The sunshine after the storm: how panic gives way to calmness.

There’s something most people don’t quite understand about panic disorder. Days can become intense- completely dominated by panic or the fear of panicking. Although somewhat dormant, the anticipation that the latent panic within might erupt at any second brings about an atmosphere of unease in your daily life. It’s actually a defence mechanism, believe it or not. Anticipating disaster goes someway towards mitigating the real thing. The fog of panic looms then, omnipresent and overbearing, making the simple act of getting through the day just utterly exhausting.

Fortunately, every storm abates. It can take minutes, hours or days, but every tumultuous episode of panic eventually calms and melts away. For a person with panic disorder, the calming of the storm brings a unique serenity. This is the something that most people don’t understand. I struggle to explain the feeling even now, but I’ll try. When you spend a period of time feeling like you’re in constant danger- perceived, yes, but very real at the same time- relief feels like a thousand chains bursting off of you all at once. You can breathe without worrying about it being too deep or unregulated. No longer suffering from tremors and the myriad of physical symptoms that panic brings, a stillness begins to take over which brings you into a state of connectedness with the world around you. You’re no longer bound to the obsession with intense fear. You might even feel that life begins to slow down, allowing you to drink up the world and its many rich flavours. You may think of this as something akin to mindfulness, which isn’t actually untrue, but to transition from a world of perceived danger to a world of peace brings a relief that mindfulness can’t touch. If you know or support someone with this disorder, give them a combination of space and reassurance: Space to feel the panic and to move through it. Reassurance that the world around them is still very much real; maybe even a reminder to touch that real world and absorb its many grounding sensations. I can’t stress enough that panic detaches the sufferer from their senses. They may need gentle guidance to reconnect. This could include holding someone’s hand, perhaps squeezing it rhythmically; press their hands against an unfamiliar surface, like the cold floor beneath them; talk idly about something, giving the sufferer a chance to listen to something outside of their intense world; let the sufferer talk if they feel the need to, it may be a cathartic release which helps to keep them grounded.

After the storm has passed, thanks to your gentle support, a person suffering from a panic attack will experience the most beautiful sort of serenity. A calm day is relaxing, but the sunshine after a storm is euphoric.

Never be ashamed of messy recovery

I’ve had a panic disorder since 2014. After doing a lot of hard work, 2017 to now has been more or less stable. Panic attacks were relatively few and far between, and those extremely invasive thoughts that brought about my panic cycles were pretty well-controlled. There have been many dips on this road- periods where old intrusive thoughts have started to take root in my mind again. Killing those roots takes time, deliberate mental work and lots of patience. As hard as it is, I’ve done it many times now.

Recently, my panic disorder has been at its absolute strongest. Following a totally random attack in December 2021 that saw me in the back of an ambulance, intrusive thoughts have rooted themselves very firmly in my mind. I’m in a different position to where I was in 2014. I’m a teacher, so time isn’t anywhere near as sparing. External (and sometimes internal) stressors are much more abundant and that adds difficulty to recovering again.

The real elephant in the room here is a particularly pernicious group of thoughts I’ve been having: what’s wrong with me? Why have I gone backwards? Will I find my way forwards again? For a little while, they had some very strong roots too. That’s because those thoughts elicit a feeling of shame. I’ve worked so hard on my mental health, and now I’ve “failed” and I’ve “gone backwards.” I start comparing myself to other people who are hard at work on themselves and because I’m not taking great leaps forward, this must mean I’m fucking up. I have perceived a mental downturn as a failure and something to be ashamed of. However, this isn’t the case at all. This is something I’ve hard to learn all over again. The resurgence of my panic disorder has taught me some valuable lessons already. I’ve learned some more of my limits, have better understood where my triggers come from, and I’ve even seen the foundations laid by previous successes. I went for a run yesterday. Picture this: I’ve just spent the last fortnight wrestling with the concern that every heart palpitation, every flutter, every sensation at all, must be a sign that I have some undiagnosed heart problem. So I go for a run and thus experience the most bizarre mix of feelings. I feel euphoric because I haven’t died (and my 5k time hasn’t really changed that much) whilst also feeling full-on panic because something might go wrong at any moment. This brought back some old therapy lessons for me, which have actually worked a treat and have helped me to begin unrooting my intrusive thoughts. I’ve also got the experience of doing this many times. I’ve been through it before, so I’ll come through it again. All of these realisations come about through deliberate reflection, which is a skill I’ve been working on for a while now. My past experiences have given me supports to work through a difficult period, but the constantly evolving person of right now is developing new ways of using those experiences. I challenged myself deliberately after taking time to work with and rationalise my intrusive thoughts: it is literally the combination of old and new. Having a downturn, then, isn’t a failure. It’s a part of the journey. You experience the downturn as a different person, with different thoughts and outlooks, and different methods for coming back. Downturn is a chance for further growth. It’s an opportunity. It doesn’t always feel like that though. It feels like shit. It only feels like this because I’m deliberately reflecting on it right now. So it’s essential to make sure you do take a step back. Pause and remember that downturn is just natural as the sunrise; you have a growth opportunity in front of you, so long as you hold firm to the knowledge that you will pull through.

Nick

Losing.

I was about to start with “where do I even begin?” 

It’s been a fair while and there’s a lot to say, but talking is bloody hard. I guess I’d better just plant my flag and get started.

I’ll put the flag down on a big spot: the end of my relationship. I was in a relationship with a wonderful woman from March 2021 to mid-October of the same year. She really was great. She knew me, she adored me, and she wanted a future with me. We had a good thing going, with plans to see her home in Australia and to eventually move to the seaside town Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. It was without doubt the strongest romantic connection I’d ever had with somebody. We’d started dating virtually during during the second lockdown that began shortly before Christmas in 2020, eventually going on to see each other physically when I returned to Essex from Manchester. That was a really special time. She once kitted out the back of her car to turn it into a makeshift home cinema for us both. To showcase just how well she knew me and cared for me, she she made an ‘open when’ set of envelopes for me. I still have all those things sat about a metre away from me. Honestly, I thought I’d found that elusive ‘one’. Unfortunately, despite all the amazing things we did together, it didn’t work out because I pissed the whole thing away. 

