week 84 (+ 2 days 🙃) what do you do with your medals?

I remember talking to my son after completing my beginners course and saying that summer I would do 2 competitions that were club only, put on more for social reasons that serious competition and it would give me several months to practise. He and my daughter love competitions and most Sundays saw us sat somewhere watching them shoot. He calmly replied that I had been entered for a great competition they had chosen for me in March – 5 weeks away!

What I had planned to be 2 gentle competitions late summer, became constant Sunday peace on the line. Never have I competed to beat anyone else – 6 years on and all I ever do is compare me to me.

That first summer saw me receive an invitation to shoot for the county, I recall the anxiety of walking onto the field for that first county competition, that was soon taken care of, never have I had a warmer welcome than that morning and many of those people are some of the most supportive, amazing friends in my life – family for sure. I have been blessed to earn a county year bar every year from 2018 – 2023, time will tell if the work I am doing to continue shooting will see me earn one for 2024? Certainly having the county captain as a shooting buddy has helped me stay when I might have quit the sport entirely.

I have earned lots of medals in my 6 years of shooting, there have been a range of achievements and on a few occasions I’ve been given a medal when there was only me in my category. I remember the first time that happened and wondering if it was at all meaningful? I was told that it represented the many hours of shooting I had put in before the competition, the hard days, the painful days, the days when I might not have picked up my bow but didn’t give up. So those few medals do actually carry meaning for me, helped by the fact that I have always kept a shooting diary and so I can see what went into the build up for each.

Flight has seen me earn national medals, 4 golds in 2021 and 2 golds, a silver and a bronze in 2022. 2023 saw circumstances keep me away from the competitions but hopefully this will not be the case in 2024, I love flight 🏹

Anyone who knows me knows that whilst I will always celebrate with you, I measure achievements in much more than medals. From a child who was being excluded from class daily who excelled when picking up a bow with us and gradually took that discipline into class and 8 months later their teacher emailed me to say they had just completed a month of being in class all day every day! A child who had become stuck in the house for many many months due to mental health issues created in lockdown, who gradually, steadily took the time to build up the courage to join me in our pjs to stand on the range!

In order to celebrate achievements I created the progress awards for those who are learning on a slower path than a traditional club environment may provide. I have celebrated with cake, hot chocolate, stickers, laughter …… many things. Occasionally I see something special that gives a reason to do something a little different. With this in mind I sometimes give away my medals, I explain what it is, how I came to have it, the effort it took not just on the day I received it. 2 of those have been a national gold medal.

In 2021 I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing young man, quiet, intelligent and awesome. Initially anxious, gradually settling, week after week feeling more comfortable. Some times we would share some lemon cake, a great ice breaker and I often believe it’s easier to be brave with food or drink in our hands, like a safety blanket. In May 2022 I had seen him flourish and again felt the privilege of someone who had trusted me. I gave him a gold medal, explained what it was and told him he deserved this for the efforts he had made, week after week, to walk in and gradually grow more comfort when social anxiety was very clearly a massive issue.

The other one? A special young man, who watched his grandfather, his best friend, battle cancer but ultimately loose that fight. In those early weeks of grieiving this young man had to travel across the world to spend time with family, many who he had either never met or only chatted with over FaceTime. Coming together because there was another significant loss in our family. In a strange country, surrounded by grief whilst dealing with loosing his grandfather he was brave enough to let us all in, and to let me take him almost 2 hours away to walk him onto a range and spend some time shooting arrows, a strange new sport, in a strange country with strangers. Since February 2023 that medal has lived across the Atlantic with a brave young man 🥰

So what do you do with your medals? I have photos of all of them and my diaries to tell me what and when I earned them so most are in a box that I put them in, but some of my medals are out there with others, including those 2 medals, doing a little bit of extra work ❤️🏹

6 year anniversary of my beginners course 🤔

6 years ago today I completed my beginners course!
I have spent the day thinking about what that 6 years have contained! Wondering what might have been if I hadn’t picked up a bow.

