Katie Thistleton’s Story

 

CBBC presenter Katie Thistleton  for Open Shutters by Lisa Marie Gee of Studio G Photography
Katie Thistleton

I’m a journalist and presenter: I present a show called Life Hacks on BBC Radio 1 which is all about young people’s issues, and I also present for CBBC. I do CBBC HQ, which is the modern day version of the broom cupboard! I’ve worked in various jobs at the BBC and also used to work for an NHS mental health trust – Pennine Care – in the office. I’m an advocate for mental health awareness and work with charities such as PLACE2BE and YoungMinds regularly, I’ve also written a book called ‘Dear Katie’ for 10-16 year olds. It’s an agony aunt style book with problem letters from real young people and advice from myself, a doctor and a child psychotherapist.

 

I have always been very anxious but for a long time didn’t really know how to put into words how I felt, and I certainly wasn’t aware that it was something you could treat as an illness, rather than a personality flaw. A few years ago my anxiety and hectic lifestyle led to me having a bit of a breakdown where I had to accept I was feeling quite depressed. Medication and counselling both hugely helped me and I still struggle now – particularly when I’m overworked and not looking after myself properly. But now I can spot the signs and prioritise self care.

I honestly think I displayed symptoms of anxiety as a really young child – I used to feel like I was struggling to breathe, and my parents would wonder if it was allergies. It was only when aged 19 I was experiencing the same feelings that a doctor diagnosed me with panic disorder and I realised I’d had bouts of it all my life. Even as a baby my mum said I always had clammy hands which is an anxiety symptom I’ve carried through life!

Feeling depressed made me appreciate all the little things in life once I got better, and made me focus on the only things that matter to me – the things that make me feel good. Before that I was always trying to be someone else, always trying to find a purpose. I realised after being depressed that I already had a purpose and an identity, and I didn’t have to try so hard to get one. I also think people are more likely to ask me for help now I’ve spoken out, which I’m glad about. I want my nieces and nephews and friends and family to be able to talk to me about anything. I think speaking out about mental illness is so freeing – you feel like you don’t have to try so hard to pretend everything is OK once you do.

My advice? Write a list of all the things that really matter to you, and make you feel good, the big and the small, and take the pressure off yourself. Do less of what you don’t want to do and more of what you do. Don’t be afraid to try counselling or anti depressants – neither are anything to be ashamed of and might change your life.

I chose to have my photo taken with my anti-depressants because they really were life changing for me. When I was depressed I felt I was underground, in the dark and unable to motivate myself to do any of the things I needed to do to feel better. The anti-depressants, even though they made me feel worse for the first few days or so, picked me up and put me on level ground, so I could begin to do things I needed to do to make my life easier – exercise, say no to things I didn’t want to do, read books, see friends and family. They took away the negative fog so I no longer thought I was the most worthless person in the world. I’m happy to be taking them, and will forever if I need to, and I can.

 

 

 

Paul Burgess’ Story

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Fabulous Oldham drag queen tells his Open Shutters story in the video below.

This is the longest video, but stick with it, his story is worth hearing. It also contains our favourite line of the entire project. The video does contain one swear word, but it is integral to the story, so we hope you’ll forgive Paul (and us).

https://s3.amazonaws.com/embed.animoto.com/play.html?w=swf/production/vp1&e=1535534240&f=110W9Pp4fqGdrlwyXuynKA&d=0&m=p&r=360p+480p+720p&volume=100&start_res=720p&i=m&asset_domain=s3-p.animoto.com&animoto_domain=animoto.com&options=

Open Shutters will be exhibiting our portraits at Gallery Oldham from September 15 to November 10. We are fundraising to cover the cost of mounting the exhibition and producing a book. Please contact us if you can help in any way. We’ve got some lovely rewards available for individual and corporate sponsors.

If you have a story to tell and would like to take part in the Open Shutters project please give Lisa a call on 07771 553535 or fill in the form on our contact page.

 

Ian Field’s Story

Open Shutters portrait of Ian Field, by Lisa Marie Gee of Studio G Photography

Apprentice cycle mechanic Ian Field tells his own Open Shutters story in the video below:

 

https://s3.amazonaws.com/embed.animoto.com/play.html?w=swf/production/vp1&e=1535311334&f=3tYMmQ8kfBY3pjHSbWesZw&d=0&m=p&r=360p+480p+720p&volume=100&start_res=720p&i=m&asset_domain=s3-p.animoto.com&animoto_domain=animoto.com&options=

Open Shutters will be exhibiting our portraits at Gallery Oldham from September 15 to November 10. We are fundraising to cover the cost of mounting the exhibition and producing a book. Please contact us if you can help in any way. We’ve got some lovely rewards available for individual and corporate sponsors.

If you have a story to tell and would like to take part in the Open Shutters project please give Lisa a call on 07771 553535 or fill in the form on our contact page.