I’m hesitant to share the parts of myself that I think people won’t like. I’m deeply frightened of conflict, so much so that I tend to freeze up and completely disengage when it does arise. So, I didn’t communicate anywhere near as much as I should have done. If something bothered me: a conversation we’d had, feeling a little too tired to do something, I didn’t say because I thought these things would lead to a problem. I wasn’t always honest, either. I talked up a good game at the start, setting out not just who I thought I was but also what I wanted to be. I didn’t hold up to those ideals very well because I hid a piece of information that I thought would damage the relationship, which immediately damaged her trust in me. I was dishonest again, later. That fear of conflict and of causing damage eventually caused way more damage in the end. She did communicate. She was honest. she was committed to growth within the relationship and to working on the more negative aspects of ourselves together. For me, this was scary and overwhelming. I didn’t have the maturity to recognise that the person in front of me was willing to accept me as I came, just as long as I was up-front. The worst part of this is that I made her feel in the end that she was a bad person, that she’d put me under pressure and held me back. She never did any of those things. Were there tough moments in the relationship? Absolutely. However, I didn’t recognise the growth that was going on and didn’t accept myself as I truly was. I was working against the grain, failing to see that she was trying to reach out, connect, and grow.

If you were to ask me right now if I missed her after these mounting months I would say yes, I miss her enormously. There hasn’t been a day where I haven’t thought about her. I didn’t recognise it straight away because I threw myself into work and the gym as soon as we broke up, but around mid-December it hit me. Right now, I’m just doing what I can to move through it. I’m holding myself under a microscope and I’ve started the messy business of deliberate self-improvement. I’m proud of myself for doing that. I hope it leads to a happier life, makes me a better friend and eventually makes me a better partner. I often wish I could go back in time to change how I went about things in my relationship. That however, is the curse of hindsight, isn’t it? We can only work with what we have in front of us and must commit to constantly being a better version of ourselves instead of wishing we could make our past selves behave and think differently. That being said, it would be nice to see her again someday. I hope she’s doing well, still making music, still doing her morning pages, pulling good cards, enjoying her new school and having plenty of adventures.

Time to put the flag down on the shaky isle of mental health. Sounds like a nightmare land from a Lemony Snickett book. About a month ago now, I was en route to London to have Christmas dinner with my friends, when I started having a panic attack whilst crossing Tower Bridge. For anyone unfamiliar with what panic attacks are: these are severe bouts of intense, sudden fear. It could be a fear that you are about to die, faint, lose your mind or about something generally catastrophic. Panic attacks are psycho-somatic, so terrified thoughts are often accompanied by strong physical symptoms. These two feed off each other: the more intense your physical symptoms, the more you panic about them, which leads to your symptoms getting worse in-turn. By the time I had arrived at the pub, I had completely dissociated from the world around me. My friends were talking to me, and I could hear them, but I felt detached from reality. Sitting down in the pub, I think I had so much adrenaline coursing through me that I could have filled a few pint glasses. That adrenaline causes so many problems, not least of which are intense rushes across your chest that makes you feel like you’re about to die. Flash forward about 15 minutes and I’m sat on a street corner, my (obviously very concerned) dad on the phone to me, my friends around me- holding my hands and offering reassurance that I wasn’t dying. I had pins and needles in my extremities, my breathing was deep and laboured, and wave after wave of crushing fear just kept pummelling me. Eventually, I found myself in the back of an ambulance. Check-ups confirmed I was okay, but letting go of that trauma is so very difficult. 

I’ve had a short break in writing since the end of this last paragraph. Fortunately, I’m coming out of a bad spell with the panic. It was really rough for a few weeks. Random panic attacks came up at literally any time! I was even teaching and felt one rising up in me. God knows how I got through that. 

So, this is where I’m at right now. I lost the person I loved because of my own immature actions and thought processes and went seemingly back to square one with my panic disorder. Oh, I had covid again as well; exactly a year since the first time, actually. You might say I’m at a very low point and I’d agree. I’m finding my way without her whilst rebuilding my mental health from the ground up. It’s not easy-going, but something I’ve learned recently is to focus on one thing at a time. In the end, those small wins mount up. I just know one thing: I want to be better.

-Nick

Relapsing: why it’s so horrible, but doesn’t have to beat you.

Just before I start, a couple of trigger warnings: Panic attacks pop up, and I refer to someone experiencing suicide ideation.

To anyone smart enough not to read this blog, I’ll just give you a very quick origin story: I have a panic disorder. I was diagnosed with it in 2014, recovered mostly by 2016/17, and from then on it’s been kind of an up and down story. For those strange folk who actually read these, firstly… Why? Secondly, I’m sorry for mentioning I have a panic disorder for the 20th time this week.

I wanted to write a short ramble about relapsing, why it’s not going to be the end of your journey, and why you’re an absolute boss and you’ve got this.

You don’t need to have suffered from a mental illness to experience a relapse, though usually to relapse means you were already at a pretty low point once before. Relapses can be mild, right the way through to severe, depending on the starting point/ the catalyst etc. The main thing is is they can quite easily represent what feels like a personal failure. You’ve worked so hard to get to where you are now mentally that when a relapse occurs it really does feel like you’ve just slipped on the Bowser’s banana right before the finish line. I’ve wrestled a little bit with this recently when my panic attacks started to become more frequent and random again. I usually experience them at night but lately the physical symptoms have popped up at random points in the day. I even felt a surge of adrenaline across my chest the other week while I was doing the dishes. It really is a jarring experience and it has made me question the efficacy of the strategies I’ve used to keep my panic at bay. I rationalise my symptoms, attempting to box them off as something non-threatening. This removes their power over me, and whilst they’re still there I begin to feel a degree of separation. It’s like sitting in a cloud above the storm, watching it rage but feeling mostly unaffected by it. Lately that hasn’t been the case, I’ve been caught up in that storm more often than I’d like to be. Not only have I questioned how powerful my strategies are, I’ve even allowed myself to wonder if this is a permanent decline. Note the language there. Decline? Permanent? Relapse can conjure up a malign, vampiric mental narrative that attempts to persuade you that you’ve reached a point of no return. It’s your job when you experience it to push back against that thought.

Let’s have a look at what recovery actually looks like, and this will lead us into the next part of this ramble.

There you have it. My definitive, infallible representation of what recovery looks like. I drew it myself and I’m really proud of it.

