week 98 for Integr8archery CIC, or my personal 2nd anniversary ☕️🎂

It is mental health awareness week.

I don’t hide my issues with mental health, anxiety, panic attacks a diagnosis of PTSD, and so many different issues that are stress related from migraine, IBS to alopecia. If I had the right support earlier in my life maybe I could have found myself in a better place, we’ll never know. What I absolutely would say is talk to someone, I remember feeling so doubtful every time anyone suggested therapy, how would talking about any of it help? So I took many, many years to become open to the idea. The turning point for me was sitting at work, absolutely convinced I was having a heart attack and this was it, but it was a panic attack, scarily similar in symptoms. So almost 9 years ago I agreed to a referral and met the most amazing woman in my counsellor. She was not what I imagined and I fast learned that actually we chatted some every week, but I got a lot of homework every week, the majority of the work to mend, heal, find my methods was my work to do. Surprisingly but also absolutely made sense, because on the day to day it would be me, myself and I getting through each day. The tools to go forward were mine but I can contact here when I need to, periodically I find I need a conversation with her, may be a couple of sessions.

16th May 2022 – I was passed that stage, in such a dark and low place that I decided this was to be my last day. The people I love, care about, would find the world an easier place if I was not here to burden them. A voice from 1996 was now interwoven with a recent voice, my best friend, who had spent 7 months destroying me verbally, constantly telling me I had no place in life, in my sport, no value to anyone for anything. When someone you trust so much, who knows you so well, uses all of that to destroy you, the damage hits deeper, buries inside your mind, becomes a living nightmare.

However someone, in the universe felt a vibe that day, neither of us understand what or how, but she knew something was different that day, she and a small number of others had kept me going for those 7 months, when I woke up screaming in the night, when I was literally laying on the floor unable to breathe or when I just cried, and cried and couldn’t stop the tears. This day, it was different and the universe nudged her, and she saved me, but much like my counsellor – I did the work, she stood beside me, but I did the work. I survived that day because of her, because she heard the universe shift that day. Without a doubt the hospital played their part and I am grateful to them all.

That small band of friends and family, 9 people stronger than an army have never faltered, and I am blessed to be able to add another 8 people who have played key roles in the last 2 years, it takes a village. My village is fearless.

Here I stand 2 years to the day, stronger, changed, with the odd wobble, but ready to meet every day. Some days I am sad, I. miss the old me, but I have pieces of her that I keep safe, maybe one day she will be brave enough to face the world, but I love my village and they make sure I laugh every day. I have spent 28 years finding the sliver of positive in every day, I made myself some promises in 1996, I believe every day holds a smile and something positive, so I focus on finding those, some days are hard but I have survived them all so far 🤗

What else has happened this week? Meetings, lots of them, I love telling people that what they want is achievable.

I shot my first outdoor competition of the season, score was poor, but that was anticipated and my score made me laugh – 666 😂😈🤘 About half way through the second distance I started to enjoy myself too, bonus 🤪 and some of my village were there and my wider circle, lots of hugs too ❤️🏹

Classroom day yesterday, now to get my portfolio completed and my presentation done ready for the last classroom day in June and then the wait to see if I have passed my assessments. I can honestly say, if someone suggests a level 5 equivalent course in 4 months, think hard it’s a heavy commitment, not helped by everything else I am doing of course 😜

I hope you are all well, I hope that you are all looking after yourself, if you need anything – reach out, there are lots of people who will help 🤗

week 97 – busy one

Wow, it’s been a busy one! In everything but I have a couple of rest days from the day job and have crammed these full of meetings and calls, yesterday was awesome catching up with people who want to introduce archery to their groups, families, SEND, disabilities, teenagers with challenging behaviour …. So many different groups to be catered for and from 1 off sessions to sustainable activities, such a lot to look forward to over the coming months. Exciting and as always it all gets me bouncing and motivated, I will worry about the other stuff later, I can be doing amazing things whilst we wait.

