Anniversary Effect

January and February have never been easy months and I know for many of us it’s a difficult time of year, but for me it’s also the time my father was taken away from me.

On the 1st February 1991 28 years have past since that traumatic event in my life, which turned my world upside down and my life in turmoil. A month later I suffered a nervous breakdown that took 6 months of recovery. In my head I was convinced it was the end of the world and believed it so wouldn’t talk to anyone.

We all need the support of friends and family, but quite often they are also grieving and so it can be an isolating experience.

So how do you get over a traumatic event in your life, they say time is a healer and 28 years on you would expect I’ve had that time. I’ve worked through my loss, but It’s a trauma that is deep rooted and I’ll never forget it.

My thought processes these days are that I could of helped him, through all my work now for mental health awareness I could of recognised the signs and been there to support him, but we lived in a time where we kept everything inside, so it was hard to express emotional feelings.

During this time I’ve been feeling unwell, suffering with migraines and more recently anxiety.

I put it down to lots of reasons and then I heard about “The Anniversary Effect” I didn’t think about this but as I read more about it, it all became clearer and I was recognising the symptoms.

My anxiety levels have been really high and I have been struggling to understand why. I know we often put it all down to stress, but this has now all started to make more sense.

This year’s anniversary of my father’s death has had a much bigger impact on my emotional state than I imagined.

For this year I turn 48 years old, exactly the same age that my father died and it’s really having an effect on how I’ve been feeling.

It all started in January and I was recognising the signs, weakness, anxiety pains and breathlessness,

Anxiety is an awful experience, of which many of us suffering with can empathise, and when your in the grips of it and it takes hold it’s hard to take back control.

We all get told about lifestyle changes, reduced stress, but quite often there are underlying factors and triggers that account for mood swings and your emotional state of mind. Recognising that, it will all become much clearer.

I am convinced this year the anniversary of my father’s death is the trigger to how I’ve been feeling and that’s because I’ve always been a sociable person, but lately I’ve introverted in to myself, not interacted as much as I do and cancelled social events. I’ve even fallen out of love with my running, which is why Im convinced this is more than stress, and it’s something I don’t really have control of and I have to let it pass.

The fact I’ve recognised the signs is a good place to be and I’m now putting things in place to make myself better.

For many of us who have lost loved ones, and for those of us who have friends and family that are grieving every year on those anniversaries give yourself time and thinking space to understand your emotions and the effects anniversary’s have on your mental health.

Its a normal part of the grieving process. It doesn’t matter how many years have passed it still hurts, but you’ll get through it, talk about it and remember all the special times and memories you shared with your loved ones that’s very important.

I continue to campaign for mental health awareness and during these months it’s a difficult time of year for me I’ll never forget.

In memory of my Father, Roger Frank Parkinson, 08/02/42 – 01/02/91

Please read this blog about the anniversary effect:-

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/two-takes-depression/201105/the-anniversary-effect

Time To Talk Day

Why don’t we talk about mental health like we do our physical health?
They are both important to our wellbeing.

The difference is that our physical health can be seen more on the outside and our mental health is hidden inside.

It’s like the saying “you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors”

It’s hard to talk about yourself. How many times do we praise ourselves for doing a job well done!  Are you that person who always says “I could of done better”
For some reason we find it harder to accept positive feedback than we do negative feedback and both are just as important in there own way.
Its when the negative stuff eats away at you and you see no way out of a cycle of negativeness, a vicious circle that needs to come out.
TALK, talk about your mental health. If you haven’t talked about it, start with little steps, the first step is the hardest and that’s acknowledging it. The second step is asking for help and talking to someone.
Both steps are not easy, but once you’ve made them it’s a big weight lifted off your shoulders, because you are sharing your problem with someone.

“A problem shared is a problem halved”

Opening up what’s been troubling you on the inside is the start of a journey to recovery.

Mental health can take many forms and both physical and mental health go hand in hand.  We have too look after our mental health, because it affects our physical health and poor physical health affects our mental health, so why is it easier to talk about our physical health?

