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I spend my life boring the twittersphere about my attempts to get up and to go to sleep. Having recovered from my last depressive episode, sleep is still an issue.


I don’t know if my issues with bed are related to having depression, or simply linked to being me!!

I’m an owl. I struggle to get to bed. In part this is habit. I have noticed that it takes around 2 hours from the decision to go to bed to lights out. I sort my breakfast out, go to the bathroom, change into pyjamas… None of this takes much time. Almost inevitably I check social media, and often it’s there I get stuck. Introverting with social media helps me to unwind. I get home around 10pm from life group on a Wednesday but it is impossible to go straight to bed, I need unwind time. I usually turn lights out around midnight. I am trying a social media curfew at 11pm, it seems a realistic goal.

I currently have no trouble actually sleeping. I used the headspace app which I have a free subscription to through work. I suspect daily meditation has improved my sleep. As has stopping listening to podcasts as I fall asleep…they used to keep me awake!!

It has surprised me that I cope with getting up now I am working again. 3 alarms go off at around 7am and by 0707 I’m in the bathroom. I’ve taken to setting alarms on the days I don’t work to ensure I get up at a sensible time. Having things to get up for help too. Yesterday I struggled to get up more than the day before. I had a sense of dread. Reflecting on it, it was either the stress of meeting a friend (who kept changing the time of meeting and tends to dump her stress on everyone else) or avoiding having to do my assignment. I seems it’s harder for me to get up on days I subconsciously want to avoid something. How do you find getting up and going to sleep?

Recognise many of those in the church I just left!!

Tries to provide worship that keeps everyone happy…thus making no one happy!!

Heavy roles for wardens, head of kids work, treasurer that they are no longer volunteering but unpaid staff positions.

Distracted from mission by a large building project. “Can’t do that until we’ve fixed the roof!”

PCC meetings monopolised by a few. Minimal opportunities for congregation engagement. No guidance for PCC members on how to represent congregations views.

Small number of people getting burnt out trying to fill the rotas, without communicating to the congregation opportunities to serve! Also the danger of giving kids opportunity to serve, not because it’s a way to help them grow… But because of lack of adults willing to serve!!

All spiritual guidance provided lecture style in the service, with no visual aids. Opportunity to be in 1 of the 2 home groups but no support or guidance from the clergy for the group leaders!

Clergy so busy, with who knows what, that they don’t provide pastoral care for congregants with major issues, or even provide support and guidance to those in leadership roles! No pastoral care team for clergy to delegate pastoral care to.

I think it’s fine to have a talk on giving every 6 months….but make your point and then leave it to God…don’t reiterate your point several more times!!

Planning for a massive building project in a deprived area/congregation. Have had to dumb down plans to attempt to keep people happy, thus leaving a bland plan.

A few people monopolise, a few roles. It’s like that’s where they get their power, value and significance!


Saint Teddy's Church

There are literally hundreds of articles about why people leave a particular church. I suggest that often it is a case of the church leaving the congregant and as a result the congregant either moves to a different church or becomes one of the increasingly vast legion of the unchurched. This is not strictly my personal view, but one my fellow church members have talked to me about as they went out the door and have not returned.

A church leaves a congregant when the church:

1. Tries to be liturgically all things to all people at the same time without either providing assistance in making a liturgical change, providing different liturgical experiences, or refusing to change. Traditionally oriented (often older and cradle to grave individuals) no longer feel comfortable. Not so traditional congregants feel forced to follow a liturgy that does not recognize their newness or their desire to…

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How could the church embrace the arts!!

Betty Virago

I was sitting in church doing my knitting this morning (I can knit and worship, can’t I?) and pondering my intern year, which has been the focus of my attention for some time now.

What if the church hired a textile intern?

My Uni friend Sarah, once pondered a similar idea, what if architects had a textile intern and I think the savvy ones do. I mean, when they’re planning the interior of a building don’t they consult a textile designer? How else would they figure out how to put lighting in carpets unless they asked the textile designer who knows the answer?

But church, is this too far out of the box?

What if my church, The Salvation Army, hired me as an intern for a year?

Well, the cynics among us would suggest the uniforms would be better made. The material might change to a washable, yet not…

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How to meet people in a new city

This morning I was interviewed on Radio 4’s Woman’s hour as they were talking about social isolation in women in their 20’s and 30’s when they move house.

