3 for 500

Following on from the Winter Short Story Event we’re launching another event, 3 for 500. The idea is you give me 3 words(they can be completely random) and I’ll write a short story about it of up to 500 words.

So that’s it. No catch, no sign-up. Free content, published right here on the site. Filling the form below is all you need to join!

So there we are. That’s all you have to do is think of 3 words and then I’ve got the fun job of creating a story.

5 Tips for Starting The Conversation about Mental Health

So it’s #TimeToTalkDay and we’re kicking things off today with this post, followed by a special edition of Mental Monday on Twitter and YouTube at 7PM UTC also.

But first, did you notice what I did in the title?

I said ‘the conversation’.

This makes it sound like a big thing. It is, but it shouldn’t be. Talking about our mental health is something we should do naturally. We should feel able to talk about it whenever we need to. We shouldn’t have to sit down and talk formally across a table about it. We should discuss it openly with our friends, family, peers and coworkers.

The first conversation with someone is always the hardest. Having to stand there and say “I have a mental health problem” to someone who would have otherwise believed you were absolutely fine is so, so hard. No one wants to say they have a problem, mental or physical. Everyone just wants to be okay.

You may be worried what people will think, whether they will tell others, treat you different, run away or wrap you in cotton wool.

It’s okay to be anxious about this. If you haven’t told someone before you don’t know how they’ll react. New things are always scary. Especially when they’re as personal as this.

But there are ways you can make it easier.

1. Create the space to talk

Especially for the first time, this is important. It’s not about sitting down around a table, notebooks out and pens poised. Although you’re talking about a serious thing, try to come away from a formal conversation. Just be relaxed and talk normally about it.

The more you relax and talk normally for mental health, the better you’ll be able to talk about it and allow it to be part of you, rather than making it formal. If you do that, you’re internalising it into a big thing, which is going to make conversations harder.

2. Talk about the important issues

Sometimes when we have our first conversation about mental health, even saying “I have a mental health problem” is too much. And it’s okay to hold details back, you’re not going to want to say everything on the first conversation. That’s understandable. But the more details you give, the more will be in the open and the more stuff you can get off your chest.

Talk about the main important issues that are going on. Say what’s affecting you, what you’re finding hard, and if you’d like the person to do anything differently to help you with what you’re going through.

3. Don’t rust through it

This doesn’t have to be your only conversation about mental health. These should be ongoing conversations that we drift in and out of as and when we need to talk about our mental health

So take your time. You don’t have to get through everything in this conversation. If you’re finding it too much to talk, then take some time and try again when you’re feeling better,

4. It’s okay just to hug

In our low moments sometimes we don’t feel like talking. Not every conversation has to be a long chat – you’ll talk more some days than others. Sometimes, all we need is a hug. Although it’s called ‘Time to Talk Day’ a hug is just as powerful in showing that you’re that for someone, that you care about them.

5. Your first words

So now you’ve had some general tips, you may still be asking “what do I say?” Everyone’s mental health is different, everyone’s going to have a different conversation. Say what you feel, what do you really need to tell someone? Say what you want to get off your chest.

Finding a time when you’re not busy is best. When you don’t have any plans to do anything, a calm setting can help you relax, feel comfortable, and be less distracting. This may sound contradictory to the ‘no poised pens’ rule, but if there are no distractions, and you do have a calm setting, you’re going to get a lot more out of the conversation.

Start by saying what you want to talk about your mental health. This sets the topic straight away and prepares you for the conversation ahead. Say what’s happening now, focus on how you feel, and how it affects you rather than just naming conditions such as ‘Depression’.

And you’re in! Talk about however much you want to talk about, for as long as you like. You don’t have to give a monologue, say your struggling and you need help is enough. Some thing’s you’ll naturally want to keep to yourself. That’s okay. Other thing’s you’ll need to get off your chest. That’s okay too.

And remember, you’re doing the right thing. We need to talk about mental health more. We should discuss it in homes, schools and in the workplace. Mental health is with us all the time. The conversation should be also.

First mental health post

So here we go

I think the best place to start would be talking about my own mental health.

I’m going to be sharing a lot of my own mental health story. Through this story, hopefully I can help others like me.

But you’re a writer not a psychologist!

I hold no medical experience at all. But I do and always will live with my mental health every single day.

I didn’t want to create a site that just spewed medical advice at you and then expected you to get on with it.

