Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Spiralling, ASD and Me!

Selfie of Mandy Charlton, Spiralling, ASD and Me

I felt compelled to sit down and write this from my heart, it's been a difficult week in a turbulent month, in an impossible year.  I like constant, predictable, I love organised fun!  Call me Autistic, call me ASD or if you don't know me, you'd probably call me uptight.  (I'm actually fairly laid back and liberal for an uptight person).
I think I may have mentioned in my last blog post that I can't cope with stress, or maybe I just thought it, either way, I was speaking to the mental health practitioner at my doctors because I've spiralled a lot this year after getting my life back to a constant again.

Spiralling or shutting down is quite common in lots of people who might have different types of brains, in some people, with the stress they will shut down completely, in some children they will shut down so much it's like they're catatonic, the brain overloads itself and crashes like an overloaded computer.  In some people, like me, the opposite happens, I literally spiral into an overwhelming depression which can lead to screaming, crying, shouting, shaking, panic attacks, suffice to say it's not a whole load of fun.

What I want most from life is to be like other average people, to be a good mum, a good friend, to be someone who can calmly deal with situations when the chips are down but as I get older, more self-reflecting and as I reach out for help from other wiser people experienced in autism and mental health I'm starting to realise, there is no cure for the spiral, there are a million coping methods but just as not breathing properly is a sign of asthma, the spiral is a symptom of my different brain and it's probable that it will never change because it's part of who I am.

The biggest coping strategy I have is to not get stressed so, for instance, I only listen to happy music, watch happy, joyous things (don't get me wrong, I love a good crime drama) but in real life, I try where I can to avoid difficult subjects and difficult circumstances and it's not because I don't feel anything, it's because I feel too much. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I cry at brass bands, tv adverts, stories about animals, I sometimes struggle with just feeling the emotion of the whole world.  Or I feel the emotion and stress in friends and then because of the ASD I catastrophise which makes me believe it's me, it's all my fault and I'm a terrible human being.

I wish, right now, that it wasn't the way that it is, I really would give everything and anything to be a normal mum and a normal friend, it's heartbreaking because as much as I perpetually do try to grow as a person part of me still can't accept that I will never be the mum my children need or someone who it's easy to be friends with.

Despite all of this, I do have a heart full of love and no one is more loyal to friends than me, no one wants to be a better mum more than me and no one wants to be able to give and receive love as normally as I do.

I've decided to completely rule out even thinking about dating until I have fully worked on myself, I could never have a relationship with anyone until I come to terms with who I am, it's not fair to them or me and I'm quite prepared to stay single for the rest of my life if I have to rather than to try and manufacture things that aren't there.

In a world where no one is perfect, why do I feel so imperfect?

Monday, July 13, 2020

How to look after your rented garden

If you’re lucky enough to rent a home with an outdoor space - be that a modest balcony, a small paved area or more - it’s important to take good care of it. It can be difficult to put your heart into a space that technically isn’t yours but when you rent, you need to remember that you’re still paying for a property to be your home. Why not treat it like one?

I can’t speak for everybody, but you wouldn’t let your kitchen become impossibly untidy and covered in grime… So why let that happen to your garden? 

What are the tenants' responsibilities for a garden?

There can often be a little confusion amongst tenants on what within their rented garden is their problem, and what is their landlords. Whether you’re a keen gardener or you really can’t be bothered, you’ll want to know the ground rules and where the boundaries lie.

In simple terms, as a tenant, it is your responsibility to keep your garden looking as lovely as your home. That could be simply keeping the paving swept and free of weeds and mowing the lawn, or lovingly tending to beds of plants - as long as it’s not a total bomb site then you’re doing your job. Your landlord is responsible for anything where there is a level of expertise required such as pruning tall trees, maintaining a pond or if you come across an issue that’s not your fault, such as a rotting fence. 

Your landlord may even choose to hire a gardener to save themselves the headache of trusting their tenants to look after a garden. This usually comes with a slightly higher monthly rent, but it does mean you’ll always have a lovely garden to enjoy in return.

In most cases, however, the tenant is responsible for maintaining an outdoor space to at least an acceptable standard. Your landlord will have to allow for fair wear and tear but if supplied plant pots, furniture or garden gates get damaged then they will be able to deduct money for the repairs from your deposit - just as they would for anything inside the home. A good landlord will have the right landlord insurance in place in case of garden damages or neglect but it’ll be you that loses out. It’s all about respect and looking after the space as you should.

Why look after your garden?

If you’re not naturally green-fingered, then that’s ok. There’s plenty of ways that you can keep gardening low maintenance and easy but you’ll be surprised at how much you can get out of being in the garden. I think the coronavirus lockdown has taught us all that, right? Being outdoors is so important for our mental health - especially if you live in the city so in many ways, creating the right city garden is more important than a leafy suburban one. It creates a space for you to unwind, for local wildlife to thrive and improves the quality of your air.

