Meet the Advocate - Georgina
A mindful mermaid
We’ve been speaking to Kent team member Georgina about her role as an advocate, how she creates work-life balance, and why she is happy to be open about her own mental health.
And we discovered a fun fact: not many people can say they have a statue in their image – but Georgina is one of them!
Can you tell us about how you became an advocate and what your role involves?
I became an advocate in 2018. I was working for Victim Support at the time and felt that I needed a change: I wanted to provide support to people that needed me in a different way.
My role is about being the voice for those unable to speak up for themselves.
As a Care Act Advocate, I might represent someone who lacks capacity to voice their needs within a meeting. As a Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR), I check that the person is living in the least restrictive environment, that they are getting the correct care, and should they wish to challenge any deprivation of liberty they may be under, I would raise this as a concern.
I always want to see that my clients are receiving the best care and the things they are entitled to. When I see that they are happy and supported, this gives me job satisfaction; I can see that I am making a difference to a person’s life and well-being.
What do you do to stay well and deal with stress?
During the lockdown, I had some difficult events that I was dealing with, and I took long walks to cope with my thoughts. I work from home, and I have been very lucky in that I have some beautiful walks around the coastline I can take, which has been a godsend.
I started taking photographs, which I posted to Facebook, and this is now a passion for me, along with other creative projects.
I have always exercised, but until lockdown, I hadn’t realised how much I was relying on this as a coping strategy for stress and trauma in my life.
I have been swimming since a baby and dancing all of my life, starting with ballroom and Latin, then contemporary. I was an aerobics instructor for ten years. I now enjoy taking part in Zumba classes around four times per week.
I also tend to go to the local swimming pool around 6:30am before starting work. In the summer, it’s nice to be able to swim off the beach at the weekend.
What all these things have in common is that they take my mind off any stressful situations, they bring down anxiety and give me clarity in my mind.
When I dance, I am lost in the music and concentrating on the movements. When I take photographs, they are not planned, but if I see a shot that I need to take, it comes from a feeling of excitement within me and I am instantaneously drawn into the moment, which grounds my thought process.
Personally, it has been a very difficult couple of years. I’ve had to deal with a decline in my own mental health, due to circumstances out of my control. But I have spoken to the right people, gained information in coping strategies and applied them to manage my own needs, and now feel that I’m gradually climbing back up the ladder.
I am glad to hear you feel things are getting better.
Could you describe who helped you, and the coping strategies that you learned about?
Through life, we will all hit times of upset, and challenges to overcome. In general, we deal with these challenges quite well when our mental health is strong, however, I had multiple traumas to get through and this brought my mental health to the lowest point.
I realised that I was ill and spoke to my GP, who referred me for counselling. By speaking about my traumas, and receiving the correct therapy, I have slowly become stronger again.
My personal situation has made me realign the way that I deal with things. I’ve realised that I am only one person and that to be there for others, I need to be strong mentally as well as physically, and that one can impact the other.
I take time for myself now, I do the creative things that make me happy, and I take regular exercise, which decreases stress hormones and brings me positivity that I can pass on to others.
If things are overwhelming, I take a step back, take a walk, and breathe - sometimes that's all that's needed to put things into perspective.
I am the type of person who will always do the best I can for others but in doing this, I wasn’t always doing the best for myself.
I realise now that it is okay to set boundaries.
We all have to have the correct work/life balance in order to give the best that we can to the people that need us.
Is it important that you’re open about your own situation?
I have always talked openly about my mental health to management and colleagues, it helps for those around me to know. It means that I can receive the best support to be able to continue my role as an advocate to the best of my ability.
I have been through some difficult situations throughout my life, but these can be character building situations, and the experience of overcoming them has brought me the knowledge of how to help others overcome theirs too.
It helps that I have studied and have a qualification in counselling skills, however, that doesn’t make me totally resistant to life’s challenges and I have learnt that it is important to ask for support when necessary.
You’re a keen sea swimmer – but you’re also a mermaid! Tell us more ….
The Folkestone Mermaid was commissioned in 2011 for the Folkestone Triennial and created by artist Cornelia Parker.
I answered a local advert to become her life-cast model, sending details of myself together with a photograph of me sitting in the same pose as The Little Mermaid sculpture in Copenhagen.
Cornelia was looking for a free spirit and a female to represent the local and the everyday. She said that I already had a statuesque pose!
To produce the bronze, I had to have my body cast, this process is done by applying a rubber solution onto the skin, which sets, then Modroc is applied, to form the mould. The mould is then filled with plaster, and then a bronze pour is done to produce the sculpture.
I’m very proud and honoured that Cornelia selected me to be her life-cast model.
I think what I find most gratifying, is that other people take pleasure by her presence and that she has sentimental value to some.
For over ten years The Folkestone Mermaid has sat strong against the elements: she is an iconic piece, and photographs of her can be found around the world.
The Folkestone Mermaid looks out to the sands and the sea beyond.
A mermaid who lost her tail, she adapted to her circumstances and in her true female form, she embodies a form of strength and resilience.
Thankyou to Georgina for providing some of her photographs for the blog.
Cover image of Georgina and the Folkestone Mermaid by CentralPhotography.com