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Each of us know what being stressed feels like, those times when we’re placed under pressure when we’ve far too much to do and think about, or situations during which too many demands are placed upon us that we find it difficult to cope. Being in the thick fog of stress can become overwhelming.

Although there is no medical definition of stress, and that health professionals often disagree over if it might be the cause or the result of problems, this just makes it more difficult for us to work out our own feeling towards the issue—and how to deal with it. Whatever your personal definition of stress might be, stress can become out of control or indeed manageable—and that achievable through managing external pressures so that stressful situations don’t occur as frequently as they might. Another way is in developing your emotional resilience in order to better your coping with tough situations when they do happen, and granted this takes a little time.

A certain amount of pressure in life is healthy, enabling you to take action, feel energised and to get results. Allowing yourself to become overwhelmed by stress as a result of this process will become problematic—that said stress isn’t a psychiatric diagnosis but is linked to your mental health in two important ways as it can cause existing problems to worsen. It can worsen anxiety or depression. In turn, existing mental health problems can cause stress—coping with the day-to-day symptoms of your mental health problem can be challenging and time consuming and you might struggle to see where stress ends and your mental health problem begins.

Stress can have a physical reaction to our body too, making us feel tired, give us a headache or an upset stomach. Feeling stressed can often mean loss of sleep, and a poor diet which will have a long-term affect on our physical health—which can also make us feel more stressed emotionally.

Stress and anxiety result in the body releasing hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) and if stress is a constant factor in your life you are likely to be producing high levels of these hormones, which can make you feel physically unwell and could have a detrimental affect to your health longer term.

Stress can result in feelings of irritability, aggression, feeling ‘wound up’ or impatient. Your head might feel ‘tight’ with far too many thoughts fleeting through and around it at once. You will feel overwhelmed or overburdened, anxious, nervous, or afraid. There will be an inability to enjoy yourself, with a sense of dread often taking over. Depression may accompany stress in which case you may feel uninterested in life, neglected or lonely.

Severe stress can bring out behaviours in people, including suicidal feelings. It can change how you might behave, make decision making difficult and cause constant worrying to the point you avoid situations that trouble you. Your fuse might become far too short, that you snap at folk. Nail biting or skin picking is common. Concentration is out of the question as is a healthy diet as we embark on too little or too much food (and perhaps no two days are the same). Some of us turn to smoking or drinking. As for sitting still, that might become as impossible as attempting not to cry.

With the behaviour side of things covered, lets turn to the physical stuff. You know, because the list above isn’t enough, right? Your breathing might become shallow, or perhaps you may hyperventilate or have a panic attack. Muscles might become tense, and your eyesight might blur, or your eyes may become sore. There may be sleeping issues such as falling or staying asleep (or having nightmares). Sexual problems can manifest too, perhaps a loss of interest or not being able to enjoy sex might become an issue. Becoming tired all the time, teeth grinding or clenching your jaw, headaches and chest pains. This list continues I’m sorry to share with high blood pressure, indigestion or heartburn, constipation or diarrhoea, feeling sick, feeling dizzy or fainting.

The world feels like it might close in on you, you can’t breathe and are running out of time. It is closing in on you, you can't breathe and are running out of time.

Stress is, generally, caused by perception of a situation. It could be connected to your past experiences, self-esteem, how your thought processes work (optimist or pessimist), how experienced you might be at dealing with pressure and your emotional resilience to stressful situations. It also depends upon the quantity of pressures that are upon you at any given time and the amount of support you are receiving.

Situations that cause one person stress, might not have the same detrimental effect on someone else and each of us take a differing perspective on life and cope differently in each situation we are faced with.

Life Changing Decisions: My Writing Journey

Three years ago I was making life changing decisions that resulted in my mental health improving. Twenty-eighteen had consciously been the year for me to make new, positive memories after learning how to retain them. It also become the year that, ultimately (and under bizarre circumstances) the bulk of my knowledge returned. I’d lost my memory as a result of brain trauma in twenty-fourteen due to being assaulted—those who follow my social media or who’ve read LOST SOUL will be fully aware of my journey of recovery and my entry into writing. Its that journey, and where it led me that will be my focus for this week’s blog post for October’s campaign for mental health awareness month.