So, what can I do to improve my city garden?

With that in mind, there’s so many tricks and hacks that you can implement in your city garden, whatever the size. For instance, encourage birds into your garden with feeders, birdhouses and baths. There’s not a lot that’s more relaxing than hearing the birds singing and even more so if you can see them fluttering about your garden. 

A garden should be a relaxing space where you can go to unwind at the end of the day. Could you invest in a water feature? Water features have been proven to reduce blood pressure and stress levels to improve your physical and mental health - something we could all do with at the moment, let alone those of us living in fast-paced cities. It gives your garden a sense of calm and tranquillity. They’re particularly suitable for gardens in busy, built-up areas as the right style of water feature (something with a bit more power such as a water blade) will help to mask any traffic and outside noise. It’s also so much easier than you’d think to have a water feature installed as you can power them through your mains, solar power or by a battery.

One of the most important aspects of having a garden is making it an extension of your home. You want it to be somewhere that you can sit and enjoy a book or your morning coffee, or somewhere you can eat dinner with friends. That’s why a living space is so important. Find a spot to add in some garden furniture. There’s so much out there so whatever space you’re working with, you’re bound to find something that’s perfect. If you don’t have much of a paved space, deck chairs and egg chairs work well. If you have a balcony, fold-out furniture that you can tuck away when it’s not being used is the perfect option.

Never underestimate the importance of a garden. When you’re renting, it’s you who will lose out if you neglect it and it turns into a jungle. Gardening doesn’t have to be time-consuming but if you dedicate a little effort into keeping your outdoor space nice, you’ll reap the rewards.


Thursday, July 09, 2020

Why I'm coming out of the lockdown as a completely different person

Mandy Charlton, in 3 different outfits, why I'm coming out of the lockdown as a completely different person

Before we went into the lockdown and Coronavirus changed everything I was pretty sure of who I was, my self-identity is a really important thing to me and after all for the last 13 years, ever since I started Mandy Charlton Photography I've known myself inside and out as a photographer, I lived, breathed, ate photography until this year of course due to Coronavirus I've not worked as a photographer since early March and I won't return until September 19th when I have a wedding which looks like it will definitely go ahead. 

When the lockdown first happened, I did what most people did, I got tipsy, I cried and then I had a massive meltdown when it felt like my whole life/business/family/friendships were collapsing around me.  Don't get me wrong I like my own space but I operate best when I have people around me and all of a sudden I was completely alone in the world and I did not like it one bit.

I learnt over the first 9 weeks that I could actually spend life alone, I didn't want to but I can be good company to myself if needed.  I think loneliness is actually like illness and it's something I've dealt with for years no matter how many friends I've had.  Call it ASD to give it a medical name or call it being a unicorn, it's always meant that pretty much, I am different, I don't feel things the way other people do and I don't process the world in the same way either.  I find it especially hard when people don't see the world in the same way as me because it's impossible to describe, it's like being a Narwhal in a sea of whales if that makes it clearer?

Coming out of the lockdown has forever changed me, physically, mentally, emotionally, philosophically... I went into one side as a photographer and came out the other door being the owner of a gift boutique which I wouldn't even have thought about starting four months ago.  My gift boutique, Philomena's Boutique continues to show early signs that it will be a success and it will thrive in the future.  It will be a long time before it makes workable profits because of the constant reinvestments into stock but I am looking at a plan to help me scale up quickly so that it provides a viable income so that when I run it alongside my photography business I can make an actual income again one day.

Right now I am questioning everything I ever knew, why don't people understand me, why do I make such a mess of understanding other people.  Why is the world the way that it is and when is it all going to feel safe and comfortable again?

I have a feeling there's not just me that is struggling massively with my identity at the moment. When the world changes so abruptly it's almost a certainty that our reaction to that will be to change ourselves to deal and cope with it all.  I feel like I've missed so much of life but at the same time, trying to return to the norm is fraught with fear and other problems and I'm questioning myself constantly and overthinking every damn thing so if you're feeling the same way then know that you are heard.

One of the biggest things is with this enormous paradigm shift I question just where we'll all be in another 6 months, these first 6 months have felt like an entire century, an epoch all of its own so what if tumultuous things keep happening, what if I end up having to spend another 3 months locked away on my own?  I always try to live like something is amazing is about to happen which is perhaps why the last 6 months have knocked me so hard.  I have learnt one fact though, the way I love my friends and family is different to anyone else and it's almost a certainty that I will never find anyone to love me in the way that I love them and that is the hardest lesson I'll ever have to learn.
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