I had been volunteering my time before that as everyone else in the house were already shooting but without a doubt I would never have given so much of my time had I not become an archer. I loved the sport for what it was giving my children but I had not experienced what I would gain.

I had friends in the county but I didn’t have the bonds and some amazing friendships that grew from pulling on a county shirt and being part of the squad, supporting each other in the most amazing ways.

I certainly wouldn’t have travelled the path that led to my creating Integr8archery CIC and the projects I have now or those in the years before. It has been a privilege to work with those I have met through the projects.

There are a list of downsides too, I won’t go into those, for a variety of reasons, but again, some of those have brought fantastic people into my life.

It was all of these things whizzing around my head as I sat waiting at the hospital for my appointment today, the first of 2 appointments in 6 days – the good news is I have been given permission to continue shooting if I would like to, so crack on with learning my new routine it is then!

It’s rare I ask for anything, despite how much I give, so as I walked back into the house to mull over the conversation at the hospital I was surprised to find messages, messages which frankly I think are selfish and demanding attention when I have explained that right now, there are things happening that require my attention. Likely not helped by the fact that the wording was triggering for me, initially I was not going to reply but I do not wish to trigger anyone else’s anxiety by making them wait. The subsequent response just reinforced my initial feelings that the sender was selfish and demanding with no interest in me.

So, I emphasise – right now I will give what I can, but this is not my priority, my health and that of my children is and I may just start not replying to rude or triggering messages.

I do wish to thank those who have sent kind and/or supportive messages too, particularly in reference to helping the children look after Paul, WOAC – as expected, have been amazing – thank you 🥰

midweek – readjustment of priorities, hours reduced but aims the same

Over the coming weeks and months the three of us are going to be attending a whole bunch of medical appointments. 

Happy to share my issues, as I already have been, particularly as it impacts my ability to shoot and the necessity for changes to allow me to continue and I know there are those who like to see what is happening. 

The issues of my children are not up for public discussion. 

They get involved with Integr8Archery CIC often and help in delivery of a variety of things.

With this in mind, the amount that we will be doing this year will reduce to allow time to concentrate on the many health related things going on. 

Existing projects and new projects and lots of exciting things will be happening but there will be some careful selection processes as we utilise our energy on less hours. 

You will see us on ranges shooting, competing, delivering and supporting but be prepared that you may some times hear a polite but firm refusal to be involved in something. 

There are also some things that are important to us as topics such as anti violence and providing alternative options, these will continue to be important to us and you will see us continue to work in these areas.

I make no apology for putting us first. 

See you all soon and I will continue to let you know what is happening with projects 🥰🏹

An old photo but one of my favourites 🥰

New Year = New Challenges? What will you do in 2024 as we reflect on 2023?

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the year that’s coming to an end, most of us do it, only natural I guess. For me it’s just a blink of an eye from last New Year’s Eve. Walking in to see my parents and spend a couple days with them but realising that likely wouldn’t be the case. We had spent time over Christmas FaceTiming and laughing and those memories will always make what came next easier, it certainly gives me comfort to recall the laughter shared between dad and the children.

So my 2023 started with the end of dad’s life, 3 days when we were supported by an amazing team who we didn’t even know on New Year’s Eve.

We had spent 6 and a half months having big conversations, hard conversations and talking about little things- we knew what was going to happen and we prepared for it and I have had a year of his voice in my ear with the messages he left from those conversations.

2023 was going to be the year I tried to build on the recovery of my mental health after the horrific 2021/2022 and everything that it brought, but I would be doing it without my dad.

So, did I achieve it? In many ways, yes! My head is a calmer, stronger place but I also still have more work to do there, a lot more work. I am pleased I have the years of messages that contain the promises that were used to destroy me, they reassure me that my memories and recollections are right and my counsellor confirms that my reactions to everything that followed are reasonable and I am grateful that she’s always there when I need her.

2023 has allowed me to breathe and look at Integr8archery CIC with a more relaxed view. I am proud of what I achieve and grateful to those who help me. It’s also the positive of what came from that very dark period of my life and it’s something I shared in our weekly chats with dad, his love of listening to me talk of “my little business”. He was proud of those stats in the blog on the 26/12/22 and it makes me proud to have those 6 monthly reflections as I can hear him speak to me.

