Support Errol who is raising vital funds for Harmless by running the 40 mile Ultra-Marathon

Errol was in a dark place, but he recovered with the help of his running club. Now he plans to run his first ultra-marathon (that’s 40 miles!) on Saturday 9th May, and he’s raising money for Harmless. We’re impressed, humbled, and extremely grateful.

Here’s what Errol has to say:

“Hi, my name is Errol. I am currently training to run the Dukeries 40mile ultra-marathon, the run is around Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. Although, as I’m finding out, ultras are all about finishing and not about times, I’m secretly hoping to get around in 7 hours. Just two years ago this would have been totally impossible, as up until January 9th 2018 I had not even began running.

The years preceding this point I had been lost in a battle with mental illness after quite a severe breakdown. This had taken everything from me, I had become a virtual recluse in my worst times. The side-effects of the medication had taken me over 20st. and due to self-medicating I had become addicted to alcohol.

Slowly and with much help I had started to turn the corner and was finding recovery, but it wasn’t until my teenage daughter called me fat and lazy in a teenage rant that I decided to try do something about how I had ended up physically.

In early 2018 I took up a running club’s c25k program. The first few weeks were horrid, both mentally and physically. I could barely run half a mile after two decades of very little cardio, but the support I got from the running club really helped get me going. I soon realized my recovery was going better the more I ran, so I took to doing it as much as I could. It’s been a fight all the way but one I have totally enjoyed. It’s a journey that’s helping me get good recovery and maybe helping me get back into the world.

I’m never going to be a great runner or a fast runner after the fights I have had, but after I learned what ultra-marathons were I just knew I wanted to test myself to find my limits and to get over them, and see some great countryside. If I can survive mental health battles and addictions why not try to push myself in something I’m beginning to love? And that’s helping save me

I was unsure about linking my first ultra to raising money for a charity, as I have become quite isolated over my illness and I was unsure it would go well, but I witnessed something on the way home the other day that was both extremely upsetting and sad to see, but also triggering to me and was a stark reminder of where the darkness can take people, especially concerning suicide.

Someone I know mentioned Harmless, and as soon as I looked into it I decided to try help if I could. It took ages for me to seek any kind of help, but without the help out there with mental health groups, therapy and my running club I wouldn’t be here today. I definitely wouldn’t be trying to run a 40mile ultra (gulp). The fact there are charities out there like Harmless will save lives. I just hope I can raise as much as I can for them.”

For more information about the race, go to www.hobopace.co.uk/dukeries-30-40/

If you’d like to support Errol and Harmless, go to www.localgiving.org/fundraising/my1stultra/ and help Errol smash his target!

The Day It All Went Wrong – A Story Of Strength

I stand on the brink of massive change again.  A feeling I know well enough, a feeling like I’m silently slipping without direction.  Although I am more used to it now the strength of my overwhelming emotions still completely flips me out and I am vulnerable once more.

Throughout my childhood and younger adult life I have experienced repeated trauma and abuse yet I somehow struggled through; an eternal optimist dreaming of a knight in shining armour who would rescue me and take me away from the life I had to live.  It was England in the 1980’s when children didn’t really have their own identity or rights.  I trusted in those I shouldn’t, some I should and an in an overwhelming connection to the earth through a universal purpose which seemed to somehow steer me away from adversity and into strength in the most unexpected ways.  I guess I was like a cat, but unlike a cat I seemed to have more than 9 lives!

It is this strength in adversity I wanted to talk about and I have wanted to share this story for many years but currently only have the courage to do so anonymously through the shame I feel but then I ask myself why do I feel ashamed?  I was poorly; do we feel ashamed to have physical illnesses?  Why is mental health any different?  I am hoping that by sharing about my experiences it will encourage others and encourage me to keep sharing.  I went through hell but have come out with a story I can use to hopefully help others.  The brink I currently stand on is not created within me but in the happy occasion of securing a Peer Support Role on a female inpatient ward at a mental health hospital.  It is important to note here that any massive change can be challenging; even a positive one and in my new role I will be the person I wished I had during my admissions, a person who understands and who has the time to talk.