Its because we have been conditioned over years and years to never talk about our mental health. We’ve stayed silent for too long for fear of being judged or treated differently.

WHY? Why did we do this will we get over it? It’s like many things in the past we never forget, but we move on and become stronger and it’s so important we talk about this for years to come,
Our generation are starting to change and so will the next generation and the next, because we are now talking about our mental health.

We need to keep talking more to each other, start today say to someone you trust “Im struggling please could I talk to you”.
And start today to listen to someone
“listen to the feelings behind the words.”

If you are listening to someone think how brave the person is to open up to you and for you to say talk to me “I’m listening”

Listening is a powerful tool.

If you talk to someone think how brave you are to make that first step and say to them “I need help” There is no shame in asking for help. We can all help to talk and listen.

We all need to be mental health aware.

Look around you and be more aware of the people around you, is someone acting differently or doesn’t seem themselves, start a conversationare you ok” or “are you ok, you don’t seem yourself lately”
9 times out of 10 the reply is “I’m fine” but please don’t just walk away ask them again to try and start a conversation.
That’s what Time to Talk Day is all about starting conversations with people, so wherever you are at home, work, down the gym or there is someone you know who needs a friend to talk too, be that friend.

TALKING about our mental health saves lives.
We need mental health to become a normal part of conversations. We still have a long way to go, and we will get there it just takes time.
It’s time to change, time to talk.

Do your bit this “Time to Talk Day”
Start a conversation……

TURNING JANUARY RED FOR MENTAL WELLBEING

0C66A69E-F181-45DC-91FF-6EB437F7B2662019 I am determined to have a positive start to the year, that’s why I decided to take part in RED January, joining thousands of other redders all over the country supporting mental health awareness.

January always brings with it, a new year, a new start, ‘New Year’ resolutions, but it also brings with it the winter blues….

“January always made me feel blue, this all changed when I decided to take part in RED January challenge to beat the winter blues”

I want to inspire people to feel better about themselves, to be able to talk about their mental health and improve their mental wellbeing.

My journey to positive wellbeing hasn’t been easy. I’ve suffered with my mental health over the years, but 2015 I started running.
Running helps me to manage my own mental health when I put on my trainers, I am gaining so much more than the physical side of it. It gives me head space to organise things in my mind “it clears my head.” “It’s my destress tonic!” I think of it as looking after my wellbeing. Taking time out for myself, it’s a time to enjoy being outside whatever the weather, enjoying your free space and the fresh air is an energising, uplifting, experience.

“It’s my destress tonic”

For me the mental benefits outweighed the physical benefits when I joined a running club “Run Like a Girl.” It gave me the opportunity to make friends and the encouragement and support we have for each other, running as a group, soon your building up the miles and entering running events. It also introduced me to Park Run and now I am a keen Park Runner. I love how the running community come together every Saturday morning all over the world to run at their local Park Run.

Running also gave me the opportunity to talk openly about my mental health, my fears and anxieties which I write about in my blog “mental health and me.”

In June 2016 I entered the two Castles 10k event in my father’s memory, running for Mind, the mental health charity and I’ve continued fundraising completing The Birmingham Half and The Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon for Mind last year.

My strength to run came from my father – I wanted to do it for him. It allowed me to share his story for all the years of feeling ashamed. The stigma surrounding mental health meant I could not talk about it and my father battled alone with depression for many years. Tragically, my father took his own life, aged 48. I was just 19 years old.

This had a huge impact on my life and my family and I suffered a nervous breakdown. It took me many years to come to terms with his death and to understand depression as the illness not the person.
My father was an amazing man, who did so much in his short life whilst suffering in silence with this illness.

This is why I feel very passionate about the importance of raising awareness for not just depression, but for all mental illnesses. Our mental health is a part of us and we must keep talking about it and raising awareness of it.

I am now a Mental Health Champion for England Athletics. I’m involved in the #runandtalk initiative, which aims to improve mental health through running and getting people talking about mental health, sharing experiences, removing stigma by raising awareness.

