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The Importance of Talking X The Lone Wolf Pack

 
 
 

CLOTHING FOR THE MIND

The Lone Wolf Pack was created to start a conversation. So many people out there struggle with their mental health, and we want to make them feel comfortable finding help.

Wear our products with pride, and start talking about your health. Ultimately, there's nothing more important than you.


INTERVIEW

Q: Why are you named ‘The Lone Wolf Pack’ and where did it start?

A: The Lone Wolf Pack was inspired by my love of wolves. I’ve had an affinity to the name ‘Akela’ (the pack leader in The Jungle Book) after my final year project at university, where I set up a company called Akela Tailoring. I love the way wolves are seen as both a pack animal and a loner. I thought this was very fitting for the way mental health is seen; you feel completely alone but are also part of a huge group of people who are suffering just the same.

 

Q: How do you plan on changing people’s perception of mental health?

A: I just want people to talk to each other about mental health more. Whether it's their own, or someone in their lives, all we need is a conversation. Mental health is such a taboo subject still, and people are so scared to own their issues for fear of being judged. I want everyone to know it's okay to suffer, and that they’re never alone.

 

Q: Tell me about someone or something that has inspired you to create?

A: I have a lot of people in my life who suffer from, or are close to someone who suffers from a mental health condition. In a way, each of their stories inspire my work.

The raven tee is inspired by my mother. She suffers from anxiety, and she always feels like she’s being watched and judged. I designed the raven tee with her in mind, and I wanted to show her that although she feels like she’s on the outside, we're all on the same path and we’re in this together.

 

Q: You design all of the merchandise, where do you get your ideas from, and which design is your favourite?

A: I’ve always loved designing. Whether its drawing illustrations, fashion or branding; I’m passionate about making things pretty. I get a lot of my inspiration from social media like Pinterest and Instagram. I’m also so inspired by the people around me. From my husband, best friends and work colleges to my therapist; everyone has a story to tell.

I love the logo tee the most. It has been interpreted into so many different things, which is amazing. Some people see the wolves as mountains, the heartbeats as an anxiety attack or simple a sign that life will go on. I think it is so inspiring and heartwarming to hear other peoples interpretation, they always hint a little bit to their own story.

 

Q: What is "breaking the stigma?" 

A: To me breaking the stigma means getting to a place where people aren’t afraid of asking for help. There is so much negativity around the term ‘mental health’ and that needs to change. How can we expect people to feel comfortable with their illnesses, if society both flinches at words like ‘depression’ and ‘OCD’ but also uses them as adjectives to describe their bad days. This changes peoples perception of mental health completely; we’re not comfortable talking about it openly and honestly while at the same time we play it down and use mental health to explain our saddest moments.

 

Q: Do you think mental health education should be given in schools?

A: Absolutely, yes. I think kids need to understand that what they are feeling or going through does not define the rest of their lives. More effort needs to be put into teaching the youth on how to cope with mental health and help those in need. We need clearer boundaries on languages used around mental health and we need better procedures in place within schools to help the children who are in need. 

School is such a difficult time for a lot of people, and with the right kind of education we can put a foundation of knowledge in there that will help the students deal with any problems they may have in their future life. 


MY JOURNEY

A lot can change in a year. These days, life seems to fly by and it’s easy to get lost in the days and weeks which quickly turn to months, without doing the things we enjoy. Before we know it, half the year is gone and we still haven’t started a load of things we’ve been meaning to do. We forget about picking up a new language, or learning how to cook healthier recipes, or make time to exercise more, or go see those things we want to see. Life gets busy, but the way I see it, we need to do those things in the here and now. As grim as it is to think about, it’s only an assumption that we will make it to a ripe old age and retire with time, money and energy to do the things we want to do now. It’s important that we get fulfilment in life, and that we’re able to be proud of what we’ve achieved. Whether that is as simple as getting out of bed, showering, saving up for a holiday or completing a marathon. It took a long time to have this mind-set change and positive outlook on the things life throws at us. A lot has happened throughout my life to get me to this stage where I feel I can do whatever I want, and achieve anything I set my mind to. To me, it is important to talk about my journey as open and honest as I can, which is why I have partnered with Georgia from The Lone Wolf Pack to fight the stigma around mental health problems.