Recovery can be seriously messy and it looks different for everyone going through it. Some people, amazingly, experience lots of nice ‘up’ curves on their recovery journey, maybe a few little downturns or plateaus, but generally they stay good. Me, my recovery curves look a bit like the French Alps. Recovery happens over time, but don’t let the linear aspect fool you into thinking that time=constant, steady improvement. It doesn’t. All kinds of changes happen to us over time, like moving house, starting a new job, gaining and losing people, going through an unprecedented global pandemic that’s forced you to stay indoors all the time, you name it. All these changes produce reactions in us, and that’s okay. Sometimes you might start a scary new job, end a friendship, experience major changes to your daily routine, the list goes on. I hate to bring Covid-19 into it, but one thing I’ve really struggled with is the change of routines. I don’t adapt very well to change in the short-term. Another one for me is that I currently have quite a stressful living situation, so much so that it has triggered a lot of anxiety and panic for me. All these variables can come in and impact your life. I’m very fortunate in that I am actually okay. I am very thankful for the amazing people I have around me. The support and gentle challenge they give me keeps me on-track and I am still mostly in a good place. I am just experiencing a lot more anxiety and panic than I would usually. However, these things currently impacting me will eventually fade away.

Sometimes, relapse occurs just because something has changed mentally. Different currents of thought or perhaps new triggers can shift the mental dynamic around, causing an imbalance and then a relapse. I think those are particularly scary because it feels very internal, under your control and as a result, your mistake. But as I said earlier, relapses can bring about all kinds of horrible mental chatter. I want to talk about someone I find really inspiring. He’s a divisive figure and I understand why, but Tyson Fury really epitomises what I’m trying to say here. Take a man, make him heavyweight champion of the world, then see him sucked into a such a relentless void that there seems to be no escape. He sank into heavy drink and drug abuse, lost his titles and even contemplated suicide. To get back up to where he is now required a huge effort, like literally having to push through mental walls with rigorous routine. He’d walk, then run, then got the gloves back on and slowly started to re-build. Slowly.

The world is very intense and will hurl triggers at you daily. It’ll also try to wear you down in far more ways than I have time to go through. You mustn’t see a relapse as a personal failure, and you definitely can’t let yourself see it as a point of no return. Your recovery journey is long, possibly lifelong, and as with any journey you have to learn how to stay on the path you’ve chosen. If you go too fast or hard, the wheels come off. If you go wayward, remember where you started and be proud of just how far you’ve come. Yes you might be struggling right now, you might feel like you’ve just taken two steps forward and three steps back, but you’re further than where you were to begin with. At the very least, you’re wiser and more experienced in your personal journey. To quote a very wise master:

“The greatest teacher, failure is.”

– Yoda

Be kind to yourself. You’ll find your way back again with time, rigour, and patience.

Read this if your mental health deteriorated in lockdown

It’s day 1000 of the millionth week of lockdown. The last time you wore jeans was to buy snacks from the supermarket. In fact, you already had heaps of snacks at home but you needed desperately to get out of your joggers and to feel normal again.

You’ve woken up today with this inexplicable sense of malaise. No matter where you go in the house, each room brings with a sense of annoyance. When was the last time you went for a walk? What did I even do for myself before all of this?

Despite the fact it’s Saturday night, you’ve turned your phone over to ignore your friends. You haven’t properly seen any friends now for days, maybe weeks, but you just can’t summon the energy to reply to anyone anymore.

You might have experienced some of these, or not. You might be sitting wondering now if your mental health has declined during the lockdown, and if so, what has it looked like for you? Begrudgingly, I’ve had to accept a lot of losses throughout this period. From 2017-2019, I’d really gotten into shape. I’d held a talk on mental health at my university, and to a lot of people on the outside I must have really looked like I’d cracked it. I myself probably perpetuated this myth by only ever sharing the wins on social media. During the lockdowns of 2020-21, I’ve slowly come to realise that there’s no more running away from the losses that have come my way. You’ve probably already guessed it but all three scenarios at the top have happened to me at some point during all this.

I look at myself in the mirror a lot more than I used to, aware that my body is a reflection of my mental state. I don’t much like what I see. I build myself up to start a positive routine again, but my mind right now would rather grapple with the weight of my excuses than grapple with actual weights. Plus, there aren’t actually any weights to grapple with these days. I view myself at one and the same time as a victim of forced circumstances and a shadow of what I used to be. Instead of taking action, it’s easier sometimes to contemplate where the blame lies for my own stagnation.

Then again, how do you take positive action for yourself when the world feels upside down, nothing makes sense, and the pubs are still bloody closed. My situation is markedly different from some of my wonderful friends and family who have made great strides for themselves during all of this. And there are people worse off than me, too. As I go further along, I’ve began to see this as a journey. Previously, I’d seen my recovery from panic disorder and subsequent revival as a linear path. I’d been at the bottom, built myself back up, and surely I would just stay there? Absolutely not. I haven’t hit bottom again, far from (luckily), but I’m definitely not where I was. Sometimes I pick up again, building momentum until Boris Johnson comes onto the TV to blunder through another reminder that life is really shit at the moment. Sometimes I genuinely just lose the motivation to do anything, purely because I’m tired. You see how I can’t pin the blame for my stagnation on any one thing? I’ve given up trying now. I now try to take it one day at a time, embracing every success that comes my way. My success for today was waking up at 5:45am and doing 10 minutes of skipping in the cold.

Everything is a mess, nothing makes sense, and it is absolutely fine if you’ve suffered a decline in your mental health during all this. You might look at yourself now and wonder ‘why can’t you be this person again?’ But that person lived under a totally different time. If, like me, you’re a bit unsure where to start again, just do one thing tomorrow that you couldn’t today, and then you’re back on the right path… just this path is on fire right now and is covered in spikes so don’t be too hard on yourself if you jump off sometimes.

And your friends still love you even though you’ve been a bit distant.

How to deal with a panic attack

I’m pretty sure I’ve already written something along these lines before, you know? I think we can agree this means I must be out of ideas, since I’m now resorting to a 2020 remake of something that was probably better the first time around. Ah well, I can justify the existence of this blog post with two excuses:

  1.  I’m bored
  2. I’ve learned a fair bit about my mental health since 2018, and I can hopefully offer more advice for someone looking to manage their panic attacks

This one is going to be quite specific, yes. I’ve noticed in previous posts that I can spread myself too thin trying to address as much as possible in my posts. This post is just about panic attacks and how I manage them. If the title didn’t tell you that already, then this certainly does. If this doesn’t then I’m afraid all hope is lost for you. 

If I do discuss having panic attacks, it’s purely to establish some context. If you’re here reading this then I presume you’ve had a panic attack before and absolutely don’t need a reminder of what they feel like. 

