I have been volunteering with Healthy Minds in Calderdale since I moved to UK and have found it a good way to be involved with the local communities. I feel excited about the new developments and thought I would share the latest newsletter.
This week my partner Rufus and I went down to London to facilitate two separate workshops together with our friend Anders. First day we looked at Using Mindfulness with Psychosis and second day we shared different ways of Talking with Voices and learning from the dialogue.
Anders came over to England from Denmark and it was quite special for me personally, to try and bring together two equally important worlds.
In recent months I have started to feel like I am finally settling into my present life with Rufus in England . Moving to a new country has been challenging and exhausting and I have wondered what I might end up doing with my time and whether I’d ever feel valued here the way I do in Denmark.
I have been very consious of not losing my connections to my previous life in Denmark, my friends and my family – and it has been a painful juggling act at times. It is tempting to just focus completely on the here and now; on adjusting, finding new networks and on building a future. But my sense of self is deeply rooted in my past – in those first 32 years in Denmark, in the people who know me well and value me for how I am and not just for what I do.
Since moving to England I have been travelling to Denmark regularly but it often feels disjointed. Here in England certain parts of me have become stronger and when I am in Denmark I experience other parts of me strengthening or I feel myself going back to how I was several years ago. My hope is that in time – and as friends visit me here and Rufus comes with me to Denmark -the sense of jumping between selves and worlds will ease.
The last ten years I lived in Denmark I was involved in the Hearing Voices Project in Aarhus ; participating in a Hearing Voices group, delivering training as part of a team (quite often with Anders) and making new friends. I found that I was able to do things I hadn’t considered as part of my path in life when I was younger: public speaking, teaching, openly sharing my vulnerability with others, support people to set up groups. I have gained so much knowledge and experience doing this work and it looks like I will be able to build on this here in England.
Delivering training with Rufus and Anders was emotional and affirming for me – obviously it is amazing to be able to do things together with people you respect and care about. But each of them also represent significant changes and times in my life.
As always, delivering training is exciting but also presents some challenges and I find that I always learn something new – about myself, about the material we are working and about working together as a team.
We were all exhausted by the end of Tuesday – and rush hour commuting in different parts of London does add an extra layer to the predictable tiredness.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two days and there is a sense of inspiration and possibility here in the post-training days.
Much gratitude goes out to everyone who came along and co-created the training. I truly believe that everyone in the room creates what happens: each person brings their own energy and whether people speak up or keep quiet, engange with others in the breaks or not – it all makes the day unfold just the way it does.
Today I went to London to spend some time celebrating the project RethinkYourMind and all the people who had contributed to the creation of The Yellow Book and 4 singles.
I went without really knowing what to expect; what kind of people would be there, what kind of atmosphere and attitudes there might be. I was pleasantly surprised by the speeches and I walked away feeling quite encouraged. There was no romanticising of mental health struggles yet there was very little talk of illness and much talk of hope, the individual journey and individual needs, of support, of possibilities, of de-stigmatising, of creativity and expression and of working together.
I left thinking of two things; the power of celebrations and the potential of arts.
Even though I didn’t know anyone there and I felt nervous and uncertain I was quickly engulfed in a sense of community. I thought about how nourishing it can be to get together to celebrate something we care about – not just to give credit to individuals but really feeling what we are able to do together. Not only to reassure and give recognition which can be nice but too often evaporates quickly; no, I am thinking more of a sense of collectively creating a pool of energy from which we can draw strength.
I think we have lost some depth in how we celebrate in our modern busy lives. The traditional celebrations like birthdays, Christmas and similar special holidays have become commercial adventures or just time off work. There is something to be said for ceremony and rituals – structures that reminds us that what we are doing is special and sacred. And telling stories and sharing visions and dreams can help us connect more deeply with each other.
It was a brief event and it would have been lovely to head to a pub to continue conversations that had begun and connect more with people who were there.
I would also have loved for there to be more time to hear the music that has been created by this project, maybe an exhibition to create more shared experiences with the amazing artwork that is in the book.
But even in its briefness this event seemed more meaningful to me than many other events I have participated in. It seemed full of beautiful possibilities. I was inspired by the bringing together of so many different people from very different walks of life.
It seemed to me that we were a very diverse group of people and I am a big fan of diversity. It creates uncomfortable tensions but also possibilities for learning new things and finding new understandings. But most of all I think diversity is essential for creativity. Creativity doesn’t discriminate – we can all be creative. And it is often in the tensions between known and unknown, between joy and pain, that I feel inspired. I create when I am trying to grasp something that is still incomprehensible to me, when I try and express things that are on the edge.
So the second thing I was thinking of was how art and creativity has the potential to build bridges and can offer shared understandings where words of the rational mind fall short.
I think that much stigma and fear around mental distress could be transfigured with and through arts – because arts has always managed to go to the spaces where madness lives. Like madness, art is connected to the irrational, the emotional, the other-worldly, the spiritual, the natural, the collective subconsciousness, the innovative, the unusual and the extraordinary. In the arts madness is celebrated and explored – and some even see it as necessary for the process of creating. Art can offer meaning where madness has caused havoc. Art can offer safe ways of expressing the seemingly inexpressible. Art can cross the gaps created by our differences because it helps us find what we have in common and connect us in our shared humanness.
I just want to finish these reflections by giving thanks to the people who put work and effort into this project. I think The Yellow Book is lovely, inspiring and useful.