4 YEARS ON.

Posted: 13/04/2014 in Uncategorized

So here we are again, April 13th, 4 years to the day of the lowest point in my life. I dread the anniversary almost as much as I celebrate it… let me explain.

 

It is hard to look back at the events of 4 years ago but not for the reasons you might expect, I look back and think of all the things I would have missed and all the pain I would have caused if I had gone through with the suicide attempt, in the last 4 years I have learned so much and done so much, I have had foreign holidays, I have had amazing times away with friends and done things and met people that I never would have dreamt of never mind actually accomplished.

Most of all I have learnt a lot about myself, I have learnt that stress and anxiety is avoidable, I have become a much more laid back person and I just dont do stress anymore, sure I have bad days like everyone else on this planet but I have learnt to accept them for what they are and I have been lucky enough to have been taught how to cope with them. My favourite quote is “The only way to achieve true happiness is to not give a fuck what people think of you” … It’s true, why stress and worry about what people think of you, no one should ever have the power to make you feel inadequate or not worthy, why let them it can only affect you if you give them that power, not me, I dont need anyone to validate my worthiness or abilities as a human being, I am quite happy and content with who I am thanks.

 

My work with the Samaritans is something that has massively helped me, I cant believe it’s been almost a year since I did the big conference in London for Intrinsic, I have also spoken at conferences for Samaritans branches and events and am extremely proud and delighted to have a chance to give something back to the organisation that undoubtedly saved my life. This contiues and I have been asked to speak at events going forward this year.

 

 

Personal life is good, still single (by choice before anyone says anything LOL) work is good, I have friends who know me and accept me. I really love having friends that you can count on, friends who despite not living in each others pockets are there for you as you are for them anytime and knowing that is a massive lift.

 

I often get asked if I have beaten my demons … tough question, I would never take my mental health for granted and I would never be conceited enough to say “yes, I have beaten it”,  what I am able to do is cope with the bad days and put them away in a box and move forward, accept them as part of life but don’t let them become consuming or even give them any importance.

 

4 years on and I think back to that day and that phonecall which saved my life and I will never tire of doing whatever I can to raise awareness of the Samaritans. I also continue to fight the stigma and ignorance surrounding mental health issues.

I got a second chance at life and I am loving every second of it, I am now going to toast my second “Birthday” with a cheeky Jack Daniels and a bacon sarnie …. LIFE IS GOOD x

Update …

Posted: 29/06/2013 in Uncategorized

Lots happened since my last post and so much to catch up on …

 

I was invited to give a presentation at a conference by Intrinsic financial services in April, presenter was Fiona Bruce and guest speakers on the day were Sir Chris Hoy, Paul McKenna … and me !! … pretty surreal.

 

The reason for my invite was because Intrinsic have chosen the Samaritans to be their charity of choice for the next two years and it was at their annual conference that they announced this. My role was to speak to the delegates and give them some insight into the fantastic work that the Samaritans do and how they really are a lifeline for people who really have no-one they feel they can talk to.

 

I was asked to go to the venue the night before to do sound checks and a bit of a rehearsal as the event was being produced to a very high standard and they needed to get everything right for the day. I was asked to do 30 seconds of my speech so the sound guys could get microphone levels and stage positioning for filming sorted, when asked I replied that I couldn’t do the 30 seconds, and when asked why I replied “I cant do it because I don’t know what I am going to say” … this led to some puzzled and concerned looks but I assured them that I didn’t have a rehearsed script and don’t need one as it is my story and I prefer to speak without a script as people soon realise that you are using prompts and it lessens the emotion and feeling that comes across when you just get up there and go for it.

Onto the day itself and I was royally looked after, VIP greenroom and access to fine food and beverages all day (and a few sneaky Jack Daniels in the hotel bar the previous evening… for medicinal purposes of course ) Fiona Bruce was as professional as ever and delivered a very polished performance in keeping everything moving seamlessly, Paul McKenna did his bit and before I knew it I was waiting in the wings as my moment was approaching ….

As my name was announced I entered the conference to my walk on music which was “One day like this” by Elbow, a really brilliant song which I play nearly every day, very loud.

