To be Scene By the Highland feminist

To be Scene By the Highland feminist

To be a lesbian is to be marked out as different. From as young as five years old, I knew that I liked girls. I liked their company, I liked kissing them, I felt happy and connected in their spaces. But I also grew up in a rural area, so although I felt a great affinity with, and desire for my own sex, I dare not have expressed it openly for fear of being bullied, or worse. Small, rural communities can be notoriously unaccommodating of anyone whose outlook on life is far removed from their own, and I felt this acutely. So, I did what many young women do, and I pretended to be someone I wasn’t so that I could fit in.

     It wasn’t until I arrived at university in Edinburgh in my late twenties, that I kicked the door off the closet with as much bravado and force as I could muster, to embrace what today we’d probably call my tribe. My best friend and I had lived similar closeted lives at school and so we adopted the mantra gay is the only way and spent most nights of the week in the gay bars and clubs of the city’s pink triangle. It was fun for a while, and much safer than the straight bars my other uni pals went to, but eventually even we tired of the scene and so began, the serious business of living our lives as working adults.

     I returned to the Scottish Highlands determined not to be defined by my sexual orientation, and instead focused on doing the things I enjoyed. By this point, I was out and proud and less afraid to be myself, and eventually, life brought the gifts of marriage and motherhood, and the label “lesbian” seemed less relevant than ever.

     This LGBT History Month as I look back on the people and the places that shaped me, I wonder where I might have been had all the brave men and women before me not taken up the mantle for gay rights. I am grateful for their activism, their courage, and their tenacity to make all our lives a little more open, and freer.

     I think about the theme of this year’s LBGT History Month, “Behind the Lens”: celebrating LGBT+ peoples’ contribution to cinema and film”, and how fortunate we are that the visual representations of our lives on screen are more diverse, and more accepted, than at any point in the past. Now, in my early forties, still living in a rural area, I care a little less about what anyone else thinks, and more about those who are closest to me, because coming out these days, is more about coming home. And Netflix.

Blue Monday- The January Blues


This year Blue Monday falls on 16th January. While the origin of this day comes from a travel agency’s PR stunt, it is true there is an increased number of individuals feeling low during January which has led to the phrase The January Blues. The most common causes for this period of low mood are Seasonal affective disorder, financial stress and expectations set by new years resolutions.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is the experience of periods of low moods during the winter months, poor weather and lack of daylight are thought to contribute to the development of SAD. It is suggested a lack of daylight can lower your levels of happiness due to a lack of vitamin D, this can lead to the experience of depressive symptoms.

January is also the month that follows Christmas and New Year, For many financial stress increases and you may have set unrealistic New Year’s resolutions. Many individuals will set New Year’s resolutions with high expectations of what they can achieve. Due to a lack of vitamin D, most individuals feel a lack of motivation. A lack of motivation will make us more likely to break our New Years resolution leaving many disappointed, which can also contribute to feeling low during this period.

Many would have heard the well-known phrase “new year, new me”. But it is important to remember while it is a new year, we are still ourselves. The new year simply brings new opportunities and new starts for us all. Try to set realistic goals of what you would like to achieve for this month and work towards this.

All the above contributes to the January Blues, but it is important to remember if you are experiencing this you are not alone and it is possible to beat the blues with some of the self-help tips listed below.

Sometimes periods of low moods cannot be alleviated by self-help, and you may need to seek some professional advice. Here at The Retreat Clinics our therapists are highly experienced and skilled in short-term therapy and brief treatment programmes, as well as in longer-term work.

Our initial consultations ensure we understand your budget and can carefully consider with you what we can offer that is be a good fit for your financial budget, as well as your mental health needs.

All of our therapies are available at our clinics in York, Manchester and online.

If you would like to find out more please get in touch by emailing or







Loneliness and Grief at Christmas

Christmas isn’t like it looks on TV!  Every advert shows a perfect family, a happy holiday and a wonderful time with friends and loved ones.

With all the ‘perfect’ images, feeling lonely can be particularly difficult at Christmas.  We might be missing someone through bereavement, estrangement, divorce, or simply the high cost of the transport to reach them this year.  We can be lonely because we’re alone, or sometimes we can feel lonely with lots of people surrounding us.  This might be the first year we have found hard, or Christmas might be something we dread every year.


Be kind to yourself – Think about what might help you to get through.  Do you want the comfort of all your usual traditions, or might you need a change this year?  There are no rules

Escape for a moment – Try to distract yourself with something not at all Christmassy – watch a favourite film, spend some time on a hobby, read a book, take a walk

Be careful around social media – Even if you know the pictures are posed, social media will be full of happy posts, and you may need to take a breath before reading, or even choose to avoid scrolling altogether for a few days

Look after yourself – Your usual routine is helpful.  Make sure you rest properly, eat reasonably well and regularly, and don’t overdo the alcohol

Reach out – Contact someone on whatever level feels right to you.  A Whatsapp chat, a phone call, a face to face visit or just a hello when you’re out walking the dog, they all help.

