Monthly Archives: October 2014

When did saying hello turn into something sinister?

So, second blog post of the day! I’m not quite like a bus but who knows whether something else will make me rage/laugh/want to comment later on today!

So I saw a video today. Bit of background. A guy called Rob Bliss (from Rob Bliss Creative) partnered with Holloback! (a not for profit organisation which aims to campaign against street harassment.  For 10 hours, Rob walked in front of an actress called Shoshana filming her and the responses as she walked silently through the streets. The video is  available at http://youtu.be/b1XGPvbWn0A.

I was dumbfounded but didn’t quite know why as it’s something that I have personally experienced. A few years ago I was walking near my student house (okay it was more than a few years ago!) and a guy was standing outside a shop. As I walked past avoiding eye contact, he said very loudly, “do you want some sex with me”. Looking back I wished I had a witty comeback but as it was I kept my head down and scuttled off. I was completely bewildered at the fact someone thought that was an appropriate opening line to someone they had never met before.

Recently I had a guy come over and spit alcohol in my face. I wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t have eye contact with him, I was walking far away in both instances but yet they still felt it was appropriate to assault me verbally and physically.

Such instances make me feel sad. They make me feel sad because I come from a small village in Yorkshire where it was the norm for people to say hello and smile as they walk past. It’s sad because people who are lonely and may not have much contact are losing out because people don’t want to engage in innocent conversation at bus stops, on the bus, the train. I have been told I just talk to anyone, I should be more careful about responding. Despite my experiences I am going to carry on responding to a hello and a smile because I believe the good contacts will always outweigh the bad. But I will try to prepare myself that not everybody is good.

The bit that made me laugh in a sad way during the video was when someone said ‘you should say thank you when someone compliments you’. Well I do. I do when it’s my husband. I do when someone says I have nice gloves and ask me where I got them from. I do when the compliment is given when nothing is expected in return. I don’t when randomers come up and get annoyed when I don’t take the compliment which is quickly followed up by a ‘can i have your phone number’. I blame social media in a way. Social media encourages us to give opinions, views and comments about people’s lives who we don’t know in real life. If you see me in the street I will say hello but don’t be offended if I don’t share my life with you.

I’d like to stay under the radar please

I love Twitter, it’s great because things crop up which I might never see or hear about without Twitter.

Today I saw two things I wanted to blog about so this is one of them!  I would say there is a blog post already on this which is great (@elphiemcdork) and have just seen one pop up from @weirdsid which I haven’t read but I’m sure will be great having read her comments on Twitter so please check them out!

Samaritan Radar

Today I logged on to Twitter and saw #SamaritanRadar trending. I also saw lots of angry tweets which naturally piqued my interest. I’m a long time supporter of the Samaritans particularly as I volunteer in a similar capacity. I know a few volunteers and they are so amazing and dedicated.

Despite volunteering myself, I don’t think I could be a Sams volunteer. The main reason is that with my voluntary role there is a stage at which confidentiality can be breached as we work with children. Sams confidentiality is different as the focus is about choice for the caller. That choice could involve the caller wanting to die by suicide with someone on the end of the phone call and the Sams volunteer would have to respect that. I get that, I just don’t think I could do it myself so I am full of admiration for those who do.

All my previous thoughts about Sams made me really confused about the Samaritan Radar app. From my understanding, and I will qualify this by saying that I accept this is a new idea and like most things can be changed, it’s an app which people (I will call them Tweeter A) can sign up to which will identify trigger words in the tweets of the people that are being followed (Tweeter B), an email is sent to Tweeter A highlighting that Tweeter B has sent some tweets that have the trigger words in with some advice about how to support Tweeter B.

I think the intention is well meaning. Support services are being pushed to the limit and the reality is there are not enough people to support everybody so why not involve the wider community to help support others?

Well for a number of reasons really and a number of the comments below seem to have been raised already.

1) It takes the choice away, a tweet sent at 4am in the morning could be seen by someone at 9am when they are logged onto their emails. That person may be in a completely different state of mind at 9am compared to 4am. They may have sent the tweet at a particular person who may have responded in an appropriate way and supported that person. Responding to a historic tweet could well assist with those feelings to resurface.

Also from Tweeter A’s perspective..you wake up at 9am. You check your emails and see someone has tweeted that they are going to take their life at 3am and that they have already taken a heap of drugs. What would go through your head? My thought process? Absolute fear and guilt. Fear that they have already died due to the 6 hours lapsing and guilt that they weren’t awake at 3am to support that person.