I find myself on the stage in front of the assembled delegates and celebrities and I am off, I really cant remember everything I said but it went really well and I received a standing ovation at the end … the production company which filmed the event have promised me a dvd of my speech and I am looking forward to seeing what I said … I have been assured that it was both moving and inspirational, that will do for me.

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After my spot Sir Chris Hoy arrived and did his thing, it was so surreal, sharing a green room with people who you only ever see on the telly and here you are chatting away in a setting which just makes you keep pinching yourself to see if it is a dream. Me and Chris Hoy on the same stage … that’s one to tell the grandkids one day.

The guys at the conference were given a text number to donate to the Samaritans directly after my presentation and that went really well with a significant amount being raised on the day and much needed awareness of a great charity and its work was achieved as well , overall a resounding success.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the event and would like to thank everyone at Intrinsic and the guys from Samaritans that were there to support me on the day for what was truly a memorable and unforgettable experience, one I replayed in my head the next morning at 6.30am as I was was walking to work in the pouring rain !

Happy “Birthday” To Me …

Posted: 13/04/2013 in Uncategorized

It is three years to the day that I left my son’s flat and set off with the sole intention of ending my life. What a journey it has been, from standing on the edge of a multi storey car park looking down, to standing on the set of Eastenders after contributing to the “Ian Beale” mental health breakdown story line. From sitting in a field curled up in a ball crying like a baby, to sitting on the red sofa doing a BBC Breakfast interview … excuse me for still not being quite able to get my head around the rollercoaster journey.

Today I celebrate my “Birthday” not the day I was born, but the day I feel I was given a second chance at “life”. I remember when I started this blog, I promised myself that for it to have any therapeutic qualities it had to be 100% honest and I am proud that I have done that. It is hard to read back and look at myself in the really dark days but that was me, it was how I felt and it was my reality.

I now have a full time job which I absolutely love, I am doing lots of stuff for The Samaritans and Time To Change, I am a team leader on the Colchester SOS bus, and on the management commitee of/and do voluntary work at the Colchester Emergency Night Shelter, keeping busy is good for me, I look back at the person who would only get out of bed to go to the loo or make a cuppa and shake my head in shock at how much things have moved on, this month I will be attending an AGM of a company who have chosen to support The Samaritans as their charity for the coming year and I will be speaking in front of hundreds of people, sharing a stage with Fiona Bruce and Paul McKenna !!. I have also been honoured with the tiltle of “Visiting Fellow” by Essex University for my work with the department of Health & Human Sciences.

I have met so many wondeful people over the last three years and I owe so much to a lot of people. I hope by giving something back to society and doing whatever I can to speak out against stigma and create awareness surrounding mental health issues goes a little way to paying back the people who have been there for me when I was at my lowest.

At the moment I am where I want to be, not many people will be able to appreciate just how fantastic that feels.

Moving on …

Posted: 24/03/2013 in Uncategorized

Well the Newsnight piece was broadcast and judging from the feedback from both the Samaritans, the BBC and the production company, it was well received and raised some much-needed awareness surrounding suicide in people of my age group and the effect it has on loved ones. The total filming time (including set up etc etc) was over 10 hours, but was edited into a 12 minute piece, obviously they needed to put it together in a way that would make for an insightful and moving feature and overall I was happy with the edit.
Although I was a little sad that my Son didn’t feature in the final edit I got to hear a lot of things when he was talking that we hadn’t spoken to each other about, that was worth so much to me and something that has brought us closer together than ever i think.

As far as personal life goes, I have come a long way since starting my job, having an extra few quid in my pocket and having a purpose in life are so massive for boosting self-esteem. It has enabled me to sort a few things out in my flat, I now have a carpet in my hallway, small things like that I have never been able to afford to do since moving in and it’s amazing how proud I felt at getting that sorted. I have also been trying to lose weight, I looked at the pictures of me on the eastenders set and realised that I needed to make some changes, time to stop blaming it on the meds and get my arse into gear, that has been easier than I thought and although I still want to lose more, I have lost over 3 stone !! … another boost for the self-esteem :)

Voluntary work is still being maintained and I absolutely love working at the night shelter and the SOS bus, I am so lucky to be able to work with some really fantastic people who have played a major part in my recovery. The SOS bus has enabled me to meet so many great people and meant that I have made a new circle of friends and actually have a semblance of a social life, something that I never really had locally as the people who I class as really good solid friends live a fair distance away and I cannot see as much of them as I would like to. The Night Shelter too has given me so much, again some fantastic people there who accept me and value my input, you can never underestimate just how much passion and commitment the staff there have for their job and the people they help, often thankless but so worthwhile.