If it feels too much, contact someone

Sarah Millican hosts #joinin on Christmas day on Twitter

The Samaritans 116 123 or online at

Cruse bereavement support Helpline on 0808 808 1677 (open 10-2 on Christmas day)

If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer please get in touch by emailing or or call on 0161 445 2099 or 01904 412551.

Grief needs dedicated time

The beautiful poem ‘Allow’ by Danna Faulds describes so eloquently the process of grief.

‘There is no controlling life.

Try corralling a lightning bolt,

Containing a tornado. Dam a

Stream and it will create a new

channel. Resist, and the tide

will sweep you off your feet.

Allow, and grace will carry

You to higher ground. The only

Safety lies in letting it all in-

The wild and the weak; fear,

Fantasies, failures and success.

When loss rips off the doors of

The heart, or sadness veils your

Vision with despair, practice

Becomes simply bearing the truth.

In the choice to let go of your

Known way of being, the whole

World is revealed to your new eyes.’


A bereavement counsellor can accompany you on this very personal and emotional journey.

National Grief Awareness Week – Reflections of a Bereavement Counsellor

The witnessing of grief and why seeking counselling may help.

Grief is universal. Grief is messy. At some point in our lives we are all affected by the death and loss of a loved one. For some it may be sudden and unexpected, or for others we have some time to ‘prepare’ and try to shore ourselves up so that we hold together when the inevitable happens. It is my belief that however much we think we are ready, that we never really are; not fully – we cannot experience things by proxy. We are social beings who thrive on human connection with others. The interconnection and interdependence upon others is part and parcel of who we are and what makes our life meaningful. The loss of a loved one can feel devastating and overwhelming, affecting and changing our lives in profound ways.

Reasons to consider therapy:

A container for the feelings we cannot bear.

Loss can feel devastating, leaving us vulnerable, exposed, raw, numb, devoid of answers and in pain- both mentally and sometimes physically. At a time when there has been so much crisis and stress in our wider society, increasingly people are doing their best to get by. There is less time and space to support others when we are worrying about finances, work, health etc. This can leave a bereaved person feeling very isolated and alone. We can feel as though we don’t want to trouble others at a time when we most need to connect. We can feel as though we are too much and embarrassed to express how we really feel.  Within a therapeutic relationship there is space to be and express exactly how you feel, without judgement. All parts of you can be ‘held’ with acceptance and compassion.

You are not going mad.

In a bereavement session with a client this week, my client in relation to the death of her mother talked about having ‘lost my person; lost my anchor’. We can feel as though we are broken or falling apart. A bereavement counsellor can help you to understand that what you are experiencing is part of a grieving process. Having listened to many clients who have lost a loved one, my own conclusion is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ way to grieve. How we cope and move through a loss will depend upon many factors including our past losses and traumas, our personalities, support network, what we learned from our families about emotions for example. We can sometimes hold too rigidly to fixed ideas about stages of grief or how we ‘should be feeling by now’ that hinder and compound our grief.

Counselling can help when a loss has been traumatic in nature

Sadly, death can be additionally traumatic when it has been caused by a sudden accident, we may have witnessed a painful death, or we may have lost a loved one through suicide. Specific kinds of therapy may be helpful in these circumstances. Your counsellor will be able to advise and discuss this with you. There may be times when you experience symptoms like panic attacks or heightened anxiety or feelings of depression and struggle to function in your day-to-day life. Your counsellor will be able to guide you and discuss whether additional help or services are required in these circumstances.

Your grief needs to be witnessed.

We all of us need to be heard and understood. Part of healing is having someone to walk alongside you and understand what your loss means to you. A good therapist will also be someone who holds onto the hope when you feel stuck in despair; the person who knows that things will change, however slowly and painfully.

If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer please get in touch by emailing or or call on 0161 445 2099 or 01904 412551.

Challenging the stigma around Neurodiversity this Anti-Bullying Week

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain interprets information. We are hopeful that more and more people will begin to welcome neurodiverse differences and strengths, rather than the stories that we sometimes hear about individuals being targeted for their differences through bullying behaviour.


Challenging the neurodiversity stigma

Instead of isolating people (often because neurotypical brains are the ones that people seem to be most aware of and used to), a focus needs to be on inclusion, understanding and valuing neurodiversity. We are all different and unique in our own ways and the brain develops in different ways; we are all equally important, and we celebrate difference because we believe that difference makes the world an interesting and better place. We need people who think differently; certain changes would never happen otherwise.


