had no solicitors to help me, it was just me, myself and I, making decisions I never dreamed of having to make at only 30 years old.  I still have multiple copies of my Mum's death certificate as I had to prove to so many people that she was no longer with us in order to get accounts closed, finances moved over.  I had to write statement after statement explaining why, as her eldest daughter certain aspects of her life and finances should be moved over in to my name, then asking family members to fill in more statements to show they supported my statement.

It was a long, drawn out process that sucked a lot out of me mentally.

The day before my Mum's funeral I went to see her one last time at the chapel of rest.  I had some time on my own with her, and I promised her two things.  That I will always look after my sister, and I will do everything in my power to make her the most proud Mum in the entire world.

If I'm honest I'm not sure if I've done all that much to make her proud this past year.  I've put my absolute all in to making sure my sister is ok and helping her through this past year, that in all honesty my own needs have taken a back seat.  I've barely spent time on my hobbies, and if anything I've spent the time I have had free just being numb to everything around me.  I've become somewhat of a pro at distracting my mind.

I'm finally accepting that maybe that's what I've needed over the past few months especially, and I'm not going to beat myself up over it.  I spent many, many months sorting a lot behind the scenes.  I took everything in the aftermath of my Mum's death on myself so nobody else had to deal with it.  It literally stretched my mental capacity to it's limits and beyond.  There were days I just wanted to hide away from it all.  Hoping that if I ignored it, it would just go away, but the adult in me pushed me through the barriers and kept me going.  When it finally came to an end, and everything started to feel settled again, I think my head had earned itself a well deserved rest.

I've dreaded the year mark.  I feel like I'm no longer the woman who's "Just lost her Mum", and I know I haven't, but I can't say the pain has faded all that much in that time.  However, it's been 365 whole days now, and I know people's patience starts to wear thin with grief, especially if they haven't experienced it themselves.  You're expected to pick yourself back up and just get back on with life after a little while, as if your life hasn't changed forever.  And you do have to keep going, because in the end, you have to.  I'm doing my best, but it's hard to keep going sometimes, especially when there is a huge part of you missing, and sometimes I just wish some people could understand this.

My Dad told me something that has stuck with me, especially as I've now experienced it, and it has allowed me to feel less guilt about how much my Mum's death has affected me. When my Nan passed away, my Dad told me that as a child, losing your Mum is the hardest loss you will ever suffer in your life.  Obviously when he told me this, none of us could ever have predicted that 16 months later my Mum would pass away, but I'm glad that he shared that with me, because he's right.  he's so right.  I'm only 30, but I've suffered many losses in this time.  I've lost three grandparents, countless Aunty's and Uncles, a cousin, and my best friend who was only 22.  All have been awful, but if I'm honest, I've never felt a pain quite like this.  There's no denying that there is a bond there between mother and child that is unlike any other you will ever develop with anybody else.  Certainly in my opinion anyway.

The fact that my Dad said that to me helps me to validate that feeling.  I know it's true, and no doubt anybody who has ever lost their Mum knows it's true too, but knowing somebody else feels the same helps me when people who are yet to suffer that loss think I'm being over dramatic.

So my plan going forward?

I want to stop distracting my mind.  I've spent enough time doing that.  I want to find my motivation again, and I want to work on becoming a better version of myself again, like we always should be doing.  I feel like I've pressed the pause button on life a little this past year.  On one hand it's done me a lot of good.  It's given me some head space, and it's made me realise some things.  It's made me see I take too much on and try and do everything, when in fact I need to free up some time to do some of the things I love, and also relax.  It's made me realise that I like my time to myself, and as much as I love spending time with loved ones, I need time on my own to recuperate, because some days are harder than others, and having to pull myself together on the harder days and go about life as normal can sometimes be really draining.  Mostly though it's made me see just how much I want to live my life.  I want to make the most of whatever time I have here.

Finally, I want to take this time to thank everybody who has been there always, but especially over this past year.  First and foremost to Spencer, who has taken a lot of backlash from me on the harder days and stuck by me throughout.  To my sister, for giving me reason to keep going on the tough days.  I made a promise to Mum and I intend to keep it. To my Dad, and the rest of my family and friends for propping me up when I haven't had the energy to hold myself up.  The fact that some of my friends had never even met my Mum, but still came to the funeral to support me still blows my mind.  And I know how tough this past year has been on some of my immediate family.  To say we're not your typical 2.4 family is a bit of an understatement, so I appreciate how hard this has been on some family members, and I appreciate more how much you have stuck by me.

