Episode 11 - Amelia ThorpeHow do you find yourself? Making Conversations about Mental Wealth Count!
Amelia Thorpe – Mental Health Wellbeing Coach
Making Conversations about Mental Wealth Count
Meet Amelia Thorpe, founder of Wellbeing 360, who talks to Wendy about how important it is to give equal priority to our mental and physical health. Listening to Amelia’s story will bring a beacon of hope that we can all take charge of our own conversations which will give us back the control that slips sometimes when times are tough. Amelia is a wellbeing counsellor.
Amelia’s whole life journey changed after she was asked one question. Listen to find out more…
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Full Episode Transcript
Making Conversations Count – Episode 11
4th January 2021
Wendy Harris & Amelia Thorpe
00:01:07: Business Connection
00:01:46: Mental Health First Aid course
00:04:37: Physical vs mental first aid
00:07:11: The mind/body connection
00:07:40: Attending the gym
00:12:07: Amelia’s pivotal moment
00:21:13: Final thoughts
Wendy Harris: Welcome to Making Conversations Count, the podcast that brings you business leaders sharing their stories of a pivotal moment that created a turning point in their life. We’re hoping that these stories really do help aspiring entrepreneurs with any situations that they’re struggling with, by sharing these stories. So, today, I have Amelia Thorpe from Wellbeing 360. Hi, Amelia.
Amelia Thorpe: Hi.
Wendy Harris: Please introduce yourself and let everybody know where we first met?
Amelia Thorpe: Yeah, so I’m Amelia Thorpe of Wellbeing 360. I work in mental health and wellbeing. I’m a counsellor and have my own counselling practice. I also run mental health training, such as mental health first aid, through MHFA England. But I also, in terms of the wellbeing side, I’m a holistic therapist, as well as a yoga teacher and also currently, nearly completed by Level 3 as a personal trainer. So, kind of all comes together in terms of wellbeing and mental health. So, that’s a bit about me.
We met through online networking, didn’t we, so that was through Jaz Greer.
Wendy Harris: The lovely Jaz, and Alma, at Business Connection, yes.
Amelia Thorpe: That’s right, yes.
Wendy Harris: A fabulous online networking, but I do much prefer the meetings in person, because the Samosas are something else!
Amelia Thorpe: Oh, really?
Wendy Harris: When we can get back there, you will be able to take my word for it and sample them yourself. And I think immediately, there was just that connection in terms of, you’re thrown into a networking zoom room and you’re told to speed network, and immediately you were telling me about the mental health side of things and I have an interest in that as well; it’s a bit of a passion of mine. And, I’ve completed the two-day first aider course.
Amelia Thorpe: Oh, have you? Fab.
Wendy Harris: Yes. So, I could instantly picture some of the things that you would be undertaking and helping people with. So, I understand that those conversations are going to be difficult, but equally very, very rewarding.
Amelia Thorpe: Oh, absolutely, and they’re vital. We’ve spent far too long, I think, silencing anything around mental health and certainly, in the last sort of 20-plus years. Thankfully, we’ve now got quite a shift from where it was 20 years ago. I love the mental health first aid course. I never get bored delivering that course; it’s always a privilege, and I always learn something from the experience, because you’ve got a different group of people each time, who have their own experiences and their own thoughts.
It’s an amazing course to share because, I think that the thing that I’ve always loved about that course is the conversations it does get going and that people feel safe to have those conversations. And they get to leave that course feeling better able and more confident to have conversations around mental health.
Wendy Harris: There are so many profound moments through that course that I remember. I’m in good contact with the people that we were on the course with. We were strangers before and have become firm friends. Everybody’s motivation to do the course is from a different place, yet everybody leaves being touched on a very personal level.
Amelia Thorpe: Yeah, absolutely. It’s wonderful.
Wendy Harris: You can never assume where the conversation’s going to lead either.
Amelia Thorpe: No, absolutely. And there’s a skillset that gets taught that I think again, just doesn’t get talked about enough. I think that if you talk about being non-judgemental, or you talk about active listening, people go, “Yeah, I get it”. But, it’s not until you do the course that you start to understand, actually that’s a lot harder to do and it is a skill that you need to learn, that it doesn’t cost much to listen and it can be a lifeline for someone, so it’s really important.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, it certainly changed the way that I looked at things. And the motivation of going was to be able to help support my clients, because you’re on a level playing field with somebody who’s running a business that wants to do well, so you get to hear their fears, their aspirations and everything in between and it’s got not too much to do with what you’re doing as a job; but, you’ve been given a big responsibility. So, it’s about how you shoulder that responsibility and I thought that it would help me help them. But, I was never prepared for how much it helped me.
Amelia Thorpe: Oh, wow, wonderful. That’s really good. And I think there’s a lot of talk around mental health first aid and physical first aid and that they need to stand alongside each other, which we are certainly working towards. And I believe the law is due to change next year in that in the workplace, which is great, so there’ll always be a mental health first aider that’s recognised in the workplace.