Going forward, plans are in place to visit Spain in June to do a little work over there on an awareness campaign, hopefully that comes together as I could do with a little sun on my back … and if the weight loss goes well I might even get the swimmers on and go on a beach without worrying that Greenpeace will come over and try to re-float me LOL

So basically it’s still a case of looking forward and moving on, that will do for me.

Samaritans fund raising

Posted: 17/02/2013 in Uncategorized

Things have been snowballing on the media work front, since the Times story and the BBC Breakfast appearance, I was contacted by BBC Newsnight to do some work with them via the Samaritans.

I met a producer in Colchester for a chat and that went well, a few days later I got a call saying that they wanted to film me in Colchester and would like to speak to my eldest son too !  My Son reluctantly agreed to speak to the researcher and long story short he agreed to be filmed with me.

We met up at a coffee shop in Colchester and were soon joined by Hannah the producer and Tim Samuels who will be doing the interviewing and will be again when I go to the studio in London tomorrow to film a studio debate/discussion with some other people. My Son did really well in front of the camera and we spoke about things that we had not even mentioned to each other before, I felt quite emotional hearing him talk about his feelings and experience of my illness but I was also incredibly proud of him. Not sure when the programme will be aired on Newsnight, but it’s looking like end of this month or early next.

 

The Samaritans postal fund raising and awareness campaign has just been launched and I am very proud to be featured in the campaign. Along with my story there is also a couple of video clips which answer some questions.

Click HERE to read the story

I really hope that the campaign is successful and generates some much needed donations to an awesome organisation that without a doubt saved my life and do the same for others 24/7 365 days a year, if anyone is reading this and has a few quid to spare then I really hope you would consider choosing the Samaritans as a worthwhile recipient of a donation.

I am absolutely loving the media work I am doing, many people say that I am brave for being so open about my illness and life, but I don’t think it’s brave at all, I just think that I am doing my bit to make people aware that Mental Health issues are more common than people might think and that recovery although tough and sometimes painful is possible.

 

Update (about time !!)

Posted: 26/01/2013 in Uncategorized
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Well, where do I start, so much has happened since the last blog post, and pretty much all of it positive.

I have got a job !!  Started on December 3rd, I am working as a support worker in supported living, basically the job involves supporting people with learning difficulties and mental health problems to access the community and help them maintain the tenancy on their home. it is a really rewarding job and I am loving it. It is amazing that just having a purpose to actually get up in the morning makes you feel so much better about yourself (and a few bob in my pocket is really nice too.)

My work with Time to Change has been ongoing too, I was recently asked to go to London to do an interview and photo shoot with the sun newspaper on the theme of “positive recovery from mental health issues” not sure when that is going in but it was a great day and we were treated really well by everyone on the day. I will of course post when I find out when the article will run.

I have also been approached by the Samaritans to do some ambassador work for them, I will be featuring in their upcoming fund raising mail shot among other things, I also got asked to speak to a journalist from the Times newspaper, and the article was published on Wednesday 23rd … later that same day I was asked if I could get to Manchester to appear on the BBC Breakfast TV programme on Thursday 24th !!  Well that took some sorting but it fell into place with my work shifts and at about 8pm I was on a train from Colchester to London and then to Manchester … what a rush, but I was really excited about the opportunity and was happy to do it. The TV interview went really well and despite being really nervous I think it went quite well, I had lots of positive feedback and the people at the Samaritans were happy with it so that was good.

I had a bit of a shock at Euston underground on the way back, A very nice lady in a business suit caught my eye and smiled, I smiled back after doing the “look over your shoulder to see if she was smiling at someone else”  maneuver … The lady then said “Hello, I just wanted to say I saw you on the BBC this morning and I wanted to say that it was a brilliant interview and so inspiring” .. WOW, i didn’t expect that, was quite flattered to get recognised though ;)

Since the Times article and the TV interview went out things have been really hectic, I got some really nice feedback from people I have never met through the link to this blog which was posted on the BBC website and Twitter, I have been genuinely overwhelmed and humbled by the response and if it helps just one person and gives them the courage to speak to someone or seek help before they get to the stage I was at, then it will be the greatest achievement of my life … BY FAR !