And now, I invite anybody who knew my Mum (Or who didn't, you're welcome to as well!) to raise a glass to her today in her memory.  For anybody who's wondering her favourite drink was a pint of lager and lime (Classy lady!), or Southern Comfort, so by all means if you want to follow in her footsteps knock yourself out, but I'll be sticking to a glass of something bubbly, mainly because I hate lager and Southern Comfort!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Slowing Down

Last time I posted on this here little corner of the internet, I talked about my mental health and how I had a mini meltdown at work.  Luckily, my manager has been incredibly supportive, and the time I have had to myself to help me deal with the stress that I'm currently carrying on my shoulders has been a huge help in terms of me realising a few home truths about myself.

I need to slow the heck down.

This goes back beyond my Mum passing away, but has been heightened since losing her.  I'm constantly going at 100 miles per hour and then some.  It's as if I have this incapability of saying no to friends and family, meaning I'm living life in the fast lane constantly and not actually having any down time.  Fridays comes around, I have a jam packed weekend full of social events, and before I know it my alarm is waking me up at 5:30am on Monday ready to do it all again.  It's not good for my health or my bank balance.

It hit me how poorly I was making myself when I managed to catch three colds in a row.  That is no exaggeration.  For a month I was struck down with one illness after another.  One week my sinuses were congested, the next I had a cough, and by week three and four I had a full blown chest infection.  Just how I wanted to spend a month of my life.

As I work for an agency at the moment, I don't get paid for sick days, so I powered through and went in to work every day, but this impacted on my home life, meaning the evenings were purely spent on recovering.  I had to reschedule my first driving lesson, I had to cancel seeing friends and family.  I was miserable and fed up.

And I only had myself to blame.

Maybe a part of it is down to keeping my mind busy in an attempt to not have to deal with the grief of losing my Mum, but this past year I've really spread myself thin.  Not only did I want to run this blog, but I also wanted an Etsy shop, and a YouTube channel.  Yet I also wanted time to spend with my friends and family, and lazy days in to take care of myself and read through the hundreds of books that are sat on my bookcase ready and waiting for me to pick them up.  When I had my few months out of work, this was slightly more manageable, but throw a new full time job into the mixture, and it all went down hill.

I felt like I had to keep on top of it.  I had to boss the hell out of every single day.  I had to constantly do something productive.  Relaxing was a waste of time.  Then I started to resent things.  Just the sheer amount I had piled on top of myself was beginning to overwhelm me, and eventually, I just stopped putting any effort into anything.  One, probably because my mind was telling me enough is enough, and two, because I genuinely just didn't want to deal with any of it anymore.  I'd given up on everything.  The activities that felt like chores, and sadly, my hobbies that I adored getting stuck in to, like writing this blog.

This past weekend I was sat in my bedroom, panicking about how I'm going to keep on top of everything.  I felt ashamed that I was struggling to keep my head above water, and that I wasn't able to keep on top of everything unlike fellow bloggers and creatives who just seem to be the most productive beings ever in existence.

Then I thought, "Why am I comparing myself to these people?  Why am I putting myself through all of this?".

It was clear I was gaining no happiness out of certain projects I had undertaken, and I was comparing myself to women who had very different realities to mine.  I was adding stress to my life for no apparent reason.  And as for not being able to say no to friends and family?  Well, that's on me.

Since, I've been taking some steps to lighten the load on my shoulders.  I've closed my Etsy shop, and have arranged to donate all of the remaining left over materials to a charity who arrange craft days for under privileged children in Sheffield, and rely on materials like this being sent to them.  YouTube is a no go zone.  I've cut down my time on Twitter and Facebook, focusing my time instead on my favourite app, Instagram, and I have only been agreeing to social events if I feel like I still have the time to get the rest and relaxation in that I clearly need, because you know what I realised?  Giving ourselves time to rest and relax is in fact incredibly important to our wellbeing.  Who knew!?

Instead of trying to do absolutely everything, I have three main goals I would like to focus on.

