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Day 42: The Blurt Foundation

Well, it's suddenly Mental Health Awareness Week. Because it's MHAW, I'm not going to write about the awesome week I've just had, catching up with the kind of besties you know you'll have forever, even if you haven't seen them for 8 years and you've never met their kids. (But if you're depressed, could I suggest Old Friend Therapy as a step forward? Whatever your wearied mind tells you, they don't care that you're fat and grey and slightly broken.)

Nope, the fragile part of me wants to tell you about The Blurt Foundation. I know I'm writing for - and occasionally about - The ADD-vance ADHD and Autism Trust in this 90-day blog, but in Mental Health Awareness Week I want to highlight the fact that we SEN types need to know about help wherever it exists.  Why? Because mental health is an ongoing concern and often a major issue for both parents and children when a family member has ADHD or autism. (The statistics on mental illness and suicide rates among the neurodiverse make chilling reading.) If I only manage to share information on one other support organisation this week, I choose Blurt.

I found The Blurt Foundation by accident a good while ago, when I spotted an advertisement for their 'BuddyBox', possibly on Facebook. This is a box of comforts that you can send a buddy in need, or yourself, either on subscription or as a one-off. It turned out that that particular month's BuddyBox wasn't quite right for the friend I had in mind, but I discovered that the BuddyBox was a product sold by a wonderful organisation called The Blurt Foundation. (www.blurtitout.org)

If you've already followed the link above, or looked them up on Facebook, you'll see that their tag-line is 'Increasing Awareness and Understanding of Depression'. Yes, they sell stuff, but they also offer free resources, an online support directory, a really no-nonsense and helpful blog, a Facebook page and - my personal favourite - an e-mail sign-up 'for freebies and kindness'. In December they launch a book called The Self-Care Project, which you can order through amazon or receive in the December BuddyBox. I can't wait. (I would give you the link if I could figure out how to get it from the amazon site, but hey, I can't even turn on my tv.)

While I want to buy everything that The Blurt Foundation sells and follow every link on their website, time and money are both issues for me, as they are for most people. What I love, then, is receiving their e-mails. Generally I take a first look at my day's e-mails when I've dropped the kids to school and am on my way back home (to deal with the wreckage left behind by three boys hunting desperately for the shoes and bags that are right before their eyes). Although leaving them at school for six hours is an inherently joyous event, it's also the moment that the adrenaline burst from the morning chaos wears off, and if it's going to be a 'blah' kind of day, it generally sets in about ten metres from the school gate. So imagine my delight, dear readers, when a message pops up from The Blurt Foundation.

These are not selling messages (although I do get BuddyBox notifications separately). They are just friendly, supportive notes, that sometimes tune right in to what I'm feeling and give me the boost to get myself home for that first cup of tea and the transition into The Rest of The Day. When I'm feeling absolutely fine, the notes make me feel grateful not to need them. (Yep, I'm a bit odd like that.)  This is the heart of The Blurt Foundation, as far as I can tell: the gentle nudge to let you know that it's going to be okay, and that you are not alone. They take about five minutes to read, at the most, but if it happens to be the right message on the right day, the words stay with you very much longer. Just looking at the message notifications can be enough. Here are a few recent examples of message notifications and their preview lines:

  • It's not you: everything's not your fault
  • You're not faking it: we believe in you
  • How on earth did it come to this? you are not alone
  • Feeling stuck: this is not forever
  • Sometimes everything gets too much: there is always another way
  • You don't need to be fixed: you're a person, not a problem
  • Give yourself a break: you really do deserve it
(Scanning through my e-mail search, it seems that these come once a week. If only I kept track of things like that, I could have known to look forward to them! Still, I like a pleasant surprise now and then, if only to balance out the unpleasant surprises of 'unauthorised overdraft' text messages, which also seem to arrive at School Run O'Clock.) 

While I'm wading through e-mails, I can also let you know that the theme of the current BuddyBox is 'Done Adulting'. If you've never felt that way, you're probably reading the wrong blog right now.

There's not much more I can usefully tell you, except that I think every human being should know about The Blurt Foundation, just in case she or he ever needs it. Why not explore the website or follow the Facebook page, just in case it ever helps? (And no, I'm not on commission or anything clever like that. Remember, I'm the one who can't do tvs or amazon links, or add pictures to my blog.) 

For my Deep and Meaningful moment, how wonderful is it that resources like The Blurt Foundation exist? I remember a time way back when I was officially Young, maybe even in single digits, and the Mum of one of my classmates 'had a nervous breakdown'. I somehow heard that phrase among the adult whisperings-behind-hands, and asked my Mum if that meant parts of her had fallen off. I was promptly shut up and it was made very clear that this was something a bit embarrassing or even shameful, never to be discussed. With the infinite wisdom of a small child, I concluded that the reason my classmate was so very quiet and sad was that her Mum was at fault in some terrible, nameless way, and was inexcusably weak. Sadly, I'm certain that was the view of the adults too. 

I've sat in front of the computer with idle hands here for a good few moments, as that memory makes me want to SCREAM and shout out ENDLESS PROFANITIES. I've never forgotten it, and it's one of those childhood memories that takes on an entirely new and deeply, deeply disturbing meaning when you become a grown-up yourself. I've actually now typed and deleted some very angry and rude words. My compromise shout is this: HELL TO THE NO!!!!! (Yes, I watched a re-run of Glee a couple of weeks ago, and am quoting the incomparable Mercedes Jones.) What on earth did that shame and secrecy do to that poor woman, at a time when all she needed was support and help, and what did it do to her daughter? I am furious and devastated and heart-broken by the lives of Mums in our collective past. I'm sure friends got each other through all kinds of troubles, as we women seem to do that instinctively, but why, when 'standard' support wasn't enough, did this woman have to be shamed by her wider community? I can see her face when she came to volunteer at Brownies in an effort to rebuild her confidence. She couldn't look even the children in the eye, and if she had to speak, it was a whisper, with most sentences unfinished. She wanted to disappear. And we just stared. And I can see her daughter's face and I fear that some very deep fault-lines formed in her psyche at that tragically young age.

And so thank you, Blurt Foundation. You are part of the change that is picking up the pieces in my generation, and I have to believe will protect our children in the future. You are all heroes.

------
Okay, so this is the slightly awkward moment where I remind you that I am undertaking my self-care challenge in aid of another super-supportive organisation, The ADD-vance ADHD and Autism Trust. The link for my ADD-vance fundraising page is: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/LizThompsonI owe them a great debt when it comes to my mental well-being and increased daily resilience.

BUT:
SEN parents are more likely than most to suffer from depression or anxiety, and from time to time we might seek support from non-SEN-specific organisations. If, in Mental Health Awareness Week, you want to make a gesture in aid of a more 'general' organisation, The Blurt Foundation would be a worthy cause. More information is available on their website.



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