“Mental health Issues affects 1 in 4 of us and is the highest death rate in men aged between 40-49”

We should all care more about our mental health and take time to look out for others who may be struggling.
No one should have to face a mental health problem alone.

In October 2017 I set up a mental health group in the community called “Mental Health Together.’ We have a monthly walk and talk, run and talk and occasional coffee mornings, these all take place in the Leamington and Warwick area.
Its for any abilty of fitness and there are different options run/walk.
Our events incorporate exercise with a social gathering and we always meet up for drinks and a natter. We also organise small group activities, it’s about social interaction, so there is something for everyone.

So lets start with RED January!

RED is a National Challenge, which teamed up with Mind. It’s name refers to turning January Red and beating the January blues. It’s a challenge that is set for 31 consecutive days in January, starting on the 1st January 2019.

The challenge is to keep active every day for 31 days and is for all fitness abilities. The activity can be anything you want it to be, walking, running, swimming, cycling, fitness classes, outdoors or indoors whatever the weather predicts, there are plenty of fitness DVD’s to get us moving at home. Just remember anything active counts for RED and just 30 minutes a day, if that’s all you manage it can make a big difference to how you feel.

A lot of people signed up to RED last year and it already has a great following on the Red January Community Facebook group, inspiring, encouraging and motivating others to do it RED together, raising awareness for mental health. It brings people together, keeping us active for our mental wellbeing and its a great boost and start to the New Year!

“Support your mental health this January by doing something active every single day. Every day, your way!”

If you would like to get involved you can just do it or you can sign up to RED January. To register and receive a tshirt, go to http://www.redtogether.co.uk or National Mind.

Most important of all it’s about enjoying the challenge and not setting unrealistic goals, if you feel tired or fall ill during the challenge, it’s about knowing your limits and looking after your health. You can always pick it up another day, there is no pressure at all.

During RED January I will be continuing my fundraising for mental health and I’ve set up a fundraising page supporting our local Springfield Mind based in Leamington and Warwick.

If you will be taking part in RED January please share and donate to the fundraising page.

“Red January showed me how to beat the January blues, turning January Red is what it’s all about!”IMG_E9636

Start your year off with positive wellbeing for 2019 the year of Wellbeing in Warwickshire.

Kickstart the new year together with RED January!

My fears and anxieties

FE21D06E-5F77-4640-AA77-469D48E7A2DAThis weekend I had to confront one of my fears and as race day approached I could feel my tummy tightening and myself getting worked up, so I had to do alot of talking to myself, a lot of positive thinking and relaxation.

I was very lucky to be surrounded by so many friends, whom also had their own anxieties about taking on such a big event as The Great North Run and by having each other and being together made such a difference to the whole experience.

The weekend up until the morning of race day, I was worried about standing in my selected zone on my own surrounded by crowds of people I didn’t know, and not feeling I had the space to move.

I hadn’t done this event before and the fear was taking over, turning into anxiety and then one of the ladies in our running group, offered to move back her running zone, so we could be together, suddenly I felt a sense of relief, and we hugged each other.

It’s ok to ask for help, there is no shame in it, when you feel scared often a problem shared really is a problem halved. Also, you will find that how you are feeling,  many more people are feeling the same way and by talking about it really gives you a sense of security that everything will be ok.

I entered The Great North Run at the beginning of the year and for me it wasn’t just because I wanted to run it, but mainly because I wanted to face up to my fear.

I had thought about The London Marathon previously, but been too hesitant, because of the crowds and it being such a huge event.

I had been unsuccessful to get a place at London, and so thought let’s try GNR only to find out after I had entered it, there is double the amount of people running it then London!

Anyway, I was accepted for a place through Mind and I was delighted about this because I wanted to continue my fundraising for mental health.

Ive always feared large crowds and confined spaces, for as long as I can remember….. I don’t like lifts, and will always take the stairs if they are there, but often there isn’t an option and so I start to feel so anxious if I have to take the lift. It’s during these times just like when I was at The Great North Run I have to take deep breaths, relax and have mental conversations in my head, that its going to be ok.

I also feel anxious about closing a toilet door for fear of getting stuck in there, especially on trains and planes.