I’d written chapter one of Broken long ago, just one friend knew it existed. Two years post my own head trauma, that friend—Tracey—was then fighting for her own life due to a brain tumour. She didn’t make it, her loss was devastating to many, including myself. During one of my many hospital visits with Tracey, she reminded me of this first chapter and where I’d find it. I’d forgotten it existed even. My struggle to write begun, my eldest daughters struggle to decipher what I’d put onto paper was enormous and she took me on as her student. Our lives had been a role reversal in every way, and relearning to read and write was a large part of that process too. Eventually Broken was finished, and ready to publish. That was, quite possibly one of the most difficult decisions of my recovery but I took the plunge. I’m grateful for that process as I’ve not looked back since!

It wasn’t long until Kary Oberbrunner popped onto my screen, and I took part in a free online course he was running. From there I entered a book competition and, ultimately forgot I’d done so. It was a friend who alerted me that my work had been selected—while I slept Broken had become a finalist and I had a sudden decision to make. The wonderful people of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all got behind me for the final round of voting. I trended on Twitter as I took the biggest risk of my life—what I tweeted would eventually become a tweaked version of a book title: ‘Broken soul to soul on fire’ but before that it was shown on the screen at the conference!

Flying to the USA alone, negotiating connecting flights and walking into a three-day conference of 400 people to deliver a speech was the most daunting task of my life, a life in which I couldn’t remember what I was there to say about a book I couldn’t remember physically writing at the time! Because of this, I was given permission to read from a card. Situations—disability—should never hold you back and I was most certainly not allowing it to any longer. At this time I was still having seven seizures per week and unfortunately, my head was still in severe pain. Although there was still one more therapy session, I was now free of PTSD. Most other competitors started their speech by thanking God… but this Essex girl begun “Carl Ashbeck is a psychopath”. I was dreading this opening given the company I was obvious in, and the fact I went one from last, but it obviously paid off!

I left America holding an award for writing and publishing excellence but more importantly, through the amazing friendships made during this trip. Moreover, I left having verified who I’d become and that the changes incurred because of the adversity forced upon me was actually okay. Being among this wonderful crowd—in the presence of such a family atmosphere and of faith too—despite having never met any of these people before was humbling. Leaving richer because of the human quality en-mass and the knowledge I’d gained far outweighed the award for me, yes holding that trophy in my hand was perfectly sweet, of course it was, but in terms of my well-being and for my healing process that trip pushed my boundaries and goals to a new level.

My risk reignited my faith not only in humanity but in the kindness of strangers. It showed me how to trust once more and that my own intuition was still intact. While there, having shared my story, I was convinced it should be a book. I’d already written a journal that I’d shared with a couple of trusted writing friends and knew something needed to happen with it. LOST SOUL: Broken Soul to Soul on Fire was born and it took just one month to pour out my heart. The second edition is much more revealing. I must say its sequel, SOUL SEARCHING: To Hell and Back Twice is too, which will be published on my eighth anniversary of the attack.

Upon reflection, the four and a half years leading up to this trip were filled with turmoil. There were small victories, showing signs that recovery was possible but more often than not there was always one hurdle or another that slowed that process. My youngest always said it would take seven years for me to recover—one year for each blow on the head. She was about right, for I can live a fulfilled life now. There will always be activities that won’t be possible, I’ve still got limitations—but I’m here.

Push through your boundaries to live your best life.

by Donna Siggers

Reflection on Mental Health and the Importance of Connections

Mental health awareness is hugely underrepresented. This blog either shares Britain’s history that sparks an interest for both Dave and, I or its about creatives that have gained my personal interest in one way or another and I’ve given them promotion in this space because I believe in the good they are doing—that they have broken through adversity (whatever and wherever that begun).

