Meltdown On The Beach

20190223_170734There’s nothing like screaming at a friend to fuck off on a beach at 6pm on a Saturday night to really bring home that you’re probably not feeling very well. In general I am not a screamer in arguments, I’m a go and have space and then I will talk to you like a rational human being kind of person, so screaming is a big fat red flag. Orange flags that I chose to ignore in the run up to the weekend away were: an increasingly worrying lack of sleep, irritability, feeling agitated, thoughts about self harm and generally feeling overwhelmed. All these I largely chose to ignore, however I did have a small moment of self reflection the night before that I was feeling nervous about the trip. As many of you know travelling used to be a bit anxiety inducing for me; all the pressure, inability to manage my own time and possibility of becoming unwell or forgetting my meds. These days however I’m generally fine travelling and so whilst I vocalised some of my concerns to my friend I probably did so in a semi casual, ‘o yeah, by the way…’ kind of way as opposed to a ‘dude I’m actually worried about this’ way. The problem with doing this is that when it becomes a shit show they are a bit caught off guard and because I also didn’t take the time to fully acknowledge I was feeling down, I was also caught off guard.

The upside of the saga is that it acted as a sharp and speedy dig in the ribs to get me to ask for some support from my GP. I’ve been putting this off because whenever I’m low I have a tendency to compare it to my first low, which is sort of how I imagine childbirth in that it was so awful I can’t even quite connect to the memory. If this is the basis for monitoring mood then most of the time it doesn’t compare and I shrug off a possible need to seek help and be somewhat preventative. I am also conscious of the time and effort it requires to get a GP appointment these day, particularly now I’m working. I then balance up the additional stress of involving work and having to slot in an appointment during my working day and I’m like ‘hmmm I guess i’ll just wait it out and see where this goes’.

Luckily for me I cried throughout my appointment which demonstrated both to myself and the GP I needed a hand. She offered to write me off work which I declined but I took her up on flexible working. She wrote me up a prescription for more sleeping tablets and encouraged me to take them every night seeing as sleep is my main trigger. She referred me to Psych for a medication review and possibility of a new CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) and generally heard me out on the pressure I felt from full time work and relationships. The fact she took me seriously and noted that it was important I took time out to prevent an episode was so refreshing because the mental health system generally requests you be verging on suicidal before providing support or intervention. When someone takes the time to support you it forces you to do a reality check for yourself and I noted that i felt overwhelmed with commitments and like I wasn’t have much time to myself.

Last week I had the psych appointment which is essentially a triage system for mental health, they work out what it is you need, where psychiatric services need to step in and what community services you can access. By this point I’d had my flexible working which although it wasn’t quite flexible enough was a huge help so I was feeling calmer and maybe like I no longer needed the appointment. I went along and promptly burst into tears so perhaps it was a good thing I went, we spoke about triggers and where the stress was, my appetite and my sleep. She noted that although it had been 1 year of full time work now, some recent changes at work were making me feel uneasy and pressured to hold it together. The last thing you need when feeling down is pressure to do anything so I was struggling with this. I am also used to being surrounded by people who work in mental health, have their own experience or have been part of my experience. So I found it difficult that the two things in my life that were very meaningful and at the forefront right now, my relationships and my work, did not have this same level of understanding. She recommended some counselling, guidance around speaking to work and a referral for a one-off psych appointment to discuss and increase in meds. This feels like a step backwards but as she put it ‘maybe you’re current dose works for when life is going well but when life is challenging it just needs a boost to keep you stable’ fair enough.

A week on and i’m feeling much better, largely because I’ve been open which means people are more understanding and my social hermit status is acceptable. People are able to make small adjustments which probably seem stupid but help; things like not being part of big whatsapp groups that endlessly ping notifications up on my phone, understanding I’m more flakey than usual or that visits may even be just be at someones house rather than doing anything exciting or stimulating. My friends and family know me and these nuances so well that they just slip into this mode fairly easily and that’s so unbelievably helpful.

One good thing to have come out of it is that it’s got me back up and painting which I haven’t done in ages, visiting my friend nudged me into focusing on finishing a piece and I felt so pleased that i’d accomplished that for her when I saw it up her on her wall (literally like 200 years after she actually commissioned it). That painting is like remembering a little part of my identity that has been feeling a bit lost recently, looking at it now makes me think of my amazing friend who always supports me in these things and the fact that I am a painter as much as someone with Bipolar.