Prepping for my first competition of the outdoor season is the thing that’s suffered as I kind of expected really, try as I might I always give to others before I take for me, though I have a little time set aside for me later today so that will be good.

Proud of my girlie who has battled through her mocks despite everything and we are beginning to get bits of news health wise, though it’s lots of – it’s not rather than it is, which isn’t helping get the information that we need for here yet. Her determination blows me away though and I am in awe of her. 🥰

Short but sweet for me this week as I go off to another meeting and then try and get sight marks for Sunday! I mean they would certainly help 🤔🤷‍♀️🫣 easing myself in though by entering the 50+ category, definitely a sense of mischief having discovered some people that this annoys since I am 49! 😂 it’s even been suggested that as I was on the working group who looked at categories and ages that I did this to benefits myself, sure the NGB let me change the national system just for my benefit 🫣😜

Have a good one folks and I hope your outdoor seasons are all getting off to a good start ❤️🏹

Week 96 -prioritising the right things

I think this is going to be the badge I wear for 2024.
I am going to remember it and repeat it daily because I think the fight is going to really pick up this year.

what fight? The one I stepped into in 2019, it seems like a lifetime ago, in part because the whole Covid lockdowns and the timeline disruption that brought with it, but also, because it is!

I have been involved in the world of safeguarding since I first volunteered as a 16 year old, but little did I realise how over the next 33 years it would become increasingly part of what I do, in the day job and in a variety of volunteer roles.

I see it as the most important role I have aside from being a parent, which is essentially a kind of safeguarding in its own way.

I have a number of qualifications within it and I study constantly to improve my knowledge in ways to support those who come to me. Safeguarding is a privilege as I essentially step into someone’s world when they are in their most vulnerable place. Though I also do a lot of work to help improve knowledge to prevent issues, equally important.

Within my sport I have been a club safeguarding officer in a variety of places since 2017, some I still hold, and regional safeguarding officer since 2019, sometimes being part of the safeguarding team for Archery GB at competitions.

Most issues that come to me are resolved simply, some take more work, and some of what I do is to support other safeguarding officers. I don’t get to speak about what I do due to GDPR, rightly so.

However the biggest issue I have been dealing with has been an open case for me since 2019 when I was first asked to get involved, and believe me repeated conversations, meetings and discussions with NGB, outside agencies, and athletes and coaches have seen this grow to involve so many people, and covers 14 years worth of information that I have been given.

I have a variety of opinions as to how some of the issues have happened, some is a culture where habits are taught to the next person and the next and so on, some is outright bullying. Regardless it all needs changing, acknowledgement and ownership is required to even begin to bring about change. Other sports have gone through similar and some are still going through their process, I believe that all sports have something similar, created by habits and attitudes that were once allowed that are no longer acceptable. There is no shame in holding up your hands and saying we have a problem, and we are going to make changes, shame will only come from hiding it, refusing to change it and allowing it to continue.

It might be hard, and for a while a bit rocky, change always is and this is huge, but there are so many amazing people in our sport who will work to do this given the opportunity.

For some it will be easier to try and throw dirt back, I am ready for that, it isn’t new after all, it’s been happening for 5 years already, it just may get louder and more public. There is a limit to what and how I will respond, because those who matter to me personally know me and enough about what is happening. What I will say is my day job taught me a very long time ago to evidence gather, and I keep every message across every platform and they will allow me to always know my truth and to remind myself when necessary of that truth, like they did in 21/22.

It is almost mental health week and so it is always fitting to consider my own, I have PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks and a form of acrophobia. 2022 – 16th May was almost my last day as I reached the maximum level of destruction that had been bore down on me for the previous 7 months, add to I was trying to support people who were themselves dealing with their own massive mental health issues.

It has been incredibly hard because I cannot discuss so very much of this, and that makes it harder still.