Accept that it’s happening

As humans we are pretty much hardwired to resist anything negative that’s happening to us.  After all, you wouldn’t put your hands down in a fight and happily let the other person beat you up would you? Having a panic attack is quite different to having some external shitness imposed on you in that it’s quite outside of your control for the most part. Your natural response when this happens is to get worked up because no matter what you do you can’t stop the rush in your chest, you can’t stop the trembling, nor the sweats or the feeling of impending death when shit really hits the fan. The thing is though- and you probably already know this- but getting angry and worked up at the fact it won’t stop is just going to make it worse. Panic is cyclical. It begins with anxiety, then physical symptoms, then worry about those physical symptoms comes and before you know it, you’re locked in a very deadly cycle. Stress, anger, and resistance towards what is happening to you will keep you in that cycle for much longer. These emotions can lead to your heart rate staying up, they keep your breathing deep and strained, keep your jaw clenched and generally do a good job of keeping you in a state of tension. 

It sounds almost weird to say but the most immediate thing you should do when having a panic attack is to stop resisting it and just let it happen. It’s not your fault that it’s happening, unfortunately it just is what it is. No amount of added stress is going to make it go away, so be aware of any anger you’re feeling at yourself or towards the situation and try to let that go. The key I think to getting through a bout of panic is to eventually get to a place in your mind where you can become a spectator of your own thoughts. It becomes less about fixating on all that’s going on in your head and more towards watching thoughts pass by like clouds in the sky. That doesn’t mean you don’t still feel the panic, but you’re not as sucked up into it. This all starts with accepting that this is happening to you and that it’s okay that it is. 

Focus on your breathing

When you have a panic attack, 9/10 times you’ll be breathing quite deeply and irregularly. By doing this you’re going to keep some of the physical symptoms of panic going. When you take those big deep breaths you’re giving your heart a lot of work to do. Your heart rate will absolutely stay sky high, and that’s not a nice feeling at all. Not only that but taking deep breaths puts a lot of strain on the intercostal muscles between your ribs. That’s often where the bulk of the chest pain comes from during a panic attack. Myself personally I’ve found chest pain and an elevated heart rate to be the two most alarming symptoms. Their presence often leads to me catastrophise the situation, so there’s a strong case for working around them. 

It’s quite weird, but physical symptoms actually have quite a significant impact on your state of mind and vice-versa. Understanding this psycho-somatic relationship is quite important for managing panic attacks. Imagine how you might start to feel if your chest pain were to slowly diminish, and your heart rate gradually slow? Managing the physical symptoms can actually begin to temper the panicking in your mind. 

As soon as you become aware of your breathing, it’s time to make sure it isn’t so deep and/or irregular. I like to practice rhythmic breathing. It ensures that your breathing is steady and shallow. It also gives your mind something else to focus on. I would really recommend looking it up, but I tend to breathe in slowly for 3 seconds, and then breathe out for 5 seconds. Do this for as long as you need to. Over time, you’ll notice your heart rate beginning to slow down. Breathing rhythmically will relax the pressure on your intercostal muscles and ease those feelings of tightness or any aching going on. The process does take time, but it can help you to slowly release yourself from the panic cycle. If your body is in that fight or flight state, then surely your mind will be. However, if your body begins to relax then so the mind will begin to follow.  

Do a body scan

Now this one does apply more to when you’re indoors perhaps. Nonetheless, I find doing a body scan quite useful. During a bout of panic, you might notice that you seize up in some areas. For me, I notice that my jaw clenches down quite hard. Your body reacts in a similar way to how it does when you’re stressed, really. Areas become quite tense because you’re in the fight or flight state. Your body is ready for action even though you might be lay down trying to get some sleep. Doing a body scan involves actively thinking about each part of your body from head to toe, making yourself aware of any aches, pains, seizures, really any feeling at all. It’s just making yourself aware of it that is important. Often in the heat of it all you don’t realise just how tense you are. You’re likely more rigid than a wooden ruler, but that’s an afterthought when you’re focusing on not losing your mind really! All the same, it’s important to become aware of how your body is reacting to your panic state. Again, it’s worth doing some research into this, I think. By scanning your body, you can consciously relax areas that are stressed. For me this involves relaxing my jaw, and near enough instantly sometimes this can bring you some ease. By focusing just on the physical sensations, you’re also distracting yourself from what’s going on in your mind. Of course, you won’t always get this right. I often get to my shoulders and then get right back to business wondering if that adrenaline rush was the beginning of cardiac arrest or not. You just have to keep bringing yourself back to it when you can. Again, a large part of dealing with a panic attack is simply accepting what’s happening rather than becoming stressed that it won’t just go away. 

Anyway I hope those do help. Panic attacks are horrible, and even quite debilitating at their worst. There will be many times when the above tips or any other strategies you know of just don’t work at all and that’s okay. They definitely don’t always work for me either, because at the end of the day a panic attack is difficult to manage. Just be kind to yourself by trying to accept that this is just the way it has to be for a short while, and that it’s not your fault it won’t go away. 

-Nick

Things I learned from my QTS year

As I sit down to write this I must include a bit of a disclaimer: I’m not a wise old sage. I’m an NQT teaching in Thurrock, Essex. I’ve just finished my QTS year with Teach First and now that I have some energy back I’m feeling somewhat ready to share some of my experiences, what I’ve learnt from them, and how this could help new incoming teachers.

Of course each teacher experiences their first year differently. I want to say before I begin that I don’t intend for this to be the most relatable piece of writing. It comes directly from my own experiences most of all, some of which may be different to what you will experience in your first year. However, I will try to make each thing I say as widely-applicable as I can. Goodness, now I have to figure out where to start. It’s a good thing I’m better at planning lessons than I am at blog posts.

1) Nail the basics first

There’s a running joke that teachers don’t teach for the salary- and it’s true- we absolutely do not teach for the money. We teach because we want to make a difference for the children and communities we serve. This is of course wonderful, and I’ll talk about holding onto your ‘why’ later on but for now I just need to say that it’s easy to get swept up in doing too much at once. I wanted to make as big an impact as I could as soon as I could, and this led to me neglecting a couple of basic but essential aspects of my practice for some time. As much as you will want to make a difference, it’s important to keep your feet firmly on the ground in your trainee year. Listen to your mentor and any other support roles, reflect on your practice as often as possible, and stay focused on making sure you have nailed all the basics.