I’m feeling a tad weird


So the past week or so I’ve been getting increasingly frustrated with myself for just feeling ‘a bit off’. It’s not a full blown episode but I jut feel a bit out of sorts and it’s reminded me that in between episodes there’s always a little wiggle room to feel a bit strange without committing to something hard-core like a bit of mania. This has involved some low key things like racing thoughts, a sense of feeling uncomfortable in my skin and struggling to focus and then some slightly more unusual sensations like hearing a few voices and in a couple of fleeting thoughts of self harm. The self harm thing is odd seeing as it’s been a very long time since I did that and it tends to be during an episode, often a manic one (curve ball) where I find the sensation grounding when I’m feeling out of control. I’m certainly not recommending you cut your skin to feel calm because things like lavender sprays, ASMR videos, baths and walks are all much more in the vibe of ‘self-care’ that us millenials are snowflaking it up for and are a much healthier approach. I’ve therefore had to reflect on what these thoughts are attempting to address and I think It’s simply my body reverting to old habits; I’m like ‘Hey I don’t feel great body’  and my body is manically shouting back at me ‘just self harm, that worked in the past right?!’. As a reminder that did not work in the past, it simply left me with some odd scars and self loathing. What self harm does do however is calm racing thoughts so I’ve had to pull out some more healthy tools to deal with this.

One of these tools is distraction and this currently takes the form of ‘The Great British Interior Design Challenge’ if I am at home (If you haven’t watched it already it’s on Netflix and you must) and ASMR if I am out the house. ASMR is really a whole other blog post but is essentially like a more complex form of the white noise machines you get where you listen to rainforest sounds and all of a sudden there’s a frog and you’re like ‘where did that frog come from?’. It’s basically calming sounds someone makes with odd things like paper and crinkly raincoats and because someone is making them rather than them being on a loop there is enough variation that I’m focused on the sounds but also able to pass out asleep to them at bedtime. It’s a handy tool for when I’m out the house and particularly if I want to just look like i’m listening to music such as in the Cafe at my workplace.

The second is being super mindful about overstimulation, I tend to find when I feel like this that I feel easily overwhelmed by things around me. Right now it’s not enough that I need to check out of all social situations but it’s enough that each day I’m judging where I’m at and what I’m doing the following day. For example today I have a longer day at work and am attending a social event in the evening so I did literally nothing last night except make some chilli. It means that I feel fairly fresh to socialise today. When people say overstimulation lots of people things of loud noises or lots of lights but it can be as simple as lots of phones ringing or being around people constantly, even if it’s not noisy. Taking time out allows me to stagger interactions so they feel more manageable and this is really important in a people-facing job.

An inability to focus is tricky seeing as at work I’m managing multiple things every day so I am up to my eyeballs in lists. I have a notepad broken down into subsections (mmmm nerdy goodness) and then a ‘today’ pad, so i can remind myself that I.must.get.this.done! Normally I am better at prioritising workloads but right now I am making sure that I complete a task as I go to ensure it gets done and not lost into the ether of my brain and my drawer. This lack of focus is tied in with racing thoughts which are sometime productive because they force me into being a little supersonic hedgehog and other times I just go into mental overload and have a meltdown.

Hearing voices has been enough that it’s thrown me when I’m around others, particularly as they have largely been derogatory, but not enough that I’ve been worried. I spent a rather interesting day in London a week or so back where there was constant chatter in my head and also in the actual world and I sort of just followed my friend from shop to shop like a mute puppy in an attempt to maintain calm. This week they’re off though which is good because that’s one less thing to worry about.