My experience was that when I returned to Birmingham after 7 years away, only a handful of my friends were left. I looked for a church where I could settle and make friends. I also actively looked for opportunities to get support and community. As I said in the interview I went to a church project where I was told I could stay for a cuppa this time, but am not welcome to return as I’m not over 75. On another occasion I asked at my GP if they have an benefits advisor that came to the practice, to advised to go to the Children’s Centre; I don’t have any children!


When students move away from home for the first time they have freshers week and everyone is in the same boat. When people become parents for the first time there are NCT groups and stay and play groups where parents can meet other parents and children. Social isolation is being recognised more and more in those over 75 but the lack of community for those in their 20’s and 30’s is rarely recognised or spoken of. image

I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to in the interview so I thought I’d write down my tips….

  1. As a Christian trying out a few churches in order to find a church to settle in was an obvious place to find a community to join.
  2. I enjoy crafts. I have enjoyed meeting people in my local Spinners Weavers and Dyers Guild. While I’ve been off sick I’ve also joined “Stitch group”. They are a group of elderly ladies that meet every Monday without fail to knit or crochet blankets for Ladywood or Ethiopia. A lot of them are widowed, so live alone, so they ignore bank holidays. Even though I am probably half their age, they make me feel very welcome.
  3. Recently I’ve discovered that there is such a thing as board game cafes and hundreds of game around, not just scrabble and monopoly! These meet up monthly, often in a bar or cafe and although a bit scary to walk into, people are very welcoming. I heard about my local ones via Facebook.
  4. Birmingham had Places of welcome – places where anyone is welcome to drop in at a certain time each week. The places of welcome often provide food for free too, toast, or soup and bread.
  5. Community cafes are another place where you can meet people and everyone is welcome. A local church has a community cafe with cheap food and drinks and a listening ear. They also have a “community lunch” option which you pay for as a donation, however big or small you feel able. Having received such a great welcome there I now volunteer in the cafe. Another option is projects like the Real junk food project where you pay as you feel (PAYF) whether in cash, by waitressing, washing up, even singing a song!
  6. In my last city I used to go to a book club run by a local restaurant. You all read a book, went for a delicious 3 course meal and then discussed the book. Book groups make me feel stupid, so the book part wasn’t really for me, but the meal and meeting interesting people was lovely. Nowadays I much prefer the idea of going to a supper club, delicious food, and hopefully interesting people, but sadly with a price tag I can’t currently afford. Another foodie themed place to meet people would be Clandestine Cake Club but as I’m brand new to baking I’ve never been.
  7. I’ve heard of a a website called Meet up which has lots of meet up groups around the UK. Its something I’ve considered going along to, but not yet had the courage, or the need to go.
  8. I’ve fancied joining the Women’s Institute for years, I went once and was made to feel very welcome, but difficulty getting there meant I didn’t return. Apparently some people enjoy meeting people in sports teams, choirs or orchestras although none of those would suit me.
  9. Another way to meet other people is through volunteering. I currently volunteer in a community cafe. It has helped me to get to know new people, both those I volunteer with and the regulars in the cafe! Charities often have social events too for their volunteers. When I worked for a charity we would have a 3 course meal each Summer and Christmas.
  10. There is community on social media too. I get a lot of peer support from other members of the mental health community on twitter, we even have tea parties! . There are also regular chats that you can be involved with for example #mhchat #pndhour or #wenurses . Social media can be a great way of finding out about local activities particularly Facebook, searching on Twitter or looking on Ravelry if it is craft related.


Today started with hitting the alarm lots of times; then dragging myself out of bed. I went home to my parents at the weekend, and felt well, now I feel so very tired. I have an appointment at the hospital at 11am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for phototherapy for my eczema. It’s the first time I’ve been offered this treatment, and while I can’t see improvement, lots of people have been commenting my skin looks better.  There’s a bit of a delay today as several of us arrive at once. I finish reading my book on nursing in the 1950’s. It’s only taken me around 2 months! I lost the ability to read this time last year… I am slowly regaining the ability. I know the main nurses in phototherapy, but 1 seems to be away. Another nurse says to me hello my name is__ I’m covering for __. I’m impressed. It does make a difference and I know there has been a campaign to get staff in healthcare to introduce themselves.

