Not Purged, Leeched or Chucked Off a Cliff ~by Jo Cutton

I’m grateful I wasn’t born centuries ago. I would have been purged, leeched, made to vomit, thrown off a cliff, or institutionalisred and never seen again. I arrived during the early fifties, when an anti-depressant was discovered purely by chance. I’m rather pleased about that.

My youth consisted of creativity, quirks, moods, and my dominant mother. She was the steel-minded daughter of a post war Olympics organiser. Says it all, really. She found my senstivities difficult, and the family teased me about them.

 I was told off for ‘over reacting’.

Talk about a double whammy. They were a down-to-earth, practical lot of the ‘pull yourself together’ (like a pair of curtains – my words) sort. I felt judged by family and their friends, particularly my older siblings and their wives, and was discouraged from excitability. I mean, if you’re excitable, you’re exicable. So what?

I matured. So did my interests – hundreds of them. Not for me a golden future of domestic bliss, ta muchly. I wanted different. For example, I took flying lessons aged seventeen, when everyone else was learning to drive (a newspaper photo of me at small plane cockpit controls, trying to look intelligant, appeared on a school noticeboard. Someone bright spark had drawn a moustache on me. Well,- honestly!). I rowed on the Thames as soon as l learned the term ‘rollocks’ (the metal thingies that hold the oars). I travelled abroad. I Greyhounded the US up and down, then across and back, two years running, then I met Husband.

My soul mate/rock/best pal. As interested in Life, the World and Everything in it as I was/am. The same schoolboy humour. This was IT. We got engaged. I got scared. We married. I felt low. All this happiness and bliss biz applied to engagement and marrying had taken a trip to Outer Mongolia as far as I was concerned. ‘You should be happy.’ Mother said. She was ‘right’. She knew lots. I enrolled on a three year art course and felt better. Then I became pregnant.

Wham!Anti-natal depression. I recovered. Gorgeous daughter was born. Wham!Post natal depression. ‘You should be happy,’ they (mostly family) said. ‘Lovely baby, lovely husband, nice home..’

I coped, just about. Lots of tears. Fact was, looking back, even had I been well, I would have been bored silly. I’m not domesticated in the slightest. Mother used to comment on my undusted house. Whatever. Boooring. A year later I was prescribed anti-depressants, which helped enormously. ‘So that’s what it is!’ Said mother. She still didn’t fully understand. I attended coffee mornings like they were going out of fashion, did voluntary work with baby strapped to my front, produced art for exhibitions, and wrote light-hearted anecdotes. I even starting my humungous novel, typing with one hand while I fed baby with the other.

Three years later, I had my son. Husband and I had always wanted family, both being the youngest of three, and felt that we were now aware of depression and would manage it better. Hey ho. The depression was worse this time, and God – did I hate young motherhood! ‘Eat your greens.’ ‘Sit up straight.’ ‘Don’t get your clothes dirty.’ Guggh. Discipline had to be taught, and manners, respect, dadehdah. But I did it, and they’re brilliant kids/young adults, now. Our best mates. They reached eighteen and that was it. I booted them out of the house and told them to get on with it. Just kidding. But I did quit nannying. And oh, what a relief! I liked their teens. I like teenagers and their sometimes extreme points of view. Just point them in the right directions sometimes. When they drive you insane, you can nip out for coffee and leave them to stew.

When my daughter produced twin daughters of her own, ten years ago, we rejoiced. They’re brilliant. And fun. Oh, we love grannie/grandadhood! But I was still up and down with anxiety and depression, and my medications had changed over the years. I’d had a medication crisis – too many types and mixes – but when you’re relying on the medical establishment and official sources on the internet, what’s a person to do?

Two years ago nearing Christmas, I was prescribed another anti-depressant. On Christmas Day the crisis hit me, and I became suicidal for two days. The most revolting thing that’s ever happened to us, and my poor husband – my amazing carer – was at his wits end. The neighbours came in to help. One of them had worked with a local mental health team, and her daughter said: ‘Mum – have you got their phone number?’ I was invited in to see the team (I was a shambled wreck – ‘reasonably kempt’, according to the nursing report) on New Year’s Day. Gee whizz! I was taken off the new medication, stabalized, given another new one on top of my old medication, then, finally, CBT”d (cognitive behavioral therapy).