2022 and 2023 have taught me that I give so very much to my sport and that it’s ok to admit that it’s not always a good thing and with that in mind 2023 saw me start to build on some of the other things that I do and change the balance of where I use my time.

In 2023 – I gave a total of 1243 hours to volunteering, averaged that’s 23.9 hours a week. 2022 had that figure at just over 30 hours a week. So I have claimed a bit of time, not a lot, but those who know me well know that 7 hours a week for me is massive!

Of those hours 20.66 a week are for Integr8archery CIC – a total of 48 hours from that 1243 had nothing to do with archery at all!

I absolutely advocate volunteering and what you can get from giving to others, I really wouldn’t advocate giving the number of hours that I give!

Professional change came from a change in job but not to the one that I had been offered a year ago, in fact what I do hadn’t even been a thought a year ago! But I love it and I have been promoted, is it difficult some days, yes! Is it worth doing – absolutely and I cannot imagine what you might offer me as an alternative that I would consider doing! I mean I must love it to be going to an ice skating disco for over 8 hours this evening 🫣😬😱😂

My archery? I had hoped to get back to my 1000 arrows a week, stats show me I have averaged 525 arrows a week! Not what I had wanted but neither had I anticipated the time/balance of new work and family responsibilities or my ever deteriorating physical health. My shoulder has deteriorated, my back is definitely not happy 😬 but my hands, particularly my right hand, the deterioration there in 2023 has seen me loose the ability to grip at an accelerated rate this year, and the weird spasms in my thumb are frankly bizarre/frustrating and weird. Three hospital appointments in the next few weeks will hopefully move us to some answers! 🤞🏻

Of course the good news in my archery is the gift of new cams from the manufacturer for my bow which I now have back and the timing is that I can learn my new way of shooting with my very pretty bow in my hands. Thank you to Maggie, Bowtech and Martin.

These changes meant that the classification I had worked hard at for the outdoor season from starting in 2018 to summer 2022 slipped in 2023 – and yes, I measure the new classifications but also use the old because for comparison they have meaning that the new just don’t yet. Indoors I had finished 2022/2023 on my best ever indoor classification and though this season started way below, the work I am putting in is seeing that climb back up and maybe I might 🤞🏻 end the indoors where I was last year – and it will be fun to see where I settle on the new indoor classifications.

2024? work on my hand, work on my archery, and continue to work towards access to sport for all. It’s going to be interesting to see where it goes but at least I know I will see many of you as I go through the year – and that is by far the most important part of 2024 – I wish you good health, love and laughter 🥰🥂

Week 76! – deliberately a day late – grab a drink and have a read

I often get asked how I am here, now, today with all these hats! Literally and figuratively 😜

So I thought I would explain a little, though many of you know already.

As a child I took along while to learn to walk, my mum was told it was because I was on the heavy side, well in actual fact when someone eventually took the time to investigate what was going on with my knees, it was discovered that some of my bones are not straight and as a result some of my joints are not quite how they should be. This resulted in me being offered my first surgery and I could go radical – literally an offer to have bones cut, plates attached and general horribleness with no promises of improvement but certainly some risks or the simpler offer of general poking and tidying in my knee and some ligaments cut to help with the knee. Call me a coward but I opted for the simpler offer. I then had surgeries every 5-7 years on my left knee until they stopped around 13 years ago.

Then there was a huge traumatic event in 1996 which damaged bits of me, bones, nerves, ligaments, etc. Added to the general clumsiness of the last (almost) 49 years and a series of broken bones in various places but my fingers, foot, shoulder blade and a couple of car accidents that have impacted my back, shoulder and neck and pretty much most of me hurts a lot of the time. Years of avoiding painkillers as a result of watching someone with addiction means I have damaged nerves to help me ignore the pain.