 

Personally, I had a hard time growing up once I reached adolescence, never fitting in with girls because I was too boisterous and rough, and never fitting in with boys because of the age they were. I struggled a lot as I reached my teens and found myself becoming more isolated and reserved, oblivious to what was going on inside my own mind. I started to have panic attacks, and many nights where I felt horror at the thoughts that seemed to fill my head and deafen my ears. I would argue with my parents for no reason, and stop talking to my friends, instead turning the volume up to max on my headphones; blasting some heavy metal and noise that drowned out the rest. Apparently, I was intent on giving myself tinnitus but thankfully, I never quite managed that. My school, and every other one that I know of, never gave any education on what mental health was, or the problems that are sometimes encountered with it. This left a very dangerous environment for me as a young teen, as I was left to google my symptoms, and we all know what google is like. This led to a lot of research and an obsession to learn what was ‘wrong’ with me. I took every online test I could and started to talk to people who felt the same sense of confusion and sadness; we all seemed to be desperate to diagnose ourselves with labels so we could at least name what was going on.

 

This obsession to learn what was happening inside became a very self-destructive habit, and I soon became more depressed. Having uncontrollable panic attacks almost daily, a loss of thought, feeling and sense of self. I would skip school and hide out in fields to sob. My attendance got worse, I got in trouble more and then argued more with my parents in turn. I suppose, now I can look back with some perspective and say those were all signs that I needed to ask for help. However, I never reached out for help, or even thought of telling anyone of my troubles, all of which took me down a darker path to learn how to cope alone. It is difficult to describe what depression feels like, some people simply think it is low-mood, but its so much more and less than that. Depression is a never-ending contradiction of feeling everything so raw and shutting down to feel nothing at all. Finding that switching my feelings ‘off’ was a way to help, I started to bottle up all of the guilt and anger and self-hate. This was a major point in my earlier timeline where things started to go even more wrong. 

 

I was fourteen years old when I first self-harmed. I did it because I couldn’t feel anything, I was numb for months on end and completely out of touch with reality. I forgot how to process emotion, how to even categorise what myself or other’s felt, and I considered myself a void that constantly sucked up positivity, happiness, and enjoyment. At this point, I could not bare to not feel anything, it was eating me up inside like gangrene to a foot. I cannot remember exactly how I hurt myself, I think my brain has blocked that off as an unconscious measure to defend itself. I can, however, remember the aftermath of the realisation of what I had done. I’d never felt such defeating sorrow, remorse or pity, but I had felt something at least. I am not embarrassed of how I tried to cope with depression at an early age, I just feel never-ending sadness that this is how other people are trying to cope too. Outsiders would look at self-harm and think that that person wanted to kill themselves, but for me, that was not true. It was my anchor to not being numb, but it was also irrevocably self-destructive; causing riots in my mind and breaking my heart. I only wish people like me were told of or educated to try different ways to cope, ways where we did not have to inflict pain on ourselves to feel something. 

 

So, I had tried two ways to cope. Both were not sustainable, and both made my depression worse. Turning my feelings ‘off’ led me down the path to self harm, and I did not want to follow that path any further. Self-harm made me feel so worthless and small, that I had started to have suicidal thoughts to end the conflict that seemed to haunt me every day. Contradicting those thoughts, I took action to try and reach out for help. I was sick of crying in the shower until the water went cold, sick of wearing long sleeve tops and bandages on my wrist, sick of being sick. Strangely, I think I will always recall the first time I told someone of my struggles. I was not too close to her, but I knew she was a sturdy rock that would know what to do when I didn’t. I saw the pain in her eyes as I showed her my wrist, and she held me as I started to sob. Overwhelming amounts of feeling hit me, I felt guilt for what I had done; relief for her accepting me; and pride for finally facing myself head on. She asked if she could bring someone else to help, I said yes. And so began my road to learning about depression, and more importantly, how to cope with it. 