2) Training. Sams volunteers are special. But they’re special because they go through intensive training. People who engage and support people who are suicidal understand that saying that you feel like you want to die or  feel suicidal doesn’t necessarily mean you actually want to die. It’s difficult to explain but put simply, some want to die because they want to end their life. Others want to die because they want to get themselves out of a painful situation and think that the only option is to end their life. If you speak to someone in the latter camp, you need to approach support in a completely different way otherwise you could risk alienating the person by not listening to and acknowledging their very real feelings. Sending an ambulance to someone who is in the latter camp is not helpful. It causes panic and does not address why someone is feeling that way.

3) Anonymity and trolling – the sad fact is there are some vile trolls out there. There are chat rooms where people with suicidal feelings can join where discussions are held about how to best to commit suicide. I went and googled some (purely out of the belief that there cannot be web sites like this) and THERE ARE! If someone is vulnerable already why give trolls access to those people easily? Who will police the support that is given to those people.

Also Sams is anonymous. Where I volunteer it’s a unique feature that encourages young people to keep using the service. They don’t feel judged because noone else knows their background. They can say what they want and then move on. It’s their choice what to say and it’s all about the person.

I hope Sams will take note of the concerns. I think they will. Well meaning but needs some serious thought.

Getting away from it all

So, I’m not well again today and spending a day at home under the duvet. It tends to follow a pattern that when I take some time off it means I become ill again, I guess it’s another way of my body telling me to slow down. I try and I thought I had managed to recognise when I need to slow down but I obviously miss something sometimes!

So it’s another day watching daytime tv whilst being dosed up and snoozing. I’m the first to admit I’m not a good patient, it’s not the fact I’m at home, it’s the fact that I need to stay in one place all the time. I was thinking about what I could do instead to occupy my mind and my lovely friend suggested writing a blog post or watching a film so here goes.

I’m now the ripe old age of 32. I spent some time with my friends chatting and then Sunday I went away for the day/night to the Cotswolds with my husband. It was a last minute thing and I had no idea where to go. Luckily someone introduced me to the amazing concept of travelcounsellors.co.uk. The site is an independent travel agent consultant type agency. My consultant was Kate Balls and recommended through her mum. It was the best decision I made to contact her. I contacted her on the Monday, gave her a budget and a radius of travel and she came back with two options on the Tuesday. She made the booking and sent the confirmation. She also sent me a lovely message on the day of travel and a follow up message. She spent the time getting to know what I wanted and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

My husband wondered whether it would be more expensive to go through the website but I checked the hotel website and it was more expensive to book direct and would have meant I spent lots of time thinking where to go as well.

So we went to the Cotswolds and on arrival at the Hatton Court Hotel was greeted by a friendly receptionist who upgraded us and gave me a birthday card. The room was lovely with amazing views. We went for a walk and, despite the cold, it was really fun messing about, jumping in the mud on the field and generally just having a laugh. We rounded the evening off with a delicious meal and I ended up falling to sleep a lot sooner than I sleep at home. I think my mind recognised that here was an environment where I could relax and be peaceful and it thought it would take full advantage! The following day we got up, had breakfast and set off home. It was a flying visit but felt like I had taken 3/4 days away rather than an overnight.

We’re not going away on an extended holiday this year and it made me feel disappointed at first but now I recognise that even a long weekend can do as much good as a week long holiday abroad. I think I need to plan better about taking shorter more frequent breaks throughout the year rather than one long holiday towards the end of the year.

So my conclusion of this post is: a) check out Travel Counsellors b) take time off when you need it and recognise the value of shorter more frequent holidays and c) thirties are the new twenties :) xxx

No birthday blues here

So, it’s my birthday tomorrow. I’ll be the ripe old age of 32.

When I was little being 30 sounded so old and ancient. I had a plan that by the time I was 30 I would be married, have my own house and have at least one child. So far I have managed to achieve one of those. As I approached my 30th birthday some of my time was spent thinking about what I hadn’t managed to achieve rather than what I had achieved.

I don’t own my own house and I’m not likely to for the foreseeable future and I don’t have children. Once 30 hit I realised I hadn’t made any plans for the rest of my life and…I decided not to. What makes us look at our lives and try to set targets and life plans when we don’t know what will happen or when?  I know how fragile life can be and how it can be taken away at any moment so I thought right, that’s it no more planning. That was really hard for a natural planner and I do catch myself out sometimes trying to put target dates on things!

