Black Lives Matter: Resources for Allies in the UK

It should have become abundantly clear by now that being ‘non-racist’ is not enough. It has never been enough. What we need to do right now, and forever moving forward, is to be actively anti-racist.

The emotional labour placed upon Black people to educate white people is overwhelming. We have relied for far too long on our Black friends to educate us about racial issues. Whiteness is not the ‘norm’ and yet that is how white people treat it. For years we have shared stories and history and created the label ‘Black history’. Because by default, whether you mean it or not, the term ‘history’ alone generally refers to the history of white people. (It was written from the perspective of white colonisers.) The same is true for so many other things that we racialise.

Before you jump in and start saying that ‘all lives matter’ and that you are not racist (in the same sentence) research, watch, read. Statements like this just show that you have not yet come to terms with white privilege and that somehow you feel threatened because you are not the centre of attention. If you feel uneasy about terms like Black Lives Matter then I encourage to really think about why an anti racist statement sits so uncomfortably with you.

Below are some resources pulled together by a friend of mine, with some that I have added in. I ask that you read and be open minded to views other than your own, to listen and to learn.

Documentaries / TV shows / films

13th (Netflix)

When they see us (Netflix)

American Son (Netflix)

Fruitvale Station (Netflix)

Just Mercy (Amazon Prime)

The house I live in (Amazon Prime)

Books

Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

White fragility: why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin Diangelo

We need to talk about race: understanding the black experience in white majority churches by Ben Lindsay

Think like a white man: conquering the world…….while black by Dr Boulé Whytelaw III and Nels Abbey

Black and British: a forgotten history by David Olusoga

The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla

The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness

YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atfVUgyEIOI – Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire  (also available as a podcast “Unfiltered with James O’Brien” look for the Akala episode)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzLT54QjclA&t=3s – Why “I’m not racist” is only half the story by Robin DiAngelo | Big Think

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwIx3KQer54 – Deconstructing white privilege by Robin DiAngelo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuZbbMOH0Qo – Feelings on racism in Britain – Is Britain Racist?

Podcasts

1619 by the New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/podcasts/1619-podcast.html

Code Switch – https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/?t=1591194504357

The Echo Chamber – https://open.spotify.com/show/61NN9bklzhHZs5YvR0jyoT?si=2JQgrvKDQLW18tvaBe-DmQ

Black Gals Livin – https://podcasts.apple.com/za/podcast/black-gals-livin/id1437752047

Say Your Mind – https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/say-your-mind/id1324118843

About Race by Reni Eddo – Lodge – https://www.aboutracepodcast.com/

Reports and publications

https://www.runnymedetrust.org/projects-and-publications.html – the Runnymede trust is an independent race equality think tank who have several publications on racial inequality in the UK.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/594336/race-in-workplace-mcgregor-smith-review.pdf – an Independent review by Baroness McGregor-Smith considering the issues affecting black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the workplace.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643001/lammy-review-final-report.pdf – an independent review commissioned by David Lammy MP into the treatment of, and outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system.

Articles

IS “WHITE PRIVILEGE” A USEFUL CONCEPT IN THE CURRENT UK CONTEXT? https://www.rota.org.uk/content/%E2%80%9Cwhite-privilege%E2%80%9D-useful-concept-current-uk-context

White privilege: a primer
https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/politics/article/what-is-white-privilege

10 Habits of Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Anti-Black https://www.welcometostratagem.com/post/10-habits-of-someone-who-doesn-t-know-they-re-anti-black

Race for Justice
https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/race-justice

UK Charities

Runnymedehttps://www.runnymedetrust.org/

Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trusthttps://www.stephenlawrence.org.uk/

Stand Against racism and inequality (SARI)https://www.sariweb.org.uk/

UK Black Pride – https://www.ukblackpride.org.uk/mission-statements

Race Equality Firsthttp://raceequalityfirst.org/

Black Minds Matterhttp://blackmindsmatter.co.uk/

Stand up to Racismhttps://www.standuptoracism.org.uk/

Take Action

Educate yourself – If you have access to the internet then you have access to an abundance of resources, ignorance is no excuse.

