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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!!

There is no them and us..anyonof us can find ourselves in need of the support of the welfare I discovered only this year


103,545 people on Facebook like “I hate benefit scrounging work shy bastards.”

What separates them from benefit claimants? One event beyond their control.

One departmental downsizing

One ruptured blood vessel

One car accident that you couldn’t prevent

One expected baby born with an unexpected disability

One company that suddenly tumbles into receivership

One slip, one trip, one fall on the ice, the rug, the pavement, the stairs, the shower

One bereavement you couldn’t get over

One rolling contract not renewed this financial year

One frail elderly parent you cannot bear to be cared for by strangers

One faulty gene triggered into rapid action

One unscrupulous employer who learns you are pregnant

One partner who was supposed to be “too young” for dementia

One paid job now done by an unpaid intern

One medical image confirming the worst

One mental health breakdown you never saw coming

One pension fund that didn’t…

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July 31st #Julytrees

An avenue of trees!


Trees in the London built environment






I’ve enjoyed taking photos of trees through July. For August, I think it’s going to have to be buildings. #Augustbuildings


Trees by a castle. (Ludlow)

Trees by the river Avon in Stratford. Love rivers!




Having to pinch myself that this is the view our of my friends house!! This tree looks heart shaped!