PRIDE – as I floated through the centre of London on top of a Bus stating ‘Mental Health First Aid for All’ I felt like I was on top of the world.
Not only was I here with my, decade old, friends and colleagues, I was draped in a saree representing Asian heritage and people from my community. Some of those were in the crowd cheering me on. Almost all of them were totally surprised by a ‘woman in a saree on top of the mental health bus’.
As I connected with people who looked like me I smiled with all my heart and pulled my best pose and I stood a little taller in my attempt to reflect their pride. An honour I felt very privileged to have, in those moments.
My heart also sent out love to those who will never find a space to come out or even know the words with which to talk about their identity. I received a gorgeous message from another Asian woman, who took a picture from the crowd, found me on social media and sent it on. she said ‘the whole day made my heart swell up with pride…love is love, isn’t it!’ Yes it is.
Obviously my pride saree was just amazing! The @mhfaengland crew know how to celebrate. @prideinlondon
I’m sat here 48 hours after having a ball at my leaving party with my MHFA England family and I’m reflecting on my week. What a week it has been…
Monday was the bank holiday a beautiful sunny spring breeze in the air and I sat at the top of my garden with 60 post cards, my favourite pen and a bunch of thoughts. I was intent on writing a message to everyone in my team but where do I start? What do I say to people I have spent more time with in the last 10 years then I have my own family? Many of whom I now consider my family. How do I thank people I have respected, learnt to live from and grown with? How do I begin to express how positive they have been for my mental health and how grateful I am that they were there when I was swimming through troubled waters?
As I started to write the first postcard I discover it was in fact very easy to say all those things, because it’s easy to tell the truth. I realised that it wasn’t the words I was worried about it was the fact that I am going to miss my MHFA family that I was troubled by. Penning each card reminded me of a memory that made me smile and I felt lucky to have been part of something that is this tough to leave.
Tuesday we had a full team strategy day and as I watched the morning unfold starting with our vision and objectives, followed by our new strategy I felt pride and I felt excited about the journey ahead for MHFA England…momentarily I also felt a pang of loss. I heard myself think ‘who could I possibly be if I am not the CEO of MHFA England?’ I felt a little scared about my journey ahead.
Wednesday I met a friend for dinner he is one of London’s famous workplace mental health advocates and he was really keen to tell me a story. He was at the Co-op on Essex Road near Popham Council Estate and there were two young mums with pushchairs and two little ones. They were talking about mental health so he couldn’t help but listen in. One friend was saying to the other ‘I went on this course this week it’s called mental health first aid and it is brilliant you should do it. I learnt loads.’ I was moved by this recounted story as I felt like I had just had the biggest accolade of my career. There are people out there that will not experience the stigma, confusion and shame of mental ill health in the same way I did. My efforts of the last decade has played a small part in changing some people’s lives. I had paid my good fortune forward.
So when Thursday my secret leaving party day arrived I was standing tall (in my heels) ready to be with my team for one huge night out. The MHFA crew did not disappoint; they wrote me a poem (too funny to share), created a book of memories, presented me Rosey’s to encourage me to indulge in my garden, a Jamdani saree from my favourite designer Bibi Russell, we had personalised chocolate cake and they even made up a word to describe me ‘yes-ability’! The event was impeccably planned and delivered with heart – in true MHFA form. Laughter was the theme (with a few tears) and we rocked another evening and made some more memories.
Making an occasion of airport goodbyes has been a thing in my family as long as I can remember.
It’s become a tradition and we expect my cousin to turn up with takeaway containers full of freshly cooked birani! 🍛. We expect to wave our family off until we can’t see them as the airport staff try and clear a path through our crowd to let others through 🙄. We usually takeover a few tables at an airport restaurant and we even have goodbye drop-in guests who just stop by the airport for that one last hug or Salam.
We essentially have a mini party where our people from different parts of our country congregate to say a passing goodbye…just in case it’s the last…
I went through a short phase in life when I used to find it all a bit embarrassing 🤦🏾♀️ now I have returned to – I LOVE that we turn up on mass to say goodbye to one person and I love that we bring a picnic and do it properly! 💪🏾🙏🏾
On this occasion we saw my mum, aunty and uncle off to Bangladesh for a long break. I loved wearing my peach cotton gamcha weave saree a signature design originally launched by @bibiproductions and a product of Bangladesh with an @asos top.
In case anyone is wondering a gamcha is hand towel size cotton material that is used for everything. It’s always checked and you see it literally everywhere in Bangladesh; on peoples heads to protect from sun, as towel to dry with, as a cloth to soak and cool down with. I remember my mum always tying her freshly washed hair to dry in a gamcha. Which is why I love this saree. It reminds me of childhood. (https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.thedailystar.net/lifestyle/cover-story/the-life-cycle-gamcha-1566922%3famp)
So this series of pics made me laugh so much on Saturday. I was desperately trying to get a picture of just me and mum and my saree….
Two experiences that have made my morning colorful today:
1. The cash machine outside the station is broken and so disappointed I initially walked away, without my breakfast from my favourite morning cafe Daisy’s. Then i felt like taking a different approach. I went back to the cafe run by two lovely people and asked if they would consider an IOU and they did! I really was not expecting that! Thank you for my pasty and tea…
2. Sat at station enjoying my warm pasty, when a couple walked in & started chatting to me about how yummy my pasty smells. I noticed the gentleman had a watch that was very old, beautiful! Anyway, I learnt that the couple had been together for a few years after the gentleman was widowed 47 years into his marriage. It was clear he was deeply in love with his wife and he missed her.
I asked how the both of them met and they told me the story. He was contemplating death and an unusual encounter led to him attending a gathering. There across the room was this beautiful woman who he knew his heart could love, so he took courage and one step at a time considered himself and what he was about to do, talk to another woman. A tiny bit of life growing where darkness and death had resided for so long.
Apart from the story being so romantic (tears on my pasty) what struck me was they both gazed with trust, strength and what I can only describe as a bit of magic into each other’s eyes as they told me their story. It was such a privilege to experience their intimacy for a few moments (whilst still scoffing my now soggy pasty). They both told me that love is acceptance and life is about the journey not the destination. The old watch on his wrist is over 100 years old and its still going as people have loved it in all its different states…wow!