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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Seeing Emily in Paris is a blast from the past for me, of days and nights spent on the left bank in the centre of the city, surrounded by those iconic little touches of urban architecture that are unmistakably Paris. Shakespeare & Co was the bookstore that offered me and other fellow travellers a bed for the night free of charge, but with the understanding that we would spend our days writing, however we spent our evenings in the city of Paris.

Shakespeare & Co, always high profile, a treasure of the city, with its links to James Joyce and the publishing scene of Paris of the twenties, is again in the news. They are appealing for people to order books from their website, to keep the legend alive, and I for one will be doing it. Unable to sell online during lockdown, in this second wave of shop closures, this is the only potential lifeline for a grand institution, still in the family, run now by Sylvia Beech Whitman. …


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I received the most gorgeous mental health boost in the post this week — I just have to share.

I received an advance copy of “Where’s My Lemonade?” a book compilation of mental health inspiration that I contributed a chapter to. Subtitled “17 inspirational stories to keep you going when life gives you lemons” it’s a kaleidoscope of ideas from a selection of authors. There are stories in there from the insta-famous, the entrepreneurs, the doers, and from people like me, who have been in mental health for years. …


Under a high clear sky I see my ordinary view. A street, wide and flat, lies beneath it like an outstretched tongue. Up above there is blue. My vision is contained in the middle, my eye line of the conventional.

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Photo by Matt Donders on Unsplash

There is a tree, sunlight striking its young leaves, in the middle of the view. I remember when it was planted by the council. “A hawthorn” I said. “A rowan” said my husband. Or maybe it was the other way around. Still, we stuck to our positions. We argued, lighthearted, as we watered it every week according to the letter that the council sent us, going on trips to the pavement with watering cans accompanied by our son in his all in one and wellingtons. We would teach him about looking after things, we said. My husband wrote to the council to settle our dispute. It was a rowan. …


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Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

We all need community. Now more than ever. The UK government speculates today that some degree of self-isolation will be necessary for up to a year or more. The lessons that we learn over the next few weeks will stay with us as a society for a lifetime. My number one takeaway? People — and their mental health — matter.

They matter to me, to my survival. If I’m going to come out of this well, I need the people around me to be mentally healthy. If they’re going to come out of this well, they need the same from me. It’s my responsibility to look after my mind, not only for myself, but for those around me. …


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Photo by Taras Shypka on Unsplash

I can tell I’m stressed. I don’t think I’m stressed. Yet when I try to distract my normally distractible mind, I can’t focus. I’m sitting in bed and corona virus and the panic about it is taking hold in the country. I’ve gone to bed in the afternoon with chocolate and — I’ll admit it — a little glass of wine. It seems I’m symptomatic of the kind of fear that is taking place at the moment. The kind of fear we need to be consciously counteracting.

I hope that I can role model good mental health habits as much as do them for myself. If I go down, my circle goes down. By which I mean my household, and then the knockons from that. I need to look after my mental health right now. I’m bipolar. …


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

This is a really hard post to write. People are so anxious now, and we don’t know where to get information from that is going to calm us and help us make good decisions. It’s hard in isolation to get the sense of reassurance that you need when the news cycle is rolling. Yes, times are hard.

It’s hard to get a sense that all this might be leading to a time of hope, of optimism. Of being able to look on the bright side. It seems to even think that might be to trivialise the situation. It’s hard to see how we might survive, let alone thrive. People are talking about this virus lasting for a year or more. …


It’s the end of the world as we know it — and I feel fine

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Photo by DDP on Unsplash

Anyone else getting end of days feeling? I googled ‘it’s the end of the world’ and apart from REM’s classic song — which incidentally came out November 1987 — the top spots on my feed were taken by articles written in the New Yorker, Buzzfeed and the Guardian all in the last three days. All saying it’s not really happening. It just feels like it is.

And no wonder. If you weren’t already anxious about the eco crisis and apocalyptic visions of end of days, along comes the corona virus, which I have to confess to being obsessively watching on the news. Then yesterday, scrolling Facebook in a state of heightened alert (I have been a Facebook refusenik for months, I must have been anxious) I find a news story about an upcoming brush the Earth will be having with an asteroid on April 29th. My Facebook article says there is a chance this object, roughly half the size of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, will collide with Earth. It’s a British tabloid. Later, I find a more reliable source.


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Photo by Cherry Laithang on Unsplash

Today is a blustery day. I’m going down the hill. I pass a man, coming up it. We nearly collide. His face is set, his hood is up. I’m going into the wind and the sleet bites my face. He’s going away from it and the force of it powers him up the hill. He has an advantage on me, even though he’s going upwards.

It reminds me of the Irish blessing: May the wind be always at your back…Not, I note, may there be no wind. Hardly likely in Ireland. Not may it be a calm day when you set out. No, may it power you onwards. …


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Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Our group #mentalhealthartists was growing and learning. We met regularly at London’s Southbank Centre. Each week we would play, throw balls, check in, release our expectations and see what happened. It started with the ‘pop’ of opening the film reflector, which formed the centre of the circle.

I gathered us all together. That week there were new people, people who’d been before, and me. ‘Pop’ — out came the film reflector, taking the newbies by surprise. I love that playful moment. On the reflector were written the words of our definition of mental health.

“Good mental health is an art, built on the habit of catching and appreciating very ordinary little moments”
We read.
“Let’s make some ordinary moments together”
We said.


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Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

Every morning I write a journal. On the days when I don’t write, I really notice it in my mental health. It doesn’t take long after not writing for my mental health to back up, like a gutter clogging with leaves, and I can’t work out what I feel anymore, or what is prompting me not to feel good about myself.

Keeping a journal is a way to keep the water of my mind flowing fresh and clear.

However, in keeping a journal, sometimes things can get stale. What I do then is to shake it up a bit. I try for example to add extra descriptive passages, to really tell the story of my day. I try to outline and name the emotions that I’m feeling. I try to name my goals. …

About

Hannah Chamberlain

Good mental health is an art. I am a mental health artist. Writer and advocate in mental health and story telling, work in progress. www.mentalsnapp.com

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