I am certainly stronger that I have been for a very long time, though I am exhausted by all of this, but I agreed to be referred to Sports Resolutions because that is the very last place I can take this, and I do have to know that I have tried every avenue in this long and weary battle but one that is so vitally important for the benefit of everyone from grassroots to elite. The last 18 months has seen me hearing from a number of people that I need to take this to the media, it’s how some sports have managed to bring about change, I have a variety of conflicting feelings about such action.

I do want to thank those who have stood by me, supporting me, those who got me through 2022 and a couple of amazing safeguarding officers who have allowed me to talk with them, for the hardest part of safeguarding is having no ability to speak of what we are carrying, they have been limited conversations but enough for me to breathe,

I am proud of everyone who has shared their experiences with me, the ones who now carry long term issues even if they have walked away from the sport that took such a huge cost, athletes and coaches. That people have felt that I have helped and who trust me enough to bring others to me is humbling and some days, most days, I wing a lot of what I do, supporting people is different for each individual and using my training, my experience and thinking outside the box has got me, and them, through a lot.

My therapist is worth her weight in gold as she has supported me through my struggles but helped me carry this too.

A few months ago, one of these amazing young people started to say things publicly, slowly, about their battles. I am immensely proud of her and I know she struggles to see herself as those of us who know her see her.

Today, on a very important anniversary of her own she has publicly released a poem that explains a little of what she has gone through, braver than me right there, I have been writing thoughts, letters, poems through my therapy for 8 years and I know how vulnerable those writings are, so to release one publicly is a truly brave step.

I asked if I could share it and I have on instagram and now I share it here, Ruby Paul you are so very much stronger than you realise and what you have put out there today will resonate and help so many not just in Archery but across other sports too 😘 it is a privilege to know you and we love you dearly.

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Week 95 – busy but productive

We seem to have had pretty much all of the weathers this week! It’s a good job we archers like to dress like onions 🧅

Level 3 assignment passes with 85/100 I feel happy about that! Work for the level 5 feels like it’s going well and I have a classroom day today so will hopefully get some feedback to make sure I am on the right track.

Actually managed to shoot some of my own arrows and watch both of my children shooting some arrows, it’s rare I see Jack shoot, he coaches regularly at his club and for integr8archery bit his love for his own shooting was taken from him through poor coaching, maybe with time that will come back, I hope so. Rose continues to blow me away with her attitude to shooting with everything that is going on with her health but she keeps putting down master bowman scores so she’s certainly remaining motivated.

I have had meetings, lots of meetings this week. Some for ongoing projects some with individuals wanting linking to their local clubs to try or start the sport and a couple of groups who want something putting on, all exciting.

Short and sweet this week, hope you are doing well I love hearing how you are doing so drop me a line and remember I am here if you want me ❤️🏹

Who is in charge of your goals? You are! Who judges if/when you have achieved them? You do!

I have had a couple of conversations this week which have made me think of a number of other conversations that I have had over the last 6 years. So since I have mulled it over and it’s still rattling in my head I thought I would share my thoughts.

If you know me then you know I have a number of issues that impact me, in archery but actually every day in life. Pain! Lots of it dictates my mobility and range of movement but I have spent my life ignoring it, pushing it to one side as I refuse to allow it to prevent me doing things.

In part this mindset is definitely how I was raised, I grew up surrounded by people who just got on with it, simply didn’t even mention their bad days.

If I had given in to pain I would have sat down as a toddler and stayed there 🤔

I have written blogs before about how my body deteriorating means I have to change or quit:

when this was first published the response took me by surprise, when it was re-published the same happened, I know I am not the only archer who has to face change to stay in the sport we love, but it’s not easy! Certainly helps to have support, particularly as people seem very happy to share their negative thoughts with me about my right to be on the range!

I followed the re-published blog with an update:

This indoor season saw me face new change! It never ends, if I want to keep one step ahead of my body then I have to keep re-thinking how to shoot and I am blessed that my physio friend and the county captain have never given up on me, though without a doubt they both have learned over the years that I am stubborn and crazy 🤪

My entire life has been about reaching goals and always, with anything, the biggest part is – be the best that I can be, I may not know what that means or how to measure or predict it, but with everything, work, school, sport ….. I have always been prepared to dig in and work, most of my achievements have been scrappy and fought for.