 

It took me five years, countless failed attempts at therapy and endless conversations about anything and everything, to feel a little more balanced and like I was in control. These were the hardest five years I experienced, and I won’t go into them today. What I want to talk about, is how talking saved my life. Through talking about the complicated feelings I felt, I was able to understand myself more, and the way my mind worked. I was able to address my depression head on and be in control of it, notice when things started to get worse, and put my coping mechanisms in place to prevent it from overwhelming me again. Don’t get me wrong, I relapsed during these five years and had more really dark times, but I was able to overcome it.

 

The key to coping (for me) was to listen to myself. I have always been creative, since a very young age when I wanted to be an author, and then a singer, actor, artist, photographer, poet, and writer again. I find that now, I am very self-reflective and dig deep to uncover any concerns I have and understand my emotions, thoughts and feelings, and where they come from. Using this creativity as a tool to express my inner-most feelings, I picked up a lot of creative based subjects during my time in school. With art, I used a lot of etching and black materials to show how I felt, making the pieces very personal and intimate to me. Drama helped me become more grounded, and my teacher was one of the most supportive people I could have asked for. I was able to experiment within different characters, and empathise with other people’s pain and situations too. With photography, I took a surrealistic approach and came up with some hauntingly dark projects which seemed to help me cope. I suppose, creating was my first positive coping mechanism, and still is. Within all of my work, I try to show an element of escapism, or use the work as a measure to temporarily escape.

 

This time last year, I was traveling around Australia and New Zealand, in awe by the views my eyes took in, but feeling so very alone and astray inside. Traveling and seeing beautiful places is what makes me happy, but last year I did not feel happy. Honestly, I felt a lot of guilt over a relationship that ended and an overwhelming ache for myself, because I did not know who I was. Bear in mind, I still don’t know who I am completely; and that is okay as people are always changing and growing. But, this time last year I felt utterly out-of-touch, and struggled to even do things I would have normally enjoyed. When I returned to the UK, I tried my best to encourage myself to grow. I planned a couple of adventures, and met a new friend whom I hold close to my heart, probably because she’s a deadass savage like me. Really though, we just get each other and both enjoy traveling. I traveled to the Highlands of Scotland and Isle of Skye, and then to the Lake District, and finally the Peaks. I kept feeling increasingly lonely despite the fact I was doing something I was supposed to enjoy. In November, things got really bad and I cancelled my trip to Scotland last-minute to try and get better. 

 

Finally, after two weeks off work, I gave up trying to help myself, by myself. I rang into work and talked to my manager about how much I was struggling, and he helped me get to someone who could help me. Luckily, I work in an environment where mental health problems aren’t taken lightly. I am grateful beyond words that it is taken seriously, and can’t imagine how hard it must be for people in the workplace when they don’t get any support. After another failed therapy attempt, I agreed to try once more with a new therapist who turned out to really get me. I have officially been discharged and I’m back to feeling my normal self again. I’ve taken several trips since, which I have wrote about in my previous posts, and I’m happy to be enjoying it again. 

 

Point is, I was given ears that listened, arms that knew when I needed to be held, hands to hold through darker times, and love from my friends because they knew I was struggling. I now try to be all of those things back, because I don’t think anyone can manage all that negativity by themselves. I try to encourage people to talk about their struggles, and ask for help when they need it. Together, we can build a community where it is safe to talk about these things that aren’t easy to talk about. 

 

MIND is an amazing charity that tackles mental health problems with education and support for people around the clock. Georgia, founder of The Lone Wolf Pack, donates 10% of every purchase to MIND. You can see her beautiful designs here, all inspired by the struggles of real people.

I also want to say THANK YOU to Afnan and Andre who are two very talented buskers whom donated all of their earnings to MIND the day of this shoot. What a generous pair, hopefully you'll hear them perform one day down Northumberland Street.


The Change of Seasons

 

March came and the first signs of spring were emerging. Slowly, snowdrops fought to the surface against hard ground, then the land seemed to swell from the thaw and birds started to chirp in the early hours. Sunlight spilled through my windowpane, diffusing through condensed glass before casting a glow of promise into my attic room, waking me from groggy sleep. I never seemed to get enough rest during winter. The long hours of darkness merged both days and nights together. Comfort of warm blankets became increasingly desired, and leaving the cosiness felt unnatural. It wasn't until spring had started properly, bringing more hours of daylight with it, that I started to feel like the hibernation was over and I could truly stretch out with yawn, ready to start the day.