Both my parents died the following Christmas, and various other family crisis occurred, but, compared to THE crisis, they were nothing. jo-cluttonI got better and better. Never felt this good. Ever.

I now have a new life to build, and build it I will. Just see if I don’t.

PS. You may now call me a blogger. I won’t be insulted. Promise.

PPS. Facebookers love my never-ending novel. Yo man!

Right – it’s Xmas. Grit your teeth folks and get in there! :-O

Okay, it’s not everyone’s favourite time of year, let’s face it. The obligations many of us feel we have to contend with really have a dampening effect on what should/could be a magical time. For me, as with most of us, Xmas (or Christmas, as many prefer it…) was magical when we were kids – and I’m not being ageist or declaring golden past-ish, it really was. And I loved it. Even school improved.

As a kid, I remember the preparations leading up to the great event, probably starting with mother asking us kids to have a stir of the Xmas pud and making a wish. She could have chucked a handful of threepenny bits into the mix (they were around back then) but someone would doubtlessly crack a tooth on one. She’d ask me if I wanted to accompany her to the local farm to collect the stonking great turkey for Xmas dinner. She always had a gathering of family and friends. November was the magical start of it. That word again. And it was. Advent calenders, school nativity plays, decorations, gift wrapping (another memory – helping mother to wrap the pressies for various friends and relatives), our Christmas Eve sack (not stocking) and the day itself. Yay! My mother was an exempliary hostess with the mostest and Xmas was fun back then. My family, and various relatives and friends, were fun. But this was long before adulthood, depression and judgementalism hit.

I’m an optimist, always have been, despite depression. Something good comes out of most things, and the world is not as bad as many people seem to think it is (unfortunately bad news earns money ie. newspapers and tv. Good news doesn’t). Sadly, Christmas has definitely deteriorated into a free-for-all commercialised eat and drink yourself stupid state of affairs that starts in November, often involving the company of family members you can’t stand and only ever meet at weddings and funerals and dreaded Christmases. Many people adore Christmas. They have lovely family and friends and bask in a great time with them and don’t feel the obligation side of any of it. And yes – I do envy them.

I, as an adult, felt I had a lot to live up to within my mother’s shadow. I was encouraged – nay, forced – to be sociable. But I’m a bit of a loner, at least I was. I love my own company and that of my own little family. We all understand one another. But you were rude if you didn’t want to socialise, and Husband and me didn’t want to socialise, particularly with my oh, so hilarious family, bless ’em, who didn’t understand me in the slightest. Who thought I was oversensitive and over-reactive when teased. And ‘Come and play a game of cards or you’re an unsociable twat.’ (‘twat’ wasn’t said, but was implied). Dad, it turned out, was quite shy, but always did the ‘right’ thing by being sociable. In latter years he only did it to please everyone else. ‘So-and-so is bringing a cake so I suppose I’d better be a good host.’ Gagh. I told him he really shouldn’t feel obligated. Not to mention all that angst over one flippin’ day of the year.

I hated family gatherings. Fun for the others, definitely, but the older I got, and depression took hold, I felt judged, by both family and friends. And I was judged. But it’s only in recent years that I’ve been able to say: ‘I hate get-togethers and I’m not going.’ Took a long time coming. Took me forty years to say ‘no’ to mother, and to actually contradict her (think Mrs.Thatcher. Mother even had the hair). These gatherings were dire for me and Husband. Alternatively Husband’s family were kind and unjudgemental. I love them. They understood us and my foibles and didn’t insist we turn up to these horrendous (at the time, to me) events.

Alternatively we did want our kids to have fun Christmases. And they did, I think. But son was bright and had learning difficulties and daughter was bright and bossy. Hey ho. So any enjoyment of our intimate family Christmases we had vanished pretty quickly, too. The years marched on and Christmas became dreaded, with the addition of Slade’s ‘Here it is, Merry Bloody Xmas, Everone is Having Fun…’ No, we’re ******* not! I just wanted to shoot Noddy Holder.