It’s hard to deal with anxiety, because the more you think about the fear, the more scared and worried you become and at it’s worse it affects your breathing and suddenly you are in a panic.

I’ve learn’t over time to deal with my anxiety, having been in uncomfortable situations beyond my control, especially during the times I needed MRI scans. I’ve had 3 MRI scans over the years and I would often avoid things that caused me stress and anxiety.

Even though I completed The Great North Run and I was in the crowds it wasn’t a quick fix cure for me, it’s just about doing something out of your comfort zone and saying to yourself it’s ok and that little steps, however big or small, it will make you feel good and proud of yourself.

I told myself why I’m doing this, why I’m here, hoping it will be helping people to talk about their worries, fears and anxieties, we should never feel ashamed of them 👫👫

Stress in my life….

3BAFCC2D-B060-4AE6-B708-623F7B65AF57Stress what is it and why do we get stressed and how do we cope with stress in our life….

“April is Stress Awareness Month” and a time to reflect on your own life, ask youself “do you feel stressed” a little, often or most of the time?”

Everyone has an element of stress in their life, some of us more than others and I know speaking from personal experience I create my own stress by trying to do too many things at once,  often questioning, overthinking and getting anxious about things that may not happen.

Juggling family life with our working lives means often we don’t have time for ourselves, putting too much pressure on yourself is a main cause of stress and high expectations causes unnecessary stress.

My stress levels were increasingly high when I was a single parent bringing up my daughter from the age of 2 to 9 years, in fact they were the toughest 7 years of my life!

Not only was it hard enough as a single parent I didn’t have any family support, and It was really tough not having my family around me.

I put lots of pressure on myself to do everything and I started suffering with anxiety and panic attacks.

I went to see my GP and it really helped me and I took from that great invaluable advice thats instilled in me to this day.

“Listen to your body”

“If your tired and don’t feel like doing anything” “Don’t!”

“The house work can wait another day”

“Tomorrow is another day!”

The panic attacks I was suffering were enough of a sign that if I didn’t take action I would become very ill.

So I learn’t to listen to my body and took the advice from my GP and I made myself better.

These days I don’t like rushing around everywhere, although there are times I do and at these times I think back to how ill I nearly became and try to alleviate the stress in my life.

Most of us tend to make so many excuses saying we have no time, but time really is endless and if we look after ourselves and be kinder to ourselves we are more likely to lead a healthy longer life.

None of us have to be super human so take a moment to just stop, take some deep breaths and think how can I make my life less stressful.

We often talk about stress and how best to cope with it and one of the best things for stress is exercise, because it produces endorphins that fight off stress hormones and regular exercise boosts self-confidence, our moods and helps us sleep better and that combined helps us cope with the stresses of the day.

A little bit of stress or pressure in our life is inevitable but prolonged stress causes your body to release stress hormones over a long period this increases the risk of a wide range of medical problems.

Stress really has a lot to answer for physiologically It can make you feel, angry, anxious and fearful, which in turn can upset relationships. Too much stress can cause depression and anxiety.

Some stresses are unavoidable and possibly caused by money problems, work issues feeling over-stressed as a result of an event or it can be positive like a new partner, new job or going on holiday.

The answer is quite simple just take a moment to think about the stresses in your life now for “Stress Awareness Month” and try to make some positive changes to make your life less stressful and easier on yourself, so that you can live a more relaxed happier life.😊

Grief in my own words….

Grief will affect us all in our lifetime and in this blog I write about my own personal experiences.

I started this year feeling very saddened hearing news of life lost, too young, too soon and too suddenly.

It got me thinking about grief and how it affects all of us.

I would say grief isn’t something that you ever get over, in time it gets easier, but it’s always going to affect your life, especially on anniversaries, birthdays and family occasions.

Grief doesn’t last a week, 2 weeks, a year, there is no time limit. It takes time to deal with all the emotions.

You will say I’m fine, I’m ok, I’m coping, but each day is different, every emotion is different.

I would describe its like a roller coaster of mixed emotion that sends your life into turmoil.