I get home, eat a salad, have a cafetiere of coffee and try to get my computer to see my printer. It won’t see my printer since I got Windows 10. Then drive to park to meet the other ladies from my church small group and their kids. I perch on a bench and hold babies as handed to me. I feel quite left out, the only childless, unmarried one there. I try to be friendly, but feel excluded by the conversation about weaning and horrified at the behaviour of some of the children. By the time everyone leaves I need the loo. I walk with my friend, and then have to walk back to my car. It feels a really long walk…but then they claim exercise is good for you!! I feel exhausted. My friend comments that I always psych myself up for a visit to my parents behave normally there, then return exhausted and with a dip in mood, but then bounce back. She says I can pop in for dinner tomorrow, which is amazing as I’ve been on ready meals since getting back from parents. My ability to plan and prepare meals is always a great indication of my mental health.

From there I drive to church to pray for our Sunday school with some others. I feel like a bible verse comes to mind and that God gives me a picture of a toolbox and that he will equip the leaders for ‘every good work’. Spiritual life and mental health don’t always go together; I had a psychologist in the past who I had to convince every week that I wasn’t delusional just cos I had a faith.

Once home I tidy the flat and heat up the left over ready meal. I see missed calls on my phone and a text…apparently I arranged to meet my friend for dinner but I didn’t write it in my diary and I forgot .  Feel really bad about letting my friend down. Thankfully she is fine with me and we rearrange. I have invited people over to do a ‘creative bible study’. Last time no one turned up and I felt a bit lousy. Today 1 person comes. We create art and discuss it before praying together.

Then I get on twitter. I’m the curator of the @mh_voices account this week. It’s time to start the #mhteaparty. We gather to drink tea and see how the day has gone.

How not to be…a nurse

A few months ago I was referred for Phototherapy for my eczema. Thanks to a cancellation I got to start the treatment almost immediately. 10 weeks of going to UV light therapy 3 times a week in increasing doses – Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. My assessment appointment was on the Tuesday. The treatment was explained to me by nurse from overseas, who was lovely and friendly but whose English wasn’t totally clear. She was the main assistant to the main phototherapy nurse. She was lovely, showed me around and talked me through an out of date, badly photocopied handout, correcting some of the details along the way as there is now new research.

On my first session I walked in and was told me to go into the changing room, take all my clothes off and put on a hospital gown with then opening to the front. All my clothes off!! That hadn’t been communicated to me at the assessment appointment. I didn’t know what to do. 2 weeks after my last period, my period had unexpectedly started. I didn’t know what to do. I indicated to the overseas nurse I had a query, but she was in a hurry to get the next person into the phototherapy machine. I came out my cubicle to ask the main nurse what to do. I was hurried back into my cubicle and told that you aren’t allowed to come out unless given permission. I tried to explain I’d started my period. I was told that for the privacy and dignity for the other patients we are expected to remain in our cubicle. Once I had my answer, I waited in my cubicle until called to go into the machine, tears falling silently down my cheeks, feeling told off. That’s not how to be a nurse.

How to be a nurse though – a bank nurse was filling in  – I walk in, she says,”My name is Marianne, I’m here to cover for R”. Such a tiny thing to say, but it meant such a lot.

How not to be…the vicars PR man!!

On Monday I went to our PCC (Parochial Church Council) meeting 1.5 hours late. No I wasn’t avoiding the finance report!! I was waiting until the tears stopped long enough for me to walk into the meeting without bursting into tears again.

I am privileged that each evening when there is a PCC meeting, there is a family from church that have me round for dinner. It is our pattern of keeping in touch. Their girls are wonderful, friendly and chatty. The dad upset me at the end of the summer term. Once again he brought up church. The conversation ended with him telling me I was so negative about everything about church, followed by me driving to a friend’s house in tears. He seems to feel that if he always paints a great picture of our church, then it is great. He doesn’t listen to or acknowledge the numerous people who are not learning anything at church, are feeling unsupported and are one the verge of burning out!! After that event, I have felt wary of him. I considered not taking communion for a time, as I decided whether I could forgive him. I haven’t seen him all summer. Today I couldn’t avoid him. I guess he could see there was something not quite right as he suggested me talk about church, together with his wife.

He started by saying we know the vicar isn’t good at X Y and Z as if that justifies everything. I asked him to re-frame it and tell me what he is good at. He couldn’t. He preached at me that I had a “bitter root”. He said that as I wouldn’t name the people I can see that are struggling in our church with not learning, not being supported and some even on the edge of burn out I was exaggerating it all. Yet later went on to name all the other people in our church who have become bitter in our church, the implication that some have stayed and been troublemakers and that others have left.

As the tears rolled down my cheeks he said that the tears we cos of the pain I feel about church…is it??