Wendy Harris: Wow, I didn’t know that; that’s great.
Amelia Thorpe: Yeah, that’s brilliant. But, there is a fundamental difference, I feel, between the physical first aid and the mental health first aid which, aside from the obvious, from a mental first aid point of view, you’re not waiting for a crisis; you’re not waiting for that moment when someone breaks their leg or they’ve got a gash on their arm and then you’re being called to help.
The reality is, is that mental health first aid is something that is kind of an ongoing process. You’re spotting signs and symptoms; you know someone’s baseline and how they’re doing and you watch the fluctuations of that baseline to then be able to recognise, oh, perhaps this person needs some support at the moment, but hopefully and ideally before it’s reached a crisis. Hopefully, this is more about —
Wendy Harris: You can see where it’s going to head if it’s not addressed?
Amelia Thorpe: Yes, absolutely. So, what we need to try and do more of within mental health is to be able to recognise more of a prevention approach than this intervention and waiting for a crisis. A crisis sometimes is inevitable, you know; sometimes that is what it takes and that is what happens and we are all managing our mental health all of the time. So, there’s a point at which sometimes we miss those moments and we think we’re coping or we’re managing and then suddenly, bang, no we’re not.
So, that can happen and life happens and I think, even with the pandemic, I think that’s also been really heightened for everyone to recognise that sometimes, with certain things in life, we stop managing so well and it does have an impact on our mental health.
Wendy Harris: I think that’s change, isn’t it? Change brings about an altered approach to communication, so it can just tip the scales out of balance a little bit; and it’s important. You just saying about having a mental health first aider in the workplace from next year, from a physical point of view, I also think that that is equally important and we’ve nobody that’s at work saying, “Do you really want to eat that doughnut? Shouldn’t you go for a little jog around the office? Take 5 minutes and go and walk the car park; get some fresh air”, which is important, yet nobody seems to have addressed that.
Amelia Thorpe: I think physical health is so tied in with our mental health, it’s why I’m doing my Level 3 as a PT, because what I’ve recognised is that there are so many stumbling blocks. I mean, as a yoga teacher, I’ve been a yoga teacher for 12 years, and I have spent 12 years about the mind/body connection. And, there is a constant conversation going on between our bodies and our minds, most of which we are unconscious of; we have no idea that conversation’s even going on.
Wendy Harris: That’s the numbskulls, isn’t it?!
Amelia Thorpe: Yeah, absolutely. So, it directly then impacts our motivation; it directly impacts how we approach looking ourselves physically as well as mentally; and, it’s also emotionally tied up. The journey that I went on was, I’ve never been a fan of the gym and I find the gym an incredibly intimidating place to go. But, I decided to push myself at the beginning of this year to sign up to the gym and commit to doing it.
I kid you not, the first time I turned up, I nearly had a panic attack. Now, I’ve got a history, as a child growing up, I had panic attacks and very high anxiety, but I haven’t experienced that in a very long time. And, because this particular place, this gym, is a 24-hour gym, it had this capsule that you had to walk into in order to access the gym; but, only half of it opens, then you have to step in and then that closes and then, very painfully, slowly, the door in front opens.
So, I was then in this very enclosed space and it triggered me; it completely triggered me, which took me by surprise. Then I arrive in this huge, open space of people working out, which was also utterly intimidating and I didn’t know where I was going and what I was doing. And, by the time I saw the PT, I’d just gone to him, “I don’t know what I’m doing in this place”.
So, long story short, I kind of found myself mentally going on quite a journey around going to the gym and I found there were so many blocks in my mind about going. And, I just thought, I can’t be the only person that struggles with this, or that finds this intimidating. And then, if you throw in mental illness and you throw in phobias and you throw in lots of other issues for people, that they may well be managing very privately, and you’re telling them, “You need to go for a run; you need to go to the gym; you need to do this”, how helpful is that; because, if you’re not addressing the other stuff, you can’t possibly ask that of them and they can’t ask that of themselves either?
So, that’s all been all part of my more recent kind of approach and journey around mental health and wellbeing in terms of fitness and how we can support people, I suppose hence Wellbeing 360; but from a much more 360 perspective, we need to look at the whole. We can’t keep expecting one size to fit all.
Wendy Harris: I agree, Amelia, because you’ve got the politically correct way to address people that stops you from being emotional, that makes it quite rational, that then is rude, that then compounds the fact that actually, it’s a difficult conversation and it needn’t be. It’s not delivered from a place of kindness then, is it, even when you mean it to be?
Amelia Thorpe: Yes, absolutely. And I think the barriers towards being empathetic become also really challenged. Someone who is struggling and feels isolated and alone anyway with their own personal struggles with their mental health, if they’re then having a conversation with someone who just doesn’t seem to get it, or is trying to rationalise it, it just puts up more barriers and alienates them further.