By the basics I mostly mean everything relating to the teaching standards. You need to be able to manage a room full of up to 30 children, maintaining a good climate for learning and one where children feel nurtured and supported. You need to be able to plan good lessons taking into consideration the needs of your children and what you know about their prior knowledge. You need to show you have high expectations and can back all of this up with evidence. I can’t say it any more, make sure you can teach before you start changing the world.

All this considered, this doesn’t mean you should robotically pursue the teaching standards. Your first year is all about figuring out the kind of teacher you are. It’s a time to read, observe, practice and reflect. You get to chart your own path in some ways, but just keep your feet on the ground and remember that there is plenty of time to make a wider impact; you just need to have secure foundations before you do this.

2) Understand your school’s behaviour policy

As part of my initial training I was immersed a lot in the work of Doug Lemov and I’d recommend you read his book ‘Teach Like a Champion’. It’s a real gem and contains practical guidance for all the core areas of teaching. One of his techniques is called the ‘Art of Consequence’. This essentially means that you must be prepared to follow through on what you say at all times. I can’t get behind this enough, you need to be prepared to back up your warnings. The best way to do this is to know the ins and outs of your school’s behaviour policy. Every school does it differently and it’s essential you know which consequences you can actually lay out. Of course you blend this in with opportunities to fix bad behaviour, but the key point is you can’t make threats that can’t be followed through. Children are highly perceptive and will soon figure you out. Better to be known for your consistent, determined approach to behaviour than your erratic, inconsistent one. As the classroom teacher of course you set the climate and ‘make the weather’ as Sir Jon Jones would say. There’s plenty of room for your individual approach to building a classroom environment. However, you must be prepared to present realistic consequences in line with your school’s behaviour policy.

3) Make a good impression

Before I get cracking on this one you need to buy ‘The Unofficial Teacher’s Manual’ by Omar Akbar. It perfectly encapsulates the do’s and dont’s in teaching and what I am about to say just echoes some parts of that book. Seriously, just stop reading this blog here and go pick up a copy of that book.

When I say make a good impression I absolutely don’t mean bend over backwards to make sure everyone likes you. Your main reason for being in the building is to provide an education to your pupils. In that building however will be practitioners with leagues more experience than you (that’s a good thing!) There will also be teaching assistants who may well know things about your children that you don’t, and cleaners who can make your whiteboard nice and shiny for you. If you are able to make a good impression in your school the good things will certainly come your way, not least because you will spend a lot of time with these people. Surely then it’s better to get along than not?

Another key part of making a good impression is getting to grips with your school’s “email culture”. Again, Omar Akbar’s book tackles this topic really well but I’m just going to offer up some experiences from my first year. I learned fairly quickly that when someone wants something done ASAP they might CC (carbon copy) a relevant- or sometimes even irrelevant- member of SLT into the email. This is because said member of SLT will see the email and therefore you can’t really shirk it. It’s an infuriating thing people do when they want something doing. Don’t be this person. This next one depends on the email policy of your school, but in mine there isn’t really a restriction on when emails can be sent. If you fall into this latter group, I wouldn’t advise sending out-of-hours emails unless your head is about to roll off your shoulders. Even then, consider the merits of super glue before you send the email. I’ve had people asking me to do things the next day when really the email could have waited until the next day. People will just appreciate you a lot more if you email during work hours.

4) Hide your whiteboard markers

That’s it. That’s the tip. They’ll get stolen otherwise. Keep them locked well away in Gringotts bank, vault 711.

5) Treasure the little moments

I hope I’m right in saying that you decided to go into teaching for either of the following two reasons:

1) You like children

2) You want to give children a good education

Of course those aren’t the only two reasons for becoming a teacher, but most teachers usually in some way point to one of those when asked why they signed up for a life of constant tiredness.

When you teach in a primary school you will see the same children every day for around 6 hours. That’s a lot of time to spend with the same bunch of children. Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when all you want to do is hide under your desk with a teddy and dream about the last holiday you had while your children ruin tables with paint. I forgot to put any sort of protective covering on my tables the first time I gave my Year 3 class time to paint. Let’s link this back to point 3; the cleaner did not have a good impression when she came into class after school on that day. Please don’t be like me, get some table covers. I go on a lot of tangents, I do apologise. On afternoons like paint-gate, I may have been stressed out of my mind but my children couldn’t wait to show me what they’d made. They will want to show you everything they make, because they’re children and they want to be validated. They’ll make you little gifts from home, too. I’ve got a box containing a growing collection of gifts from my first class. I made a point of keeping them; when I got tired and downbeat I would sometimes look at them and that helped me to remember my ‘why’. You will have so many special times with the little people in your classroom; please take the time to cherish those moments. I remember my first school trip to Colchester Castle. My class were absolutely mesmerised by the things they saw. We tried on Roman costumes, they laughed at me wearing a helmet, and they were able to bring to life what they had learned in class. Seeing how happy those experiences make your children might just be some of the fuel you need to power through the hard times. Unfortunately you will have some of those.

6) Look after yourself

I really don’t like getting all sombre. I’m quite a light-hearted person generally, so writing things like this doesn’t come easily. However, it’s an important thing to share.

Towards the end of the year I completely burned out. I was writing an essay, compiling evidence for my QTS portfolio, planning for home learning and trying to keep myself sane. Unfortunately the keeping myself sane part slowly slipped down the hierarchy of things in my life. Brace yourself for the sombre bit: teaching is quite a consuming job, and if you let it it can take over your life. I mean this in a few ways. During the home learning period brought about by Covid-19, I didn’t plan my time effectively and ended up rushing non-school commitments like my essay. This led to a negative outcome. I really burned out under the load of work I had to do, but truth be told there were things I could have done. First and foremost, I could have asked any of my support roles for some help. I didn’t. I let myself get worked up quietly, to the point where the work I was completing for university just wasn’t what it should have been. Not only that, but I was getting tired and irascible with those around me. I began to neglect exercise, let my diet slip, and slept less. All of that was totally avoidable if I’d have just asked for some help. Do NOT be ashamed of asking for help when things get too much. As I said, teaching can very quickly become consuming, and it’s okay to reach out and ask for pragmatic workarounds to make sure you have that vital time to look after yourself.