My negative experiences led me to become very poorly over and over again and I can’t remember how many times I survived lethal overdoses, self-harmed significantly or ran away and I’m sure the eating disorder voice in my head will probably never be silent.  I had many psychiatric diagnoses up to 2011 including anorexia, bulimia, post-natal depression and chronic recurrent depressive disorder.  I have also had physical health issues all my life; scoliosis, hypermobility, congenital rib defect and poly-cystic ovaries then more recently osteopenia, osteoarthritis and radiologically isolated syndrome!  However, although that list sounds exhausting I am amazingly well with it all and can still walk, do exercise and enjoy life! I have fostered an attitude for gratitude and an annoyingly positive attitude.  However, this story is focusing on the day it all went wrong…

I took my first overdose aged 16 and struggled with overdoses thereafter as well as eating disorders and physical self-harm.  My early 30’s (a couple of years after the birth of my second child) I started with hospital admissions, after more acute life trauma, and by the time 2011 came around I had been in and out of inpatient mental health wards more times than I’ve had hot dinners.  One admission lasted around 6 months and I was offered ECT (which hubby thankfully talked me out of).  Every time the tablets didn’t help I was shoved on more medication and at one point I was on around 6-8 different medications.  It was amazing that I managed as well as I did because I was, quite frankly, off my face.

It was around this time the osteopenia was diagnosed after I stood up, twisted my ankle and broke straight across the two leg bones; I was put in a cast.  However, once the two weeks were up they didn’t put me in another full cast but one that could be taken off and my leg could be washed.  Sounds fair enough but it completely freaked me out and I started having psychotic breaks and hallucinations so badly that I gave up hope and I threw myself down the stairs.

In A&E I waited, waited and waited some more; eventually being sent for a mental health assessment.  I had arrived at the hospital early afternoon, had refused to eat or drink and by the time I had been transported and assessed it was around 2am (12 hours later!)  I have no memories and no idea what I said to the Psychiatrist but he let me go home (after assessing me with just us two in the room).  My Mother begged him to keep me in but I must have convinced him, somehow, that I would be OK.

We got home, I went upstairs and went straight out of the window.

I had broken my entire spine and skull needing metal rods inserting and I had three massive bleeds on my brain.  I now know that I was having a complete psychotic break on the day it all went wrong.  I received no support coping with life after spinal surgery or brain injury and because I was mentally unwell for some reason that was the medical world’s main focus.  I didn’t even know the extent of my injuries until I asked for my records a few years ago and I still relive the trauma of the fall in my nightmares and the window remains locked.

Recovery was hard and especially harder on a mental health ward not geared at all for the physical and mental health fusion; no person centred care.  It took days to get the right bed, my clothes all went missing, I struggled to get food and carry drinks, to get washed (asking for a bowl of warm water was like asking for gold) and some staff were truly horrible to me; you get the picture.  The treatment was so neglectful that when I was discharged around 4 months later my back wound was still open and infected because the nurses wouldn’t listen to me and change the dressing more frequently.  Nearly every morning I woke up with my own infected puss against my back meaning clothes and sheets needed constantly washing and changing which I couldn’t do.  It was appalling, they wouldn’t listen to me and to discuss it all I would need to publish a book.

The reason I am sharing this story though is because many amazing things came out of this experience;

  • I finally got a proper diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder which eventually let me access Mentalization Based Therapy which has revolutionised my life
  • Fracturing my skull led them to see a white spot on my brain which led to my diagnosis of Radiologically Isolated Syndrome for which I receive medical support
  • The complaint I made meant my local hospital started a mental health liaison team onsite which is now being rolled out nationally as RAID teams. The same hospital are now opening a separate area in A&E for people with mental health with its own entrance
  • The metal rods inserted into my back will help me stand straighter for longer with respect to my scoliosis
  • Although it was hard I got to spend a year at home with my husband
  • I joined my local service user network and helped design the new mental health hospital for our area, I co-deliver training to professionals on Personality Disorder and I wrote a course for the inpatient Recovery College
  • I am a published author on a UK website’s mental health pages
  • Plus much, much more and as an eternal optimist – there is more to come!

I am passionate about mental health and helping develop better strategies and outcomes for people who are NOT JUST their diagnosis.  It shouldn’t have to escalate to the level my illness did in order to get the correct help and diagnosis.  I am 44 years old and I have BPD, dissociative disorder and an acquired brain injury, but I am also a musician, cook, wife, Mother of two and own a very fancy cat named Oliver (my motivational kitty).  I work part-time in the NHS, am a trained Nursery Nurse, have level 2 Mental Health and Counselling, worked abroad in my younger years and love days out by the sea.  Let’s not forget who we are and who our patients are because they forgot who I was when they treated me like an animal.  I’m here to tell them otherwise and fight for those who cannot speak up!