Instead a real, down to earth site where I use my own story to give you some tips and show you you’re not alone. You’ve probably been told that countless times before.

I don’t just want to repeat stuff you already know, but I want to give you some actionable advice based on my own journey to help you.

So my journey

I was 11 I started suffering from mental health issues. When the most important person in your life turns their back on you through no fault of your own, it makes you feel in limbo, worthless. Thoughts that fueled my depression.

I fell into a cycle of feeling depressed, having anxiety about what was happening to me, then lashing out at myself and others around me because I didn’t feel like I deserved their love.

Where I am now

Well, I still suffer every day. The hardest thing is the situation can change it’s just not wanted by others.

However, thankfully I’m doing a lot better. I’ve had to manage on the most part by myself. Through the strength of friends and trial and error, I discovered what worked and what didn’t. Now, it doesn’t affect me as much as it did – now I have the ways of dealing with it.

So what do I want for you?

I’ve always tried to help people, first starting at ChildLine and then a group of close friends. Now I’m talking about mental health on Twitter, Instagram and more!

Now, I want to help you too. Mental health is hard. You need every ounce of strength from yourself and those around you. Hopefully, when you read something it’ll make you feel better.

So what kind of content can you expect?

Well, it’s anything really. I’m going to be sharing my story, giving tips and general advice and whatever else you need to get better.

There will be a few longer blog post but I’ll mainly focus on short content which just joins the conversation.

I want to build the support network although I blog about mental health it’s the conversations we have here and on social media, that really matter. That’s why my emails and messages are open if you need anything.

But it’s also about helping each other. Mental Monday is a great example of this, where really I just facilitate the conversation. I want to create a group were we all help each other, not just me talking.

So now we’ve got the introductions out the way welcome to the site. I look forward to talking with you.

Contact me on any social I’m on and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

Forgotten Ones

For the first story, I could talk about many things to you. I could show you the depths of the desires of my heart. I could show you the blackness of it, how it’s darker than coal, the colour of night. I could talk about how my headaches, long for something different. Not longing for something better specifically, just different, anything to change the perpetual torrent of thoughts that envelop me.

I could moan, I could give you the endless tales on end about how poor my life is. I do tend to go on a bit, so to save your ears from being just as depressed as I am I’ll describe where I’m writing this to you right now. That way you’ll see what I mean, and I don’t give any personal details. I have to keep my identity a secret these days.

I’m sitting cross-legged with an old typewriter in front of me. It was my grandfather’s. He never trusted modern technology and always preferred the old fashioned manual way of doing things. It was rather lucky actually. When They came They took everything from us.

So anyway, there’s me and my mind again. Always trailing off. What were we talking about? Oh, I was describing where I am right now. Yes, that’s right. So anyway, I live in a very small shack, which fortunately is better than the majority of living conditions. Of course, I’m not a snob about it, I let others in any time they like, it’s just not workable to fit all the Forgotten Ones in. I have a register and I rotate. Seems the fairest really.

So I’m surrounded by mattresses and cupboards. Somewhere made by my grandfather, other’s I’ve collected through the years. It’s quite a low room, held up by wood really. About 5 mattresses in here, with a little space to walk through them.

The roof is slightly rotting, but supplies are running thin and we need the timber to build up our defences, or to hold up our escape tunnels should They return and we ever need to use them. My abode is mainly made up of oak, from the nearby trees you see, makes it easy for us to forage them. But, you can find all sorts of things, tin, iron, other types of wood. Anything which will hold the place up is used. It’s not like we have a choice.

I’m not going to dwell on too much here, there’s no need to depress you as well. If you’re reading this then you’ve clearly learned to read, probably have gone to school and know a few other things like how to write too. We never had a school. My grandfather taught me everything, how to read and write, how to shoot, how to start a fire. He gave me all the skill I needed so I could keep going, and teach them to others.

“All in it together.” That’s what my grandfather said, those words etched into the wooden sign outside the house. That way people know even if they’re told to come back another day because we’re full, they’re still home here. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know them, I show the same generosity to them as I would do to those I did know. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to do this, supplies are dwindling. I keep morale up as much as I can but it’s becoming even harder to do that now.

It was never like this. We used to have a beautiful city, run with firm but fair leadership. Now everything’s changed. The pillars of respect, honour and trust in our society which had guided our rapid progress and community spirit were now given to the highest bidder. A marketplace of titles.