Something I did do right (yay) was I made sure to have at least one evening completely away from work during each week. I wouldn’t dare look at my laptop. That time would be for me to do whatever on Earth I wanted. At first I actually found this quite tricky because I knew there were things still on my to-do list. However, you’ll soon learn that you will never have an empty to-do list in teaching. There’s always something to be done, and I think that can lead to a mentality of being over-productive. By taking that one night off a week I was able to gradually escape that guilt and soon those evenings became a real anchor for me. You shouldn’t ever feel guilty for looking after yourself. As important as your job is, do not ever let anyone tell you it’s more important than your health. That has to be my biggest takeaway from this year. And sometimes the person telling you work comes first is yourself, so you need to watch out for that.

Okay so that’s me. There’s probably more to be said but those for me are the main things to keep an eye out for when you start your career in teaching. Of course it’s different for absolutely everyone so there may well be things I’ve written here that don’t apply to you whatsoever. I would heavily recommend that you set up a teacher Twitter account and start following some practitioners. A good place to start would definitely be Omar Akbar. I really can’t sing his praises enough. Teacher Twitter or “EduTwitter” has been a real source of inspiration and motivation for me. It’s given me access to the wisdom of teachers with far more experience, and that is very valuable.

I hope you love your training year. Despite the difficulties I faced, I truly loved mine. I was lucky to have a great class with wonderful children and parents. As nervous as you may be about going into teaching during the uncertain times we find ourselves in, please just remember that there will be upto 30 little people who can’t wait to meet you. They will be a source of laughter, joy, frustration, and so much more. Go in there and make a difference.

Here’s a list of books you might want to check out, too:

  • The Unofficial Teacher’s Manual, Omar Akbar.
  • Teach Like a Champion, Doug Lemov.
  • The Rosenshine Principles in Action, Tom Sherrington.
  • Making Every Lesson Count, Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby.
  • Live Well, Teach Well, Abigail Mann.

Staying sane during the Covid-19 outbreak


Staying indoors

We all find ourselves in a position more novel than the coronavirus we’re trying to avoid: We have to stay indoors as much as we can. We’ve never been in this position before! How on Earth do we go from beer gardens to the back gardens we haven’t tended to in months? Many of us are either having to work from home or have been furloughed, leading to a very odd existence at home. As a teacher I have been working from home for the most-part, but of course right now it is the Easter break, so there isn’t a lot of work to do. I’ve found myself falling out of my sleeping pattern almost straight away. I reckon when the apocalypse comes the first thing to go won’t be the dumb friend in your group, it’ll be the need to wake up at 6am. A lot of the things we do naturally rely on us being away from home, be that the gym, going out for food and drinks, looking at shops etc. Now that we can’t do that we are all now having to create pretty much brand new routines. That’s hard, it’s draining, and it’s very easy to give up on. We can still get snacks from the supermarket but there’s very few reasons to be motivated to do much else. Creating a positive home routine is going to be tricky, but I think there’s a lot of positives to be gained from having a crack at it. At the end of the day a good routine will look different for each of us, but I think it’s useful to know what you might do in the event that the external activities you rely on suddenly disappear. There’s value in creating routines and rewards that are more intrinsic and don’t rely on things you can’t really control. So in that spirit I’m going to share the things I’ve seen people doing, and some of the things I’ve been doing myself to stay sane during the Covid-19 outbreak. Enjoy!

Disorder isn’t always bad

As I said, a good routine looks different for each of us. You probably thought I was going to drone on about runs, yoga, meditation, and waking up at 7:30am every day. HAHA. I want you to actually read my blog all the way through.

It’s absolutely fine to lose it sometimes. My sleeping pattern has completely gone out of the window. I haven’t had a clue what I’m doing some days. I haven’t put together a blueprint in my head for what I’ve wanted to get done and that’s led to unplanned days with unplanned events. I couldn’t live like this all the time, I’m someone who likes having routines and clear goals pretty much every day. However, I think it’s quite important to let yourself become somewhat accustomed to dealing with uncertainty. This is a time where you might go from watching Netflix to being in a Zoom call with your friends until the early hours. There isn’t any order to the way we’re living our lives so the rules of old have started to disintegrate. What’s left is a lot of people pining for something to do, or for someone to talk to, at times that prior to Covid-19 just wouldn’t have worked. Remember the last time you could do a virtual pub quiz at 12 in the afternoon? Me neither.

I think it’s very valuable to build a routine during this time, and the rest of the blog will be focused on things you can add in to your routine. However I think it’s almost as important to acclimatise yourself to disorder. It’s absolutely fine that some days are just disorganised shambles, nobody has a clue what’s going on anyway. People on social media are having a field-day getting others to look at their perfectly-organised home routines, but that doesn’t mean you ought to do the same all the time. Let some things not work out, let nothing happen at all, and do away with the idea that you always need to be doing something. This is just the silly capitalist notion that you’re only of any value if you’re being productive.

A bit of exercise or a lot of exercise

I say a bit of or a lot of because it really depends on your relationship with exercise. If you don’t like exercise and you’re not interested go and skip ahead. I was quite stressed about exercise to begin with because I pretty much relied on my gym for everything. All the machines and contraptions are there. How do I cope without a squat rack?! Thankfully there’s been a LOT going into exercising in lockdown, probably because most of us don’t have access to gyms at home so it’s forced people to get quite creative. I started off mostly surveying what other people were doing, and from there I went and started experimenting with a few different things. I started off with the most crude home circuit imaginable, like I literally did it all from my bedroom. I used my bed for decline press-ups, a towel for rows (thanks Arnie!), and my carpet for literally everything else. From there I scoured videos and started to build my own workouts. I’ve mostly settled on High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) because there’s a tonne of them available from accessible sites like YouTube, you can add in or take away exercises, you can set your time and pace to something that works for you, and it’s a bloody good workout in little time. I’ll add some links to sites I’ve found useful below!

I’ve noticed people have been busying themselves with various challenges. One of my favourites is doing a handstand against a wall and trying to put a shirt on. Tried it, fell over, was good fun at the end of my workout! I think it’s very much about keeping it fun and enjoyable. That’s why it’s important to do either a little or a lot, whatever works for you. It’s important to think a little bit outside the box, too. I carried my shopping bags home from ALDI and turned that into a workout!

I’ve rambled on about the things I’ve been doing for exercise but I haven’t said why I’m doing it. It’s quite simple, exercise makes me feel good. I do just about enough to make myself feel better and it still leaves me wanting to do some again the next day. It took a bit of time to find what worked for me, but the internet is awash with resources for us to use. It’s suddenly become a part of my daily routine again and I enjoy it; I seek it out. That being said, some days I haven’t done anything at all and that’s perfectly fine too.

