Liz Thompson - chief officer of CLC
Passed away August 6th, 2021
She was a loved friend and colleague.
Her work at Creative Living Centre will be remembered for many years to come as she was a driving force behind this amazing charity. At this time of grief we will endeavour to carry on her good work.
We have set up a page dedicated to Liz's memory if anyone would like to share a thought, memory or 'light a candle'
If you would like to make a donation to Creative Living Centre in Liz's memory please follow this link
For as long as I can remember I have always been quite an anxious person. This anxiety has always been a part of my decision making, my perceptions of the world and how I interact with people. Growing up I just presumed that this was how everyone felt and always had these constant, rapid inner monologues with themselves about every small thing about their life.
Obviously with hindsight I can now recognise how ingrained my anxieties were within me and how much of an effect it had on my life. But why did it take so long for me to do something about it? Simply put, I was afraid to admit to other people as well as myself that I had mental health problems. I feared the judgement that would be put on myself as well as the silent shame that would be associated with this acknowledgement. I felt that as a male that somehow, I had failed as men were strong and showed no weakness. These silent and unwritten rules that are placed upon us just from being born into a certain gender role, in my experience has been one of the biggest hurdles to climb as how I felt was not reflective of these rules. I felt vulnerable, helpless and at times scared by the thoughts I had or the fact
that I did not have the tools to deal with it. It always seemed a lot harder because of how society seems to re-enforce these rules and any push back on this was met with ‘Man up!’ (a term that personally I hate).
So, building up the strength and courage to get help can be the hardest part. Going to your GP, speaking to a friend or loved one, finding help from metal health charities, all these things that we know can and will help us can seem like climbing a mountain because of the stigma attached to not only mental health but also being male with mental health. For myself I felt very isolated because I could not talk to others about it, my anxieties were very high so just thinking about making that step to speak to someone would just increase them even further. As a result, I found myself in a loop:
How I am supposed to feel -> How I feel -> How I want to feel
This would pretty much loop around for about ten years or so. I lost pretty much most my friends as I would “flake” on social activities due to anxiety, I
withdrew away from my family and pretty much everything. I had bouts of agoraphobia as well as panic disorder, which obviously reinforced the isolation and heightened anxiety. It got to a point where I said to myself “I don’t want to feel like this anymore”. And in that desperation, I found the strength to go out and find or even ask for help.
Though this was only the first step and it would still take some time to see signs of progression it was a step nevertheless and the first one is the most important.
Once I talked to my GP and then a counsellor I realised how easy it was to speak about my mental health as well as my general feelings. In some respects, it was quite empowering as I had never talked or opened about these things, previously I internalised it all where it all ruminated in my head and it over thought every situation. Vocalising my problems, for me, removed them from my head and put them in the open and I felt like a massive weight was removed and when I talked with people about it, especially those who had been
in similar situations and could empathise with me made me realise that at some point everyone will meet their own mental health.
What does it take to be “male” is quite a massive question and possibly one that I might not be able to answer. But all I know from my previous experience is that it is almost essential we as men talk about our own mental health. It is not “showing weakness” it being honest with yourself and being honest with those around us.
We would want that for our closest and loved ones so why do not we want that for ourselves?
The benefits of spending time in nature are well documented and this mental health awareness week highlights the benefit of nature on good mental wellbeing. Here at the Creative Living Centre we are in full support of this.
Connecting to nature on a regular basis is a huge part of my personal wellbeing practice. I find joy and beauty throughout each of the seasons and in all weathers and try to extend the same compassion to myself. Being in nature reminds me that I often overcomplicate what is going on in my own life with so many modern distractions. Carving out the time to connect with my breath amongst the trees or by the water helps me connect back to myself and what is really important.
I am the Take Part Coordinator at the Creative Living Centre, I am also a mother to two scrumptious girls and a qualified trauma informed 300 hour yoga teacher. Fostering a love of nature in my young children is so important to me so that they will learn they always have access to a natural mood enhancer whenever in their lives they might feel like they need it.