Bang up to date. Well, two years ago, after my medication crisis…  I made the brave decision – and it was brave – that I’d been given the chance to really go for it and enjoy life, and family ‘obligations’ could take a running jump. I was not longer going to do things I didn’t enjoy. They had contributed to my depression and I wasn’t going to allow anything to get in the way of my new found happiness. Husband’s family were fine and understanding. Always had been. By then, my mother had been in a nursing home with dementia for ten years and big bro was caring for my dad. And big bro was pretty understanding too. Two years ago, both my parents died within days of one another and any obligationary and judgemental feelings I had left evaporated. And I don’t have to explain myself to anybody. If anybody doesn’t like it – tough. You wouldn’t want anybody as a friend anyway.

Last year we didn’t send a single Christmas card. Last year we went to Looe, in Cornwall – one of our favourite haunts – and woke up to sea views and surfers, a lone artist at his easel below us (even on Christmas Day) and swimmers on the day, and went to the pub on Christmas Day and Husband cooked Christmas dinner and we wore silly hats on our balcony and drank wine overlooking the estuary…  Magical. We had my mini pink fluffy Xmas tree all lit up and Rudolph the reindeer sat next to it and turkish delight and crackers and other delights sparkled in our harbourside apartment. Gorgeous.

We’re going back to Looe this year. But I will send cards. My Scrooge-ness has been challenged. I would like to enjoy Christmas again. Do it our way. Working on it. Even listen to Slade without wanting to shoot them…


this beautiful world

If the beautiful things in the world got lost

where would we be?

In some fictitious landscape

surrounded by people and trees,

a smile from a face would be lost


without a trace.

Joy is missed

like a first kiss

or a summer’s day,

and the only thing left in the air

is anger


and despair.

punching for the feeling

Punching walls

just to pass the time.

Blood on my knuckles,

it trickles and shines.

Cracking and crunching,

my bones are brittle,

fingers twisting.

My life is in trouble.

I need to feel something,

anything, other than pain.

I need to find love

or I’ll lash out again.

Someone find me

before it’s too late.

If I could be loved

I know I’d be great.

Ryan Sam Turner

Mental Wealth Trialogues

So here in Hampshire we have been running regular groups based on the concept of Open Dialogue.  The funding that we had for these have now come to an end and we are looking for ways to continue this amazing work.  It has been a tremendous journey!

Trialogue Sept 16 1Mental health is often seen as the domain of service providers, carers and the people who use the mental health services. However, within communities there is a huge diversity of knowledge and experience that can be used to  transform the way we discuss and develop our understanding of mental health generally.Trialogue Sept 16 3

During 2015 the Good Mental Health Cooperative hosted three events using a powerful open dialogue and participatory process called ‘Trialogue’ in Portsmouth.  In 2016 we’re continuing to run Trialogue events in Portsmouth, sponsored by Portsmouth City Council, and we also introduced Trialogue events in Southampton which were an equal success.Get-well-soon-by Claire

???????????????????????????????‘Trialogue’ groups already exist in many places in Europe and can help communities to change the perception that only those who work in the field of mental health are the experts in mental health.

A ‘Trialogue’ group is a neutral space where communities can gather to develop

Mental Wealth Trialogue By Clare 2Trialogue meetings are welcoming and inclusive of all community members, including mental health service users, carers, families friends, professionals and anyone with an interest in good mental health and wellbeing in the community.their understanding of mental health issues, including the challenges of maintaining good mental health, and to transform thinking on developing better services and healthy communities.

Mental health is everyone’s business, regardless of their background and experience

Trialogue Art
My role has been to facilitate the discussions, Sandy took notes and Carolyn would wonder around ensuring everyone who wanted to talk got the ‘talking stick’.  The notes from the discussion that took place, have  been sent to influential people locally in mental health policy and services, placing a political aspect to the dynamics of the group.
Mental-Health-in-the-Community-original-2 By ClaireHow-can-mental-health-be-promoted-in-communities By Claire

Interestingly the two groups from Portsmouth and Southampton were so different to facilitate!  both equally invigorating, but one was more reserved than the other and the trends of conversation differed.   Clare Holloway & Emma Paxton created amazing works of art and every session left me with a inspired feeling of hope and community togetherness.