Reconnect with something you’ve stopped doing

We don’t get a lot of time these days to just sit and enjoy something for the sake of doing it. As I mentioned earlier, this could be sitting and doing the grand total of nothing. You aren’t obligated to pick up a hobby during the lockdown, not one bit. If you do fancy picking something up though, now could be the time to discover something new or reconnect with something you once enjoyed. I’m going to side with the latter because it’s more likely you’ll still have the necessary resources to start something up again. This isn’t really something I’ve done. I’ve taken the time to write this post for sure, but to be honest I’ve been doing the things I usually do at the weekend but every day now. I’ve read more, written slightly more, exercised more, watched more, and gamed more. If you miss something, why not have a go at it again? I say this because I find a lot of peace doing all the things I’ve mentioned above. Writing blogs I find very therapeutic. I almost free-write and then edit later because it feels so good just typing away! You don’t need to dive into anything head-first, just taking a bit of time with something you’ve lost could bring some much-needed peace of mind, some enjoyment, or just something other than wondering who killed Carole Baskin’s husband (we all know who did that).

Cook new food

Now this one I like, because food is something we all need so at some point you’re just going to have to cook! When the lockdown came, one of my first thoughts was about how I might just have the time and headspace now to cook some things I’ve been meaning to have a go at for a while. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but I’ve usually done it in bulk to save myself time. During the lockdown I’ve cooked more than once each day. It’s felt really good just to make fresh food on the day. I’ve used healthy ingredients for most meals, and I’ve really enjoyed making my own treat meals instead of ordering food in. It almost goes without saying, eating good food is probably one of the most important things for building a healthy routine for yourself. On many days, a good meal has been my only achievement and that’s felt absolutely fine; I can package off that day spent playing Doom Eternal as a complete success.

Cooking also has a bit of a mindful aspect to it. Chopping vegetables is quite relaxing, it helps you to focus your mind on something instead of perhaps withdrawing inside of yourself. Timing your cooking also has much the same effect; any chance to escape the overwhelming deluge of Covid-19 news is welcome to me. Have a go at cooking something, be it new or old.


Going beyond keeping occupied

Reading back through this, it seems I have placed a lot of focus on things we can do to escape. By escaping the news of all that’s happening with the coronavirus and the lockdown, we can enjoy moments that perhaps feel more normal to us. But nothing about this is normal; even having spare time to enjoy all these activities, that certainly isn’t normal! Life is one great big rush all the time, and the sudden halt is no doubt going to take its toll on people’s lives. I think that’s why an implicit theme of this blog is escaping- getting away from this surreal situation for a while. But more so we need to appreciate that doing things doesn’t mitigate the issues faced by so many of us. I’ve been very lucky to have friends, family and colleagues dropping in to check on me. So to wrap this one up, go and speak to your friends and ask them how they’re doing. Stay safe!

Nick

Routine and wellbeing in the new year

Christmas season: nobody has a fucking clue what’s going on. What colour is broccoli? Can you eat Shreddies with Gin? Is it true that 6am exists? Anything resembling a routine usually goes out of the window from roughly the 20th December until sometime in January. I threw out my usual bedtime, my diet, exercise, all of it. I did however manage to binge the Witcher and complete Red Dead Redemption 2. I even managed to find the Saint-Denis vampire AND unlock the UFO Easter egg. Those are pretty much my crowning achievements of the festive season. I do wish I was one of those people disciplined enough to maintain a routine throughout Christmas, but I whisper to myself “life is all about balance” before I nail too many bottles of beer and douse everything in cheese. I also had a bit of a downturn in the old mental health precisely because I let one too many routines go- the really important stuff like taking a breather for a minute or saying no to alcohol in favour of a walk or dare I say a trip to the gym. To me those are just two non-negotiables when it comes to my wellbeing. I like to sit and take stock of how I’m doing and I like endorphins. When I don’t do these things I start to get cranky, I get anxious and I stop being my normal self. I’ve started doing a couple of things to get myself back on track ready for the new year and because I’m a mental health blogger I’m about to give you a list. You fucking love lists and you know it.

A quick disclaimer before I start. I’m writing this list just as much for myself as I am for you. I am having a conversation with myself about what I need to do. It’s like I’m live-streaming the process of getting my shit together.

You ever used pepperoni as a quiche topping?

The definitive list of things to do to rescue your mind in the wake of new year madness

Step one: Get off your lazy arse

Go for a walk to the shop to buy more snacks (or beer), go for a run, go to the gym, do some squats in your living room and make your dog wonder what the buggery you’re doing. Just get up and do something, even if it’s a quick half an hour in-between two hangovers. I managed from the period of 20/12/2019 to yesterday a grand total of two gym sessions, two walks and a few games of aggravated pool. Not much at all, however I did drag myself to the iron paradise today for a grand total of 40 minutes. I achieved about as much as ice cube in a sauna would but it’s still been good to build that routine slowly. This leads me into my second point and this is where I stop mucking around

Step two: Start slowly

I’ll let you in on a bit of a secret: Star Wars actually forms a part of my worldview. Hear me out before you wet yourself! The Force always brings balance in the end, as if balance is the natural state of things. I think this applies to us. We need the right balance to keep us peaceful; go too far one way and you risk becoming stagnant. Go too far to the other and you risk burnout. Too many times I have tried jumping straight back into the ideal lifestyle I’ve had mapped out for myself and it’s proven too much. I’ve gone to the extreme straight away, not only did this make me burnout very quickly but I also began to compare myself to people who had perhaps enjoyed a more “successful” festive season than I. New year is the worst for this, when people share their success from the previous year and you sit contemplating after your first bottle of wine why your life is a sequence of blunder to blunder. Start slowly. One gym session a week, or two, whatever is realistic to you. Cut down the drinking in manageable bits. Take some time away from social media and reflect. Whatever you need to do to find your balance, you need to do it. This is the easiest time of year to compare yourself to others, but if you try to throw yourself in the deep end with a belly-full of mince pie, you’ll drown. Start off easy, and build strong foundations for the year.