What do we do at CYPNS?

At The Retreat Clinics, we also have a Children and Young People’s Neurodevelopmental Service (CYPNS), which mostly works with autistic children and young people, and their families.

At CYPNS, we champion neurodiversity, spreading awareness and understanding of difference and encourage all to embrace it. As a team, we are focussed on improving our approach to assessment, support, and report writing as new information and ways of thinking arise. We are currently talking about the importance of neurodiversity-affirmative language and the importance of noticing strengths in all opportunities. Increasing awareness and understanding of neurodiversity is crucial to support the creation of anti-bullying environments.


How can we help?

Here at The Retreat Clinics, we can support your child and your family to make sense of an Autism diagnosis, from assessments to therapeutic support. Our Autism Assessment and Diagnostic Services and our Specialist Therapy services are available at our clinic in York and online.

Find out more here or get in touch by emailing

What to do as a parent when your child is suffering from bullying

We understand that it is never pleasant to think about your child or young person being involved in bullying, whether it be as the bully, victim or witness, but it is such an important topic to address.

What can I do?

The first thing to do is to talk to your child or young person. Explain to them what the signs of bullying are and explain you have noticed a change within them. Reassure them that you are there for them to talk when they are ready to do so.

If your child opens up to you, it is important to listen to your child calmly, offering support and comfort, as most children and young people may feel anxious, embarrassed or upset. If your child does not want to talk to you about bullying, then it is best to suggest that while you are there for them, they can also open up to another trusted adult and encourage them to do so.

For most children and young people, bullying happens within school. If this is the case for your child, you should contact the school to start a conversation about your concerns with their teacher, head of year or pastoral manager. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy and will not tolerate even the smallest cases of bullying; therefore, it should be picked up fairly quickly.

Even if it seemed to be a one-off incident, it is always best to inform the school especially if it was in relation to a protected characteristic. This may be because of a school-wide cultural issue that might need addressing. If your child is being bullied in relation to a protected characteristic then this is a hate crime, and therefore is against the law. You can report this to the police by phone on 101 or online.

If the bullying is happening online through social media or gaming, you are able to report this to the platforms as most have rules centred around online bullying. You can also report bullying videos that are shared online and request for them to be taken down.

How we can help

If you believe your child or young person is struggling with their mental health due to the bullying that is taking place, or their changes in behaviour do not ease through talking to them and exploring ways to help manage them together, then it may be time to seek professional help for your child. This also applies if your child or teenager themselves is a bully, as they may need support to resolve what is triggering this behaviour.

Here, at The Retreat Clinics, we understand seeking therapy can be daunting for both you and your child and that taking the first step can be hard. We have a team of professional and friendly child therapists who can work together with you and your child to design a bespoke and flexible treatment which works best for them. We have a range of children’s therapy services which are available for children and teenagers aged 4 to 17 at our clinics in York, Manchester and online.

If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer please get in touch by emailing

How to spot the signs of bullying

Bullying amongst children is a common issue within schools, outside of school and online, and of 2,347 young people (12-20 years) surveyed within the UK in 2019, 22% had been bullied, 27% had witnessed bullying and 2% admitted to being a bully.

It can be experienced both verbally or physically and take place at any age. Some children or young people might be bullying themselves, and this is often a result of their own unresolved, personal issues, which makes them choose to lash out at others.

Signs of bullying

Unless your child or teenager directly speaks to you about being bullied or has physical injuries or bruises, it can be hard to know it is going on. You may notice some changes in your child or teenager’s behaviour, which can be an indication that they are being bullied, such as:

There can be a few common indicators that your child or young person may be the one bullying others, for example if they:

Effects of bullying

It is never pleasant to think about your child being bullied, or worse, being a bully, but it’s important to be aware of the warning signs to try and help prevent both the short and long-term effects of bullying.

Bullying can increase the prevalence of mental health issues within children, with depression, anxiety and self-harm often continuing into adulthood. It can cause disruptions to learning, impacting their academic attainment which can have knock-on effects for future employment. The emotional impact of bullying can make it difficult to maintain stable relationships and might make your child or young person more likely to commit or be a victim of domestic abuse as an adult.

Online Bullying

Online bullying is often referred to as cyberbullying, whilst this type of bullying is online and therefore not physical, it may develop into in-person bullying, that can become physical. Signs of cyberbullying are the same as physical bullying however there are a few more that are specific to cyberbullying. Your child who may be a victim of online bullying, may stop using their device unexpectedly, become nervous or jumpy when using their device and have an increase in anger or upset after using their devices.