In ‘Crazy Ex Girlfriend’ the main character talks about becoming unwell with her BPD because she didn’t keep ‘doing the work’ around her mental health and I can see that I have recently fallen into that trap. I haven’t been making sleep a priority, I’ve sort of just accepted not sleeping and I haven’t been having huge amounts of down time. Both best friends have recently been unavailable (for good reasons like being in awesome holiday destinations) but it means I haven’t had an outlet or check in point with people who know me well enough to have a good grasp on supporting me feeling this. I’m also in a semi new relationship where I’m hyper aware going a bit off grid would not be ideal and whilst I know rationally if he can’t stand the heat he should get out the kitchen (said with all kinds of sass and finger wagging) I also know that’s not how it works if you like someone. The result is that I’m scrambling to get my shit together so that I don’t fall apart, which I guess is a motivation but also feels like a bit of pressure too. Finally job stuff is going well and I’ve possibly got some cool shuffle rounds happening in my department so I’d quite like to be on my game to encourage that change rather than be like ‘awesome thanks for the opportunity but I also need to work from home every day this week now’. So basically there’s a fair bit of pressure to stay on top of things when normally I’m like ‘cool I’ll just hang in my PJs and take sleeping tablets every night and ride it out.’

It’s been a stark reminder that although things have been going really well it’s easy to slip up if you stubbornly refuse to notice the smaller things and it’s also ok to do the work and be a bit weird if you need to. I am therefore choosing to be a bit weird for a minute to stay well and not go hard-core weird for the long term. This is healthy decision making.


Happy (belated) New Year!


Gratitude journal is back on people

Happy New Year people!

And by that I of course mean ‘happy end of Janauary because I haven’t got my act together to write something yet’. As many of you know I generally hate New Years Eve because quite frankly reflecting on the year has usually been a rather depressing experience. In the past it has consisted of noting that I am still not working, I am eeking out my daily activities to fill my time (a swim can become a 3 hour experience if you really try), I am just about maintaining stability and I generally have nothing to say for myself. That is of course a very reductive approach to a human being but in a world of workers we place a lot of value on employment and frankly I was itching to work, I was just also petrified of the responsibility. Whilst I sat at home contemplating my many failings as a person my friends were out partying or socialising and generally acting like they were in their twenties. There were a few years that I attempted something like a celebration however they generally fell flat. In 2015 I had a horrible break up and decided to head to Brighton in a moment of false empowerment, I’d imagined looking out across the sea at midnight with my chin up and the wind in my hair but when it came to it I chickened out, concerned I’d be murdered under the pier I instead opted for staying in crying through the 12pm fireworks. So you see it’s generally not a great night for me.

This year however I crushed it, ok I wasn’t partying and I actually spent the first couple of hours tidying and cleaning which sounds lame but hey, you can’t shrug off an entire personality. Instead I stayed in with a friend playing a 2 person version of articulate (surprisingly it’s still fun) and noting that this year I’ve absolutely smashed it. Now my version of smashing it is most other peoples version of existing and has been now for some time but the past year I started work, got promoted, actually socialised and even managed to keep it together and not be triggered off by any of these things. Starting work has been such a huge shift for me and there were definitely points of being sleep deprived and having a little cry in the toilets or eating takeaway 3 nights a week just so I could have a nap when I got home but i did it! This was the first year I wanted to celebrate because this wasn’t just a celebration of a year without an episode but an acknowledgement of how far I’ve come.

Whilst I don’t usually set new years resolutions this year I decided that if I can work I can probably try out some loose intentions. If last year was about just getting by this year is about getting on top of things. Back when I had nothing to do with my time my flat was immaculate, I had birthday cards sent out on the dot and I’d sometimes be up at 7am doing a food shop; I exercised several times a week and went on walks most days because both of these things allowed me to get out the house. All of these things are very easy to do when you have 8 hours of time to fill but they are less easy when you are at work till 5:30, shops close at 5 and you are exhausted. It still takes me by surprise that I only have 2 days a week of actual free time and am expected to complete all my jobs and relax in these 2 days ready for another 5 days of work. That said my main resolution is to be more organised in the below areas (the others are things like stop over plucking your eyebrows)

  1. Friendships – One London based friend books in the next time she will see you at the end of each visit, previously I felt this was a bit much, I now think it’s pure genius. I aim to be as organised with friendships as I am with work.
  2. Chores – Tidying, doing washing, organising food shops, they’ve all fallen at the wayside in a bid to survive working life. Starting the week avoiding my washing basket and filling the sink with heaps of fairy liquid to disguise the mounting dishes under a sea of bubbles is not healthy. I aim to start the week semi organised at home.
  3. Sort the food situation – Whilst I’m getting on top of food I continue to eat a jacket potato from the canteen 3 times a week due to disorganisation, I am amazed I am not one giant potato (although I was nicknamed spud as a child so maybe it’s a self fulfilling prophecy). I aim to prepare lunches at least a few times a week in a bid to save money and avoid the inevitable transition from human to vegetable.
  4. Exercise – Geeze louise I’m just one mound of cellulite at this point, I accept some of this as being human but I would also like to get fitter. My ultimate fear when it comes to exercise is that I will end up in Hospital for something and the surgeon will come out of theatre shaking his head and explaining my heart was just clogged with fat. This is gross and encourages me to eat more lentils and do at least some exercise.
  5. To wind down more before bed and go to bed at a reasonable time. Watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend till 11pm and then not brushing my teeth is not conducive to a relaxing nights sleep so I am back on the lavender pillow spray and gratitude journalling it up.