Kamla Uppiah’s Story

Kamla Uppiah photographed for Open Shutters by Lisa Marie Gee of Studio G Photography

Mental Health vlogger, Kam, tells Open Shutters her story of living with Bipolar Disorder in the video below:

 

https://s3.amazonaws.com/embed.animoto.com/play.html?w=swf/production/vp1&e=1535308600&f=QARcrqHOvQP9EOAVyhzyig&d=0&m=p&r=360p+480p+720p&volume=100&start_res=720p&i=m&asset_domain=s3-p.animoto.com&animoto_domain=animoto.com&options=

You can find Kam’s website, Ask Me I’m Bipolar, at https://www.askmeimbipolar.com

Open Shutters will be exhibiting our portraits at Gallery Oldham from September 15 to November 10. We are fundraising to cover the cost of mounting the exhibition and producing a book. Please contact us if you can help in any way. We’ve got some lovely rewards available for individual and corporate sponsors.

If you have a story to tell and would like to take part in the Open Shutters project please give Lisa a call on 07771 553535 or fill in the form on our contact page.

Lisa Barnes’ Story

Lisa Barnes of Bridge the Gap photographed for the Open Shutters Project

My name is Lisa Barnes and I’m a manager for a large company. I would say that I’m your average person, married 2x children. I would say that over my 46 yrs I have struggled with depression at points in my life but nothing on the scale that I did back in May 2017.

On the 31st of May 2017 it started off like any other day, I was feeling a bit down but that happens to most of us. As the day went on I found that the noise around me was really loud and I felt overwhelmed by it. People wanted to ask me questions and I was struggling to concentrate. I remember taking a few tablets to try and escape it all. They didn’t work, things just felt like they were piling up so I took some more. The next thing I really remember is waking up in hospital. I was asked some question about if i was going to try and kill myself again then I was discharged.

The next 10 days were a struggle of ups and downs, feeling of guilt and wanting to hide away.

On the 10th of June everything came to a head and I found myself on top of a bridge ready to jump.

I feel im one of the lucky ones as a police negotiator managed to talk me down. Everything was felt dark and i just wanted all the pain i was feeling to stop.

I believe now that everything happens for a reason. If I hadn’t have gone through all of that last year, I wouldn’t  be doing what I do now.

A year on and in a far better place I can see the gap within mental health and it’s massive. Mental health is under funded and it’s just getting worse with the pressures of everyday life. I came up with the idea of hanging message/quotes of love and support from our bridges in the hope that it would make anybody in the same place as me pause and hopefully change their mind about suicide. I decorated one bridge near my home and the response was overwhelming. I then spoke to my husband and we made a Facebook page “Bridge the Gap”.

It has been running since 10th June 2018 and we have already saved 5 lives that we know of. We get the community involved when we decorate the bridges which is amazing and I’ve met friends for life through what we do now.

If I could give one piece of advice to anybody that is struggling with feeling of suicide it would be “suicide doesn’t take the pain away, it just passes it to someone else”. Get talking about how you feel it’s not easy but after a while it does get better. The object I choose to use on my photo is this sign. It says everything that people are afraid to say!

Love Lisa xx

 

You can find details of Lisa’s project, Bridge The Gap, here: https://www.facebook.com/Bridge-The-Gap-175147776473509/

 

Open Shutters will be exhibiting our portraits at Gallery Oldham from September 15 to November 10. We are fundraising to cover the cost of mounting the exhibition and producing a book. Please contact us if you can help in any way. We’ve got some lovely rewards available for individual and corporate sponsors.

If you have a story to tell and would like to take part in the Open Shutters project please give Lisa a call on 07771 553535 or fill in the form on our contact page.

Darren Whiston’s Story

Darren Whiston

In one of our most moving and powerful videos yet, Darren Whiston explains how putting on his trainers saved his life. Watch him tell his story in the video below.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/embed.animoto.com/play.html?w=swf/production/vp1&e=1535308269&f=JBhpBavPqZol4Wzb0qW8Fw&d=0&m=p&r=360p+480p+720p&volume=100&start_res=480p&i=m&asset_domain=s3-p.animoto.com&animoto_domain=animoto.com&options=

 

Open Shutters will be exhibiting our portraits at Gallery Oldham from September 15 to November 10. We have launched a Crowdfunder to cover the cost of mounting the exhibition and producing a book. Please have a look at our campaign hereand help if you can. We’ve got some lovely rewards available.

If you have a story to tell and would like to take part in the Open Shutters project please give Lisa a call on 07771 553535 or fill in the form on our contact page.

 

 

Jasmin’s Story

Jasmin Boylan, Open Shutters portrait by Lisa Maruie Gee of Studio G Photography

 

I apologise in advance for the length of this blog. Putting this into words has taken me much longer than I anticipated, and I didn’t realise how raw it would feel. However, I also feel it’s important to share my story, as there are thousands of people out there who struggle silently on a daily basis, and if my story can help just one person, I’ll be happy. I haven’t mentioned any specific diagnosis, because I feel that labels ultimately aren’t the important message here, but the strength and experience gained from my weakest times is what keeps me going on a daily basis.

