I'm a Christian, a designer, and a gadget fan who lives in Cheltenham, UK.

This is my blog, a creative outlet to mess around and play with as well as a place that logs my thoughts and inspirations.

Letter Play

When I was back home at my par­ents over Christ­mas I sor­ted through a couple of boxes of bits that were tak­ing up some space in the room I sleep in when I’m there. Dur­ing the pro­cess I came across some of my old sketch­books from my Art Found­a­tion course and had a flick through.
I was struck by how dif­fer­ent they were com­pared to the note­books I’ve been keep­ing for the last few years. They were full of cre­ativ­ity. Each page was dif­fer­ent, wheth­er it was explor­ing my own ideas on a pro­ject, or a con­tex­tu­al spread about a design­er or artist that inspired me.
The last couple of days have been odd ones for me. After many months of not feel­ing much of the effects of my depres­sion, yes­ter­day when I woke up I could feel the heav­i­ness and fog of it. I had the same thing this morn­ing, so I’ve done what is the only thing I can do. I’ve tried to push on and not let it stop me doing my work.
This even­ing I put a film on, one of my favour­ites, Good Will Hunt­ing and grabbed my sketch book, a scalpel, two magazines I get free from Waitrose, a pritt-stick, and my Bible. I flicked to one of my favour­ite verses and while I watched the film I sat on the floor cut­ting out words and letters.
It’s been a long time since I did any­thing like this and about ten minutes before the film fin­ished I had fin­ished. It might’ve taken me a lot longer than I remem­ber it tak­ing, but for those two hours there was no fog and I was just able to enjoy being absorbed in some­thing a little more cre­at­ive than my nor­mal design work.

My Secret Battle – a Grief Shared ›

This week I can across the blog is Simon Thomas. He’s a Sky Sports presenter and a Chris­ti­an, known by many in the U.K. He lost his wife to can­cer in Septem­ber last year and has been blog­ging about his grief. This week he shared a post about his Secret Battle with depres­sion and anxiety.
It’s a very hon­est and open account of the battle he has, and still is, facing. I have a great admir­a­tion for any­one who is able to post so pub­licly about their battle with men­tal health. I have attemp­ted to write many times about my own struggle with depres­sion, it is not an easy thing to do. I’m thank­ful that Simon has a strong faith in God that is help­ing him through this time. My own faith helped me in my darkest time, and I have wit­nessed the faith of oth­ers close to me help them. I am forever thank­ful for this.

Book Budget

I just added a new cat­egory in my YNAB Budget under Qual­ity of Life Goals, it’s name? Books.
Since I star­ted using Goodreads in 2013 I’ve read 104 books. That’s an aver­age of just under 21 books a year with a low of 17 in 2013 and a high of 34 books in 2016.
Clearly I like to read, so it made sense to actu­ally budget for these books fin­an­cially since I’m already mak­ing time in my life to read them. There’s some­thing very dif­fer­ent about sit­ting down and relax­ing with a good book com­pared to a film or box­set that I enjoy a great deal. Most of these books are fic­tion, I find they provide me with a good way of shut­ting my mind off at the end of the day by for­cing me to use my ima­gin­a­tion. I have to let my mind cre­ate the images that go with the words, con­vert­ing the writers descrip­tions into visu­als in my mind. The words on the page act­ing as the brush and my mind as the paint to cre­ate the large land­scapes and city­scapes as well as the detail of the char­ac­ters faces and the expres­sions they pull.
Until a few years ago I had gone a few years without read­ing a lot, I always had a nov­el on the go but the num­ber I would read in a year was much less. Gradu­ally as I got older and remembered how much I like read­ing the num­ber would increase, but the intens­ity at which I devoured books became great­er after I became ill with depres­sion a few years ago. Through­out my recov­ery, and when I find my mood dip­ping again, nov­els become a great source of escape. Usu­ally I find con­cen­tra­tion hard when I’m bat­tling a low peri­od, but a good nov­el (often a famil­i­ar one that I’ve read many times) is able to provide me with some escape. Read­ing the prose of a good fantasy or sci-fi book allows me to find free­dom from the cir­cu­lar thoughts and spir­als of whatever I find myself fix­at­ing on. As a visu­al thinker let­ting my ima­gin­a­tion build the worlds cen­tur­ies away from today (in either dir­ec­tion) is a great way of exer­cising my cre­at­ive muscles and pre­vent­ing those unhelp­ful thought pat­terns take hold.
Whenev­er I’ve spoken to friends who have been strug­gling with sim­il­ar men­tal health issues, I always recom­mend they read. It takes a bit of effort to start, but I’ve found it much more help­ful than watch­ing a film. The act of watch­ing images devel­op on a screen is far less dis­tract­ing than hav­ing to engage your mind with the words and story of a book. Read­ing, I find, is a form of act­ive rest. I can let my body rest and recharge, while using my mind in a way that’s dif­fer­ent from the work of my two jobs, and in so doing let­ting it refresh and recharge.
So here’s to books, to my new book budget, and to the many more hours of rest that they will provide.