Step three: Take a bit of time for yourself

This one caught me out big-time. I love spending time to myself doing things that enrich my life. Evidently part of that is spouting Star Wars philosophy! I love sitting around playing video games, listening to music, reflecting, daydreaming, you name it. Christmas can be stressful time for many of us I imagine because you’re having to whizz round seeing friends and family. You leave one and go to the next it seems, all the while you do start to feel a bit tired of it by the end don’t you? I suppose that’s part and parcel of Christmas, and truth be told it is wonderful seeing your loved-ones again and re-connecting. I live down in London nowadays and being able to reconnect with the people I love back up North is a treasured time. Just, your own headspace should be treasured too. It’s absolutely fine to end some conversations, cancel plans, cook some fresh food and just take some time for yourself. I meditated for the first time in about three weeks the other day and I could just tell I really needed the headspace and the downtime. I say this to myself just as much to anyone reading: check in with yourself and see how you’re doing.

Step four: Be kind to yourself

I had a moment this new year where I felt like I had moved backwards. A lot of this again came from comparing myself to other people, but I really felt like I’d somehow taken a step backwards. When I moved down here I started off in a housing situation which was far from ideal. I’d spent a lot of money to start a life down here and I felt that all I had to show for it was stress and a bit more belly than this time last year. I was more active last year, a bit thinner and more athletic. However, last year I wasn’t the teacher to 30 wonderful children. Last year I was in Oldham not starting my dream career. Thanks to the experiences I have had recently I know how resilient I am, what I can do to bring peace to my life and perhaps most importantly, I know what I need to do during tough times to ensure I remain healthy. I didn’t always achieve those things last year, but we mustn’t try to climb too many rungs on the ladder at once. Reflect on what you HAVE achieved, because there will be something. Reflect on what you’ve done, be proud of yourself for those things and then get planning what to do for 2020. Everyone achieves different things in different times and there isn’t a race to be anywhere in particular. Set your goals, respect your need for balance and be kind to yourself.

Those are some things I’m going to take with me into this new year. I hope you all have a year full of love, growth and success!

Nick.

Teaching, learning to teach, and (not) looking after myself somewhere in the middle.

None of you were probably wondering what plight has befallen my blogs as of late. Unfortunately I fell into the terrible trap of telling myself I didn’t have time to write, and boy did I pay for having that mentality.

Some of you may know this but since September I have been teaching. I work in a primary school in Thurrock, Essex. I teach 30 wonderful year 3 children and it’s been a blessing so far to give them an education. Alongside my job I’m studying for a PGDE. It’s a lot like a PGCE except it has a different letter in the acronym. It’s also two years long, so there’s that as well I suppose. My new life has left me feeling tantalisingly energetic in the same way that a beer-bellied 60 year old with creaky knees isn’t. As much as I love delivering an education to children, I have to come clean and say my life hasn’t been particularly brilliant these last couple of months. If this weren’t enough, I also have to reveal that *gasp* I haven’t exactly been very kind to myself during this time as well.

In the spirit of a reflective teacher, I’ve reflected on my blog posts. I’ve had such a long time away from thinking about what to write next them that I’ve been able to take a bit of a step back and look in on what I have written. My posts always appear to suggest I’ve cracked it, that I’ve come a step closer to mastering my mental health. The site charts a positive trajectory and whilst I would say I’ve come a long way from therapy, I don’t think of my progress as a positive linear stroll through the park. In reality there have been many regressions over the last few years and right now at this point in my life I am regressing. I’ve fallen off-track. This isn’t a post about how I encountered a problem and overcame it, this is me saying ‘oh… I’ve lost a lot.’

Let’s keep teaching on the shelf for now and discuss general life. I moved down to Essex in August, to an area called Grays. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s actually extremely dull. There’s a “beach” here which lies on the banks of the river Thames. I can’t slate it too much because it’s been a decent place to go reflect, but between you and me it’s an imposter beach. I’m in a house share which, if you know me, isn’t ideal. I can’t really write a post about my mental health without referring to my living situation at least once. It’s been a highly claustrophobic experience and hopefully I’ll soon be out of it. I haven’t been to a gym for longer than I’d like to admit and this is where we arrive at how I’ve been treating myself. I don’t really look after myself anymore. I always thought of self-care as being that constant holistic process whereby you take active steps to prioritise your needs, reflect on what’s going well and what could be better, and pay close attention to your flaws and how to improve them. I absolutely have not prioritised my needs. I haven’t exercised in weeks and I lament myself for it. I’ve put on weight because I keep drinking a dangerous cocktail, the main ingredients of which are neglect of exercise and an inconsistent diet. This has really impacted my self-confidence, and I find myself in a position now where my deteriorated physical condition makes me feel like a failure and my newness to the teaching profession has made me doubt my ability to success professionally. My entire mindset right now is toxic and it’s very hard to change it. I reflect occasionally on things I should be proud of, but by and large most of my thinking time is dedicated to aspects of my work, what I’m doing wrong or why I keep mucking up sorting my life out. In short, I’ve let my mind become a very messy, very unkind place over the last 8 weeks.

I’m going to write a separate post on life as a new teacher but for now I just wanted to express something about my new career. Unless you live in the land of make-believe you’ll know teaching is very hard. 12-13 hour days are common, the demands are extremely high and the school day is a microcosm filled with chaos. A lot of people have asked ‘how’s life as a teacher?’ and I’ve told them the positives, because I do truly feel very lucky to be in this job. However, I feel bad sharing the fact that I’m already burnt-out. I feel like I shouldn’t say what else is on my mind and that is that I’m struggling to cope with it. This job I love is exhausting and in the space of seven weeks I have dealt with more stress and heartbreak than I have in years. The learning curve-professionally, emotionally and mentally- has been ridiculously steep. As supported as I am in my job, I do still find myself questioning at this very early stage my capacity to be a good teacher. Rather than discuss this with people at length, blog about it or even write it down, I’ve kept it inside. This blog has been untouched and my journal hasn’t been opened in weeks.

I’m at a point now where I have taken a lot of the negatives of last term and have started to turn them into positives, the main one being my organisation. I can’t really say to you guys what my plan is to get better because to tell you the truth I don’t have one yet. I just wanted to dust the cobwebs off my fingers and get typing something that isn’t a lesson plan or professional reflection. You might call this step one of a sequence of baby steps to get myself back on track. It absolutely isn’t a miracle cure. However, it does feel good to get all this down. At the end of the day even after all the success I’ve had with tackling my mental illness it just goes to show that life is all peaks and troughs. This seismic change in my life has had a severe impact but I’m determined to face up to it. As I said, this is the first baby step back onto the good path.

-Nick