The bottom line is, wherever our paths lead us, whichever direction we choose—and it is a choice—its possible to make changes. Some of the stories I’ve shared show that however close to death we get, the consequences of survival mean there's a tough journey ahead before that survival means a worthwhile life again. Another harsh choice was for someone to live among the worst kind of folk inside a prison in order to come to terms with their own mind. This allowed them to move forward, to redeem their past and ultimately to break the cycle that would have meant returning to prison. This has given them opportunities to serve the community today, in their life going straight, to strive and to enjoy a crime free life. Adversity affects us differently and the healing process from it takes on differing forms. In order to fully understand each of these journeys, you would need to fully understand each person and their personal story, which I urge you to do.

My story is relatable to both these gents. Like the first, I was attacked but under different circumstances. I too could have died and now live with the consequences of having survived. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affected both of us, and I’m sure each of those journeys have differed—that just human nature. With regard to the second gent, who lived and had therapy with the worse the prison system could offer, I worked with similar individuals. I understand how difficult this process would have been for him, listening to them legitimise their actions—its horrific. I am talking of Darren Barden who survived a brutal knife attack in his home that he shares in his book, Let’s Skip to the Good Bits and of Terry Ellis whose book Living Amongst the Beasts conveys his time at Grendon Prison. Through our writing we have connected and shared our experiences of survival, mental health, adversity and triumph.

I’d not have met these two inspiring people had it not have been for my own adversity and fight for survival or my own journey into writing and publication. Nor would I have met singer and songwriter Levi Perry. Levi is, perhaps, the most inspiring lady with gutsy determination I’ve met. She too is a survivor and if I may quote a song title of hers, a ‘warrior’. I’ve blogged about her struggles but mainly about her rise towards success—which she is now enjoying. In Levi I’ve discovered a friend worth her weight in gold, one that carries me when my health declines and who I love for her generous heart.

I have some thanks to dish out, as its easy to gloss over those… so in general groups where I can, my family, Levi Perry, that fab group filled with folk like me with brain injuries, Stephen Rhoades Sheridan Thomas, London Crime, Bobbie Barker... thank you for checking up on me, making me laugh—keeping my head above water. You all rock—especially Levi who physically rocks it out!

I've one more post in this Mental Health series for October. I hope this one shows how connections can be made from different paths in life, how important those connections are and that mental health affects men and women alike. Take care and look after each other.

by Donna Siggers

Mental Health Month: Tough Men Talk

Sporting hero of the month has to go to Tyson Fury, the Gypsy King. There’s no doubt as to why he’s got such a huge following or that he’s a modern day legend within the boxing world, and I guess beyond it. Tyson has followed in the path of his father (who I’ve met) and also his grandfather. Fighting is in their blood, one way or another.

John Fury—Tyson’s father—was a boxer who went professional in bare knuckle fighting, where in Galloway it was traditional to enter the ring. He fought on the street too and, unfortunately inflicted serious damage to someone’s eye for which he served four years in prison. Upon his release, John reformed and has been promoter and spokesman for his son. He’s campaigned on Tyson’s behalf for each fight which has uplifted media presence. He is a force to be reckoned with as an advocate for his son which I commend him for. It was, however, how he spoke on other matters that captured my attention and made this man memorable for me.

John Fury (center) with David Last (left) and Donna Siggers (right)
at a Q&A Event organised by Steve Wraith


Given October is mental health month, I’d like that to be my focus. Tyson is bipolar, a subject he’s discussed with Frank Bruno who also suffers from the same disorder. Boxing has, according to both men, kept a certain balance within their lives through structure and stability. Tyson claims he’s felt unwell all his life, that he didn’t want to live and that he considered his anxiety normal and that it was just part of life. It wasn’t until his bipolar diagnosis in 2017 that acceptance of his condition and the reasons behind his symptoms could be explained.

Embracing his mental health has gained Tyson a huge following, and his dad is right there to support him.