At school my general clumsiness saw me in goal for football and netball and an eager participant in unihoc basically a fast and furious indoor 4 a side hockey. I did briefly have a place on the lacrosse team but I was taken off that and the less said about that the better! 😬

I was not built for running – fast or cross country – though as an adult I have completed a learn to run course and did regularly attend park run with the children, completed a 10km that ended in the Olympic stadium and, along with Rose took part in a race at Walt Disney World which I highly recommend.

So I became an adult understanding that sport was not for me, school had tried and failed to find anything I thrived at.

Fast forward to becoming a parent, I finally found someone who was brave enough to teach me to ride a bike 🚲- my first physiotherapist all those years earlier had told me he had me on the bike because he’d never seen anyone pedal how I did!

Jack tried many sports and eventually asked of he could try archery and we had some very real concerns over if he would be accepted with his epilepsy. In actual fact I have no idea that we would all be accepted and welcomed in such a way.

Since he needed an adult his dad decided he might as well join in and they completed their beginners course together. At the time I focused on Rose who was busy grading her way through her taekwondo belts and though she wanted to shoot with Jack, had some growing to do before she was able to draw a bow, though she was often found on a range trying, just in case she was now big enough!

In 2017 she was finally big enough and I was quite happy enjoying the sounds on the range whilst reading my book. Until I decided that I was going to do my beginners course in early 2018 just to avoid looking after other people’s children. Except I actually enjoyed it and with the understanding of how my body was broken I picked up a compound bow and set about shooting, we were fairly certain I had about 2 years in my shoulder. My intention was to cram as much as possible into that time.

I certainly did as I found myself at competitions week after week and was stunned when I was asked to shoot for the county! Worried that the squad would wonder why I was there I anxiously made my way and found the most amazing and accepting group of people I have ever been blessed to be around.

2019 saw me begin to breakdown and also for the first time ever, sit down with a physiotherapist who looked at all of me at once, I am grateful to the NHS but they have only ever looked at whichever has been the critical bit in the moment.

2020 saw me eventually accept that if I wanted to carry on I had to sit to shoot, not a process I easily accepted but I had lots of help from lots of people. Covid gave me the time to work my way through the mental process of change.

2021 saw me face the very real possibility of loosing my sport and a huge mental breakdown. Again some amazing people helped me through this too.

2022? well the head is in a better place but that earlier mentioned nerve damage has progressed rapidly and the issues of not being able to hold things well and my shoulder breaking down have created some issues and so change finds its way to me again, and the long waits for new hospital appointments and tests.

Throughout all of this I have been giving my time in lots of ways at club, county, regional and national levels – learning incredible amounts about my sport, how it works and how accessible, inclusive and adaptable it is. For 3 years I was an Archery GB ambassador and started to grown the work I had been doing to get people into the sport I love but also helping people stay who were already here. Some faced changed – I know how hard that can be mentally, and some had not had the warm welcome that we had received and felt there was no place for them. Over time, as these projects grew, it was repeatedly stated that I was creating too much work, unsure how because I was doing it or sharing it with coaches etc who were interested.

In 2022 I resigned as an ambassador and a few months later, after being told that I had a place and a purpose and I could do it alone I created Integr8archery CIC and shortly after Integr8archery club.

I work hard on those same aims, inclusion, accessibility and diversity. For those who haven’t picked up a bow and those who think they may have to leave.

I still hold club and regional roles whilst volunteering my time to Archery GB whenever possible for completions both national and international.

I am privileged to work with many groups and enjoy it all though it can be overwhelming at times being on my own, but I have a trusted group of coaches who work with me.

Why did I think that it was worth waiting for today for this?

My belief in this sport and what it can offer comes from that first experience when we were welcomed by Wellingborough Open Archery Club (WOAC). When the club was created all those many years ago the word Open was included because they aimed to be inclusive for everyone. Amongst the many people there was Pat Comber who first supported my son, his dad, then our daughter and eventually me. From picking up my first bow – the controversial beginner who went straight to compound! My early selection to county and then the changes I have had to make. Whilst at the same time listening to my ideas for driving inclusion and spreading our sport. Always believing and encouraging and inspiring with the conversations about setting up this club to be open, to creating a disability club and a ladies only club. All those years before when inclusion was certainly not mainstream agenda.