So, what have I achieved? I have a lovely husband who is awesome and very supportive. I have retained some close friends from school and university whilst also making some new ones. I don’t have children but I am godmother to two lovely children who I am very proud of. I don’t own my own house but I rent a flat in the middle of the city which enables me to travel wherever I need to go. I have a job that I love, after spending most of my 20’s in jobs that I felt I ought to love rather than genuinely loving. Most of all I think my thirties have given me the kind of self confidence I could only dream of when I was in my twenties. I do still doubt myself sometimes but on the whole, particularly when surrounding myself with my friends, I feel so much more confident when I am out and about. I think for me my 20’s started to shape me but my 30’s define me.

My nan was in her 80’s when she passed away and one of the things I loved about her was her ability to say something that was a bit ‘naughty’ and completely get away with it! Having awareness about issues in the world is important and some things that are ‘politically correct’ are right to be brought into the arena but sometimes life is so constrained by policies and procedures that people seem to forget that we are all people that have to share this world and sometimes it’s just about going with your gut feeling and saying what you think whilst being prepared to take into account people’s feelings and emotions. I love it when people surprise me by doing something or reacting in a completely different way even though it can throw a curveball at me sometimes.

In conclusion, whilst I don’t want to wish my life away, here’s to my 30’s and my 40’s and my 50’s…here’s to throwing away plans and being more relaxed!

Journey to fix the camel’s back

Today has been a great day. It has been so great that it has made me want to blog and share some of my life experiences over the past few months. Some things I have only shared with some of my closest friends so I’m a little nervous about how this is going to be received. I’m tempted to just write it and not share it on Twitter and Facebook but I will see how I feel when I finish writing.

For those who know me, my life is pretty good. I am close to my family, my friends and I have a lovely husband who means the world to me. I have had some ‘difficult’ times in the past but generally have come through things virtually unscathed. Or so I thought.

About June last year I started to feel differently. It’s really difficult to explain but I began to feel really emotional and life seemed like I was in a fog sometimes. To work colleagues and those who saw my Facebook and Twitter statuses, it may seem like life was normal for me and I became extremely adept at putting on a smiley face in public when in private I couldn’t understand why I felt so numb. Looking back it may well have been a delayed reaction to a number of changes in my life. My grandma had died in January and I also moved jobs. I love my job but think it may have been one change too many at that time. I was close to my grandma, she was my mum’s mum and provided a link to my mum’s memories, having lost my mum in an accident when I was 9. Don’t get me wrong, I had lots of support at the time and I think part of the support unfortunately led to ‘bandaging’ my true feelings.

So in June I started feeling differently and by August (the anniversary of my mum’s death) things were not going too well. I wasn’t speaking to anybody about my feelings and my poor husband didn’t know what to do as his wife turned into someone who could lose their temper at any minute. My saving grace came from two very special friends, one of whom is on Twitter. I honestly don’t know what could have happened if I didn’t have them in my life. From Facetiming to whatsapping random photos to leaving voicemails to sending messages and letters, the fact that they were there helped me. The feelings passed and I felt like life was back to normal. Looking back I should have clearly stepped back before going back into life at full steam ahead.

So in April this year the feelings started to come back. At this stage I became scared because I honestly couldn’t see how I could get past my feelings once August hit (as it has always been a difficult time for me). Work became my saviour in a way as things were busy and kept me focused but unfortunately it meant that outside of work things started to fall to pieces. I didn’t have suicidal feelings but didn’t want to be ‘here’ anymore. When I said that to my husband he didn’t know what to say as he equated that sentence with wanting to die. I definitely did not want to die. I just didn’t want to have the feelings of pain and despair and couldn’t work out a way to get past them. Again my two friends were there for me and I shared some more of my thoughts with other close friends who were all shocked that I had these feelings, obviously I had done a better job than I thought at hiding them! I spent a long time talking to my nan, one of the most inspirational women I have ever met. She was really good at telling me how it was and challenging my viewpoints and perceptions. Then she died in June. For the first month I kept it together through shock but then gradually the feelings started to overwhelm me.

I had previously taken some time off from volunteering as life became more hectic but when my nan died, I had to face the real possibility that I would not be able to return as a volunteer which made my feelings even worse as I felt I was letting people down. I called a counselling service and kept putting the phone down. I made excuses and I was very careful to avoid talking about my nan.

I had been having a few emails from my volunteer supervisor checking how I was and asking whether I needed anything. I never felt pressure to return, just a sense of someone being concerned about me. I also had some other close friends who kept messaging me about random things to make me smile and gradually I could start to talk about my nan. I started to write things down and most of all I started to talk about my feelings. I’m an incredibly ugly crier but I cried. Lots.

