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Showing posts from 2017

Counselling via the NHS Part 3: Afterthoughts

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My last two posts have been about my experience being referred for and waiting for NHS counselling, and about my experiences at the sessions themselves. The third and final post in this mini series will be my afterthoughts.

I've rounded up ten thoughts that go some way to summing up my experience of receiving counselling through the NHS, and here they are:


It's no lie that mental health services in this country are massively under-resourced. Waiting times are far longer than any of the practitioners would like them to be, and longer than is ideal for anybody struggling with their mental health. However, when you do get the help, the support on offer can be incredible. I have all sorts of thoughts on things that could surely be done to hep improve the current way of doing things, but I'll save you from seeing them all here.You've got to be persistent. Unfortunately, not all GPs are as clued up as one another when it comes to mental health, and even those that are are so …

Counselling via the NHS Part 2: The sessions

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Having shared about the process of being referred for and waiting for NHS counselling, today I'm going to share some of my experiences of the sessions themselves. My final post in this three-part series will be my overall thoughts on the whole process.


Before my first appointment, I was scared.

Simple as that.

It's bad enough knowing you have to open up about your deepest thoughts with someone you've never met, but on top of that I get incredibly anxious about appointments in general, about going to a place I've never been before, and about the whole 'getting in an Uber to get there' thing.


My appointments were in the psychological services building of a local hospital a seven-minute car journey away from where I lived, and it was a hospital set in an old building in very open grounds. It didn't feel at all like a hospital, which made me feel more calm.

I signed in at reception and was directed to a waiting area, where there was a pile of questionnaires. Th…

Counselling via the NHS Part 1: The doctor, the referral and the wait

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One of the questions I've been asked the most by those close to me or by other people struggling with their mental health is what my experience of counselling has been.

I've been down both the private and NHS route, and by far the counsellor who transformed my thinking the most was the NHS worker I had 12 sessions with while living in Ilford, during the second half of last year.

I thought I'd share a bit about the experience in a three-part series, over the next three days:
Day 1: The doctor, the referral and the wait
Day 2: The sessions
Day 3: Afterthoughts

I hope this is helpful to anyone nervous about asking about help themselves, or those wondering whether this would be the right route for them.



My anxiety and depression journey has spanned about four years, and halfway through 2016 I hit one of my very lowest points, and really needed proper help. I was actually sent home from work one day as they were so concerned about me, and told not to return until I had got prop…

Book Challenge 2017: Months 4-6

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Every three months, I'm sharing my progress with the Book Challenge, aiming to read a book a month, one from each of the given categories. I already read a lot, but I thought it would get me to widen my net a little. You can read my selected list from way back in January here, and the round-up of months 1-3 here.
Here are my reads from April, May and June.

April: A non-fiction book based on a popular or topical subject The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking

'Hygge' was everywhere in the second half of 2016, and I was given a copy of this book for Christmas. Hygge is an atmosphere or experience, best described as feeling cosy, warm, comfortable, at home and in good company. A concept originally from Denmark, it's easy to see why the idea is such an appealing one. 
In this beautiful little book, Wiking explains what hygge means to him and to Danes in general, and provides tips to add a little more hygge into all aspects of life. I found it a really calming, comforting read,…

The Little Mermaid, NK Theatre Arts

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Last night, I headed back to The Forum Theatre, this time to see the latest offering from NK Theatre Arts' young performers: The Little Mermaid.
Having absolutely loved the adult group's recent production of Made in Dagenham, I was very excited to see the young people who are growing their skills within this tight-knit theatre family.
This show featured over 60 performers aged between 5 and 16, and yet again I was wowed. Having grown up doing musicals with similar groups, I know the time and dedication taken by the young people and also the whole team around them to pull off a show of this standard.
The Little Mermaid was a perfect choice of show, and one I've not seen on stage before. It's packed with great songs, has lots of group numbers, and there are many characters and roles, meaning lots of people get their 'starring moment'.
So much thought had gone into the staging, which immediately transported audiences to the watery depths of the sea, and the use of…

Turning 25

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A lot can change in a year.

Never has that applied more to my life than when comparing my 24th birthday to my 25th.


On 7th July 2016, I realised I really needed to change my life.

I had been temporarily signed off work due to my anxiety and depression, and I couldn't eat, sleep, speak, smile or function in a 'normal', day-to-day fashion.


On 7th July 2017, I realised how much my life has changed.

In fact, this week I'm making one of my biggest, most exciting moves to date, and BIG THINGS are happening that have put a massive smile on my face.

(Well, I've got an exam tomorrow but once that's out the way the smile will be glued back to my face!)


What's changed? You can read a bit of a summary I wrote back in February here, but it's been a year of counselling, meditation, yoga, learning to eat again, working out, learning about myself and learning who I need to be spending my time with.