So, yes, today seems incredibly fitting to explain what I do and why and where some of that inspiration came from and why it will be hard work and draining but also a fight worth taking on, because I was shown what can happen when someone opens the door to sport for you. Me – that fat child from the 70’s who has a sport that accepted her and my son with the challenges that epilepsy brings and my shy little girl – in fact as a family, shown a welcome that makes us give so much to the sport in lots of way, but by making it welcoming.

We will miss Pat, not just as a family but the wider archery community too but I shall see what I can continue to achieve on our joint belief that we can bring this sport to anyone. ❤️🏹

week 75! – I love volunteering – so incredibly satisfying 🥰

Sorry there was no mid-week blog drop but I was busy and exhausted 😴

The last competition of the year for Archery GB is in the bag and as always an amazing weekend, it’s always a pleasure to help put these events on, though everyone I have ever done has a moment somewhere when I question my sanity and wonder why I am not at home with my pjs on 🫣😂 and this was no exception. The juniors always blow me away and it was a privilege to spend my Sunday agenting for 2 different youngsters during the day. Proud of both of them ❤️🏹

Today is International Volunteer Day – I have volunteered since I was 16 years old and in the intervening years I have done many, many things but can honestly say that I haven’t hated any of them. Some may have had moments when I wondered what the heck I was doing but there’s been nothing I wouldn’t do again.

All fit within the areas of accessibility and provision of opportunity in sport, education, safeguarding, creating change – particularly around violence and inclusion, and supporting families to have their best chances.

Thinking of giving volunteering ago? Go for it! There are so many things you could do, some from the sofa! What’s your reason for not giving it a go? I wouldn’t recommend the amount that I do – around 25-30 hours a week, but it’s too late for me now 😂 I can’t work out what to stop and I am considering new challenges as we sit here 🤷‍♀️ as Jack always says I am donkey from Shrek 😜

Anyway have a think, pull on a hi viz vest or a volunteer shirt and have a blast 🥰

week 73 – treat every as individual and with respect! Surely it’s obvious?

Disability and inclusion are massively important and huge drivers for me. Though it never fails to astound me at the lack of support and understanding shown by some.

When we came to this sport as a family we were worried about how epilepsy would be viewed and we were surprised at the incredibly warm welcome we received. The support he and we, as a family received helped Jack settle quickly and thrive in the sport he loved.

We did see examples in other places of archers not receiving the support that we had and it was important to me that this was clearly an area that needed work. It was the main reason myself and Jack became ambassadors for AGB, explaining that inclusion and diversity were my reasoning and the areas that I wanted to focus on. Ensuring that those who want to try our sport receive a warm welcome with necessary adaptations but also supporting those within it who need to adapt and change to stay.

The key part to anyone in this sport is being treated as an individual, no two people are the same, and we need to be treated accordingly.

I see amazing examples of exactly this, and I try to ensure that coaches who I work with do exactly this. It is why I signed up to the Children’s Coaching Collaborative last year and signed my pledge at the launch of the Play their Way campaign.

At the weekend I was thanked for how I spent time patiently introducing a young person to archery, he was non verbal and instructions needed to be adapted, we had a great time and we shot lots of arrows. Communication should be adapted for everyone, non verbal does not mean lack of understanding or that the person can’t communicate in other ways.

I also spent time in another setting with a wheelchair archer who has some issues with confidence following comments made by other archers suggesting that she has been shooting inaccurately and that she should have known this, unsure how if no one ever explained it? But that the wording and implications were suggestive that being physically disabled is linked to issues with understanding instructions.

Why people cannot be careful with words is something I have never understood and that so many do not understand the damage words and tone can do is beyond me! I also don’t understand why a person who says something damaging never realises and therefore take responsibility, apologise and fix the matter.

Everyone deserves the right to be treated with respect and as an individual, disability brings a variety of challenges that can create boundaries and challenges without the additional burden of having to worry about how coaches or other people may speak to them.