If you want to start up a Trialogue in your community Join our Online Social media site start a conversation and we can talk about how to get started and support you through the process :0)

The Haunting of Callayosa: Rape Is Real ~by Paulissa Kipp


Halloween – the haunting time.  A day for costumes, to be anything one wishes to be if only for a few hours, a day for cuteness, scary movies, candy, pumpkin carving, haunted houses and memory making.Growing up I secretly resented Halloween (other than chocolate) because as a person born the week prior to Halloween, I was always the recipient of the horrid orange and black Halloween birthday cake that stains your mouth, teeth and tongue black. I wanted to celebrate my journey around the Uni-Verse day my way: with music, German chocolate cake, friends and family who were happy for my existence in this world and wanted to gift me with love (and maybe a little chocolate and wine as I got older).Hanging Around

But on Halloween 2003, the haunting was much more real and there were no orange and black Halloween birthday cakes, horror movies, masquerade parties, costume parties or trick-or-treaters. There was real horror.

I spent the evening watching Vincent Price in “House of Wax“. I don’t do slasher movies as a general rule and much prefer suspense of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Alfred Hitchcock and Poe varieties. The movie ended, I showered, checked the doors to be sure they were locked and went to bed.

3:17 a.m.

I was awakened by breaking glass. I tried to grab the baseball bat I kept by the bed, but before I could reach it, I was choked until I began gasping for air. As I fought to breathe, my attacker held a knife to my throat and told me that he would slit my throat if I made a sound. I screamed anyway but no sound emerged. I screamed and screamed but nothing came out. My screams were caught in my throat. He tossed me around like a ragdoll, moved me into the prone position and moved the knife from my throat to my anal area. “One false move and you will need a bag to shit”.

pauilissa-edanaI fought as hard as I could while being held down and beaten. He rolled me over so that I could see his “face” – hidden by a Freddy Krueger mask. The moonlight and street light highlighted the Scorpion crawling out of a sugar skull tattoo on his arm. I knew my attacker – a family member recently angered by my refusal to assist him by taking him into my home. “I don’t invite trouble to my front door” I had responded when the request was made. So trouble came looking for, and found, me.

The knife was cold against my skin as he traced my throat, belly and vagina with it before plunging clumsily and violently into my sacred space. I fought: oh how I fought. Clawing, biting, kicking, hitting and spitting. To no avail. When he was finished, he further invaded my sacredness by using my body as a toilet – the ultimate message of worthlessness. He ran out the door after wiping himself off on my sheets.
The unheard scream escaped once he left. I screamed for help; too weak from the brutality to walk outside and go for help. I crawled to the phone and shakily dialed 911 to report the rape. It took 45 minutes for police to arrive. I don’t know that I ever convinced the responding officers that no, I hadn’t been partying, that Halloween wasn’t my thing and I had been home all night.

I owe my life to the advocate who was with me through the questioning, rape kit and documentation at the hospital, who believed me, held me as I shuddered and provided resources for help.

I pressed charges, went through the trial, had MY life thoroughly examined and got a conviction of my rapist: 25 years in prison. Twenty-five years. Except it wasn’t 25 years. Thanks to Nebraska’s good time law, a prison sentence recalculation error and cover-up, my rapist was released in ten years.  Another haunting.

What is it like to live life as a rape survivor?

In a word, exhausting. Anxiety and hyper vigilance reign. Intimacy is impacted, sights, smells and noises can bring things back like it was yesterday. I startle easily. I sleep with my hands balled up in fists, ready to fight at a second’s notice. I sleep even more lightly than I previously did.  Haunting.

Yet, my strength has been forced by vulnerability. With support, therapy, time, the love of a good, patient and understanding man and a knowledge of trauma and its effect on mental health, I am moving forward as a Callayosa (a fire flower) rising from the muck. I am an advocate, speaker and teacher. I share my truth when appropriate to educate and support those who need a voice. Those who need to know that what happened to them does not make them less valuable and magnificent. My voice will not be the Unheard Scream. I will not be silent.