So spring 2018 I completed my beginners course with the belief that I could likely get 2 years out of my broken body. I made decisions and chose 4 competitions that I would enter for my first outdoor season as I set my sights on a 3rd class – classifications were really the only thing I could convince myself to judge myself on, when you start something new and have no clue what you are capable it, where do you start with your goals?

I entered a lot more competitions than I had planned and made it onto the county squad, I earned my second class and I was so upset! I had set my goal of a 3rd so that 2nd should have been amazing, but I had put in 2 1st class scores and a bunch that were just a few points each off 1st so instead of being happy I had achieved more than my goal I was upset that I only saw that I had failed on the 1st class!

Indoors was a new challenge and I wanted to use my outdoor achievements to set my indoor goal, but I was repeatedly advised it was the same at all so I was a little unsure but aimed to do my best! 2018/19 saw me get an F.

Outdoor 2019 – another 2nd! Along with the knowledge that the pain was seeing more and more competitions leave me crying on the floor as I often couldn’t move due to pain at the end of the day!

Indoor 19/20 – E, moving in the right direction but also sitting and agreeing to data gather as the stool was really looking unavoidable.

Outdoor 2020 – 2nd class, considering the Covid restrictions I was happy to get in enough scores to get anything, particularly as I was transitioning to seated. No, it’s not the same but sat!

Indoor 20/21 – D class, and I was learning to accept the stool and an agent, neither came easily!

Outdoor 2021 – finally settled with the stool 1st!! Amazing, hard work and determination and I finally had that little piece of shiny metal in my hand!

Indoor 21/22 – D – I was happy but really starting to want that C!

Outdoor 2022 – another 1st class!

This one felt massive, I had fought my mind, the destructive voices that had been out there by someone else, telling me over 7 months that I had no place, in the sport, in any role but anywhere else either. A summer that saw me almost quit life, I am forever grateful that someone reached in and saved me, and with a few others held on whilst I let go. They also convinced me that the sport I fought constantly to be part of might actually help save me. And it’s certainly why Dunster will always hold a very special place in my heart, as I sat there with 3 important ladies watching those longbows fling sticks and calm my brain.

Indoor 22/23 – C class! Amazing, and I had barely been able to shoot as I had put dad before everything, that little piece of bling felt special, I could hear his belief in me, he never gave up on me.

outdoor 2023 – new classifications, I had been part of the working group and had to listen to so many people complain 🫣

I wasn’t really sure what I was aiming for and decided to use the new and old tables together so I could reference something I did understand! Bowman 3rd class under the new which I felt was poor but wasn’t sure why, under the old system I had dropped back to C, devastated – dropped was the right phrase since I spent most of 2023 gradually lose the feeling in my hand, dropping everything, and either numb or in agony! Again changes and what to do for the best whilst waiting for hospital appointments!

indoor 23/24 – again new classifications so the decision to use old and new – bowman 3rd class old system C class! I am happy with this and it’s helped me accept summer 2023.

I started the indoor season with a PB in the Stafford and finished it with PB in Portsmouth and earned medals along with the Portsmouth 550 badge!

Here I sit, having planned numerous outdoor competitions for 2024 and we will see what my new way of shooting brings, will I get something decent! I am again going to use both new and old systems and this year I can also play on the 50+ class which will certainly help in the high pain days but I am going to enjoy it, that is what is important, can I keep smiling! If I can I get to stay in October, if it brings more tears than smiles then this will be my last season shooting.

Let’s see what happens – I am looking forward to the challenge.

It has all reminded me of conversations that I wasn’t good enough, and what was the point of my goals, they weren’t good enough either!