How we can help

If you are worried about your child or young person being bullied, then it may be time to seek professional help. This also applies if your child or teenager themselves is a bully and needs to resolve what is triggering this behaviour.

We understand seeking therapy can be daunting for both you and your child and that taking the first step can be hard. We have a team of professional and friendly child therapists who can work together with you and your child to design a bespoke and flexible treatment which works best for them. Our children’s therapy services are available for children and teenagers aged 5 to 17, at our clinics in York, Manchester and online.

Please get in touch by emailing

Movember and Men’s Mental Health

Life isn’t always easy, and it can often feel hard to open up about how you’re feeling and reach out for support – particularly as a man. But even when things seem tough, there’s a lot you can do to look after yourself and others.


This month is Movember, an annual event run by the Movember Foundation which  involves the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, and much more.


Who are the Movember Foundation?

As the leading charity in men’s health, the Movember Foundation have funded more than 1,250 projects across 23 countries, working towards a world where men take action to be mentally well and feel supported by those around them.

Their mental health and suicide prevention projects have been challenging the status quo, strengthening social connections and encouraging men to have conversations that matter.


What is Movember?

Movember is a global annual movement which encourages men to engage in their fundraisers during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.


What can I do to get involved?

This November, you can help raise funds and awareness of men’s health by signing up to their Movember Fundraisers:


What if I’m a woman?

While growing a moustache is left to the guys, women can also raise funds and awareness by signing up to all the other fundraiser campaigns or make donation to a ‘Mo Bro’ or fellow ‘Mo Sister’. As champions of the movement women can play a key role by rallying the men in their lives to join the movement, have important conversations and be proactive about their health.


Find out more

For reliable, expert information to help men cope and live happier, healthier, longer lives and to accelerate change by supporting the Movember campaign visit:


This month we will be helping to raise awareness about men’s mental health, and how important it is to talk about.

If you are struggling, or simply need someone to turn to, please get in touch by emailing or

Our Top Tips for managing Bonfire Night

For lots of families with children, Bonfire Night can bring anxiety and distress. Firework displays are noisy, unpredictable and, depending on where you live, can be relentless. This can be particularly tricky if you have a child who has a fear of fireworks, is neurodiverse, and/or has sensory differences.

Our team of child and young people therapists, in collaboration with families we work with, have put together some top tips for managing the Bonfire Celebrations.

If going to fireworks displays isn’t right for your family, trust your instincts. You can create your own traditions for Bonfire night. Perhaps you could watch a movie or do another favourite activity that will help distract from the noise outside. Maybe there is a playlist of music that is particularly calming for your child.

Explain to your child about the origin of Bonfire night, and safety around fireworks and bonfires. For some children, their anxiety is due to being worried about getting hurt or not understanding what is happening. There are lots of story books or information leaflets available that can support you to explain this in a child friendly way. For example; your local fire and rescue service website. Some people like to watch YouTube videos of firework displays to help prepare their child for what is going to happen. If you have a pet, consider including your child in helping the animal for Bonfire night. This could provide a great good opportunity to open conversations about anxiety or fear in a non-direct way and validate their experience.

Staying in or going out, involve your child/ren in creating a plan for the evening, encourage them to think about what they might be worried about, and what might help support them. If you are going to an event, try to find out as much information beforehand as possible to help inform your plan and consider in advance what your exit plan might be if things get too overwhelming.

Writing your plan out or use of a visual schedule is really helpful to help manage expectations and hopefully reduce anxiety.

Regardless of your plans, considering bringing objects that your child finds soothing, familiar or reduces anxiety. For example, certain items of clothing, weighted blankets, fidget toys or a comfort blanket can be helpful. Sometimes certain foods or drinks might bring a bit of extra comfort. For some families, just sticking to familiar routine as much as possible is the best way to reduce anxiety.

For children who find loud noises difficult, you might want to consider giving your child ear defenders. Ear defenders help to reduce noise, but you can still hear some noise, which can be helpful and reassuring. You could also consider noise cancelling headphones to play a soothing song or favourite audio book. Whatever headphones might work best for your child, it would be worth allowing your child to wear them ahead of Bonfire night so that they can get used to wearing them.

Do not under-estimate the importance of how reassuring it is to young people when you remain calm. The relationship you have with your child, and your presence will help them feel safe by just being close, relaxed, and present. You know your child best, and what will help provide them with additional reassurance.

If this is a tricky time for you family, it can be really tiring supporting and containing your child’s distress. If possible, get some additional support and integrate something into the day that will help recharge your batteries.


If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer please get in touch by emailing or