Be kind, it doesn’t take a lot of effort surely.

week 72 – measuring success can be so many things

Some time ago whilst collaborating I had a discussion about how we measure success, it’s not all about medals and bling and we have to pay particular attention to the individual, their challenges, goals and achievements. I was asked to write something for the website that was being set up to explain as it was believed that for many, it is about ranking and bling.

For me it can be many things. My PTSD creates serious anxiety and agoraphobia, daily I have to build up the strength to step over the threshold to take me outside the house. Every day! It’s one of the reasons that I like routine and structure but also to be busy.

If we go back, before the world of shopping online for everything, the longest I stayed in the house and didn’t leave was almost 10 months. Luckily my GP at the time gave me the support I needed to learn techniques to help me. There are still days though when my head is busy with overthinking and I slip and the work to get me outside is huge.

This weekend I had plans, all in my calendar, get home from work Saturday morning, off to LBAC to drop off my bow and cams and shoot a little, over to AOR to shoot a Portsmouth scored round and get everything ready for Sunday – my first indoor competition of the 23/24 season.

However an email Friday pushed all my anxiety to the front, off to work I went, but Saturday, once home I didn’t want to leave, not a surprise and so began the battle. Eventually I did leave the house and took my bow and cams to LBAC, I deliberately didn’t take my other bow so no shooting. A catch up with friends helped my mood a little but the anxiety and the delays created meant no scored round. Sunday morning? Seriously struggled to leave the house, a million excuses to stay at home, safe. However Rose was going to this competition and there would be friends there, so I accepted the offer of a lift from Paul and dragged myself there. No expectations as I had failed to do the prep this week and I am still dealing with the decision over the future of my release aid.

My PB for a Portsmouth is 548 – scored several times, so close to that next elusive Portsmouth badge of 550! I had sat down Wednesday to consider a realistic expectation and a challenging goal. So I set up at Green Dragon Bowmen with 2 scores in mind – 450 and 500.

My boss buddy was welcoming and we had a friendly session chatting about the sport and our experiences. I saw friends I expected to see, made new ones and saw some friends I hadn’t seen for a while who I hadn’t expected to see. I enjoyed the session and was incredibly happy to finish with a score of 528, had I not had a miss with a shoulder spasm I would have been close to my PB! So much better than I had hoped for.

However, the other unexpected gains from the day were conversations, about disability and adaptations or considerations that can improve their experiences. People that I didn’t know asking about Integr8Archery and the work that I do because they have seen references to me on social media, lots of positive feedback based on people’s thoughts on the projects. So by the time we left my head space was significantly improved over the last couple of days and I had some thoughts about how to improve things in regards to my release.

Top off the day with news that I had managed gold, unexpected but welcome news and a raffle prize! Perfect end to a day that starting with me almost not leaving the house 😱 The medal isn’t the measure of my day, it’s the ability I had to follow my process despite having to keep coming down during the shot routine as I repeatedly lost sensation in my fingers. Careful and controlled process got me that score. I am lucky to have friends who support me and who help me answer questions and find solutions as I continue my journey to shoot for as long as I can ❤️🏹

Busy week ahead with planning meetings and some training but I will update on those at the weekend. Take care of yourselves 🤗

Week 71 – thank you everyone 😊

My memory feed shows that it was a year ago that I explained things needed to be fluid for a while as I needed to put family first. I was going to be spending frequent time with my dad and family as we prepared to loose him. I didn’t have a time frame but I would warn you when I would be unavailable and keep you informed so you knew when I would be slower at answering. You were all amazing and that has continued ever since. I have long term family commitments and I keep you informed – thank you for always paying attention.

To allow me to do everything I need to the day job allowed me to condense my every other weekend into 1 in every 4, this works fantastically for my family commitments but also has great benefits for me and the young people I work with. It means for 56 hours over 3 days I am pretty much not available for you all.

You have blown me away, you don’t make demands, the messages I get over those weekends are checking on me or letting me know about your achievements or silly photos from ranges – I don’t take it for granted that for the most part people know Integr8Archery CIC is me, no one else here to run it and you understand that the 25-30 hours a week I give are as a volunteer who has a demanding full time job, family commitments, my own archery and I do some occasional volunteering in other places.