I'll never tire of the fresh air that fills my lungs whilst I watch the sun rise on cool mornings, enjoying the view with a smile lingering at the corner of my mouth. Mist lifted from the fields, casting beautiful pastel tones across my field of vision. Drives to and from home were spent watching the lambs skip and jump in the warmth of sunny days, a blissful break from the rain and fog that liked to hug the ground. Packing up my car, and finishing the warm mug of sugary tea, I headed off towards Scotland for my first adventure on home turf in 2018. 

It had been long awaited, and I'd held my fingers crossed for better weather. This luck didn't seem to kick in until the last two days, which I had spent in the Cairngorms with the reindeer. Regardless of the rain, the adventure had been successful, and I’d picked up some new interests along the way. I’d stalked across mountains, tailing a wild Red Deer stag between Glencoe and Kinlochleven. I tracked him by his poo, which seemed to be a very regular occurrence for him; Scottish water must be the equivalent to Yakult on an elder’s stomach. It was such a curious hike up and down; walking, waiting and taking photos. The stag would look back every 50m or so, see me, pause until I caught up, and then moved on another 50m. Occasionally stopping for longer periods of time so I could get some shots. He was my first glimpse into their lives, and the unexpectedness of stumbling across him amongst the foliage and undergrowth added to the experience. I’d always had a fascination with deer, and the trip allowed for plenty of time to observe them as well as many other animals. 

Originally, the plan was to capture the beautiful landscapes in both the Highlands and Cairngorms, but the wildlife seemed to grab my interest. I had been pre-warned by @connormollison to take some carrots and apples with me to feed the deer, as they were apparently tame enough to be hand-fed in certain areas. When I found a herd confident enough to come up to me, it didn’t take long for my stash of food to run out. They seemed to be comfortable with human presence, and didn’t mind me getting close to take some photos. The Cairngorm Mountain Reindeer were very docile, as they’ve been raised (and protected) by humans. August 2017 was my first visit to see them and I had been intrigued by them ever since. 

Despite the interest in the wildlife, I did still appreciate the surroundings, and felt myself merge into the landscape with ease, wandering around valleys and along streams. A vast amount of travel is done within my own company, so I have plenty of time to think about current projects and new ideas. Time away from home to visit new (or old) places inspires my creativity; it’s important to me to spend time doing new things, otherwise I become too comfortable and routine. 

Adaptability is a great human trait, and I often set myself new challenges to further growth. At the start of the year, I’d made a mental note to do more work with people, whether that was traveling or shooting with them. I’d practiced portraits not nearly as much as I had wanted to the previous year, and needed to push myself into these new zones of photography. Once I’d returned from my trip to Scotland, I planned a day out with some friends from work and a girl called Ellie, who had an interest in my photos. The weather was on our side, and we spent a delightfully sunny day up in a place called Cragside, near Rothbury. 

Swinging on hammocks, talking to each other, and listening to the light breeze between trees was a simple pleasure. The sunlight soaked into our skin, warming up our souls and making us giddy. It was the first time we needed to wear sunglasses, and it was already April. Alana and Frankie were watching the frogs mating in the water, finding duck eggs and other insects. It’s a strange feeling, watching other creatures fight or fend off others for their partner, a small parody of our own lives. Days like this were easy, a place to be yourself amongst other people and share an appreciation for the view. I took some portraits of everyone, happy that I could try out new poses and techniques; sharing photos and videos to remember the day. The hours spent outside in the warmth made our eyes tired and skin soft, conversation flowed freely as I tried capture my friends honestly in my pictures. 

We departed late in the day, a little over a ninety minute drive back home, where I then browsed through the 2000 photos I'd taken. I smiled as I looked through them, seeing their personality and feelings within the frame. The main reason I had such a passion for photography, was that I could relive happy memories over and over again, and recall funny conversations or late night nostalgia. However, it wasn’t the fact I could do that for myself. Instead, it was that I could do that for other people too. A way to physically view or hold treasured memories and not let them slip away.

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