Write to your MP – Express your concern and ask them to take positive actions.

Write to your Police and Crime Commissioner – asking them what is being done about black deaths in custody, prison and how Black communities are being engaged with.

Speak up – Raise awareness and amplify the voices of Black people.

Listen – Listen to Black communities. Signpost The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network if you feel it may be useful.

Be aware – Do not encourage more Black emotional labour. They have been campaigning for years and they are tired. Do your own work.

Donate – Donate to the charities listed or research other charities that need support.

Be responsible for your actions – in-action is action.

If you have more resources to add please contact me.

Is it professional to talk about mental health in work?

I’ve just been reflecting back on the rollercoaster that is mental health. Just thinking about my own experiences and who it has made me today.

Something that I used to worry about was whether talking about my mental health at work is professional. It sounds quite ridiculous because talking about our health should be a priority. Yet when it comes to mental health in the work place I’ve sometimes had this dilemma on when and how to talk about it. This has mostly come from previous bad experiences. It’s like we accept the mental health of children but we forget that adults have mental health too.

If you read my ‘about’ page you can see that I’ve had ups and downs with mental health at least since I was 4. I’d say that it has impacted me massively throughout my whole life and particularly as a teenager. But as an adult it becomes a different kind of creature.

I don’t know if anyone else with mental health difficulties feels the same. As a teenager my mind was completely off the rails half the time but I could also hide behind that fact that I was a teenager and ‘thats just what teenagers do’.

We mostly associate irrational behaviour and things such as self harm with being young. People are constantly writing about social media and the effects this is having on the mental health of children.

My favourite lunchtime view 💚

As an adult it still remains a relatively un explored and spoken about area. We have come on heaps and bounds from where we were 10 years ago but we still have heaps and bounds to go.

So many organisations just don’t recognise the impact of mental health and how important just talking about it is. I have lost 2 jobs because of it. I left them but I say ‘lost’ because I would not have left them if mental health had been handled in the right way. If I hadn’t been made to feel like an anomaly or a burden. If I hadn’t been told that work is not the place to discuss mental health. In those experiences I was made so ill that I didn’t just loose my job, I lost parts of me too.

The past 2 years and roles I’ve had have been amazing for me. Being able to join up both mental health and professionalism. To know that having poor mental health is not ‘unprofessional’ and that it’s not unprofessional to talk about it in work; despite what managers have told me previously.

I’ve now learnt that being real and honest is actually what makes me more professional. Speaking openly and talking for others that aren’t ready to yet. The more honest I am and the more I teach others the more respect I seem to gain. Because being honest about how I’m feeling allows me to be the best version or myself.

I’m not completely there yet. I still have days where I have a day off for a ‘severe headache’ when I should just be honest and say it’s mental health. But that’s OK because these things take time. And time doesn’t always mean you’re moving forward, sometimes things happen that make us move ‘back’.

One of the biggest things mental health has taught me, and which we hear a lot now, is that it’s not a linear process. Being well is not about continuous improvement and never stepping back. It’s OK to have and accept the ‘off days’ that doesn’t mean you’re going backwards or that you have failed. It just means that today is an off day. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

The best technique I have learned over the years is ‘be kind to yourself’. Allow yourself the off days and don’t beat yourself up over it. The kinder we are to ourselves the easier the process can become.

On this rollercoaster that is life, be kind to yourself today.

XxXxX

Hide and seek – a stalkers game

WARNING: This blog paints a picture of how it can feel to be a victim of stalking. It talks about the fear of being home alone and feelings of being watched. I have given specific detail on the images I imagine and how I feel. Do not read this if you believe it could make you fear being home alone, being watched or stalked, or might trigger a bad psychological response. This could also be harmful for people with OCD and reoccurring thoughts.

Sadly I don’t think even a German Shepherd could stop me from being scared. This cutie certainly can’t!

Home alone and it’s after sun set. I’m absolutely terrified to the point I can hear my own heart beat and I feel completely sick. I can’t even explain the level of fear I have when I’m home alone and my husband is working nights.