You have to go through it, and you deal with it in your own way. There is no right way or wrong way, it’s just there is no way of getting away from it.

If you put it on the back burner, if you shut it out, if you don’t grieve it will catch you up, but you don’t need to worry about it, it’s just part of the healing process.

Talking and sharing your feelings will make you feel better and will help you come to terms with your loss.

Between the age of 19-27 years old I lost my Father, my Grandad, my Grandma and my Uncle.

I hadn’t really thought about how losing so many of my loved ones during a short space of time would have had such a huge impact on my life and how they were actually the saddest times of my life when they should of been my happiest. How I got through it, I don’t really know, but I did and somehow you do find the inner strength, you carry on because you know that’s what your loved ones would want you to do.

There is comfort in knowing they are always with you in spirit. unexplained things happen and it keeps you going…..

That moment you lose a loved one, everything changes, its a sudden feeling of what am I going to do without them and nothing prepares you for grief.

It’s hard because you start questioning yourself and have lots going on in your mind. You ask yourself lots of what if’s, how am I going too, but they were going too and what am I going to….

I found it very difficult and still do that my father would never see my wedding day and he will never see my children.

All these thoughts take time to come to terms with, it’s part of the struggle, they will upset you, and you need to cry, you shouldn’t bottle up your emotions.

You may not cry at first, your crying may be delayed, for me it was the day of my fathers funeral and I still cry at times….

Grief is the hardest thing for us to deal with, but the shock of losing someone suddenly is the hardest of all to bear, because nothing prepares you, you didn’t know it was going to happen and you didn’t prepare yourself for it to happen, suddenly it happened.

This is what happened to me the shock of losing my father, at first It didn’t feel like it was happening to me.

I didn’t feel like I was living in reality, and you want to carry on with your normal life, but it’s not normal anymore, so you can’t and everything around isn’t the same. It’s actually a very isolating experience.

For any of us dealing with the passing of a loved one It’s like everything and everyone carries on with their day to day lives and that’s hard to deal with because you feel so lost, lonely and sad. It feels like nothing has happened and you are the only one stuck in time.

Although you receive all the cards, all the words of sympathy there is nothing that will take the pain away only time…..

Time is a healer and in time things begin to feel clearer and the mist lifts from the greyness and you begin to start feeling yourself again. You begin to come to terms with it, but you never will get over it, it’s just easier and your memories ease the pain and will stay with you forever….

A couple of years ago I was out with friends and I got talking to a man who was stood at the bar as I noticed he didn’t look happy. I asked him what was wrong and he told me that he has been really struggling to cope after the death of his father a number of months ago.  I began to tell him that my father died when I was 19 years old and he replied “I would of found that easier”

I replied “please don’t think like that” “There is no easier” and he should think of all the the memories and years he had with his father.”

He then continued to say that’s just it I have had more years with him therefore it’s harder for me too grieve. I told him that I disagreed and that if I could just have one more minute with my father I would and that he should treasure and appreciate all those times he had, times I feel I have missed out on, but there is no easier or harder, it’s just we will all have to deal with grief at some point in our lives and talking about it, sharing your own experience eases the burden and also remembering them always keeping them close in your thoughts….

Karen Parkinson

This is Me

As a recently appointed Mental Health Ambassador for Run like a Girl I would like to tell you a bit about myself and why I wanted to become a MHA.

I hope by sharing my experience it will help others to not feel ashamed about
their own mental health and to change the stigma surrounding it.

Before I had any experiences of mental health problems I was a happy go lucky teenager, but suddenly that all changed at the age of just 19 when my life was turned upside down by the news that my father had taken his own life, nothing prepares you for shock and from that moment it changed my life forever.