It's been a challenging year in a lot of ways, as I've been lea…

Hello, July 2017

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So here we are at my favourite month of the year.

It's my birthday month, but that's not the only reason.

It's summer, people are excited about holidays, there's more going on, you can be outdoors more...

I think this year could be one of my very favourite Julys so far.

There's very exciting things to come, all of which will appear on here over time.

For now, let's just say big things are happening.

It's going to be a month of big change.

This time last year, I was trapped in my room, in my mind, in my unhealthy eating patterns...

This year, July brings change of the positive kind.

After a period of limbo and recovery, this month things begin to move forwards again, towards times that are putting a huge smile on my face.

Watch this space...


The Recipe Post #15: Chickpea and coriander curry

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This is one of my favourite go-to dinners.

It's quick to make and can easily be adjusted to use up any veggies that aren't going to be at their best for much longer.

I've made this for friends and family plenty of times, and it's also a great one for leftovers, when the spices have had even longer to combine and sit together.

I originally used a recipe from The Pool (one of my favourite websites ever, hands down), but as mentioned I now sort of throw together different variations based on the same core dish.


Ingredients:


1 chopped onion1tsp ground ginger (or small knob fresh, grated)1tsp ground coriander, plus some fresh1tsp ground cumin400g tin chopped tomatoes1 vegetable stock cube, dissolved in water2 garlic cloves, crushed1 red pepper, chopped1 courgette, chopped1 tin chickpeas, drained Fry the onion in some oil, then add in the garlic and spices for a few minutes.
Next, add in the vegetables (here I've used pepper and courgette, but plenty of other veggies woul…

Happiness Planner - My 100 Days

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I've been eyeing up people's Happiness Planners on Instagram for a while now, and my sister clearly read my mind, presenting me with my own on Christmas Day.
I waited to start until I had finished a couple of other journal-style projects I was working on, and dived into the first pages at the end of February.
I've now completed my '100 days to happy', so thought I'd share my experience with this beautiful little journal.


I haven't planned a structure to this, really, so I'll just put my thoughts under headings as they come to me...

Daily habit
One of the things I've been really working on is adding in little daily habits to my routine. I add one in, get used to it, then throw in an extra. That way, it's a little change at a time but they add up to have a big impact. I've written a post about my habit of reading for 30mins a day, and the rituals now also include meditation, foam rolling, and my pride and gratitude journals.
This was another of…

The Recipe Post #14: Roasted Pesto Salmon

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Today's recipe post has become a firm family favourite.
It's so simple but full of flavour.
The pesto seems to enhance the flavour of the salmon fillet even more, the roasted tomatoes are delicious, and we team it with brown rice and veggies, or simply a roasted vegetable selection as shown here.

You will need:

Pesto Salmon fillets (1 per person, and we usually make extras for lunches)Cherry tomatoes, halvedAccompaniments of your choice - pictured here are roasted sweet potatoes, butternut squash, courgettes and red, green and yellow peppers, and some garlic spinach. In the past we've served it with brown rice, broccoli and peas.


 This couldn't be much more easy if it tried.

Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees Celsius.

Line up the salmon fillets on a baking tray and spread a layer of pesto across the top of each.

Top each fillet with some halved cherry tomatoes for a burst of flavour.

Pop into the over for about 15 minutes.

Serve with sides of your choice!



We've …

Hello, June 2017

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What a year it's been so far.

As we move into the sixth month of a year that has been eventful both in the wider world and in my personal life, I'm feeling reflective.


The past six months have been full of change.

I've been back up north since December, now, and focusing on recovery from four years of anxiety and other related issues, which all came to a head almost exactly one year ago.

In June 2016, the picture looked very different to today's.


The issues I'd been ignoring or hiding from those around me refused to be ignored any more, and I was in a complete state.

I couldn't eat or sleep, everything terrified me and I'm not going to lie: it was a scary, scary period.

That was my signal to change my life.

For years I had been trying to pretend I could cope, but my body was now telling me I couldn't - I needed to face it all head on.


After a period working with an incredible counsellor in London, I left the big city to practice what I had been learning…

A simple way to learn a little more about depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety are a huge issue for many people, and I myself have been diagnosed with both.

However, there's still so much misunderstanding around the topic of mental health, and that's why I'm so passionate about talking about it.

The more we talk about mental health, the more we as a society will understand and the more we can help those around us who are struggling.

One of the ways I love to learn about new things and broaden my horizons is through listening to podcasts, and I wanted to share a couple of episodes of one of those podcasts.


Ladies Who Lunch is a podcast hosted by YouTubers Ingrid Nilsen and Cat Valdes, on which they focus on a different topic each week. They've covered politics, friendships, relationships, sexuality and makeup.