These are all loose aims, staying well is enough of a concrete goal that I don’t feel the need to place more pressure on myself, but it’s part of a wider aim to get back to my organised little self. It’s a positive sign that I feel able to ask more of myself than simply holding it together, even it’s just the small stuff ;).



Powerpoints & Presentations

Morning all

So as many of you know I write best when totally sleep deprived so… ‘hi guys!’. The past couple of weeks I haven’t slept that well but last weekend I was so tired I fell asleep on a friends sofa with a hot water bottle, blanket and a pug at about 3pm so apparently that’s my winning combination and a solid indication I need a dog sharpish.

This time of year is always a bit strange (and don’t get me started on New Years eve) because it’s an opportunity to reflect. In the past these reflections have consisted of things like ‘cool, you are alive, nice work’ or ‘hey you have been going on regular walks AND you have 3 friends’. For every ‘perk’ there has been a number of less cool observations like ‘I still don’t have a job and I want to work’ or ‘my friends have homes and jobs and boyfriends and grownup lives and I am still living like I’m fresh out of uni’. BUT ta da! This year is different, this year I have a nice flat and a grownup job, I even socialise with people on a WEEKLY basis. Whaaaat?!

Last week my mum asked how long it’s been since I started work and guys it’s literally been 1 year, that’s crazy. In that time I’ve already been promoted and am doing things like presentations and speeches and hosting big events; as a comparison 4 years ago I was hiding in bushes from Psychitarists (and also a shed), I considered stabbing my CPN (he advised me not to) and I watched Fraiser for 8 hours a day 7 days a week (excellent show but merely existing as a human being). It was about this time last year that my benefits were cut and I suddenly had 4 weeks to find a full time job and I genuinely cannot believe where I am at now.

I was recently describing to someone why it is so important I do this blog for myself and continue to look back at my experiences and it’s because I need to look back to fully appreciate where I am at now. Back when I was my most ill I would never have considered the possibility of being a functioning human being let alone enjoying functioning and yet here I am. The past month of my job has been pretty stressful but every time something feels too huge I’m like ‘dude, you used to run across the motorway dodging cars and cut yourself with broken glass from the road, you can probably handle this meeting’. Only by looking back do I have a real sense of how far I have come and what I am capable of. Last week I helped a colleague out with a presentation at the last minute and afterwards thought to myself ‘mate, there was a point, just a few years back, where you would literally have vommed all over the floor and been so anxious and sweaty and gross’ and you just totally winged that.

This evening I am hosting a party for 76 people at work and whilst I’m a bit nervous I can also see I’m totally normal level nervous, that in itself is so huge for me. This weekend we held phase 1 of our big family christmas get togethers and I looked around and felt so incredibly grateful for the amazing people I have around me that celebrate all of these mini successes with me.


World Mental Health Day


First off Happy World Mental Health Day!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that I want to talk about and I’ve decided I want to talk about talking.

Anyone who has experienced any kind of mental health challenge will almost certainly have had someone say something deeply offensive or at best  insensitive to them at one point or another; it seems par for the course that there will be at least one person you want to punch straight in the face. Whilst possibly useful for releasing anger or tension this response will do nothing to foster positive relations or break down the number of violent stereotypes surrounding mental health so I figure it’s important to respond in a more healthy or ‘educational’ way.