My father suffered in silence with his depression, it was very much a taboo subject and rarely spoken about, he was referred to as a weak person and any stress related illness would of been judged on your ability to work and lead a normal life. This to me is totally the opposite of who my Father was he was an amazingly strong hard working man, he achieved so much in his life whilst battling depression alone In a world back then where he would of felt totally alone. This is why I feel very strongly about mental health and raising awareness of it. Understanding my fathers illness is how I can now talk openly about it without feeling ashamed or judged. RLAG gave me the opportunity to do this and to enter running events for Mind the mental health charity.
Soon after losing my father I suffered a nervous breakdown and it was a long recovery process. I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for a few years and was diagnosed with OCD 10 years ago.
At first I was ashamed of my OCD but I’m not now because I’ve learn’t to accept it. I know it will never go away it’s a part of me, but I have coping mechanisms and I’m a lot happier and positive about the future, which is why being a mental health ambassador means so much to me and I look forward to helping and supporting others.

Living with OCD

Why have I got OCD– these are the questions I often ask myself.

Why did I get it? Where did it come from? What was the trigger? Was it the trauma of losing my father? I don’t remember having it as a child or a teenager or when I first became a mum, because I never actually thought of these things I do I just did things until at the age of 27 years old when my daughter Katie was 6 months old things changed.

I took Katie away to spend a week with my family up North as Katie’s father was working away from home on business.

At the time we lived in Kidderminster and all my family live in the North of England. After a lovely break away I returned home before Katie’s father, our house had been empty for a week, but when I returned and opened that door, turned my key in the lock what I was confronted with shocked me, scared me and I felt helpless in front of my eyes all I could see was our house turned upside down. I remember vividly in the middle of the room a mound of empty carrier bags. The telly all I could see were leads, there was no telly! I was confused and scared it was at that moment that the reality of what I was walking into was real that we had been BURGLED! I froze. I simply didn’t know what to do! I didn’t know If anyone was still in my house? I daren’t walk any further into my house, through fear of not knowing what I would be confronting. Also I had my baby with me, my first thought was to protect her.

I contacted Dean Katie’s father and the Police who came to investigate. I won’t go into the ins and out of the burglary, but basically they took everything, all my sentimental belongings, material things you can replace but memories, sentimental items you can’t. You never will and that’s the saddest part of any burglary. The week post burglary I couldn’t stay in my house, we went to stay at friends and when I returned it was never the same. I felt violated, uncomfortable in my own home. A home is suppose to be a place where you feel secure and a place you call your own, but to think somone had been through my drawers and my personal belongings, that’s when my OCD started…..I would check the locks of my house repeatedly, clean the house throughly, I couldn’t even bear a crumb on the floor, I would clean and hoover frequently. I would spend hours after dinner cleaning the kitchen, moping the floor, basically it became so over the top. I continued to check locks frequently. OCD can be so exhausting and as the years went on the other side effects of OCD thoughts would come into my head telling me if I didn’t do something, something bad would happen, a thought an obsession and then I would have to do it the behaviour. I was very ashamed of it and I told no one. I was afraid people would judge me and so I battled with it alone.

Where am I now with it? Well over the years I’ve learnt to live with it, accept it, in some ways I laugh at it. I see things I do strange, weird, but then again I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t want it, it’s just the experience and shock of being burgled made me feel unsafe, insecure and not protected. I suppose I was creating this bubble around me to protect me and create a perfect world that didn’t exist.

Over the years my thoughts and behaviours changed when I finally went to seek therapy, I was worried my behaviour would be passed onto my child and worried because of my excessive hand washing. Councilling really helped me understand it and it was the best thing I could of done because I accepted It. It made me look at things differently. I wouldn’t have any councilling after my father died and years later I was ready to talk about it and it helped me accept it and to accept me. I started to not feel ashamed about it, that there were reasons for it and I learnt to cope with it.

How is life like for me now living with OCD?

My life is good, I found happiness. I hadn’t been happy for many years, but now I’m with someone who accepts it. At first he thought I was crazy, but he knows how to help me deal with it. There are times he can’t understand the things I do and I could list all of them here, but the things I do are the things I live with every day as long as I live a life that doesn’t affect others I’m happy. I found my way of coping and I have mechanisms in place to help me with that. Stress can make it worse, but the trick is to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts and tell yourself nothing bad will happen and that your just being silly, under all the circumstances of everything I’ve been through I’ve now accepted I suffer from Obsessive Complusive Behaviour.