I don’t think I will ever lose my passion for creating awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, it can happen to any one at any time and the more time and effort that goes into getting that point out to as many people as possible is time well spent.

Again thank you for all the positive feedback and encouragement, it is really humbling to know that people read this blog, and I will be sure to keep it updated regularly with the next chapter of my journey, wherever that may take me.

Mind Media Awards

Posted: 21/11/2012 in Uncategorized

I had been looking forward to this for a long time, a posh awards ceremony hosted by Stephen Fry at the British Film Institute on Southbank, don’t mind if I do !!

Suitably attired in the old faithful £29 Asda suit (fast becoming legendary) I got to the venue in good time to see a red carpet surrounded by paperazzi snapping people going in, I made my way in and felt a bit weird, I couldn’t help but think back to the very beginning of this blog and where I was back then, I had to take a few deep breaths that’s for sure.

The place was packed, women in their best dresses, blokes in suits, waiters milling around with trays full of big glasses of wine and bottled beer, obviously I had to get a beer, well I mean it would be rude not to accept the hospitality right ?.  I soon bumped into some friendly faces from Time To Change and felt really comfortable at that point, in fact I was like a bloody meerkat, my head was turning left, right, left, as famous faces were everywhere it was so surreal. I was introduced to Derek Martin who played Charlie Slater in Eastenders, he was keen to talk about my experience with helping out on the Ian Beale breakdown story, Derek has been a long time supporter of MIND as his son has problems with mental health issues and he is really keen on educating people about the illness. While I was talking to him Gok Wan walks past, followed by Frankie from “The Saturdays” and Denise Welch then Bill Oddie, Amanda Lamb and loads of other people I recognised. A couple of beers later and it was time to take our seats in the auditorium for the ceremony, I had a great seat, a few rows back from the stage, right in the middle and was sat right next to Sue Baker who is the Director of Time to Change !

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Stephen Fry appeared on stage to a massive round of applause and the awards ceremony started, so many stories of courage and brilliance from people who had been through so much and the TV and radio programmes in which their stories were told, it was quite emotional at times yet so inspiring. Then it came to the Soaps category in which the Eastenders story was up against the Zak Dingle story from Emmerdale and a welsh soap called Pobol y Cwm. The chap that helped out with the Emmerdale story was Lol Butterfield, I had met him a few times at various Time to Change events and we had become good mates, always sharing a beer and a laugh as we shared our experiences. Emmerdale was announced the winner and I was genuinely delighted for Lol as he made his way onto the stage with the Actors that play Zak Dingle, Marlon Dingle and Megan Macey, I always thought that Emmerdale would win as it was a brilliant story and had been a much longer portrayal as “Zak, never left the soap and viewers saw him go right through his illness. Like I said I was absolutely thrilled for Lol and we shared a good few beers after the ceremony to celebrate.

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As the ceremony wound down, Paul Farmer MIND’s Chief Executive made a closing speech and I was chuffed that he mentioned myself and Lol by name and publicly praised the work we had done, that was really nice and appreciated. That was the ceremony over and everyone filed out of the theatre and into the reception lounge where more beers and a superb selection of canapes were served, it was at this point that as I was walking towards the bar I got a tap on the shoulder and turned round to see Adam Woodyatt standing there !. He had been looking for me. He thanked me and after a warm handshake we had a good chat about the story, and had a good laugh as we asked each other questions about it, next thing we know we are getting swept away to have photo’s done ..

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With Sue Baker (director of Time to Change.

Have to say that Adam was really nice, he was genuinely interested in my story and was so down to earth. He attended with his wife Beverley who is equally nice and really beautiful. A while later he left and told me that he wanted to keep in touch, we swapped email addresses and twitter names and I was thrilled to find out he had mentioned me on his twitter feed and is following me as well … I have to use that word again “surreal” ..

