Bellas Song: Friends Learn to Play Safely

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At 11, I went to secondary school and the change sent me into a tailspin. I developed OCD tics — swallowing whenever I had a bad or negative thought, blinking, even more disgustingly, spitting — as if to rid bad feelings from my body as quickly as possible. There was no winning; the goalposts would shift all the time. These routines would take up hours of my time, partly in the doing and partly in the concealing; those around me must not know. I also found myself disassociating for the first time — detaching from my surroundings when it all got too much. When I was trapped in a fug of anxiety and depression in my early 20s, disassociation made it feel as though the people around me were actors in a bad reality show.

What else? Well, I would scratch and pick at my skin, until it bled and scarred, pull out hairs a mild form of trichotillomania, where sufferers have an intense urge to pull their hair out and feel a strong sense of relief when they do. Having managed to leave school with most of my childish worries fairly dormant, I was knocked off my feet one day at university, when, out of the blue, I had a terrible panic attack.

Running is not a cure-all for severe mental illness, or anything else for that matter.

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But I often think of the girl I was in my 20s and wish I could go back and try putting on some trainers. Instead, I dropped out of uni, went to a psychiatrist and took the antidepressants that I was swiftly prescribed. What else could I do? At this point, suicidal thoughts were creeping in. Despite all of this, I was extremely fortunate. I had a family who, while not fully understanding why their daughter was crying hysterically all the time and refusing to go out, had the resources to pay for me to see a professional.

The pills helped, and I was able to look at myself in a mirror again without wondering who was looking back at me. After quitting my degree, I got a job, was able to go out again, and managed a few relationships. I was patched up, in the most basic sense. Not a life wasted by any means, but a life limited. So to find something that breaks you free of this can feel miraculous. For some that may mean medication, for others meditation. My mother does yoga whenever she feels low. A colleague lifts weights, and one friend boxes because he feels far too angry and it helps keep those thoughts under control.

Weeks after my marriage collapsed, I was still sick with it all. At work, I would regularly go into the toilets and cry quietly. At home, I would put on my pyjamas the moment I got in and mindlessly watch TV. When I went out, I drank too much and would cry again. While I was running, nobody could give me the dreaded sympathy head tilt or an excruciating hug. Nobody even looked at me. I discovered old railway lines that ran like arteries through built-up estates, hidden from plain sight. I ran along the canal and found an expanse of brambles, wild flowers and ducklings swimming along next to me.

The panic attacks were fading away. One day, I decided to go farther. I ran into the heart of the city, towards one of the bridges that traverse the Thames and beckon you over with the promise of light and air, and I headed across without a backwards glance. I crossed another bridge, intoxicated by the sunshine on my skin, and I ran into Parliament Square, thronging with tourists and vendors and honking cars. I passed through Soho, marvelling at the noise and rickshaws and sex shops. And when I stopped, I wandered around.

I was able to take in my surroundings and enjoy them. I felt triumphant. I felt… happy. Running is not magic beans. Life is tricky and gets diverted constantly, and we all stumble. There have been crappy times. There have been brilliant times. But the main difference between my life before I ran and my life since is that I have hope. And I have a life that is not always dictated by worry, panic, doom and depression. I feel that my time here has given me a head start in the college experience and will allow me to take full advantage of my studies after high school.

I wish someone had told me to participate in more unstructured and unassigned collaboration. As a violin player I am very familiar with playing in string quartets and in the orchestra, but I have had little opportunities to collaborate with other types of instruments in more intimate settings. To keep up with it all I had to learn to manage my time and set priorities. The harder I worked, the easier things became because I began to see results in my life, which motivated me to continue working hard towards the things that matter.

It is not profound or flowery, but gives such a strong message in two simple words.

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Throughout high school these words inspired me to broaden my perspective and challenge myself with new experiences on a daily basis. They helped me realize that a happy life is simply one of growth through activity and exploration. We would definitely recommend to others. Hari — Parent of Anoushka aged 4 , SW The booking process was very smooth, they were very responsive, the invitations were great.

Our Sparkle — Ffion did an amazing job keeping kids contained, entertained and they all loved it. Seeing their smiley faces, how happy they were when engaging with Ffion, was priceless. I highly recommend and will definitely use Lucy Sparkles again in the future!

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I have been meaning to contact you to say how brilliant Tamara was and how well the party went. They were utterly absorbed and thoroughly enjoyed themselves as did the parents who had an hour to chat! Scarlet was in heaven and still talks about Tamara a month later. I have been recommending you whenever I can! Olivia — Mum to Scarlett aged 4 , NW6. Our fairy unicorn was wonderful! She kept the group of 3 and 4 year olds very happy and entertained, everybody joined in, even some parents!

Thank you very much, everything went very well. Megan the performer is a true professional and very talented. The babies enjoyed the music, interaction and entertainment. I will be recommending you to all our friends. I was also impressed by the information shared in advance, friendliness and responsiveness from yourself.