Well what I do know is this, the goals you set for yourself are the ones that matter, how you feel about your achievements is what matters! If you have a coach, and they tell you that your goal – to be the very best that you can be, isn’t good enough, then I would suggest that you need a different coach 🤗

Whatever your goals for the coming summer, I wish you the best, may your arrows fly strong ❤️🏹

Thank you to those who have stood by me, and helped me with each challenge that I have faced 🥰 you are all awesome and I have never taken any of you for granted.

week 94 – heading towards that 2nd anniversary 🥰

Sunday was beautiful, out in the sunshine shooting with great company, followed yesterday by howling winds, hail stones and some serious rain, plus putting the heating back on! Certainly made me feel less like I was missing out by having a study day in the little office at work away from everyone and everything 😂 good results for my 1st marked assignment and a lot of my work written up for my portfolio for my level 5.

Today is my bank holiday in lieu for having worked Easter Monday, so I stayed in my pjs late this morning and watched a movie, but I forgot to get myself and Easter egg! 😂🫣

Caught up with emails and messages over a cuppa now too. This last week has been a good week, meetings with some of the people I have met over recent weeks at different events to discuss what they want and what I can provide, exciting as always. Also a couple of reviews for existing projects which I always enjoy, discussing what’s going well and what improvements can be made is always good and I am often bemused by those who see reviews as negative.

A couple of coffees with archers who are friends and sharing a catch up.

I may have taken time since January to step back and breathe and being doing less, remember my less means I am still giving around 20 hours a week to other people’s archery. It’s also very interesting as it is allowing me to observe things that are happening and helping me set priorities for the 3rd year of integr8archery CIC as it approaches, exciting times for sure and certainly one of the advantages of being me in charge of my projects.

I had a great time volunteering at the foster families fun day this week, as always I am quick to have a bit of face paint and maximise the glitter 😜 spent the day with some amazing families and enjoying being part of their fun.

Right, off to look at the planning of my own shooting and get some of the competition enteries in, I have set myself some targets for the 2024 outdoor season and also making some decisions about where I will be shooting my practise arrows.

I am also very much enjoying the conversations with so many of my archery friends and contacts about Warhammer, it’s not a surprise that so many of us do it, a lot of what it gives us is the same as what we get from archery, great head space, routine, structure and peace. So grateful that Jack got me my first box for Christmas, he was right about what I would get from it, and it is certainly helping with the fine motor skills and the issues from the damaged nerves in my hand. 4 months in and my first army is at 1880 points and I considering which will be my next army!

Whatever you are doing, enjoy and I will see you on the range soon I am sure. ❤️🏹

week 93 – studying, crazy work weekend and a few arrows

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Busy week, started with the radio on the Wednesday, then some planning meetings, then the crazy weekend where I work from Friday to Monday and it is a lot but it’s so worth it too. It is a privilege to be allowed into the life’s of these young people and especially when I get things like this –

I love that so many people keep me updated with what is happening in their archery and other achievements but especially on these weekends when I am cut off from you all.

Then the results from the Virtual Archery League and after taking part every year since 19/20 I was thrilled to discover I had earned the gold medal for my division, first time I have earned a medal here and it feels good, particularly after seriously questioning if it was time to quit rather than face the next battle of change in my quest to continue shooting, but when your friend gets the manufacturer to donate new cams to me, the county captain fitted them to my bow and then stood by me as I made the decisions to carry my shooting forwards.

Home from work, sleep, caught up with the emails, messages and everything else and then study! I am currently doing three different courses and may loose my marbles by the time I get to the end of them 😂 Level 3 in Residential Children’s Care, level 4 Accredited Qualification in Child Sexual Exploitation and level 5 in Positive Behaviour Support. So if I say I am studying – I really am 😂😂😂

So that’s my week! I love this sport, I love the privilege of being allowed to introduce people to it and for those in it who need a cheerleader, supporter and/or friend – these people share with me their moments ❤️🏹

week 92 – sharing the sport – radio!

Well it’s been a busy week, hospital appointments- things cleared off the list but new things added and so more people getting involved, my girlie will get there eventually but she’s amazing and her bow brings her peace whilst everything is still in the air. So proud of her 🤗

Meetings, lots of them!