Dear ones, you are not what happened to you. You are so much more: strong, a survivor and as magnificent as the stars. You have the power of the stars, the comets and the Universe for you are born of the stars, are shined upon by the sun and moon and smile the rainbow.

paulissa002To those of you who have not lived through this kind of trauma, I offer this: Be kind. Don’t give in to the 24 hour media cycle of victim blaming. Don’t ask what was she wearing? Don’t ask: Was he gay when a male is assaulted. Instead, if you need to lay blame, put it squarely where it belongs: On the shoulders of the rapist. Most of all, BELIEVE the victim. There is no merit badge for having shitty things happen to you. Survivor is not a label people willingly use. Before you begin with pointing to instances of false accusations: Yes, they occur from time to time and are more rare than common. BELIEVE the version being shared until there is a reason to believe otherwise and allow that reason to be fully investigation by authorities and aired in a court of law for false accusations if necessary. This is how we as a society stare down rape culture, address the prevalence of rape and support survivors.

For help 24/7, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673 and 911.


Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Resources for Healing

Books on Recovery

  • The Rape Recovery Handbook: Step-By-Step Help for Survivors of Sexual Assault, by Aphrodite Matsakis
  • Recovering from Rape, by Linda Ledray
  • Journey to Wholeness, by Monique Lang
  • If She Is Raped: A Guidebook for Husbands, Fathers, and Male Friends, by Alan McEvoy
  • The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Wendy Maltz
  • How to Survive Sexual Assault for Women, Men, Teenagers, and Their Friends and Families, by Helen Benedict
  • I Can’t Get Over It, A Handbook for Trauma Survivors, by Aphrodite Matsakis
  • Hush, by Nicole Braddock Bromley

Books for Friends, Family Members and Partners

  • When You Are the Partner of Rape or Incest Survivor: A Workbook for You, by Robert Barry Levine

~ Paulissa Kipp



Calm your Way to Wellness with Mindful Breathing ~by Sandy Hector


Learning to pay attention to the breathing process is a part of mindfulness training.    Mindfulness is about being aware of where and on what we focus our attention; it’s a way of being fully awake and aware of ourselves being here and now in the present moment.  In this way, we’re not getting tangled up in what’s happened in the past or maybe worrying about what might happen in the future.  Focusing on and becoming aware of the breath brings us back to the present moment and has a calming and soothing effect on the mind.

Being aware of how our minds help us time travel into the past or the future, can be very helpful in understanding how mindfulness works.

Our attention can be likened to shining a torch. Whatever we shine our spotlight of attention on our mind tends to dwell on.

If you imagine shining your torch into a darkened room, you may see all sorts of dirt and cobwebs in a corner, but if we shine our spotlight on other good things, the cobwebs become less important.  In this way, we can learn to direct our attention to helpful things; the things troubling us may still be there, but they don’t seem so big or have such a strong influence on us.

Stefano Pollina Photography, model Ann Knight

When learning any new skill it is always sensible to start with easy things.  To get the idea of being attentive to our attention, simply start to notice your feet on the floor or the feel of your body being supported by the chair you’re sitting on, or noticing objects in your surroundings, the colours, shapes, notice any smells, if you are outside, notice things in nature – in other words, bring all your senses into play, notice everything around you.

Mindful breathing is about paying attention to the breathing process and noticing the breath moving in and out of the body.  While we pay attention to the breath, the mind can sometimes wander off, this is perfectly normal.  The trick is that when you notice your mind has wandered off into its own little world of imagination, gently bring it back to the breath.  You can allow any thoughts that might come up to come and go, accepting those thoughts, but not judging them, because they are just thoughts, simply let them go and bring your attention back to the breath.
However, to feel the benefits of mindful breathing, you will need to practise regularly.  You can’t expect to be a concert pianist overnight by just having one piano lesson.  Learning mindful breathing is like getting the body physically fit; the more you practise the easier it gets and as time goes by, and you keep up the practise, change happens; new neural pathways begin to be formed and reinforced.  You will find that even in the difficult times of your life, mindful breathing can be helpful to bring you back to the present and will soothe and calm the mind.

Here is a five minute mindful breathing exercise. Try it for yourself – mindful breathing can be very empowering, it just takes practise.