  1. I want to work on my health and fitness.  I'm currently waiting for my tailored plan to come through from The Body Coach, and I want to successfully complete the 90 day SSS challenge.  A success for me will be a more lean body, and feeling healthier and fitter within myself.
  2. I want to focus on this blog, and work on my writing again.  Instead of blogging and doing YouTube and having an Etsy shop and blah blah blah, I want to set myself goals to reach on this space.  This is where my passion lies, and I don't want my love for this space to be sucked out of me by anything that's bringing me zero enjoyment.
  3. I want to read more.  I think come the new year I'm going to set myself a Good Reads challenge to have something to work towards.  I miss reading, and come the evening time it really helps me to relax, so I'm aiming to set aside 30 minutes to an hour to read each evening.  Whether that be a book, a magazine, or the latest blog posts on my Bloglovin' feed, anything as long as I'm consuming wonderfully put together words.
Society tells us we're failures if we're not going at 100% 24/7, but I've realised lately that by doing this; by giving in to societies demands we're failing ourselves.  We work hard, we play harder, and we do everything else in between.  Maybe it's time we all take a step back, relax, and actually enjoy some of our free time.  relaxation is just as important to our health and wellbeing as hitting the gym is, so give yourself a duvet day.  Set aside days to do nothing but read, watch films, nap or play your games console.  Allow time for your brain to switch off from time to time.  I can guarantee you that you'll be much more productive on the days following this than if you keep pushing your body and mind to it's limits.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

When Work Gets Mental Health Right

In the past on previous blogs, I have discussed on many occasion my issues with mental health in the work place. How throughout the UK there are far too many people who suffer with their mental health as a result of how they’re treated in their work place, or how despite obvious cries for help down to mental illness, managers dismiss their employees, giving them no help and support. I know this, because I have experienced these things. However, there is a side of mental health in the work place I’ve never discussed on my blogs before.

What about when the work place gets mental health right?

I’m struggling guys. A lot. We are 4 weeks away until the anniversary of my Mum’s death. One whole year since we lost her, and I never anticipated just how difficult it would be. For some reason, my mind perceives that there is still an element of closeness to my Mum prior to the one year anniversary, but as we get closer to that milestone, I feel like she’s drifting further and further away from me. Like I truly have to accept that she’s gone for good. I know, it's a strange way to look at the situation, but as I mentioned in this post, grief makes us deal with the loss of a loved one in the most weird and wonderful of ways.

As we get closer to that milestone, I find myself tearing up at the most random and inappropriate of times. The memories of that weekend are becoming more and more vivid again, as if I lived that nightmare only yesterday. They hit me at the most unexpected of times, meaning I’m having to take regular breaks away from the office at the moment whilst I calm myself down.

In true Siobhan style, I tried to suppress my feelings and just get on with life as I normally do. As if nothing was wrong. I thought I could treat my Mum’s anniversary as if it was any other day and get through it pretty unscathed.

We’re a few weeks away from that day still, and I can’t believe just how wrong I am.

The pressure I was putting myself under to be ok was crippling me. I literally felt the weight I was carrying over every inch of my body, and last week, I broke. I just couldn’t contain all of the pain and pressure I was feeling anymore. I couldn’t be ok for everybody anymore.

It happened at work late on in the morning. The tears started pouring as I was sat at my desk. I thought I’d concealed myself enough from my team. I thought wrong.

One of my colleagues, without saying a word, kindly passed me some tissue. I thanked him, and took myself off to the bathroom. During that time management had been made aware that I was upset, and once I’d composed myself I was taken aside by my manager.

I was petrified. Such bad experiences with a previous manager left me terrified of being judged for my mental state once again. I always expect that I’m going to be told to “pull myself together” or that “I’m just having a bad day”.

Again, I was wrong.

My manager couldn’t have been more understanding of my situation. She was aware that I’d suffered the loss of my Mum, but I hadn’t gone in to too much detail about the complexity of the situation in the wake of my Mum’s death. Losing my Mum also meant that she left behind two young daughters, one of which (My sister) also lost her Dad when she was only a baby. My sister was left with no parents by the age of 20, and since I have felt the weight of that responsibility on my shoulders.

The past year I have heard the same thing time and time again. “But you’re not her Mum, you’re her sister. You don’t have to take on that responsibility”.