Walking

Back in Janu­ary 2015 when I real­ised I was ill, and con­sequently star­ted a course of anti­de­press­ants, many people encour­aged me to exer­cise. I had been a keen cyc­list and they encour­aged me to keep at it and get out on my bike as much as I could. I was told, and in fact read many times, that exer­cise was a great way of coun­ter­ing some of the symp­toms of depres­sion. My issue was that the thought of going out on my bike caused me anxi­ety and stress, both things which I was try­ing to avoid and so I dis­missed the notion as not for me. Nearly two and a half years later I’m start­ing to under­stand a little of what the mys­ter­i­ous they were talk­ing about.
About a month ago I moved into a new flat, one which I’m liv­ing in on my own, it’s great to have my own space again. As a con­sequence of that move I’ve been doing a lot more walk­ing. It’s loc­ated in such a place that I can walk to pretty much every­where I need to go on a reg­u­lar basis. I can walk to my shifts at the cof­fee house, my church, a couple of super­mar­kets, as well as the centre of town, and I’ve been doing that as much as is prac­tic­ally pos­sible. It’s become a time that I enjoy, an oppor­tun­ity to pop my head­phones in and listen to some music or catch up on a few podcasts.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to notice some­thing, when I don’t get my daily walks in my mood suf­fers. The real­isa­tion has come home to roost this bank hol­i­day week­end. On Sat­urday and Monday I did­n’t really go out. I stayed home in my flat tinker­ing on my web­sites, mak­ing a few adjust­ments, watch­ing some TV shows, what most people call relax­ing. And it has been just that, but today I noticed the heav­i­ness creep­ing in, it made me real­ise what effect going out for a walk has on me.
It’s not just the small amount of exer­cise that a brisk walk provides that I’ve missed today, it’s the inten­tion­al­ity of going for a walk. Instead of the day just passing by, the act of walk­ing to work is inten­tion­al and provides an ele­ment of struc­ture to my day. I need to sched­ule in the time for my walk to work oth­er­wise I won’t get there on time let­ting people down. It helps that my walk to work is a pleas­ant one down an old rail­way line, that’s what’s in the photo at the top of this post, for a moment I can be lost in the won­der of look­ing at the trees and green­ery as I walk. It provides a chance to look at God’s cre­ation and see how the same place changes from day to day. It’s a chance to walk and listen to some new music or the latest pod­casts, in my own little world that’s out­side in the wider world. It’s a chance to pop the head­phones out and walk listen­ing to the birds and rust­ling of the trees. When the sun­’s out it’s espe­cially enjoy­able, but even on a rainy day I look for­ward to my walk to work.
Almost by acci­dent I’ve dis­covered that the act of walk­ing to work provides me with a moment of calm. In that walk there is noth­ing I can do for my design busi­ness, noth­ing I need to do for my cof­fee house shift, no tweets or Ins­tagram pho­tos to catch up on (unless I want to walk into my fel­low walk­ers or be run over by the many cyc­lists), I can just enjoy the simple act of walking.

My Movember Page

So tomor­row is the first day of Novem­ber or Movem­ber as it’s come to be known. It might not be as fash­ion­able as it used to be but I’ve always been a fan of it, any­thing that raises the aware­ness of mens health. This year I noticed they also do work towards rais­ing the aware­ness of men­tal health in men. As someone who has been affected by men­tal ill­ness (depres­sion spe­cific­ally) I decided this year was the year I would take part.
If men­tal ill­ness has affected you or someone you know please do con­sider spon­sor­ing my mous­tache!

Finding Your Bliss Station ›

There’s so much stuff on the inter­net that it seems like an impossib­il­ity that you would read some­thing at exactly the time you need to read it. Aus­tin Kle­on’s recent art­icle about find­ing your bliss sta­tion has man­aged to achieve just that.
Around a year ago I was just fin­ish­ing up a course of coun­selling aimed at help­ing me under­stand the depres­sion I was dia­gnosed with in Janu­ary 2015. One of the things I learnt about myself was my need to do cre­at­ive things for myself and how over the year pri­or to my dia­gnos­is I had stopped doing that. This even­ing as I read Aus­tin’s art­icle it hit home a little fur­ther, I might’ve lost my cave a little bit.
This week has been a tough one, the first tough week for a while which is some­thing I know hap­pens to every­one now and again. A giveaway sign, which I’ve real­ised as I write this, is the recur­rence of the word intro­vert in a lot of my snippets/tweets. I’ve been crav­ing time on my own, and that usu­ally hap­pens when I’m start­ing to feel a bit unbal­anced in life. It’s a little clue that I might’ve lost my bliss sta­tion, or cave as I’ve referred to it in the past.

What’s clear is that it’s health­i­est if we make a daily appoint­ment to dis­con­nect from the world so that we can con­nect with ourselves. 

In coun­sel­lor speak this is called self care. We need to take time out to take care of ourselves, to stop ourselves being bom­barded by the world around us. To find a place that frees us from the stresses of work, from run­ning a busi­ness and work­ing for someone else at the same time. From being around people all day, to hav­ing a few moments to our ourselves each and every­day. To take a little bit of time to do some­thing we want to do just because we enjoy it and it helps us feel free.
By Sunday even­ing I plan to have reclaimed my cave from the dump­ing ground it’s become, and in the spir­it of mak­ing bet­ter use of my cal­en­dar I plan to sched­ule in a time every­day for me to be in it just because I want to cre­ate some stuff for myself.

Some­times a day hits you when things that are nor­mally easy to do become the hard­est things. I mean simple things like get­ting out of bed, going down­stairs and mak­ing a cof­fee. That’s the nature of depression.
When it hap­pens you have to find ways of get­ting through because giv­ing in to it can be crip­pling. Giv­ing in can be the start of a down­ward spir­al, a spir­al you don’t want to be in and that can take a long time to get out of. That’s a place you don’t want to go. Instead you have to find a way to push through, to stop the down from tak­ing over. What that looks like is the tricky part, but for every­one there is way of doing it.