Just be.

There’s no agenda to this post. It just is, as am I. Over the last few weeks, I have been talking to myself and getting to know what and who I am. I have been learning about what makes me me, and what is important to me.

When you start looking at all this emotional, mental, psychological and physical ‘junk’ that makes up what and who we are, you learn that not a lot actually matters. People, animals, education and creativity are my key components. Everything outside of that is irrelevant. Sure we need to eat and drink to live, but you do not have to gorge on luxurious food and fine wine to survive. We like our stuff, good food and drink, music, books, clothes, shoes, etc. but you don’t need them to truly experience life.

I’m not saying that we should all give up comfort and live a selfless life, caring more for others than ourselves, though a little more self-awareness, empathy and compassion is never a bad thing.

Thank you for listening.

I wish my brain would shut up sometimes…

Urgh, what a week. My brain has been tripping me up over the last few days, leaving me in a depressed state and on occasion, close to tears.

Yes, I know it’s not my brain directly, as it is an organ which carries and processes chemical and electrical signals throughout the body, amongst other things. It’s how you choose to act on these impulses that causes the problem and issues. Of course, if you haven’t taken prescribed medication, supported a partner with serious mental health issues, written assignments, made music, drawn, written…

As I got so physically tired out by the end of Monday, after studying counselling all day, I was shattered and the week loomed ahead of me, full of meetings, conferences, projects and assignments. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be me. Been there, done that. I got my fresh supply of meds, turned off my alarm and cancelled what I could. I know that getting so exhausted was an alarm call warning me to back off and slow down. I took heed and stopped. The last time this happened, I didn’t heed the warning, and ended up being signed off work for three months. Mind you, this was one of the best things to happen to me, as it gave me time to take stock, focus on my needs and decide what I wanted from the future.

The first thing to go was my job. Working in education has been amazing, but it was costing me my mental health. That last spell was my third serious ‘episode’ of depression in 10 years working in education as a teacher, library assistant and media technician, not all at the same time, however!

So, I decided to really focus on being self-employed as an artist and designer, educating myself about mental health, restarting my counselling studies, making comics and music, and looking after me. Yes, there’s my trait of taking on too much, but I was self-aware, ready for the fallout and had support in place. Since January 2014, I have rebuilt our art and design business from the ground up; written, drawn and published three comics; released loads of music and played it live (performing live was a big scary thing to tackle); passed my Level 3 Counselling course; started networking for business and pleasure; started my Level 4 Counselling course and a ton more besides.  Yes, I still try and do too much, but I’m happy and in charge of my life now. I’m closer to my wife, our children and my family; I walk our dog most days and play fetch with her; cycle when possible; enjoy reading more often; listen to way more music and podcasts and generally look after myself and the world I inhabit.

I’m proud of where I am now, and as I can read the warnings now and know what to do. Life might catch me out sometimes, but I can stop it from completely pulling the rug from under me.

Thanks for reading!

Never stop learning…

I got a letter from the college I’ve been studying (and used to work at…) at today, offering me a place on the CPCAB Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling Level 4 course. I’m really happy about this, as this is another big step to my becoming a qualified counsellor.

I started studying counselling 2 years ago, when the head of the counselling faculty recommended that I took the Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Studies, as there wasn’t an assertiveness course at the college, and this would be a good start. This was a short ten-week course, and as I progressed through it, the modality we studied, person centred therapy, clicked with me and made such sense. It was so natural and intuitive, and felt like this was something I’d known for years. I also had a new hero, Carl Rogers, the father of person centred therapy.

By the end of the course, I’d made some really good friends, and more importantly, realised I could help others. This was reinforced by one of my friends telling me to go onto Level 3 and become a counsellor, as there aren’t that many male counsellors, especially those that work with children…

See, after we’d been on holiday with our grandson, who was 9 at the time, I started researching child development. Our grandson was behaving like a stereotypical moody teenager at the time, and I really struggled with this. After some online research, I found out that puberty starts early with lots of younger children, around 9. This must be really scary, as it’s bad enough when you’re older dealing with mental and physical changes, but imagine going through it at such an early age… Now, the reason I’d been recommended going on an assertiveness course at my college (I was working there at the time…), was that I had issues dealing with disruptive ‘bad’ behaviour from teenagers, and needed to learn better strategies to deal with this kind of behaviour. They are going through massive changes just like our grandson was.

So at the time I started Level 3, in September 2013, I had decided that my focus was to work with younger people, and help them through this time of amazing transformation from child to adult. I got three weeks in and had a complete breakdown, and was signed off work for three months, due to mental health issues. My plan to become a counsellor had stalled, though our lovely head of faculty told me it was fine, and that I could restart the course the following year. Phew.

Level 3 Counselling was amazing. I learnt so much, about myself, about others, how we are all different and all have issues. It was also empowering for me as I became the only male student in the group, and I really learnt how to talk to and understand women as equals, not that I’ve ever had an issue with this anyhow. The course also allowed me to be completely open and congruent with others, talking about issues which had held me back for years, viewpoints I held, and attitudes which caused me issues in the past. I felt so much better as a person in all aspects, and I finally put to bed the notion that I was stupid, as I had not done well academically in the past. Being told that my course portfolio had passed was a very proud moment, as I focussed in a way I hadn’t before, reading, checking facts, cross referencing and evidencing my work. The exam was okay, and we have to wait until April for the results, but I was really happy with how I applied myself to revising, and was confident with all of the answers I gave.

Level 4 is two years of hard work, and I’m already determined to focus really hard on my studies. We’ll start counselling others too, as we have to have at least 100 hours of counselling under our belts. It’s going to be hard, but I’m relishing the opportunity to push myself and challenge my preconceptions and attitudes. After this, I’ll be looking for a placement to start my counselling career, which will run alongside my creative one.

These are amazing times, and the best is yet to come. Thanks for reading.

Finding my voice…

Howdy… I’ve been rapping today. No, wait, come back…

A few years back, I made a few EPs in the guise of MC Spacecat, a twelve-year-old kitten from the tower blocks, who is backed by the taciturn DJ Tyrone. It was weird, yet fun rapping in character, quite liberating actually. This year, I’m writing a mini-series about Spacecat and Tyrone which also traces the history of hip hop from the early 80s to the present day. It’s going to be a multi-media affair, with music and videos too.

I’ve written some raps for Spacecat in the first chapter, and worked on some instrumental tracks in the guise of Tyrone, based on 80s synthesiser sounds from Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. Where does the rapping come in, you ask? Well, you need to hear Spacecat’s words too, so I’m doing them. When I did the earlier EPs the raps were almost comedic, with a funny ‘street’ voice, as it was a cheeky kid rapping. This time round, it’s different, as ‘Spacecat’ is writing more conscious words and raping more clearly. I’m learning how to flow, emphasise and pitch words, what works, what doesn’t, and how to sound, well, good.

I’ve been reading some really good articles from some of my favourite MCs, and the major thing that comes through is that you have to love hip hop, to really feel it, live it and be it. I get that. Not in a fake, gangsta swagger kind of way, but in your heart and soul. It’s not about money, cars and booze, it’s about craft, respect, lyricism, truth, honesty, what matters to you as a person and other people too.

I’ve rambled a bit here, but my point is, I’ve started on a journey which really started when I was 12 and heard hip hop for the first time, like Spacecat, and was transported by words and beats to another level. Finding my voice is the missing piece, and something I’m learning by doing, listening and being. Hope it makes sense to you all. Thanks for reading…

MC SPACECAT?