To me, the journey of the soul is about connecting, disconnecting and re-connecting with ourselves and the world around us in a deep and meaningful way, as many times as we need.  It’s OK to have days we hide and days we shine and it’s OK to be silent as well as speak.  Without the pauses there would be no melody to our tunes.  Thank you for reading about the day it all went wrong for me and how it led things going right.

Harmless is the Nevile Arms Charity of the Year 2020!

This morning our colleague Pippa visited the Nevile Arms in Kinoulton to meet with staff about the exciting news that they have made us their Charity of the Year. It’s a lovely local pub in a small village to the south-east of Nottingham which offers a friendly atmosphere, good food, and has a thriving community. Last year they held a vote on Facebook, and their followers overwhelmingly voted for us.

They say:

“In a society where more and more people are suffering from mental health problems, Raw Pubs Ltd are thrilled to announce that they are supporting Nottinghamshire social enterprise Harmless. Over the next 12 months we will aim to raise as much money as possible to help make a difference and raise funds for such a worthwhile cause.

As a business which serves a community, for some people, we may be the only people they see for days at a time! This is why, with the help of Harmless, we are planning to educate staff on the signs of mental health issues, suicide prevention and helping those at risk of self harm.

The next 12 months are going to be a really exciting time for Harmless and Raw Pubs to see what we can do in a partnership and try to help our community, as well as those who need the service Harmless provides.”

We are looking forward to returning there to talk about what we do, take part in their fundraising Music Quiz, and meet more of the staff and locals.

For more information about the Nevile Arms, see their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pg/NevileArmsKinoultonRP/

Thank you Happy Daze!

All of us here at Harmless & The Tomorrow Project would like to extend a big thank you to Alex and Craig Earley who run the Happy Daze shop in Beeston.

They have been doing some amazing fundraising in the form of a raffle over the past couple of months  to raise money for The Tomorrow Project.

They had a target of £500 but have totally smashed it to raise a fantastic £618 for our suicide prevention services!

Thank you to both Alex and Craig and to all those who purchased tickets for the raffle. Your amazing support really does help us to support more people in need and help us in our mission to save lives.

Want to know why you should get training with Harmless?

Harmless is a social enterprise. That means that we generate income to spend on social cause. Our social cause is saving the lives of people in distress.

Every day we see people who are at risk of suicide or who are contemplating ending their own life. We rarely get funding for this work.

Many years ago we had to decide whether or not we continue to try to save the lives of these people. The answer is obviously yes! However, in order to do so we have to make the money ourselves. This is why you should buy your training with our organisation. Not only does the training come with a high level of quality assurance and the content is responsive and useful; it actually saves lives. The money that we make through the sale of our training courses means that each day lives are saved.

So drop us a line and see how we can help you with your training needs whilst you see how you can help us to save the lives of those people who need us the most.

We look forward to working with you!

 

Email: training@harmless.org.uk

Phone: 0115 880 0281

A massive THANK YOU to Joey Collins and everyone involved

From everyone here at Harmless & The Tomorrow Project, we would like to extend our thanks to Joey Collins and all those involved in the mental health fundraiser which took place at Rough Trade in Nottingham last week.

The event brought together 5 music acts who put on a gig to support mental health and raise money for our services.

It is with support like this that we are able to continue supporting those in the community who need us most, helping us to create a brighter future for many.

The acts that performed on the night included:

The event helped to raise awareness of mental health while also raising money meaning we can help to support more people who self harm, are in suicide crisis or who have been bereaved by suicide. Your support really does save lives!

Introducing one of our new Therapists – Justina

Hi everyone!

My name is Justina and I joined Harmless team in October 2019 as a full-time therapist. I work in a Person-Centred way to provide psychotherapy to clients who are affected by self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

I thought I knew about the service before I joined Harmless, but it was just a tip of the iceberg. Although Harmless have limited resources, I have first-hand witnessed how our staff go far and beyond to support a wide range of clients. Providing therapy and project work for people who self-harm is just a small part of our job. I feel privileged to be a part of the small Harmless team and also belong to a much bigger team of suicide prevention officers, suicide bereavement support workers, mental health trainers, researchers, fundraisers, admins, and managers.

I particularly value the fact that Harmless is a user-led organisation that also provides bespoke training. This way, our clients are not only listened to and heard in therapy sessions, but they are also approached in person-centred way on a wider, organisational level. This is why I also believe in practice that is informed by research, and vice versa – practice that informs science by generating data from genuine lived experiences of our clients.

Here at Harmless, I am looking forward to supporting clients in therapy sessions and hoping to improve their experiences within the organisation by engaging in research, getting to know and cooperating with other services available in the area, collaborating with local and national organisations to drive change in the mental health sector.