A couple of gems I have recently had are:

‘I sometimes just want to tell people to go and sit in the concourse (of the general Hospital) and get a bit of perspective’ – A healthcare professional

‘It’s better for you to be at work though right? Rather than just sitting moping about the house’ – in relation to my feeling low and struggling with being at work

‘i’m just challenging you on it’ – in regards to querying the effectiveness of medication

My thoughts are this; people with mental health experience generally do not: imply mental health is inferior to the trauma experienced by physical health conditions, describe depression as ‘moping’ or choose to ‘challenge’ someones intimate personal experience. This is because if you have any understanding of mental health challenges you know: mental health can be physically painful, feeling immobile from low mood is not a half assed attempt at functioning and that taking medication is challenge enough without someone challenging you on whether you should be taking it.

So what this says to me is that we are entering a new era of talking about our mental health experiences honestly but the world isn’t fully equipped to handle them yet. There’s a huge number of resources aimed at supporting someone in talking about low mood or expressing suicidal thoughts but there’s not a great deal about the general day to day discussions which we’re trying to promote as being part of normal conversation (I know, we’re British so we cannot say the truth but we… must… try!). So here are my top 5 talking tips:

1.There is a difference between challenging someone on their experience and asking them. Challenging is annoying and doesn’t really encourage the person to feel supported, asking will usually still answer your questions without asking them in a direct or confrontational way. For example ‘Don’t you think medication is being handed out too easily’ is different to ‘what are your views on the use of medication for mental health’, yes you may have to converse a little more to discuss the topic you want to know more about but that’s life and you may even form a connection. When you don’t ask someones opinion you devalue their personal experience so it’s useful to show someone their experience is valued and important to you, even if the conclusion isn’t something you agree with.

2.It’s ok to not know what to say! There’s a tendency for us to get uncomfortable and shirk conversations away when we don’t know what’s a helpful or useful response but this only makes the person feel uncomfortable too when they have allowed themselves to be vulnerable. A human response to someones pain or discomfort is to want to do something to alleviate it but that’s not always possible so we need to be comfortable with saying ‘that’s shit, i’m really sorry you’re feeling that way, let me know if I can do anything to help’. It sounds super mundane and unhelpful but if that’s the most you can offer that’s good enough and is certainly better than shutting it down or awkwardly sidling off to take an imaginary phone call. I recently saw on Facebook that a colleague had gone to A&E as they were really struggling, I don’t know them that well so I messaged and celebrated the fact they had recognised they needed help and I hoped they got what they needed. Afterwards I went away feeling hugely underwhelmed at myself, I was a blogger for gods sake why was I unable to come up with a better response! But when I saw them next they thanked me for reaching out and I realised that with the constraints of having a professional relationship and not knowing them well that was the best I could offer at that moment and that was good enough.

3. Don’t assume! Don’t assume your mental health experience is exactly the same as others, don’t assume you understand someones experience because you share common features, don’t assume you know where someone is at now, don’t assume someone is comfortable to talk about it if they haven’t raised it. This blog works on the fact that Bipolar has specific elements to it that are unique to the diagnosis but also on the fact that I make clear these are my experiences and opinions. Where I may have made generalisations in the past I’ve since learnt how varied people can be and whilst I find diagnosis helpful for rounding up some difficult and unique experiences I acknowledge that those are still felt in different ways by different people. I now try to use ‘I’ statements or over use the term ‘generally’ when talking about mental health to ensure people feel included and given a space to voice their opinions. The dream is of course finding people who share these experiences in a similar way and then you no longer need to be too uptight and you can make royal ‘we’ statements like true kindred spirits.

4. Get comfortable with every day conversations about mental health. I’ve noticed recently if I talk about suicidal thoughts or some of the more ‘hardcore’ scrapes I’ve got myself into people will do this serious face where they nod a lot and look very concerned because they now know It’s important to engage in these kinds of conversations; but if I colloquially talk about everyday mental health like low mood or something upsetting me people get weird . This is silly because the every day conversations should help us to avoid the big serious conversations by fostering a healthy, communicative environment where people don’t bottle up or lose access to support they need early on.

We’re so hard wired to not be open about our real feelings that all this media and publicity has gone straight to the stuff we’ve deemed super important (suicidal thoughts for example) and bypassed the stuff that effects the majority of us. The other day a friend called who had been trying to get hold of me for weeks because she knew I wasn’t feeling great, when I answered she said ‘how are you doing’ and I quickly responded ‘yeah I’m fine’ and then realised ermmm hang on no i’m not that’s literally why she’s calling and quickly corrected myself with ‘actually I feel shit I dont know why I said that’. It’s all about promoting honesty and this applies not only to those with  significant mental health challenges but to literally everyone, if we all do it then it becomes weirder to not say what we actually feel.