They're two close friends having a chat, openly discussing topics people often shy away from, or don't know how to talk about. I absolutely love their honesty, and within the last six months or so they've c…

The Recipe Post #13: A chickpea burger with potential

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Burger time again!
I posted not too long ago about the most incredible Spiced Chickpea Burgers, and realised I haven't yet shared chickpea burger attempt number one, so here we are now.
I had tried these Jamie Oliver burgers first, ambitiously named 'The Best Vegan Burger'... but this recipe didn't go quite to plan.
The idea was good, the ingredients were nice, but I think the quantities were all wrong. Firstly, it called for far too much sweetcorn. A big 340g tin, alongside only one tin of chickpeas. The overall effect was a sweetcorn burger.
Don't get me wrong, I like sweetcorn, but I don't want a sweetcorn FLAVOURED burger, to the point I can taste nothing else. Also, there was far too much moisture, meaning they took a long time to cook and never reached the ideal firmness of a burger.
I'm going to share it here because it has potential to become a firm favourite, but will add commentary throughout of what I will change the second time around...

Ingred…

The Reading List #43

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Having shared this week about my daily ritual of spending at least 30 minutes of reading a day, it seemed about time to share my next reading list and some of the pages I've been turning.


The Lake House, Kate Morton


This book falls into the style Morton does well; two stories unfold at once, one of a missing child in the 30s and the second set 70 years later. The stories clearly have some kind of connection, but that's revealed only very slowly. It's certainly gripping and interesting, and there are some lovely passages of description. 
Whilst I enjoyed the read, as I have with Morton's previous novels, the style and formula are very distinctive and familiar, and it felt a little predictable towards the end. If you're looking for some escapism, though, a decent story and some good little twists, it's worth picking up.

Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig

This book is raved about by so many, and for very good reason. I'm not actually going to say too much as I thi…

A new daily ritual: 30mins of reading

Growing up, I was always a bookworm.

I loved reading and I was a fast reader, so I would devour book after book.

I'd build dens with my sister and sit in there to read book after book after book.

English literature was always my 'thing' academically, and that's what I continued on to study at university.


After leaving university almost four years ago, my reading levels definitely decreased.

Part of the reason was I just needed a break. I had been reading such huge quantities and reading things TO discuss, write about and be examined on.

At the same time, my lifestyle wasn't in a very good place overall.

My anxiety had kicked in for the first time and my overall way of living and mindset were extremely unhealthy.

Add in working full time and the excuses of never having enough time to read, and the number of books I was getting through decreased dramatically.


I started reading properly again a couple of years ago, when I moved to London, as my tube commute was the pe…

The Recipe Post #12: The simplest spaghetti and fresh tomato dinner

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On the evening I made this pasta, the plan had been to make courgetti with tomato, basil and balsamic.

But then there were no courgettes in the shops.

And then my balsamic reduction went to pot.

So I improvised with what I had in front of me.

The result was the most simple, fresh, delicious spaghetti dish.

It almost didn't feel worth posting about, but I think it can be so easy to forget the really simple things once you've got into a pattern of trying to experiment with your meals more.


Ingredients:

spaghetti1tbsp extra virgin olive oil1 garlic clove, finely mincedblack pepper and sea salt, to taste2 tbsp chopped fresh basil2 tbsp fresh lemon juice2 large tomatoes, chopped This doesn't really need instructions: olive oil in a pan, add the garlic, tomatoes, then cooked spaghetti and finish with basil and lemon juice!
It made a really nice change to a thicker tomato-based sauce, and felt like a very fresh, light dinner for an easy evening.
When I don't feel inspired arou…

Twelfth Night, Royal Exchange Theatre

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Last week, my dad booked the pair of us last minute tickets to Twelfth Night at the Royal Exchange Theatre. We love theatre, we love that particular theatre and we are fans of Shakespeare.

This offering did not let us down.


Before I start, the show is running for about another week, so grab your tickets right now. I was surprised by the amount of empty seats there were when we went - this production deserves to be sold out night after night.

Shakespeare's plays have been performed again and again, retold in many ways and reimagined by so many performers. I've seen my fair share of both the very good and the very poor! I'd put this up with my very favourites.

I'm usually someone who leans towards the tragedies rather than the comedies, and I think that's because comedy can arguably be more difficult to get right.


This truly was 'Shakespeare done right'. It was bawdy, rowdy, musical, lively... it felt like a true celebration of the way these plays were writte…

I Capture the Castle, Bolton Octagon

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When I was younger, I loved Dodie Smith's 'I Capture the Castle', so the news it was being turned into a musical was very welcome.

On Thursday evening, I took my first trip to the Bolton Octagon and was transported right back into that world my imagination had loved.

This adaptation is a beautiful one - whimsical, innovative and performed by a highly accomplished cast.