I had a fantastic night, the lovely Jenni from Time to Change is so lovely, she has looked after me since my first contact with the charity and we have built a great rapport and a friendship which is great, she never stopped all night, rushing here,there and everywhere but still had time for everyone and when the evening was winding down we had a chance for a quick hug and a chat (Jenni hugs are the greatest lol)

I had a good chat with Mark Charnock who plays Marlon Dingle in Emmerdale, started about mental health but soon went on to football and other things, again really down to earth and a really nice bloke. A load of my mates reckon I look like Paddy and even Mark said he thought I did …sighhhhh, that will explain the fact that we were both laughing when we got a photo taken.

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All too soon it was time to leave and make my way home, I had the best time ever and couldn’t stop smiling all the way back to Colchester. I am so lucky that I have had the opportunity to help raise awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding mental health issues and I will always be passionate about the cause and hope to be involved going forward.

So many people to thank for a brilliant experience but I know if I start naming names I will miss someone out so I will just say a massive THANK YOU to everyone who has played a part in making the whole experience so incredible and unforgettable. 

Albert Square !!

Posted: 02/11/2012 in Uncategorized

Blimey, been nearly 3 months since I last posted.

Things are ticking over in real life, been for a few interviews for jobs but yet to get a job, all good experience though and hopefully I will make the breakthrough soon. My health has been pretty stable for a while now, although I did get pretty low after the last rejection from an interview, good news is that I got through it intact and managed to fight my way through the black clouds that descended.

On 31st October I visited Elstree BBC studios for a tour of the eastenders set, this was arranged by the lovely people that I had been working with on the research team as a thank you for helping them with the Ian Beale storyline.

I had really been looking forward to going and the day started with a train journey from Colchester into London, then to Farringdon for the last leg of the journey to Elstree where the BBC studios are. I shit you not, this is the gospel truth, when I got on the train at Farringdon, it had hardly pulled away when a bloke sat opposite me leaned over and said “Is this the right train for St Albans” … I replied yes it is, he then said “oh thank you, I wasn’t sure, I am from the country you see” I just smiled and said no problem you are welcome” … the person talking was none other than Norris Cole from Coronation street LOL, was a bit sad really, he obviously wanted me to recognise him and every time the train stopped he stared at people getting on and off and smiled at them looking desperate to get recognised… no one did LOL.

I get to Elstree and make the short walk from the train station to the studio security gates, when I got to the entrance there must have been 5 or 6 people all waiting on the corner with autograph books in hand, I laughed as they all stared at me going in to see if they recognised me.  Once inside the security waiting area I signed in and was told to take a seat until Sophie (the lady from the script writers team that was going to be my host for the day) arrived, while I was waiting the young actor who plays Liam (Bianca’s son) came in as he had forgotten his security pass and had to sign in and get a ticking off from the security guard.

Sophie arrived and I was in !! … we walked through loads of buildings and as we turned the corner I got my first glimpse of Albert Square, we had to loiter outside the “Argee Bhajee” as they were still filming outside shots in the market outside the Queen Vic, we waited a couple of minutes and then Sophie suggested we go see some other things while they finish off, we walked around the studios and saw where they filmed all the exterior shots of Holby City and past hanger after hanger of eastenders props, bumped into the actors who play AJ (Masoods Brother) and Zainab, was so weird just casually walking past people who you have seen on the telly so often. It really is surreal to see a box full of rubbish just sitting by a storage cage with big labels on saying “Rubbish for outside Beales house” and a pile of distressed looking posters which are waiting to be posted up on sites around the set, you kind of forget that they have to go into so much detail to make things look realistic on screen.

We made our way back to the (very posh) canteen which was where all the cast and extras eat and drink while on set, when I walked in it was obvious that filming had finished, I was queuing up behind the actors who play Lola, Whitney, Anthony and others, have to say Whitney is absolutely stunning !! anyway, after a bit of lunch it was back on set where I visited all the locations which are so recognised as eastenders landmarks. Filming for the Christmas period had already been done and they are now on to post Xmas filming, all the decorations in the square are still up and it looked really good, walking through the market was weird, all the stuff on the stalls is real including all the fruit and veg on Beales stall and the flowers on other stalls … had loads of photos taken of me outside the Vic, the minute mart, the tube station, car lot, Arthur’s bench in the Square, and loads of other places. I never got any photos of me with cast members, I didn’t want to look like an excited fanboy (even though I was LOL), only downside was I didn’t get to meet Adam Woodyatt as he was filming on location that day so wasn’t on set but I hope to meet him at the upcoming “Mind Media Awards” in which the Beale storyline is up for an award at the event hosted by Stephen Fry and I have an invite (yes I know it is a blatant brag lol)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I left the studios there must have been a dozen people outside now waiting for autographs, I felt like telling them I was a new cast member that was playing Phil Mitchell’s cousin or something as I walked towards them, but I bottled it.