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Everything was very easy to organise. The children are completely captivated for the entire session! Harry brings such enthusiasm and energy into the room and is so personable he is able to get the shyest of little beans to join in. Armed with his guitar, saxophone and clarinet, as well as a bag full of props, the children have learned so much.

We have had to rotate the days that he comes so everyone can have a turn! Great for parties too. A big Thank You to the Sparkles team for providing such a great service in all respects. Jasmine had a magical time, thank you so much, the entertainment kept everyone captivated for the whole hour!! A godsend! We had the best party ever!!! Our second year in a row and 5 star, 10 out of 10 rating for everything!!!! I just wanted to say that Tamara was fantastic! The children had so much fun and apparently they were all talking about it today at nursery. Natali Sparkles was great — arrived on time and got set up quickly.

The children loved her and she was great at judging who were the shy ones and how to approach them without scaring them off!

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My daughter loved it and still talks about Natali Sparkles and her bubble machine! My 5 year old had a wonderful time at her party and loved the fun and games provided by Tamara Sparkles.

It was such a good idea to have her — she sang, organised the games and activities even pass the parcel and the kids loved it. Ayshe had such a lovely way with the kids, they all loved her. Thank you. Would certainly recommend to other parents — with a Sparkles entertainer, you get a bit of a break — and time to organise the food and cake!

Ginny Sparkles customised a series of beautiful face paint options relevant to our event.

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The children were absolutely mesmerised by her sparkly fairy dress and she was just fantastic with them! There was a big queue for face painting throughout the entire event and the designs were absolutely beautiful! I just wanted to say a huge thank you for providing an entertainer for my daughters 4th birthday party.

Yasmin was perfect and the kids absolutely loved her. She kept them entertained for the whole hour, even with loud parents chatting in the same room. She really was amazing. I will definitely use Lucy Sparkles when my 3rd child turns 4! Loved the party, both Tamara and Charley were amazing and the facepainter was ace!

We have already recommended you to our neighbours. We had a fantastic party, thanks to you and of course to Ayshe for doing such a brilliant job in keeping everyone entertained — my daughter remains convinced that Elsa was present in person and she loved all the singing and dancing. Appreciated her also swapping the sweets out of the pass the parcel and adding a new layer at short notice for a very late RSVP.

Fantastic afternoon — thanks so much. A room full of 3 year olds is hard to captivate and you did it! We were very pleased with Chloe and her assistant — the children loved them and they were fully occupied for the whole hour. We would definitely recommend Lucy Sparkles to friends and use them again for other parties in the future. Elise was brilliant and the children loved her!

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Yasmin was amazing, the best entertainer we have had. The children had a wonderful time singing, dancing and playing games. Yasmin has a natural way with children and such a beautiful singing voice! Holly — Mum of Leo aged 4 , SW Just a quick note to say how wonderful we all thought Charlie Sparkles was! I was a bit concerned as the party was at home and there were only four babies but he did an amazing job of keeping them all entertained and happy! We were amazed at how Anna Sparkles kept all 30 children fully involved and captivated for a full hour.

The party organisation and communication was all very friendly and professional. We knew Anna from Sparkles visits to nursery, so were very pleased to be able to enjoy a full party with her. I was so impressed with the Kemi Sparkles at the trial we did. Isla is normally very shy and timid and she was dancing around and speaking up within ten minutes which is huge for her. The party was fantastic and all the girls really enjoyed it.

Tamara and her helper were brilliant! They took care of the whole hour and the children were mesmerised. Even the more reluctant children were joining in by the end. Just to say we are delighted with the classes. Gareth is a star and the children adore him! He always makes the lessons so much fun. My husband and I were completely impressed with our experience hiring Lucy Sparkles. Not only did our daughter and her friends have an absolute blast, but my husband and I were able to relax while Lucy Sparkles completely took over.

We will definitely be hiring her again! Just wanted to say a BIG thanks to all at Lucy Sparkles for the wonderful entertainment that Lucy and her team did for my daughter and her friends. Having just dropped my daughter off at school, it was great to hear so many parents say that they enjoyed the party as much as the kids because they could just relax and chat to other parents whilst their kids were having fun. Diana Squires — Mum of Gracie aged 5 , N We have had two Lucy Sparkles parties for my daughter; one for 4th and 5th birthdays.

I can genuinely say that Lucy provided wonderful entertainment as both Elsa and Snow White. Lots of singing, dancing and role play.

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My daughter still talks about her princess parties and how much she loved them. I would absolutely recommend Lucy Sparkles. She did a really great job and helped keeping the children entertained. Liesl Kannenberg — Mum of Arielle aged 4 , E Sarah Sparkles was fabulous — from keeping me calm when the numbers started going haywire to the effortless way she almost mesmerised 20 children into following her every request. All the kids had a great time and loved you, Evelyn in particular. And I have to say that your work is the best I have seen and we will be sure to mention you to our friends!

We wish you the best and thanks again. We had a princess theme and Tamara Sparkles came as Snow White and transfixed 15 three to four year olds for a magical hour that went by in 5 minutes. Simply Superb!