And so the rich took over. Buying those things as well we could either join them or stick to our morals. Like a few others, I stayed loyal to myself. Many didn’t. Our small group of Forgotten Ones were, exactly as the name suggests, Forgotten. First, we were outcast. The New Rules came in, that was bad enough, made us leave. Expelled from the city we were forced to seek refuge here. Hopefully, there are other groups like us. But we can’t leave our base to find out. Far too dangerous with other scavengers. No, no. We are much safer here, even though the concept of ‘safe’ is all but a distant memory.

The New Rules took our technology too. They allowed us nothing, no radio, television, phones. My grandfather luckily had old typewriters, paraffin lights, washboards. Collections from museums, and that which was self-made. That burdens me with great responsibilities. Few have what I have. Distributing the collection gives me authority. Because I have what’s needed I am also the Leader here.

Not only does my responsibility fall to making sure everyone has what they need. I have to check the defences, hide items away, lead scavenger raids, and try to keep morale up as much as possible. I’m not like their leader though. I don’t hide away in a place, I stay right out with the people, working and fighting alongside them.

So that’s a bit about us. I could go on all day and give the entire history of our people, it’s all stored in the Library. But there’s no point dwelling on about our hardships any longer. If we focus on the present sufferings, we’re not going to have a future.

We will have a future one day. One day we’ll rise up. Fight again. We’re training. We’re developing. Day by day we’re improving and getting ready. It takes time. But I’ll guarantee they’re being complacent. They think we’re nothing. That we don’t exist even. The last thing they’ll be expecting is an attack from ‘the unintelligent dogs’.

So maybe one day we will rule again. Maybe one-day truth, justice and democracy will rule this world again. Maybe you’ll be hearing tales about our rule.

But for now, at least, I need to go to the library. We have a journal where we record the resource gains, fatalities and anything else we need to track our progress. I need to fill and sign the book for the day. No fatalities today, but only food scraps collected also.

So if you’ll forgive me I’ll be off now, if you’ve bothered to read this far down, thank you. Thank you for showing compassion to our society.

Maybe you’ll get to read something of mine again. Somehow we may cross paths again.

Goodbye.

Stay Swimming is now here!

What’s going on?

As I announced on YouTube, Stay Swimming is now going to be right here on my website.

The merge will take place across the next two weeks as all of the content from Stay Swimming will be merged over to this site, along with social media channels.

But…why?

Stay Swimming never really worked. I tried to expand too quickly and talk about mental health from the safe veil of the company. However having that mask meant I couldn’t connect, I couldn’t be someone that people could connect with. And that meant there was no benefit.

My anxiety was stopping me

It was the anxiety of having to say “yes I have a mental health problem” that made me do things through the website. Hiding behind the website meant I could talk about it more openly as it wasn’t just me and mental health.

I think sometimes we all feel that way when talking about mental health. We say we’ve got mental health, but then as soon as a conversation starts, we realise our vulnerabilities and stop before others realise then as well.

I’m stripping everything away

I’m taking everything away, everything to do with Stay Swimming. I’m going to stand here and say that I have a mental health. I’m going to open myself up. My anxiety won’t hold me back any longer.

If I’m really going to help others then first I need to help myself. So while I’ve been doing polls on Twitter and getting your opinion on this move, I’ve been working through my anxiety. Getting ready for the task ahead.

This is what you can expect of the change:

More content

There is going to be so much more mental health content here along with my writing content of course. I’m going to be sharing my blog with mental health tips and short stories and everything you need to improve you’re mental health

Remember Mental Monday

Live Q&A show every Monday. What about a Mental Tuesday. Or Wednesday. What about Mental Monday every single day of the year. Some days I won’t be able to, but I’ll be live as many days as possible.

So expect countless Mental Mondays live on YouTube. They will discuss anything and everything you want and of course, you can ask questions all the way through.

More personal content.

Instead of having a website between me and you I’ll be talking directly to you. Right here, on social media, through email and DM. Hopefully we can take small steps in improving your mental health together.

Anything else?

This is not a complete guide to everything that’s going to happen here. I want to make the content you need, the content you feel is best for you. That’s why you can request you’re own content, and I’ll try my best.

Through what I’m doing I’m starting conversations about mental health. I’m creating a situation where we can all talk about what’s going on as well as creating a community where we can all help each other.