So, it’s trying to find ways for us all to be able to connect to our mental health and our physical health together, alongside each other, and recognising that they’re not exclusive and it’s not one or the other; they are working together in tandem, actually all of the time.
Wendy Harris: There’s a word; is it, symbiotic?
Amelia Thorpe: Yes, I know what you mean.
Wendy Harris: You saying about yoga, I know that that’s about connecting with yourself as well; anything that can make you feel better as a person to be able to do better, be better, be helpful, I think is really important.
Amelia Thorpe: Absolutely.
Wendy Harris: It’s a very, very interesting role that you have. I imagine that there are still lots of different things that you want to explore on this Wellbeing 360 as well, but I’m going to bring us back to the point of having you here, if I may?
Amelia Thorpe: Of course.
Wendy Harris: I ask everybody that comes on the show to have a think about a pivotal moment. So, Amelia, please share your pivotal moment with us?
Amelia Thorpe: Okay. So, I’ll start with the moment and then I’ll give it context for you, okay? The moment was, someone looked at me and said, “Have you ever heard of Reiki?” That was the moment. I had no idea what that was going to lead to and how that was going to impact the rest of my life, but that single moment and that one question changed my world, literally.
So, the context for you is that my mental health had declined so horrendously at that point, so it was 1999; I can only really be described as being incredibly depressed at that time. I had experienced suicidal feelings on and off for months at that point in my life. I’d really wrestled, in a whole range of ways. I had never heard of the term “mental health”; I had no idea that actually, what was happening was I now did not just have poor mental health, but it had moved into pretty much a crisis, to be honest.
I was in a very fortunate position where I got the opportunity to go out to New Zealand for six weeks. When I went, just before going, my mum looked at me, because my poor mum was trying to navigate where I was at and didn’t know how to help.
Wendy Harris: She was clearly very worried?
Amelia Thorpe: Yeah. And so, she just looked at me and said, “If you go, you have to come back and promise me that you’ll be smiling by the time you come back”. That’s how bad it was. I was in a very, very dark place. And, I went and I had no real idea of what it was I was going to do. I’d looked at a map and I’d signed up to a bus tour, which was four out of the six weeks.
When I looked at the routes I could choose, I was really, “I don’t really care where I go”. To be honest, I really didn’t care about anything at this point; really didn’t care about myself at all. So I was like, “I don’t really care where I go, but I want to end up there”. I pointed to a place on a map and I said, “I don’t know why, but I want to end up there”. This place was called Queenstown.
So, this moves me to the point where I got asked this question, “Have you heard of Reiki?” because the coach pulled up in Queenstown; I’d been on the coach for nearly four weeks at that point; and, I got off the coach, I hadn’t even got my luggage off the coach, I hadn’t checked into the hostel or anything. And, it had pulled up outside this big building and I got curious.
I went over to this building and it was something called a “Holistic Centre”. Now, we’re talking 1999; I’d never heard of a holistic centre and actually it turns out that if you were using the term “wellbeing” in 1999, everyone thought you were just a bit of a hippy and bit “woo-woo” you know. It was not seen as something legitimate in any shape or form. So, I picked up the leaflet that was just outside and I had a look.
Now, a few weeks prior to this moment, I had done a 12,000-foot skydive, as you do, and I’d done it at the beginning of a cold, so I had physically gone deaf and I’d got this horrendous head cold. So, physically I’d felt rubbish, but to compound that of course, I’d already arrived in New Zealand with incredibly bad mental health. So overall, I was just feeling rubbish.
When I looked at the flier, it said, “The ultimate body healing”. I was like, “Ah, that’s why I need”! So, I walked into the building and I said, “I’d like to book this ultimate body healing, please” and this woman looked at me and she was like, “Okay”. They’d only been open nine months and she said, “You’re the first person to ever walk into this building and go, “I want that, please”. She said, “Everyone else walks in and goes, “What is this place?”!
Wendy Harris: What do you do?
Amelia Thorpe: Well, yes, what is it; what does holistic mean; what is this?! So anyway, it became my haven. This was a place where they let me just walk in, they’d make me a root ginger tea, they’d ask me no questions, I could sit there for an hour, I could sit there for a day. They didn’t make me spend money. If I booked a treatment, I booked a treatment; they were amazing.
This one woman, her name was Robin; she was on the desk there most days, so I’d been there a few times by this point and I’d had my ultimate body healing, which was quite an experience. And I was in a, well, not just slightly; very cynical place. So, some of the things I was hearing, I was like, “That’s a bit weird” and I would kind of reject it.
