Mental Health and the Frank Bruno Foundation 🥊

I had made plans to go to my first session at the Frank Bruno Foundation on Friday. It didn’t quite go to plan, my mind had other ideas. Grab a cuppa and I will explain.

Those of you that know me or read my blogs know I battle my mental health daily, and that I have had some serious dips over the years. For those who don’t know here’s a bit of history.

1996 saw me go through something horrific and added with some previous experiences this was the catalyst for what happened with my mind. The anxiety that I had previously now exploded and as I recovered physically from what happened I didn’t have any ideas about how to deal with my mind. So I started to teach myself how to hide it, how to function at work and in life with this huge dark energy in my head.

Over the years my body tried to warn me what ignoring my mind can do, migraine, IBS, stress related alopecia….. it kept trying and I continued to teach myself ways to hide it and carry on. Of course this takes it toll. Every day I have to convince myself stepping out of the house will be ok, at my worst, the longest time I stayed in the house was 10 months and that was long before all of the ways you can have food and shopping delivered to you at home.

Fast forward to 2015 and I was sat at work and the pain was excruciating and I could not breathe, my colleagues thought I may be having a heart attack, luckily they fetched someone who had years of previous experience working at the A&E department who sat with me and explained this was a panic attack. Doesn’t sound that bad? Well if felt like it might kill me! They still do when they visit.

Supportive colleagues saw me access therapy, something I had avoided up til now because I couldn’t see how talking about everything would help me. Wow the first couple of weeks were a surprise, sure we talked but there’s a lot to do at home between sessions and it is a lot more than talking! Serious work saw a stronger me, techniques found that worked for me to help me ground and control, some things I had self taught over the years but we built on these. 6 months of serious work and since then I have been able to drop in and out with Nora, she is worth her weight in gold and I cannot thank her enough for being that solid rock when I need her.

2022 was bad, really bad and all of my techniques were also smashed, leaving me with no coping mechanisms. Surviving the darkest place because of people who didn’t give up on me when I did, I had to dig in and start again. Absolutely this meant back to therapy, but also realising I needed new ways, because the damage created meant I couldn’t just go back to the old techniques and the diagnosis in the autumn that I have PTSD!

Here I stand, stronger than a year ago and proud of what I have accomplished in the last year but still incredibly vulnerable and looking for those new ways to strengthen my resilience, especially when I now also have the grief of the loss of my dad in January which I have not dealt with.

I am familiar with The Frank Bruno Foundation and the great work they do. I have spoken to several people who have been on programmes and they speak very highly of what those programmes have given them. Several times I have thought of going along but there’s always something in the way, I am very experienced at putting barriers in my own way! Then they advertised an 8 week programme that is being offered for blue light card users, seems like the perfect timing! As most blue light card holders work shifts we can drop in and attend as many or as few of the 8 sessions as we wish. With some help from work I quickly made arrangements to be available to attend the 2nd and the last 5 sessions. Perfect.

So, Friday morning, the voices in my head were loud, really loud! A safeguarding call asking to speak with me when I was available, not urgent but needing advice, perfect excuse that I cannot go before I have dealt with that!

The session was to start at 10:00, the sick feeling, pounding in my chest, struggling to breathe and all the doubts running round my head about a place I have never been to.

I help others step into the unknown, make arrangements for them to visit before hand, I have stood in the middle of a range in my pyjamas, why didn’t I extend the same steps to myself?

So now here I am sat in the house, upset, disappointed and angry with myself that I do not look after myself in the same way that I look after everyone else. The sunburn from JNOC has decided to choose this morning to start to peel and I hear my friend from last week – Helen what do they tell you on the plane about safety and when the masks drop down, put on your own first and then help others! That’s what you should do every day.

So I dragged myself off to the car and determined to go to the gym, if I can walk in, feel the space then those final 4 sessions will be easier because it will not be a fear of the unknown. Not quite sure where I am going – well if I can’t find it, I tried right? The sat nav took care of that of course. When I arrived it was at same time as one of the volunteers – Jo, who greeted me with warmth and a welcoming smile and took me inside to chat and have a coffee.

The group I should have been with came out and as they were going into the gym welcomed me and invited me in, coach Jo and one of the attendees – Sue, encouraged me inside. I have that flight reflex and I want to run despite the welcome, so I sat on the floor – it slows down the running! Those who know me well will be familiar with my act of using a coffee mug as a shield and there I sat with my mug in front of me to beat the demons.

I could hear my grandad, he was the one that when I was little, first sat me down to watch the boxing and talked to me about the dancing feet in fight, as I sat on the floor that was very evident and that led me to think of him and dad and their love of boxing.

Coach Joe came to sit with me and chat between leading the group, Lisa came in to take photos and also sat and chatted with me. The sickness left, the breathing settled, my mug made its way to the floor beside me. The sky didn’t fall in and I was in a safe space. As I watched and listened I was drawn to the conversation of dominance, in archery we start with what is your hand dominance but sometimes we find you might me left eye dominant despite being right handed. Just this week I found this with a young boy who has been shooting a while but moving him to left made a massive difference. It appears feet are the same. We start with hand dominance but in the group two attendees have discovered they are left footed, the brain is amazing.

Lisa and I left the room to chat about work we do, overlaps in aims and maybe things we might even do together for service users but maybe for some down time for staff and volunteers.

It was the drop in session, another coffee and chatting to lots of people, me explaining my failure this morning and the desire to attend and remove the demon and change the loss to a draw. I was chatting with Martin who told a little about himself and what the programmes have given him, including the confidence to propose and showed me some photos from the wedding just 2 months ago. How amazing.

Thank you to everyone who welcomed me and chatted with me, serious conversation, laughter and support. I would very much recommend that anyone thinking of going, try it and maybe the drop in sessions are a great ice breaker, no pressure but a gentle way to walk in the door, there are lots of different programmes, for adults and young people so it’s definitely worth chatting to find out what will suit you. Maybe you have something to offer as a volunteer I often speak of how volunteering can be a great way to try something before taking part.

Lisa, myself and Kate from West Northants council went back into the gym to take some photos and amidst the laughter and conversations I most definitely found a safe space, of amazing people, from a variety of backgrounds and I will be back for those remaining 4 sessions but likely so much more. If I haven’t mentioned you by name, I apologise, I am hopeless at remembering names, I will learn them eventually 🤗

I wanted to turn my loss to a draw but I think it ended on a win! I didn’t do what I had planned but it was successful none the less. Be kind to yourself and allow for your own feelings.

Have a great weekend I hope those storms don’t ruin too many plans.