It was always going to be a challenge to transfer to the stage a story that plays out largely in the head and diary or 17 year-old Cassandra, but this play handles that obstacle well.

Early scenes saw her writing in her diary, with the rest of the cast pausing in freeze frame as she added extra commentary and asides. This went on for just long enough to let audiences realise we were viewing events through her eyes, and set up the idea that what we were seeing maybe wasn't 100% truth, but a truth through the eyes of a young woman.

Adding well to this effect was Cassandra's very 'realistic' cha…

Ghost, The Lowry

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Post update: Since publishing this review, Carolyn Maitland has let me know she was unwell and didn't perform the role last night. Frustratingly, we were not told this. Maybe this was part of the answer as to why the show didn't feel at its full energy. Hopefully Carolyn feels much better soon and can return to the role!

After having first seen Ghost performed at GSA a couple of years ago and being wowed, I was so excited to see the touring production was coming to The Lowry.

As we took our seats last night, I was ready to be swept along again in the emotion and pace of the show, which is packed with great songs.

Unfortunately, I came away so, so disappointed.

I'm not sure if everyone was having a bit of an off night, but it was one of the most disappointing professional productions I've seen for a long time.


I'm not going to spend a long time tearing it apart as that just feels negative and unnecessary, but I just wanted to share the five things where I felt the s…

Chain hotels in Central London: Travelodge vs. Premier Inn

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A few weeks ago, we spent a weekend in London, and trying to keep costs down we opted for a Travelodge night (we had a voucher) and a Premier Inn night. Usually, we spend a long time hunting and often stay in independent hotels in London as it can work out cheaper, but this weekend we needed easy and functional!
I've stayed in hotels of both chains many times, all over the country, and do quite like the fact you always know what you're going to get. Travelodges tend to be more simple and very functional, whereas Premier Inns feel that little bit more comfy, so it just depends on the reason for your stay.

Travelodge, London Central Kings Cross
This was not my first stay in this particular hotel. When I used to live in Macclesfield and have regular work trips to London, this was often where I stayed as it was so close to both the train station and the London office. It was always exactly what I needed, and I never had any issues.
But I've never stayed there on a Saturday nig…

The Recipe Post #11: Spiced Chickpea Burgers

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Earlier this week, I tried out a new recipe on my family which went down an absolute treat.

After a failed chickpea burger attempt the week before (a Jamie recipe calling for FAR too much sweetcorn), I wanted to redeem myself and offer up a good burger.

The winning recipe came from the 'Homemade By You' section on the Sainsbury's recipes website.



You'll need:

1 small onion, chopped4 garlic cloves, chopped1.5tsp each of ground cumin, chilli powder and garam masala2tsp ground coriander2tsp grated root ginger2 cans chickpeas, drained2 slices wholemeal bread, in breadcrumbs To serve: Whatever you like! We went for chunky sweet potato and normal potato wedges with a simple salad - and ketchup of course.
 Pop some oil into a pan and gently cook the onion and garlic for a minute, before adding in the ginger, dried spices, salt and 50ml water. Cook until the mixture is dry. Add in the chickpeas, and again cook until any moisture has evaporated. This happens fairly quickly.

Pour …

My sister is running the marathon!

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Tomorrow, on the 23rd April 2017, my younger sister is running the London Marathon.

About 8 months ago, she had never been on a run.

Tomorrow, she will run 26.2 miles as a part of Team NSPCC, and I could not be more proud if I tried.


Anyone who knows my sister will know she is stubborn, determined, fiercely independent and highly ambitious.

If she puts her mind to something, she will do it, even if she has to alter the plans a little along the way.


Interviewed yesterday on BBC Radio Newcastle, Kitty recalled watching the London Marathon on TV with our dad last year, saying she couldn't think of anything she would want to do less than go and run a marathon.

Two months later, she was a member of Team NSPCC.

Eight months of training later, the day is almost here.


Kate being Kate, taking on the challenge of going from non-runner to marathon runner was not enough, so she decided to combine it with a complete lifestyle change, adopting a plant-based diet, and removing gluten and refined…

Spoiler free: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Earlier this month, 18 months after the day I purchased the tickets, the time finally came for us to take our seats at the Palace Theatre, London, to experience five hours of theatre set in the wizarding world.

It's been a long wait.

One of the things I think has been truly wonderful about this play is that people really have been sticking to the 'rules', following that principle of '#keepthesecrets'.

Even since the release of the script in book form, I've heard no spoilers whatsoever, and was able to head into the theatre having no idea what to expect.

For that reason, this will be nothing like my normal theatre reviews, and will instead focus on my feelings about the day and the experience.


Like many people around my age, I grew up with Harry Potter. I read every book eagerly on release, have reread the whole series multiple times and have seen all of the films more than once.

I've visited the Warner Brothers' Studio Tour, and marvelled at J K Rowling…