I’m aware I’m not her Mum. I don’t want to, nor am I trying to replace our Mum. I would never try and act as replacement to my Mum. However, I do feel like I need to be more than a sister. I’ve always felt like that. I was 11 when my sister’s Dad died, so from 11, I always felt a level of responsibility to her. Instead of going out with my friends in the evenings during my school years, whilst my Mum worked all hours of the day and night on her computer upstairs, I was learning every Teletubbies dance there was to learn to entertain my baby sister. Whilst my friends in college were just starting to go on nights out with one another, I was dropping off and picking up my sister from school whilst our Mum worked weird and wonderful hours at Sheffield train station.

I realise that was a pretty long tangent I went on there, but there is a point to this. My manager is one of the only people to show understanding towards my situation. Instead of telling me to not take on the responsibility, she has worked with me to come up with solutions on how I can get my head back in shape so I can look after both my sister and myself.

This past year I have spent the majority of my time putting everybody else’s needs before my own. My manager picked up on this and said something that made sense to me. She said if I was to fall as a result of my mental health and be out of action for a long period of time as a result, how would I care for my sister then? In order to care for my sister, I have to take care of myself first.

I’d never really thought of it in that way before, but she hit the nail on the head, and gave me a lot to think about.

So we came up with a plan to help me. Over the next four weeks I will only be in work four days a week. I will be taking Wednesdays off of work to break my week up nicely and give myself the breathing space I clearly need after feeling suffocated over the past year. For the next four weeks I’m going to be having Siobhan days. Days where I do what I want, when I want. Time for my brain to have a break from everybody and everything else.

I’ve also signed up to a stress management course via Sheffield IAPT (A website I highly recommend to anybody who suffers with mental illness and requires help beyond their GP.), which I’m going to be starting on 6th November, and my manager has allowed me time out of work to attend. It’s a totally free course, where you are provided free work books and handouts, and plenty of resources and tools to take home with you and put in to practice out of the sessions.

These are two very small steps to helping me steer towards gaining control of my mental health again, but 12 months ago, under the manager I was at that time, I would never have even bothered considering doing anything like this. The fear of asking and the negative (And often anger fuelled.) response I would get from him would put me off immediately. To be able to take these steps for my mental health, knowing my manager is supporting me 100% is the biggest relief in the world.

It makes me want to come to work and work for somebody like that. Last year I resented going to work. I resented working for a man who instilled so much fear into me. I felt like from 8:00am – 5:00pm I had a ball and chain wrapped around my ankle. I felt trapped. I was beyond miserable, to the point I eventually left, with no job to walk in to, because feeling that sad, stressed, on edge, and everything else I felt on a daily basis in that job wasn’t worth the impact it was having on my entire life.

It just goes to show that if you treat your employees like human beings, and not robots who are merely there to crunch numbers, then you will get positive results.  I just hope that in the future, more employers will adapt this attitude towards mental health.

Monday, 23 October 2017

24 Hours In London

A couple of weekends ago Spencer and I had a whirlwind weekend in London especially to see The Book of Mormon.  We'd heard rumours that it was coming to it's end (Although I feel like that was a bit of a white lie on Spencer's part now as I've not seen any sign that it's coming to it's end!), and this musical had been on the bucket list for a while so we headed down to London straight after work on Friday 13th October.  This ended up being timed perfectly, as it coincided with Spencer's very last day at his previous job.  What a way to celebrate the start of a new chapter in his life!

The Friday was pretty uneventful.  We didn't arrive at our hotel until around 10:30pm, and pretty much headed to bed straight away to make the most of our full day in London on the Saturday.  Pro tip for anybody travelling to London from Sheffield.  Don't get a direct train from Sheffield to London St Pancras, because it costs a bloody bomb!  Instead, travel to Doncaster first, then get a connecting train to London Kings Cross from there.  You get to travel on a pretty decent Virgin train, and it's so much cheaper.  I'm talking over 50% less than what you would pay if you went direct from Sheffield station.

We stayed in a cheap and cheerful Ibis Hotel right outside Wembley Stadium (Probably not so cheap and cheerful on event days!), and it was such a great location.  We were right next to a designer outlet (More on that later.), we were surrounded by coffee shops and restaurants galore, and we literally had a two minute walk across the road to the overground that took us right into the centre of London.

On Saturday morning we were up and out by 9:00am, and decided to head to Pret just around the corner for a reasonably healthy breakfast.  We both opted for a coffee to wake us up after a long evening of travel the night before (I opted for their version of Pumpkin Spice Latte - Not as good as Starbs, but still tasty!), porridge (With honey!), an apple, and a ginger and apple shot.