I have learned a lot in just a few months of being here, and I am eagerly waiting to expand and deepen my knowledge much more in my future with Harmless!

Justina

‘You’re stronger than you think you are’ – One of our clients shares their journey towards recovery

I will never forget the date and exact time that my life imploded, 23 June 2018 at 2:55pm. My partner of 16 years came upstairs and looked perturbed, I followed him downstairs and asked if he was OK. “I can’t do this anymore” were the words that came out of his mouth “It’s over.”

Those words haunted me for a very long time, and still do to some extent. I would cry myself to sleep and wake up in tears with the words ringing in my ears. Whilst I didn’t initially move out of the home we had recently bought together, we lived separate lives and seeing him every day inevitably brought about much grief and anxiety.

I started to up my drinking and without warning, I spiralled very quickly and the inevitable happened, I took an overdose.

I woke up in an emergency room, hooked up to machines and cried when I realised what I had done, but more so that I had survived. Full of remorse and regret I went home and was visited by my local mental health team, who advised me that I needed help, but a psychiatrist appointment was two years away, and that I should consider going private. I wondered at the time how many people survive that two years.

The months that followed were tough, and as anniversaries came and went, my anxiety levels became worse and I made three more attempts. Thankfully I survived and am here to tell my story.

I was introduced to Harmless through a friend of a friend, who was seriously concerned about me. I went to my first meeting and met Katie. I don’t remember much about it, as I cried throughout and poured my heart out into the room. She sat patiently, never once interrupting and listened intently. I left Harmless that day, got in the car to drive to London for work, and cried again, but it was an outpouring of relief more than sorrow. I remember calling a friend and telling them that I’d made the first step to recovery.

Whilst the journey hasn’t been easy, the glimmer of a flickering light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel kept me going. I would visit Katie weekly, sometimes I would laugh and others I would cry, but she was there, listening and helping.

Since the New Year, I believe I have turned a corner. I have a new job; my confidence is higher, and I am enjoying life once again. Don’t get me wrong, there are bad days too, but I know what I must do now to escape that temporary dark place. I refer to the safety plan that Katie and I put together, I use distraction techniques she taught me, and I make plans to stay safe.

If it wasn’t for Harmless and the wonderful Katie, I wouldn’t be typing this today, and in simple terms I wouldn’t be here. I owe my life to this amazing organisation, and I will never ever forget that they saved my life.

Stay safe out there, and remember, it’s always OK, to say I’m not OK.

You’re stronger than you think you are.

Introducing Professor Tammi Walker – Speaker at our From Harm to Hope conference on 28th February 2020

Tammi is a Professor of Psychology at Teesside University. She is a Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Registered Senior Fellow with Advance HE and a mental health nurse by clinical background.

Tammi is the world’s leading authority on self-harm and suicide by women in prison and has published extensively on the topic. Her 2016 book Preventing Self-Injury and Suicide in Women’s Prisons (with Professor Graham Towl) is widely regarded as the most influential in forensic psychology.

At our conference on 28th February 2020, she will be presenting a session looking at ‘Women in Prison: Suicide, self-harm and the struggle for survival’.

If you are interesting in booking tickets to the conference, or would like further information, please visit www.harmless.org.uk/store/From-Harm-to-hope-conference-2020.

Or you can contact us by emailing admin@harmless.org.uk, or by calling 0115 880 0280.

Upcoming Catch up Cafe dates to be held in East Leake

Harmless & The Tomorrow Project will be running multiple Catch up cafe’s in East Leake over the upcoming months.
 
The catch up cafes are for those who would like to access some informal, drop in support from our service and for those who would like information about our service.
 
So whether you’d like some information on how we can support you or someone you know – if you’d like to come in and chat with a member of the team or to catch up with others – we will see you at the Catch up Cafe!
 
Upcoming dates:
 
For those aged 21 and under:
 
  • Thursday 23rd January 2020 – 11:30am to 12:30pm
  • Thursday 6th February 2020 – 3pm to 4pm
  • Thursday 26th March 2020 – 11am to 12pm
For those aged 18 and over:
 
  • Wednesday 29th January 2020 – 1pm to 2pm
  • Friday 21st February 2020 – 10:30am to 11:30am
  • Wednesday 11th March 2020 – 2:30pm to 3:30pm
These catch up cafes will be held in our East Leake office at: The Tomorrow Project, Unit 1, Lighting House, 3-5 Station Road, East Leake, Nottinghamshire, LE12 6LQ.