Friday, 4 January 2019

What a Difference a Year Makes

I've not posted for a very, very long time and there's a reason for that, if you want to know why, please do read on and I will reveal all. As it happens, I've not posted for that long, I am amazed I even remembered my password. Trust me the fact I did, is a huge surprise to me because I generally walk into a room forget why I'm there only to remember when I return to the lounge...repeat three times and eventually I get there.

Anyway, where have I been, what have I been doing and what does the future hold? All very good questions. So without further ado, lets get on. I'll try and keep it brief, but you may want to grab yourself a cuppa and settle in, just in case I ramble on for longer than I intended.


This time last year, I was packing my bags (literally) and preparing to head to the Maytree. Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal. I've written about it before and I've said it before, but were it not for the Maytree, and the amazing people who work there, I may not be here now; such was the depth of the hole I had fallen into. However, their constant support, understanding and availability to talk and begin to make sense of the mess in my head (not to mention the constant supply of tea) was a turning point for me. It was the key to turning over the page and getting ready to start a new chapter.

It wasn't an easy ride. My mental illness meant that I was no longer able to work as a foster carer, a job that I loved, but I wasn't well enough to look after me, so looking after a young person was not even an option. As a result, I watched my savings dwindle and had to accept that I could no longer avoid the benefits system. 

Never having claimed benefits, it was a daunting and stressful time and my depression and anxiety took a huge dip, especially when I was called to attend a work assessment. I knew I couldn't cope with someone questioning my mental health, I knew it would break me again and I had only just started to mend. 

I decided to take matters into my own hands. I knew I wanted to help myself and others with mental illness, so I set about starting my own business. One that would, hopefully, provide an income for me, and others like me, as well as giving me the opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues for sufferers, and carers. I cancelled my health assessment meeting, contacted my work coach at the Job Centre (she is a fabulous lady) and declared myself fit for work.

I felt scared and empowered at the same time. I spent hours and hours every single day, researching suppliers, competition and skills gaps. I got myself onto an electronic bookkeeping course through the Job Centre and now have my Level 1 and 2 Sage Qualifications.

During this time, I decided to close down my online dating account. I wasn't 100% sure I was ready and I didn't feel I had time with the business. What do you know, I met someone. Someone who has a similar MH background to myself. He supports and understands me. He also runs his own business and has been an amazing mentor in that area too. Oh, and he makes me laugh every single day. I really am very lucky, very happy and very much looking forward to marrying him (yes we're engaged already).

The business set up has been a lot of hard work, finally going live in October 2018, and so Hugs was born. Currently, we only have a small range of products, but all of our artists are amazing and all live with mental illness. It's a real honour to work with such talent, and to be able to show people how creative a messed up mind can be. Most of all, I hope that our products encourage people to visit a friend and share a cuppa with them, or write them a heartfelt note to tell them how important they are (hence why we sell mugs and cards). You see, people living with mental illness are often isolated and a friend can make a huge difference. That's why I set up Hugs to encourage people to support friends and loved ones who are finding it difficult to cope. 

So you see, a year really does make a huge difference. I have risen from the depths of despair to a life full of hope. It's not the life I would have chosen. I hate that I have to claim benefits, but I know it's not forever, that's why I'm working so hard now, to make sure it isn't. I still have bad days now and then, but I know I have people around me who care. I don't have many people around me, but those I do, are the absolute best of the best.

So here's to 2019 and new chapters. 



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