It was very strange watching Thursday nights episode knowing that just the day before I was walking those exact places.

So many great memories were created that day and I was treated fantastically well by everyone, was an amazing experience and one that not many people will ever get as the BBC do not allow public tours of the studios.

Creating awareness

Posted: 05/08/2012 in Uncategorized

A copy of the blog post I wrote for the Eastenders website

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/eastenders/2012/07/kevin-shepherd-supporter-of-ti.shtml

 

The man behind Ian Beale’s breakdown

 

Kevin Shepherd, supporter of Time to Change, England’s biggest mental health anti-stigma programme run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, writes:

 When I was contacted by Time to Change about advising a TV series with an upcoming mental health story line I never imagined it would turn out to be EastEnders!

Contact was quickly made with the research team and many emails and phone calls were exchanged, the outcome of which was the Ian Beale breakdown story. My input was welcomed and I quickly realised that this was going to be something I could really help with; I could draw on my own experiences and do my bit to make sure that Ian’s illness was portrayed accurately and as far as possible, realistic and believable.

 

Mental illness is a massive umbrella covering a vast array of different diagnoses. One of the biggest challenges in creating awareness of mental health issues is breaking down the stereotypical way people think when confronted with the term “mental illness” and Ian’s breakdown is just one of so many different ways that the illness can manifest itself.  My personal experience is of a mental breakdown and anxiety/depressive disorder and I could really empathise with the story.

 

Right from the start of my illness I was advised to start a blog, being as open and honest as I could, I was told it could prove to be very therapeutic, and it was. I wrote as often as I could - the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Eventually I plucked up the courage to share the blog with a few close friends and eventually it became even more public. Some of the entries (especially the very early ones) are quite painful to look back on, but that was me at the time, that was my life, and it helps me when I am having a bad day to look back and see where I was then and how far I have come since those dark horrible days.

One of my blog entries recalls an episode where I was walking along a dual carriageway completely lost and in total despair. As you can imagine I found it very tough to watch Ian do a very similar walk in the episode when his breakdown completely hit. I have to say that Adam Woodyatt who plays Ian played the part superbly well, the whole build up was acted brilliantly and the exit was outstanding in my opinion. Having seen some of the comments on social media sites it was also widely praised for being both moving and realistic.

My experience of helping out with the story was enormously positive, the people I was in contact with were superb and could not have been more supportive and understanding of the issues which they were portraying.

What next for Ian? Well, you will have to wait and see. I just hope that in some small way I have managed to do a little bit to make people see that mental health issues can affect anyone at any time and if this venture encourages just one or two people to challenge their pre-conceptions regarding mental health issues I will consider it a massive success.

Latest news …

Posted: 28/07/2012 in Uncategorized

As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I have been doing some work with the BBC on the Ian Beale “breakdown”  storyline on Eastenders. Ian is due back on screens in the coming week and I have been asked to do some  blogging for the storyline which will hopefully be available online from Tuesday night (31st July).

I got involved in this through a brilliant organisation called “Time To Change” a charity organisation which aims to reduce stigma and create awareness of mental health issues. They were heavily involved with the recent Channel 4 series titled “4 Goes Mad”  , a prime time series of programmes which highlighted some aspects of mental health illnesses and the stigma which is associated with them.

I was lucky enough to get an invite to the launch party at Ch4 headquarters in London (which I will blog about soon) and saw first hand how much good work is going on in the endeavor to raise awareness and educate people about mental health.

On a personal note, things are steady. I have really enjoyed being involved in the Eastenders storyline , and quite proud to have been asked to help with it, I just hope that it comes across well on screen and helps raise a little bit more awareness that it could happen to anyone.