Then one of my best friends visited for the weekend. I have known her since I was 5 and she recently lost her grandma too. We talked. A lot. From 4:30pm when I met her to 1:30am the following day. We laughed, cried, talked and I shared everything. The best thing? She didn’t look shocked at anything I said. She just accepted my feelings and shared her experiences. I then went to see my supervisor today. An hour later and I felt like I had been given my own unique counselling experience. I talked her head off and nearly cried when I said thank you and she said ‘You’re worth it’. I do feel appreciated but now I feel like it’s okay not to be a bionic woman. It’s okay to have scary feelings. It’s okay to take the time to share those feelings. I’m not alone with my feelings and I have lots of support around me. It’s just taken me a few years to reach out and accept that support. I don’t think I can ever thank my friends and family enough for being there. They probably don’t know everything that I have said here but I think it’s important to write this blog for me, to draw a line and move on. My supervisor talked today about a book which talks about the importance of living in the now. I’m living in the now and although I can’t say I won’t have wobbles, my head space is so much tidier now and better.

Facebook vs Twitter

I’m going through a phase at the moment where I go on and off Facebook. Some of my friends are getting pretty frustrated with me as they don’t know whether I am coming or going at the moment (literally!).

I have a love hate relationship with Facebook. I love it because it allows me to share photos or invite a group of people easily and quickly and, as my friends are spread all over the country (and the world!), it means I can keep in contact with them.

I hate it (or dislike as hate is too strong a word) because it frustrates me. I shouldn’t allow it to frustrate me but it does. For a number of reasons. This is ongoing frustration usually triggered by a specific event. The latest thing? Being asked to like and share posts which I don’t agree with. I resent the fact that some aspects of life boils down to how many likes or shares a post gets on facebook. I also dislike the fact that certain racist organisations use topics such as animal cruelty, the armed forces and children to get likes and shares. I appreciate people may not realise what they are sharing but it still annoys me when it appears on my timeline.

On the contrary I know Twitter does have similar things like retweets and favourites but I never have the same feeling that retweets and favourites have the same importance as likes and shares on Facebook. Maybe I am making a personal assumption but that’s how I feel?

I feel like Facebook is a place where everybody tells you what they are doing but Twitter tells you what people are interested in and encourages discussion. I don’t have ‘friends’ who I don’t know ‘in real life’ but I do follow people who I don’t know in real life. I have found new bands, new restaurants and new products through Twitter. Facebook hasn’t added anything to my life but instead has taken away something. The fact is most of my friends choose to communicate with me through Facebook now. Gone are the days of letter writing (except for one lovely friend!) and even phone calls. I miss it and if I am not on Facebook people do communicate with me through a different method. Is this how life is? Should I just accept it?

For now I am a constant yo yo when it comes to Facebook. I am more constant on Twitter for now at least. I hope Twitter continues to be the safe haven I view it to be with people who have different opinions but who are all open to views and the silliness continues. This is probably the most ranty blog post I have written and it’s important to finish on a high so thank you Twitter people, continue being silly, open and honest and keep Twitter special.

Having a bit of “me” time

Tomorrow I am having a day off work. It might not be seen as massive blog worthy news because my work is nice and I do get time off work after all! The reason why I am blogging about it is because it’s the first time in a long time when I do not have any particular plans other than to catch up with home life.

I have normally only taken time off if I am going away on holiday or I have appointments. I always thought annual leave should be taken because of something happening and it’s taken as a norm that people will ask me what I am up to when I take some time off. The response of “nothing” is greeted with surprise normally in my experience but why should taking some time for me invoke some surprise?

I don’t blame people responding in that way. It’s a ‘normal response’ after all. Having lost a recent relative who meant the world to me, it really made me think about my life and how short life can be. It also taught me that it’s important to live life to the full but also recognise when it’s time to take a step back and slow down. Last time I lost someone close to me I moved jobs. I’m not intending to do that again but I am planning to re-evaluate what I spend time on and realise that it’s okay if I start to say no to things I am invited to, not because I have something else in the diary but because I need time for me. I think my nan who I lost will be looking at me and saying “Yes! finally” as she was constantly telling me I needed to slow down and not take on too much.

I’m not saying I won’t still rush around but I’m going to take the time to enjoy my flat, catch up on homely type stuff and sort out my priorities at home.I did take some time off volunteering for the past few months but I’m now ready to start looking at returning but this time I’m very aware of the need to not rush back into things and not at the same level I used to volunteer. Bodies and minds have a way of making it very clear when you need to slow down and I have always tended to ignore the signs. Maybe I’m finally growing up (!) as I am slowly starting to recognise that I need to start responding to those signs.