I love Pret, but currently in Sheffield we only have one in Meadowhall (That I know of.), however, they're currently building one in town and I cannot wait for it to open.  I want cosy Saturday morning breakfasts in there followed by cinema trips to make the most of our Cineworld cards and keep out of the cold that's settling in now.  I just wish they would tell us when it's due to open dammit!

After breakfast we decided to have a nosey in the designer outlet.  If I'm honest, I'm generally not one for designer outlets, however on this occasion I did find a little beauty in this Dr Martens mini backpack!

I've loved Dr Martens bags for so long, as much as I love their shoes, but I'm just not willing to part with over £100 for a bag.  This little cutie however was discounted to £50.  It's such great quality, and I just know that we're going to have many happy years and adventures together.

Spencer had some money he was gifted from his ex-work colleagues after his last day at work the day before, and he wanted to get a little spendy in London's Forbidden Planet, so this was our next destination.  We have a Forbidden Planet in Sheffield, but compared to the one in London it's teeny tiny.  I'm not the biggest fan of this shop, purely because of how busy it gets, but I even found a little something to take home with me on this occasion.  They had the Disney mystery keyring packs I often see people opening in Instastories on trips to Walt Disney World, so I had a look at the collections, found one where I would be happy no matter who I got in the pack, and went off to pay for it.  Amongst his other goodies Spencer also went and picked up a Marvel mystery keyring pack so we could open them together later on in the evening.

For those interested, I got Buzz, and he hangs happily from my Disneyland Paris Tower of Terror lanyard that holds my work pass and he comes to work with me every day!  Spencer came away with Baby Groot.  Win win all round!

Our show was a matinee one, so by this time it was time to head over to the theatre.  I actually had no idea what to expect from this show.  All I knew was that it was written by the same people who write South Park, so I was pretty certain it would be ridiculous.  It was absolutely brilliant!  I was smiling and laughing all the way through.  Of course it was ridiculous, and it's definitely not a show I would recommend seeing if you're easily offended.  Only the writers of South Park could get away with some of the content!  Elder Cunningham absolutely stole the show, but a little bit of my heart has to go to Elder Price, because I feel like I might be the female version of him.  If you know me you'll understand what I mean if you ever see the show.

Just before the show started we booked a table for 6:00pm at Steak & Co.  It was recommended to Spencer by one of his old work colleagues, and being a fan of steak I really liked the concept of this restaurant.  We had a little time to kill before our reservation, so we headed to Japan Centre first and picked up some Japanese treats.  Their sushi was great value for money, and I got some incredibly tasty sweet treats.

When we arrived at the restaurant there was a bit of a hiccup in that our online reservation hadn't seemed to have registered, however, as we had proof of the reservation it was dealt with really well and we actually only ended up sitting down 15 minutes after our original reservation.

So the concept of this restaurant is you choose your type of steak (Rump) , a flavoured butter (Parsley), a salt (Seaweed) and a sauce (Diane).  We also ordered a side of rustic chips each and some seasonal veg to share.  Your steak is brought out to you rare, on a hot skillet with a side plate.  The idea is you put your steak on the plate, and use the hot skillet to cook it to your preference.

I have no idea if I did it right, but I cut a bit off at a time, put a bit of the butter on the skillet first so it would melt, then put my slice of steak in the melted butter and cooked the steak in it.  Then I would sprinkle a little salt over it, and finally dip it in the sauce.  I like my steak rare, so would only need it to be on the skillet for a minute or two.

This was honestly one of the best steaks I've ever had.  I loved the whole concept of this restaurant, and would happily eat here again in the future.  It's a little pricier than what I would usually pay for a restaurant in Sheffield, but it was absolutely worth it for something a little different to the norm.  If you're in to a good steak, I would highly recommend Steak & Co.

We were both pretty exhausted by the time we'd finished our meal, so decided to call it a night.  We had an early train back to Sheffield, and wanted to get some decent rest before the journey ahead of us.

Although I felt like I had barely stopped before Monday morning rolled around again, I absolutely loved our weekend away, and would happily do a whirlwind weekend like this again from time to time.

Not too regularly though.  This girl needs to recharge her batteries after working Monday - Friday every week!
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