I told him that I felt it is pretty poor pastoral care to email a parishioner to see how they are 4 months after they go off sick and actually meet them 9 months later. He said that when he had depression the vicar only visited once and he didn’t expect him to visit any more than that. He told me he knew how I felt, having had depression himself!! No you do not know my story. I can’t imagine what depression was like for you, but you had a wife next to you to support you, to bring in some income, to put food on the table for you. I had to do what I could for myself. I lived on bread and butter for at least a month, ended up unemployed and have had months when I wondered how I would manage to pay the rent!! You justify the lack of pastoral care from the vicar by saying the vicar’s wife provided that for me instead. Firstly by employing a married vicar, does not mean you get 2 for the price of 1!! Secondly the vicar’s wife is my friend…plus while we would usually meet up once or twice a month as friends, this year we have met up a total of 3 or 4 times all year, that’s 9 months, so she blatantly isn’t the one tasked with providing pastoral care to me!! I complained my vicar often says the wrong things (e.g. how do you expect to get a new job, when you’re off sick – completely missing the point that I don’t have a husband to provide for me, and the welfare state is cruel!) The bloke tried to excuse my vicar by saying he was a man!! My mum and dad’s vicar is a man and messaged me to see how I was before I ever heard from my own vicar. The church leader at a local church is a man, one who looks a bit awkward at times asking, but always asks how I am when he sees me!

He refuted my ‘claim’ that people aren’t being taught anything, by claiming random older members of the congregation are…but with no evidence. He went on to slag off the previous vicar, a very evangelical vicar who preached the gospel message each week, apparently very ineffectively. Apparently its ok for a church to not be teaching its congregation, and for those who want to learn having to seek bible teaching elsewhere. It’s ok that the church only has 2 home groups – 1 full of families with babies and the other with grandparents but in the daytime – neither suited to a 30 something single woman who hopes to return to work. He also slagged off the charismatic churches that we all came from – the vineyard and new frontiers networks.

Anyway suffice to say I’ am fed up with him, my vicar and with church. I wrote how I imagine church 11 months ago and nothing has changed. The ‘top’ people get asked to do everything. Offers of help are ignored. There is never an announcement of opportunities to serve. Home groups are never advertised, leaving people feeling excluded. We’ve been  cramped in the church hall for a few years now while we work out how to reorder our church. People are adjusting their attendance to come less often as the hall is so cramped. Children are shushed! In the absence of space the Sunday school group is made up of kids from 4 – 14! People who aren’t depressed say they never learn anything. There is no vision, no direction, no decision-making, just the maintenance of a holding pattern. If we a school we’d be in a special measures. We are breeding discontent and alienation. The bloke told me that apparently Bishops aren’t interested in ineffective churches, just in the ones where the vicar is having an affair!! He also said that the vicar isn’t going to leave, but I’m not saying we need him to leave, just that he has some training holes.

I left and went to my friend’s house, literally to cry on her shoulder until I could get control of my tears. I texted a few PCC members to get them to let me know when the tea break was so I could join the meeting with the least interruption. I walked in 1.5 hours late to discover at least 4 other PCC members missing too. My friend, the church warden gave me a hug. Another friend asked if I’d been somewhere nice – which i replied I just needed to stop crying! The vicar asked where I’d been and when I told him said it might be good to meet up sometime so I can, “get it off my chest” but left it to me to email him. In his email reply he said,”Whether you should remain on the PCC is one for us to talk about, but as I’ve said before when you mentioned this, the decision is only yours. You have a responsibility to think it through. That thinking also includes reflecting on your responsibility to come to meetings or apologise if you don’t / won’t come or will come late.” I feel truly told off, but still stand by my decision not to walk in late  but at the earliest opportunity with tears rolling down my face and hijack the meeting. Since then (48 hours) I have not fallen asleep until 4am, cried myself to sleep, cried at other time in the day, felt like harming myself and lacked the motivation to be able to do things. Really is being part of a church worth it, if it makes you ill!!

Mental health problems are so difficult to understand. It is easy to see it as something that only happens to other people and other people’s friends and family. We form a stereotype of what people with mental health problems are like. By providing a snapshot of people’s lives, #adayinthelifemh helps to show how normal the lives are of people with mental health problems are, as well as how challenging and the whole range of experiences. The hope is that this range will go on to inform future service design.