It’s quite painful for me to admit that I need to stop doing certain things as I love my life and the things in it but it’s the people in my life who suffer (like my husband!) when they have to cope with the fallout when I become too tired and start whinging. Here’s to the new mindful me.

 

World Mental Health Day and Me

I was thinking about a subject to blog about tonight and remembered it is World Mental Health Day tomorrow. 4 words for such a massive and wide ranging topic. Mental health is something that I feel is starting to push its way forward as an issue to talk about and that’s amazing. There is a long way to go but I feel a buzz and momentum about mental health that has not been around for a while.

Mental health is something that really interests me mainly because it seems to affect people in so many different ways. I have known a few people who have been diagnosed with mental health issues and the only thing they have in common is that they are all amazing people in my life and I could not do without them.

My earliest memory of someone who was diagnosed with depression was someone who was extremely close to me and depression was triggered by a bereavement. I don’t think I have ever gone back to that person and spoken about that time in our lives and I may never do but that experience of mental health shaped my entire view that mental health can and does affect everyone. It totally smashed my misconceptions that people were not ‘strong’ enough to cope with what life had to throw at them if they were diagnosed with mental health because the person who was diagnosed is one of the strongest people I know.

Since then I have been made aware of a number of relatives and some really close friends that have been diagnosed with a number of mental health issues including manic depression. The main difference since my first experience is that I have been fortunate enough to volunteer as a counsellor which again completely changed my perspective about mental health. Things I have ‘learned’ about mental health? Firstly, everyone who experienced mental health issues were those who I would categorise as ‘strong’ people. One friend in particular is someone who is so inspiring, confident and friendly it did take me aback at first when she was diagnosed with depression but it made me really challenge my own views when that happened which I am grateful for. Secondly, it’s difficult to understand what each individual is going through because every circumstance that triggers ‘mood changes’ is different. Thirdly, everyone chooses to cope differently. Some people are creative, choosing to write (!), or draw. Others choose to run and feel free within a running environment. For others it is about talking.

Someone once tried to explain depression to me as a black hole and the depression acting as a mud bog sucking them in and being unable to see out of the black hole. Coping mechanisms were described as ladders to get out of the black hole and the beautiful surrounding landscape out of the black hole related to friends and family.

I once wrote something on facebook and I’d like to say this as an end to this rambling blog post

“For those of my lovely friends and family who may question why they are here and what they mean to people, you make my life so much better being part of it and I thank you”.

Mental health can affect anyone and does. It challenges my misconceptions every day and I welcome those challenges.

Cloud in every lining…when something bad can make you appreciate something good

So this is my second blog post! I might stop counting after I reach blog post 10 which might take me a while. I might not. I’m just excited I got some views! Thanks for making it to this page.

So eventually I will probably focus the blog on a theme of some kind but something happened at the weekend which made me want to blog so here goes!

My husband got robbed in the early hour of Saturday morning by two masked robbers. My husband is one of the loveliest laid back people I have ever met, I probably would say that as I married him but it really is true! He’s pretty well built so when he sensed someone behind him and turned round to see one masked man he didn’t think anything of it (I, on the other hand would have ran for the hills screaming!). The masked man unfortunately had another masked friend and they approached my husband threatening him and ordered him to give him our car keys which he did and they drove off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fuming. I’m mad because I find it absolutely bewildering and shocking to think someone can just think that they can take someone else’s property. They didn’t think that my husband needs his car for his work which has impacted on his work this week. They didn’t think that the fact they took his keys means that we now also have to change our locks because they have our front door key and they probably didn’t think that my nanna’s (who recently passed away) vinyl records were in the back of our car and probably have been lost forever.

However they also probably didn’t know that my first thought was that my husband was okay. He could have been beat up or even worse and quite frankly our world would have changed forever if that had happened. It made me hug my husband a little tighter that night and bring things into perspective. It also made me think of that saying…”what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” and what I’d really like to say to the robbers is that you stole our car but it’s a material thing, there’s something called insurance and you left behind intact something very precious to me. It’s really made me think about how I react to things and I’m not sure I would have had the same reaction a few years ago. I guess I really am growing up. Or I may just be surrounding myself with the right people a little more who keep me calm.

It also made me recognise how wonderful and caring the Twitter world is, I kinda knew before but it really made things hit home so thank you for your kind messages, we are both fine and my husband is coming to turns with being the passenger in the car for a change!