Afternoon with the guides who are prepping to host their first start archery event in May and wanted some advice and help with kit maintenance and preparation, and hot cross buns enjoyed all round since it was Easter weekend!

Although it was technically in the next week, BBC radio Northampton asked if I would like to join them on the breakfast show on 3/4/24 for a chat on air. This was a great chance to speak about how accessible our sport is, a follow up to my previous chat on 10/1/23 and following the look east tv crew spending a morning with myself and Deb a month ago. The TV session had been as a result of Nick Wilson and a conversation he had with the BBC around accessible activity and sports. Ultimately they didn’t use archery in the tv airing but many thanks to Deb for the time she gave not only shooting under intense pressure but the interview she gave. The good news is that from the radio piece I have had a number of people make contact so it was worth the early studio time.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0dsrh2g

go to 3/4/24 at 7:47 and you can hear me 🙃

This weekend is my work weekend Friday until Monday I will be mostly unavailable so apologies upfront for any delays in replies.

Have a good weekend, they claim it’s going to be a warm one.

week 91 – a year and 9 months!

Wow! It never doesn’t amaze me what I am achieving with my “little business” – I hear dad in my mind often and his supoort and chats were so important. I wish I could chat with him now 🤗

I said I was stepping back to concentrate on the issues we have going on outside of archery but I am still very happy with the number for this quarter, what a three months it’s been – in and outside of archery! 🤔 but I think things are a little more settled though there are still lots of hospital appointments as we try and get answers outside of sport.

Mostly this is just another thank you, thank you for supporting me, to the many of you who have respected my reduction in hours given, it does mean I don’t have to stop altogether if I can focus where I need to when I need to.

indoor season is over, I am happy with the little things that I have achieved but haven’t been able to focus on my shooting so that needs to change and I have booked in some competitions to get my motivation back.

So what has been achieved in this 3 months? Lots of meetings, the start of my role as vice chair of NFDS, and as for bows I hands?

Schools – 93 new hands but some returners too.

children in care – 8

disability groups – 19

along with helping 3 people return to the sport, met by chance but loving hearing how they are settling in the new spaces I have helped introduce them to.

For a period that I am sat back and doing less I am thrilled with those numbers.

Have a great Easter break

Week 90 – wow almost another quarter has passed!

When I think back to 2021 and early 2022 and the plans that I had worked hard on for years and now things were going to launch from June 2022 to October 2023, the excitement of all of my work coming together across a total of 17 projects!

Then the destruction that was unleashed and where that left me. The amazing people who stood by me, who never gave up.

The decision, nerve wracking as it was to pull 8 of my projects out of that fire and create Integr8archery CIC and how my work in the time since has solidified my belief in what I can do, alone, but with the right people who I choose to work with.

The right groups and organisations that I have chosen to join or collaborate with and what I have been able to achieve. As I am looking at the latest figures for sharing next week I am pleased, they look great and that’s knowing that I have stepped back a little to concentrate on health and home whilst we await answers.

So this last week has seen 3 webinars, the Northamptonshire together fund event, some meetings with new interested parties wanting to discuss how we might get things started for them and a couple of review meetings for ongoing sessions, these are always a good way of keeping things working, and can re-energise sessions.

Lots planned for this coming week, training, studying and meetings, looking forward to Saturday evening and an invitation from friends made at one of our groups sessions.

So, whatever you are doing, stay well and enjoy it all. It’s true what they say, the dark will eventually pass, do I wobble? Yes! But I have most certainly found peace and the ability to forgive myself for trusting the wrong people. I am stood on solid ground, I am waiting for answers on something important, but I also have changed how I look at that whole situation too, I am never going to regret raising my voice for the safety of others, what happens, happens. Sending the email that I did at the weekend in reply to the latest step, has at least stopped the anxiety created by thinking of what I might write in my response.

catch you all on a range soon I hope ❤️🏹