My struggle with poor mental health started at a very young age. For as long as I’ve had a conscious mind, I’ve struggled. I always felt – and sometimes still do feel – somewhat fraudulent because I’ve never been able to pinpoint a specific reason ‘why’. Even though I know my brain has a chemical imbalance, the science behind it backs me up, I used to feel like I didn’t have a right to ‘complain’ or ‘burden’ anyone with my troubling and debilitating thoughts – so I suffered in silence, for the best part of 20 years. It took a complete breakdown for me to initially seek help. Finally reaching out and getting support was the best decision I ever made. I only wish I’d done it years ago.

I didn’t have a tough upbringing, I have amazing parents, family and friends around me. I enjoyed school and always had large groups of good friends. I was a very sensitive child though, and had empathy from a very young age. Looking back, I do feel my ability to ‘put myself in someone else’s shoes’ impacted me mentally more than I could possibly comprehend at the time. I have memories from as young as 5 of people criticising my weight and the way I looked (and I feel it’s important to note here that at 5 years old I certainly wasn’t overweight). Harsh words hurt and cut into me throughout my childhood and teenage years. They’d replay in my mind over and over again, and I hated who I saw in the mirror. I believed all of these things, and started to feel inferior to everyone. The voice inside my head started to reinforce these negative traits, and I slowly started destroying myself mentally, over-thinking and over-analysing every aspect of myself, my life and my relationships. I regularly felt that I didn’t deserve good things or good people around me, and that I only burdened them. I felt that I’d never be enough, or amount to much of anything. I’d never let on to people how I felt though, and I’d be the first to criticise myself or joke at my own expense, as I thought it’d be better for me to get it out the way first, before someone else had the chance to hurt me. I became avoidant of absolutely everything. Very depressed, irritable, anxious and consumed by self loathing.  I always pushed myself to do things and achieve things though, as I was – and still am – very determined that I won’t be beaten by it. I had issues with food, which I now recognise was emotionally linked, and in my late teens I started questioning my sexuality, which took years for me to accept and come to terms with.

Despite my struggles, I’ve always had my own coping mechanisms. I’m very compassionate, emotional and caring, ensuring I always go above and beyond to help anyone in need of it, both in my personal and professional life. I think I felt so strongly about wanting to make a positive difference for two reasons. One being, I would have a purpose, and I could prove to the cruel voice in my head that I WAS worth something and I DID have a reason to carry on by helping others improve their quality of life. The other was because I genuinely cared, and would never wish my struggles on anyone else, and if I could do anything at all to help someone, I would feel like I’d achieved something good. I would however, help others to my own detriment without realising, and this coupled with a long chain of ‘bad’ events, at the age of 23, I had a complete breakdown. I didn’t see a point to anything. I lost all sense of self worth, enjoyment, and none of my coping mechanisms worked. This time though, I couldn’t hide it any more from the people I loved. I’m so grateful for this and the support I received, because without them I truly believe I wouldn’t be here today.

This leads me nicely onto my ‘object’ for this project. My favourite mug. What this mug represents means so much to me. One of my favourite quotes is:

“Sometimes, coffee with your best friend is all the therapy you need”

Now, in my case, I did receive several courses of different therapies, but all paled in comparison to the support I received from my best friend. She helped me through my worst times while experiencing her own, listened to me without judgement and supported me through some of my darkest days. We’d regularly drink coffee and talk through absolutely everything. I can’t thank her enough for everything she did for me (and all of my supportive friends and family, for that matter). I don’t think there are enough words to adequately express the gratitude I feel to have such amazing people around me. My coffee cup represents the warmth and comfort these people brought to me at my worst times, and the strength they gave me to find myself again.

Since finding myself again, I’ve also grown so much as a person, both personally and professionally. I now know how important ‘me time’ is, and how unselfish it is to say ‘no’ sometimes. I feel very blessed to have a job that I’m passionate about. I currently work supporting staff all over Greater Manchester who support some of the most vulnerable members of our society with ill mental health (alongside multiple and complex barriers). I feel lucky to be able to bring my lived and previous work experience into the role to give a real insight into mental health struggles, to help reduce stigma around ill mental health, train staff on complex conditions and promote good mental health and wellbeing practices within the workplace. My job now enables me to reach out and help thousands of people across Greater Manchester, by helping the staff who work with them on a one to one basis. I know that without my struggles, I wouldn’t be who I am today or be in the job I’m in. I love my job, and that I have the chance to help so many people. Above all else though, I’m starting to accept and love myself. I try to see a positive in myself every day, and although the cruel thoughts don’t leave me, and days are up and down, I’m getting there – slowly but surely.

If I had one piece of advice for someone struggling with ill mental health right now, it would be – Talk to someone you trust. Open up, it’ll be so worthwhile. I know the prospect seems terrifying now, but positive change often starts with uncertain and challenging times. Please remember – you matter. You’re important, even if you don’t always feel it. You deserve help, and deserve to feel better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and confiding in someone you trust can be the first step in getting the right support too.