#adayingthelifemh is a project to capture the lives of people struggling with mental illness on 4 set dates – November 2014, February 2015, May 2015 and finally August 2015. I have depression and anxiety which was diagnosed in 2008 after workplace bullying. I have been involved in every #adayingthelifemh to date. I have enjoyed being able to write a snapshot of a day in my life. It has also been fascinating to read other peoples posts to see how a handful of diagnoses can affect people in a variety of ways.

The last year has been a really difficult one for me. In July last year I was signed off with burnout and fatigue. After 9 weeks off I managed to return to work. However I became progressively more and more depressed, until after 12 weeks back I ended off signed off sick again in December. I haven’t been to work yet this year and in July I left my job. Being part of #adayinthelifemh has meant that throughout this episode of depression, I have snapshots of how I have been doing. My post in November 2014 shows how normal life can be with depression. The only hint to depression was getting up late, but there could be any number of other reasons for that. Writing in February showed me how ill I had become. I struggle to choose clothes, to cook, to concentrate on watching TV. In May I was a bit better, but I talk about the stresses of going to church and worrying about employment and benefits. It has been a great project to be involved with and I encourage you to either contribute a post on August 26th 2015 or check on the website at  and read some of the stories. The deadline for posting is September 1st 2015 at 2359.

Today is Sunday. My alarm goes around 0930. I hit the alarm several times, eventually getting up soon after 1000. I can’t be late to church again – I need to be there to show the church plans to the kids. I recently relapsed for almost a week after helping in Sunday School so have come of the rota. On Wednesday the church warden gave me the option to not come with her to show the kids the plans, but I insisted on doing it, after all it was only going to be for 10 minutes and I wouldn’t be the leader for the session. In the last 24 hours I started to worry about the effect it might have on my mental health and I text the church warden from under the covers – to see if she can show them the plans without me, but crossed wires means I end up agreeing to do it with her still. Recently I seem to be consistently late to church as getting up out of bed is such a struggle. My anxiety is usually at its highest as I get up. I get there 10 – 15 minutes late, but thankfully before the kids go out to Sunday School. We are currently meeting in our hall while we think about changing the inside of the church.  We go out with the kids, walk them around the church to tell them what the plans are. I tell them to come to me during the coffee to write down their comments. We slip back into church – once again I’ve missed most of the sermon…last week I missed most of the sermon cos I arrived 25 minutes late!!

Over coffee I try to catch most of the kids, offering them the opportunity to comment on the plans. A few people ask me how I am, but I’m distracted so just say I’m fine. My close friend talks to me – I am anxious and agitated, I don’t feel right. She can tell I’m not right. Over the last 24 hours I have been quite anxious about going into Sunday School and about my employment. I have been off work with depression and anxiety since December. My current sick note runs out soon and I am back to the GP this week. My manager is leaving in the next few weeks as well and has asked to meet for a coffee. I don’t know whether I can go back as the organisation has caused me to burnout. I’ve taken my CV into a cafe but haven’t hear anything yet. I need to apply for jobs that I can do while continuing to recover. Statutory Sick Pay only goes on for 6 months and then you have to go onto Employment Support Allowance. File on 4 recently found that 80% of people with mental health conditions get kicked off ESA, so I’m not sure I want the stress…plus people say its best to go from one job to another. I’m also anxious as there is a letter from work…I haven’t opened it yet, preferring to wait until I feel I have the resources to deal with it. Another friend offers to come home with me, just to be there when I open it. We go home – the letter is just my P60!!

I didn’t put my bed away in the rush out the door…so I get under the duvet while I have lunch and watch iplayer. I know its not good for me, and I should lie on the sofa…but I stay put. I end up watching 3 episodes of Land Girls, 3 episodes of Larkin and Dales Takeaway Revolution and 2 episodes of Inside the Factory: How are Favourite Foods are made. I know I should be doing stuff, but I’m just so tired…anxiety is so tiring… In between watching iplayer I manage to update a website, start to design event invites and type up the kids comments on the building plans. I have baked eggs and yummy bread for my dinner, too tired to cook a proper meal.



In June, I decided to take photos of the sky each day. If I missed a day it didn’t matter, and there was no need to beat myself up about it. Over the month I started to notice the sky more. I still appreciate beautiful skies now. Taking photos of the sky got me noticing how green the city is, so in July I tried to take a photo of a tree each day. The other thing I started to notice was the man made buildings; so for August I’m taking photos of buildings and using the hashtag #Augustbuildings . One Twitter friend said this was an active form of mindfulness. I certainly know that “taking notice” is one of the five ways to well-being – 5 areas that are thought to be improve mental well-being. Do feel free to join me!!


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