I met John at a speaking event, organised by our friend Steve Wraith, where he talked with frankness of another side to family life other than boxing—that of mental health. To hear a father with John's background speak of his son's troubles and relate to his experiences was humbling--that Tyson's health dipped so low before help was sought, heartbreaking. 

Mental health knows no boundaries. In learning some very personal facts about Tyson, to know this fighting machine drunk himself to sleep in bars and overate on burgers because he couldn't help himself was eyeopening when he was entering the ring to fight a few days later. That he has now turned his life around, with the help of professionals and, ultimately his family, is a story worth sharing.

Openness is vital in the educational process and I believe that when the hard men of the boxing world and other such sports, industries etc start opening up to discuss their mental health it truly starts to make a huge difference.

If you get the chance to hear John Fury speak, please take it!

by Donna Siggers

Mindset Changed Perception Giving New Meaning To 'Life' For Terry Ellis

Terry Ellis has taken social media by storm with his story. Podcasts are gaining thousands of views within hours of airing and although each interview shares the same subject matter they delve into a different depth of Terry’s past. His debut book “Living Amongst The Beasts” is an Amazon bestseller, so what sparks international interest in a man born to humble beginnings in London’s East End?

Although I’ve not met Terry we network on various platforms and in within groups. Before I delve into his past, I’d like to share a little of what he’s involved in now—and it seems that anything that this man puts his mind and energy into succeeds. During lockdown Terry and a small team decided to arrange for food parcels to be delivered to vulnerable members of his community and what started out as a small gesture ended up as a mammoth undertaking of enormous effort. Donations kept arriving and parcels were delivered for the duration of lockdown.

Terry continues to give back to society. He helps run a Facebook group “Change your life, put down your knife!” This group brings together both victims and perpetrators of knife crime. A non-judgmental group the aim is to educate, raise awareness and to help others at a community level. Again, there are no half measures with politicians and celebrities involved giving Terry and the other organisers the momentum required to make this a successful endeavour.

I could continue!

Its great to see Terry’s positivity shining so brightly when I know, through reading his book “Living Amongst The Beasts” and from listening to the podcasts, how he used to live out his life. Although I could go into details, I’d rather you read it for yourself but I will share this much: having risen to earn himself the notoriety of one of Britain’s top underworld armed robbers, Terry was the mastermind behind the 2007 $4M heist at Verizon Business Centre in Kings Cross, London. Resulting from this he spent time at Britain’s only full therapeutic prison—HMP Grendon—where he describes living amongst the beasts: rapists, child killers and paedophiles with whom he would sit alongside in therapy. For the first time in his life, violence couldn’t be his response and instead he learnt to discover the positives in fellow humans, whatever crime they had committed. Something I personally find humbling. In changing his own mindset, he was able to break the cycle that allowed therapy to work for him. Adjusting his behaviour and thus his quality of life has meant returning to society and a crime-free way of life.

Living Amongst The Beasts” isn’t just about Terry’s own journey. He’s written it in a way that will flair your own emotions in a way that will spark a self-discovery journey of your own if you allow it to, as you begin to look inwards at yourself. It truly is an inspirational and encouraging book and suitable for anyone seeking to change.


Terry has a second book that’s newly released, that he’s co-authored with Christopher Alston. “HMP Help Me Prepare: A guide to prison for first timers and their families”. The blurb reads as follows: Help me prepare is a guide to prison for anyone facing a custodial sentence in the UK, their families or anyone with an interest in how the UK prison system works.


The guide is designed to give people first-hand accounts of what to expect and offers advice on how to navigate your way through the system and the challenges everyone faces.

The guide has been written by people with first-hand experience of the prison system totalling over sixty years and includes sections from former inmates and prison officers. There is also a health and wellbeing section written by an external holistic health and wellness coach which details ways in which inmates can practice a more mindful approach to their sentence.

The guide takes you from the courtroom through to the end of the sentence with detailed descriptions of each step along the way and a comprehensive resource guide to assist you.


To follow Terry on social media



#Change Your Live, Put Down Your Knife!