Anyway, this lovely lady, Robin, I was sat there with my root ginger tea she’d made me one morning and she looked at me and she just said, “Have you heard of Reiki?” and I said, “No; no idea”. She said, “I’d really like to teach you Reiki. Would you be open to me teaching you?” I was like, well, I’d done a 12,000-foot skydive, had my bellybutton pierced; I think I can do whatever this Reiki is; I’ll give it a go. It can’t be as scary or as painful as the other two, so we’ll give this a try! So, I said, “Yeah, okay”.
So then, over the course of about four days, she took me through Reiki 1 and Reiki 2, which was an incredibly short space of time actually to do both. And to be honest, most of it, I didn’t understand; it was all very surreal, but it was powerful. And, I was beginning to understand that there was something called “wellbeing”. Poor mental health and mental illness, if you’ve ever, ever had it, the truth is that it is not just overwhelming, it feels completely disempowering. It takes over you like this beast and it controls you.
Wendy Harris: It’s paralysing.
Amelia Thorpe: Yes, completely paralysing. And that’s why, saying to someone with a mental illness, “You just need to get up and go and get some fresh air” is a waste of time; “Pull yourself together”, all these things. It’s just not even close to helpful.
So, the thing that was extraordinary was, this gift she gave me by asking this question and then teaching me about Reiki was, there are things I can do that empower myself, that can actually help me to feel good and genuinely make me feel good; not be some sort of short, quick fix. And long story short for you, at my absolute worst, I cleared my house out of food completely and I replaced it with a bottle of Baileys and a bottle of Ginger Wine; that’s where I was. So, I can’t even tell you what the rationale to that was; that was totally insane, but it made sense to me.
Wendy Harris: You’d got a bit of dairy, a bit of fruit!
Amelia Thorpe: Yeah! It was completely insane and I blew up like a balloon. It was crazy and I was a siren for signs and symptoms, but no one knew how to talk to me and I sure as hell didn’t know what was going on with me. And again, I think that’s why I’m so passionate about the mental health first aid, because of how empowering that is in getting those conversations going; because, 20 years ago, I know from experience, those conversations weren’t happening; that was not the world we lived in.
Wendy Harris: In terms of supporting people, by opening up conversations, it’s about giving people some control over starting the conversation that’s so difficult to have?
Amelia Thorpe: Absolutely.
Wendy Harris: That is what I’m hearing you were feeling. You started to feel back in control of something?
Amelia Thorpe: Yeah, it was like there was suddenly this sense of, “Huh!” It was almost like she’d switched on a power cable or something that said, “There’s something I can do”. I had felt so disempowered for so long and I felt controlled by external factors that were having a massive impact on me emotionally and psychologically; but somehow, she was giving me this gift of, there are ways you can feel better; you can feel whole; you can feel a good person; you can love yourself; there is a way.
Now of course, it wasn’t a magic wand and it wasn’t a quick fix and there was a huge journey; but, the reason that question was so significant was because it changed the course of my life. It changed it from the point of view of my own journey with my own mental health; but it still, to this day, informs the professional path I now lead and everything that I do and give in my professional work.
Wendy Harris: It’s a very powerful pivotal moment, I have to say, Amelia; and I can safely say, having had mental health affect me personally and in my family, that often the people that can help us best have had to be there.
Amelia Thorpe: Absolutely; I agree.
Wendy Harris: So, for as much as I am so happy that you are now where you are now, I also feel the gratitude that you went through that journey so that you can be helping people today.
Amelia Thorpe: 100%. And I think, for me that’s why, and I don’t like calling it a job; it’s not a job; it’s just such a privilege and it’s always felt such a privilege.
Wendy Harris: It became your purpose?
Amelia Thorpe: Yes, 100%. I couldn’t do what I do now and I couldn’t support people in the way that I support people if I hadn’t gone through any of that. So, I will always be grateful for it for sure.
Wendy Harris: And on that note, I would just like to say, Amelia, that it is a beacon of hope for anybody who is feeling that life has taken over, or their thoughts have taken over, or they’re feeling a little bit out of control, that you can change things. And I would just like to say, thank you for sharing that pivotal moment with us. Where can people find you, Amelia, if they want to reach out to continue the conversation?
Amelia Thorpe: LinkedIn, obviously; I’m on LinkedIn. Just search me as Amelia Thorpe. But also, you can get me on email or through the website. So, the website is wellbeing-360.com and then my email is email@example.com.
Wendy Harris: That’s great, Amelia. We’ll put the details up on the show notes for people as well.
Amelia Thorpe: Great.
Wendy Harris: Thank you so much for sharing today and to our listeners, please, if you’ve got any comments, any questions, we like to answer them all. Don’t forget to share this with your friends and family, anybody who needs to hear this story and don’t forget to subscribe at the following link, which is makingconversationscount.studio/podcast. It’s been my absolute pleasure today, Amelia. Thank you so much.
Amelia Thorpe: Thank you so much.
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