Today, with your permission, I am going to be guiding you through how to make a mandala out of natural materials, with the invitation to create your own mandala. The world mandala is a Sanskirt word that translates to ‘circle’. Traditionally, mandalas represent the universe and life and act as a reminder of the interconnected nature of everything (are you singing the Circle of Life in your head now, or is that just me?). Mandalas can be found in the natural world from tree rings, to flower petals. Creating a mandala from natural materials can be a great way to mindfully connect to the nature this Mental Health Awareness week.
One of the lovely things about creating a Mandala from natural materials is that it can be done again and again throughout the wheel of the year, each time incorporating different seasonal embellishments, to different results. The activity is suitable for any age group; my 3 and 6 year olds both love helping gather materials to create a beautiful expression of the season just as much as I do.
Before your walk, I invite you to select a basket or small bag to use to gather any interesting treasures you may see to help create your own mandala. Whilst walking you might like to bring your awareness to any sights, sounds or smells you notice that might help inspire your creation. Can you notice any natural mandalas? What sort of natural items do you feel drawn to working with? Perhaps leaves, flowers, twins, stones, or a combination or different materials.
When you have found the items you would like to work with, I invite you to think about where you would like to create your mandala. If you don’t have access to your own outdoor space then perhaps you would like to find a safe spot in a woodland or park where you can do this. Be mindful of leaving loose twigs or any items that may become slippy blocking any pathways when you leave.
When creating a mandala, traditionally the centre point is marked first. You might prefer to work differently but if your intention is to create a symmetrical pattern you may find it easiest to work from the centre outwards, building each new circular layer radiating out from this centre point and continuing outwards as long as you wish.
The invitation, whilst creating your mandala, is to connect to any textures, smells or colours you might notice as you work.
The wind had other visions for our recent creation but we still had lots of fun.
Hope you do too.
Raising Funds for the Creative Living Centre
The Prestwich and Whitefield branch of the Women’s Institute, which has raised over £1,000 for Creative Living Centre in 2020, is a very active and lively group of about 85 women who usually meet every month at St Margaret’s church hall in Prestwich, organise regular days out and have a range of interest groups including a walking group, a ‘culture club’, a reading group and a ‘crafternoon’ group. They often invite a guest to their monthly get-together to give a talk or lead an activity, and if the guest is from a charity the attendees usually do a collection for the charity at the end of the meeting.
In late 2019 the committee decided that they would like to choose a charity to support over the course of a whole year, for the first time. Two charities were considered and Creative Living Centre was chosen.
Jackie Hardy, President of Prestwich and Whitefield WI, said,
‘Your support can get absorbed and lost in a national charity.
We wanted something that’s local and can make a difference for our members, their families and people living in Prestwich and Whitefield’.
Fundraising for CLC started at their Annual General Meeting in February 2020, with a tombola which raised £80 – a great start. To continue the fundraising, the crafternooners planned to sell their homemade items at meetings over the year but the March lockdown put paid to that, and crafternoon and other WI meetings moved online.
Lucy Nye, who leads the WI crafts group, then had the inspired idea of setting up a travelling craft shop in the boot of her car. She started visiting WI members at home to sell the crafts from her boot in a socially distanced way, and many also gave donations for CLC. Driving round had the added bonus of allowing Lucy to check how members were doing, since some had not been leaving home, and some did not have the technology to attend the online meetings. The travelling craft shop even made a visit to CLC so staff could buy some of the wonderful craft items and Lucy could hand over a cheque.
We are so grateful to Prestwich and Whitefield WI for their very generous support. Lucy Nye said, ‘I can’t believe we’ve raised this much!’ It feels particularly appropriate that the money was raised through crafting, an activity which is popular at CLC as well as the WI and has therapeutic benefits. Jackie Hardy said,
‘We’re all about friendship and connection,
so mental health is a big issue for the WI.
Creative Living Centre is a great fit for us.’
If you would like to raise funds for CLC, we would love to hear from you. Please give us a ring on 0161 696 7501 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paula Jones, Fundraising Coordinator