So thank you, it’s not much but it’s all I can say. I am grateful for all of you and the support you give me.

The last few weeks have been tough, there’s so much going on for me that though recently tempted to explain in summary, I won’t at this time and thank you Ben for being my sounding board. Dealing with a significant safeguarding issue for over 3 years can be draining and hard at times not to scream publicly at the world but maybe we’ll get there eventually.

Issues at the club are close to resolved with repairs being completed so hopefully things will be back on track soon, I never understand what people gain from deliberately damaging or destroying things that belong to others and this is no different to any other example.

Event planning moving forward for lots of things in 2024 so I am going to be busy for a while 😜

Have a good week and see you soon, looking forward to shooting some arrows this weekend and happy to see some competitions starting to fill my indoor calendar ❤️🏹

There is nothing more important than safeguarding!!

In all areas of my life I think safeguarding is the most important aspect. From parenting, to residential youth worker and in sports. Some times this can be big things, often it’s little things. Some times it’s reacting to huge issues others it’s supporting wellbeing and welfare. Some times an ear and a coffee, sign posting or contacting other agencies.

It’s an area that I have been actively involved in since I started working in the public sector 30 years ago. I undertake the mandatory training and renewals but I also do other additional training, things that I believe can teach me to be better for those who need me in any of the areas of my life.

Those closest to me know the biggest piece of work here is something I have been doing for over 3 years, it’s massive and involves a lot of people, it grows almost constantly, people being pointed towards me to add context to what I have, years and years of experiences and issues told to me. Some just do that, they want nothing more than to feel someone has listened when previously they believed no one has. Others need ongoing support and the most important part of this is ensuring that there is the right professional help and I am then just part of their team of support. Mental health professionals are key but my ears are there to help. Not just those who come to me to explain their story but their families who often feel they should have seen something that they missed, and now feel guilt.

I can understand this as I carry it too, I missed what was happening to my child whilst I was busy supporting others.

There are days this is so incredibly draining and I am left emotionally and mentally exhausted and I am grateful to another safeguarding officer who sits and let’s me debrief with them, but also others who support me, they don’t need me to share details but they know I give and give to support these people, to be the person who hasn’t walked away.

Why might others have turned away? It’s hard, the massive issue needs so much work from so many people to change what’s happening. That level of energy and fight is hard to carry every day. I have considered walking away more than once, but I am struck with the fact that if I do, I am another person who has let these people down and who else will fight?

I have sought advice from the right places, agencies etc and I am at my next step, I don’t have many left and the last big step is one I hope I do not have to take because I hope that it can be dealt with without me taking that step.

Imagine as a safeguarding officer declaring yourself as vulnerable, on 3 separate occasions in 18 months, and not receiving the support or care for your well-being but yet I am expected to reassure those who have come to me that the support is there to be found?

I have repeatedly advised that my PTSD, anxiety and my ability to seriously overthink any situation means that we have to try, where we can, to manage the available opportunities for me to reach out when information is dumped on me.

Yesterday was another example of how the repeated lack of attention to this can impact me on a massive scale. A situation I am not aware of seeing a letter emailed to me at the end of business on a Friday. I opened it with no idea of what I would find as I am waiting on contact from that very team regarding my latest communication on this massive issue I am dealing with. Yet when I opened it, it hit me like a brick wall, because it was something new that sent me spinning, that required a response, but that saw me have no ability to reach out with my questions.

I sent my response, I had to, in an attempt to stop that spiralling that I have repeatedly asked for support to prevent. Had I been able to reach out and ask a couple of questions I could have dealt with it smoothly and calmly, but that was denied me. So now I wait, with just the serious overthinking to keep me company for however long this will take.

Thank you to those who have stepped in and supported me in the last 20 hours, never do I take you for granted, but I am certainly stronger because I have you here. It’s also shown me that whilst I am vulnerable I am, most definitely, stronger than October 21-October 22.

Take care of yourselves please.