5. Ask people questions! Ok so not everyone is going to want to open up about their stuff but the internet is a weird, gross and beautiful place and the awesome bit is that there are SO many mental health bloggers who will be more than happy to answer your questions so go to town! As long as you’re polite and respectful most people who put themselves out there to share their experiences accept a certain amount of curiosity in return! This means you’re much more equipped to talk to people who maybe don’t want to be as open if they reach out to you.

I am an exceptionally open person and have learnt to be very upfront and frank about where I’m at and how I’m feeling because I find it easier to process and far more empowering than keeping my mouth shut (basically an impossibility for me anyway). That said even I have times where I think actually that’s quite an intrusive question or I really didn’t like the way that was phrased and everyone is entitled to say ‘hey now, that’s not cool I don’t want to talk about it’. The idea is that if everyone is comfortable having these conversations in the first place those that want to talk can and those that don’t will have been spoken to in a polite and respectful way which makes it easy for them to say no. Similarly if someone reaches out, even if it’s just about having a crap day, people should feel comfortable to respond openly.

I hope you have a great day, here in the UK it’s meant to be a balmy 23c which is ideal considering the sun is meant to make you feel good!

As always if anyone has any questions you can always pop a comment below or ping me a message and I’ll make sure I get back to you!

(Image credit:

Just a few of the people that make it easy for me to talk…

The Conversation Hat


Joining Liam and Ben on the Conversation Hat podcast was an absolute delight and quite frankly a very surreal experience. Having swiftly downed a gin and tonic beforehand at a nearby pub (anyone close to me will know that is pretty much my upper limit so enjoy the ramifications of that) I was taken to a studio bigger than most peoples rented flats in the back of a beautiful garden and treated to a superb cup of tea.

Ben is like a kind of blue haired Russel Brand who is able to articulate nonsense so eloquently you just want to sit back and let it wash over you so you can fully absorb his total weirdness (ideal for someone who co-hosts podcasts). Liam is like a teddy bear that you want to cosy up and eat mince pies with and watch films with on mute whilst he narrates them to you in special voices; the combination is surreal but awesome and I certainly couldn’t recommend their podcasts highly enough.

Liam and Ben are superb hosts and I have the voice of a 14 year old private school child so between the three us there’s definitely reason to check it out.

You can find the podcast here: Podcast

You can check out all of the Conversation Hat series on Soundcloud here: Conversation Hat 

You can follow the Convversation Hat on Facebook here: Facebook Conversation Hat

Or check out some of their other stuff through Stabbed Panda Productions here: Stabbed Panda Productions


First Exhibit…

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Whilst painting has never been something i necessarily do to express my emotions (unlike a lame tampon commercial i’m not going to have a ‘blue period’ any time soon), it has always been part of my self-care and identity. My first exhibit is meaningful not just because it’s pretty cool for people to tell you your stuff is awesome but because when i get a bit lost and worried about work and my health it’s a very good reminder i should ground myself in the other parts of my identity. I’ve found it easy to lose sight of things since work began to dominate 80% of my time 8 months ago and this exhibit is an excellent poke in the ribs that i’m not just my job and i can still have fun and be creative.

Of all the places to get my first proper exhibition the Edge Cafe on Mill Road couldn’t be more perfect, it’s focus around supporting recovery in the community, forming connections, support networks and providing a safe and calm space is something very special. If any of you have read my blog for a while you know the last thing i can stand is a dim, ever so slightly grotty building aimed at supporting those with mental health challenges whilst simultaneously being the most depressing building you’ve ever been in. It’s therefore a revelation to have a space created that is light and airy and filled as much with the builders from next door having a bacon sarnie as it is people engaging with workshops and support provided. Places like the Edge Cafe are exactly what we need to create if we are to engage the local community in spaces aimed at breaking stigma and supporting those with mental health challenges.

For anyone interested in attending workshops, events (i’m heading on down to the open mic night on the 7th which so far has proved to be great fun!) or simply reading more about their mission you can check them out here:



For anyone who would like to pander to my shameless plug you can check out my work at or follow me on Facebook here.