It’s not like a subtle anxiety, or a really scary experience, it’s completely and utterly paralysing fear. At every moment I am waiting for a man to appear from behind the curtain or under the bed. I don’t fear that I might be hurt. I fear that he has nothing other than a creepy agenda to just stand and watch. The watching man.

Not long ago I was stalked for almost 2 years by a complete stranger. Eventually the police interviened and put an end to it. I have to say that they were amazing and I will forever be grateful. I had a full team pose as civilians to catch him and stop him. From time to time I still receive a call to ask if things are OK and if I’ve had any further trouble with him.

I don’t know if this experience has made this whole ‘home alone’ situation what it is today. What I do know is that my jaw is aching because I have been grinding my teeth continually since my husband left the door.

I’m in a constant battle between wanting to look behind every door, under the beds, behind the curtains and in the cupboards. I’m stuck between checking and being too terrified to check because I’m almost certain someone is there just watching.

Without a shadow of a doubt I know I can hear breathing, it isn’t mine and it isn’t the dog’s. I can hear someone clicking with their mouth in the other room and winding me up, playing mind games. A bit like my stalker did in his variety of ways. The very fact that I wrote ‘my stalker’ makes it feel like I have some kind of ownership. He’s not ‘my stalker’ he’s a person that decided to stalk someone and unfortunately that someone was me.

I decide to check the window ledge in my room to make sure there’s no one hiding behind the curtain. I should explain that I don’t even think a 3 year old could fit and hide on that window ledge but I’m completely convinced that there is a man hiding there. As I check, I’m haunted by the image of a man standing in the middle of the garden just looking up at me expressionless. He’s not really there but in my mind he is, and to me that’s 100% reality.

I open the under stairs cupboard to get the dogs dental chew. I’m convinced that there’s a man curled in the corner hiding and just waiting for me to find him so that he can stare at me with an expressionless face. It’s like a constant game of hide and seek. Now I want to shut the cupboard door but I know he’ll be standing behind it as I close it. Just there watching, not actually doing anything.

I go to my bed, which is the most horrifying part. Checking the locks before bed and turning the downstairs lights out. I want to leave the hallway light on upstairs but I can’t. I can’t because then I might see the shadow of his footsteps under the door. As I sit here in my bed I can hear creaking. I know the creaking is him standing at the door just breathing. Just standing there doing nothing with his face against the door. The creaking is him in the wardrobe, under the bed, in the roof. He is everywhere and everything all at once.

I need to cry but I’m too scared to make a noise because then he’ll know I’m there and that I’m awake. He wants me to be awake because then he can frighten me by just being there.

It’s only 11:30pm. My husband left at 9pm. It’s been 2 and a half hours and I have 5 and a half left to go. Over 5 more hours of being slowly psychologically torchured by a man who’s name I’ll never know.

I hear a noise on the TV, an odd laugh, a bang, a click. I see a menacing face, an odd glare. Even the most innocent of programs can trigger a thought for me and send a wave of fear and heat through me. I can’t even distract myself to mute my fear.

What makes this most scary is that I don’t even know his agenda. He’s the ultimate psychological thriller, just pure creepyness. Because he has no agenda he has nothing to loose and that makes him even more powerful. He doesn’t fit in to social norms or believe that both the actual law or basic laws of human decency apply to him. He has nothing to loose and he fears nothing. He smiles in a jail cell because he gets pleasure from fear.

He’ll play the long game, wait in the dark for hours until I’m home alone before he comes out. I suspect he likes that he can remain so calm, and I suspect it’s for sexual gratification.

One of the most terrifying things about my real stalker is that for the longest time I didn’t know he was there. When I finally realised I remembered him being there all along. I can’t get over the fact that someone can watch and follow you for so long and yet remain hidden in the shadows for the same length of time. As soon as I noticed him the memories of him being there, all the times before hit me like a freight train. Layer upon layer began building in my mind within seconds. He had been there all along.

I remembered he was the guy that touched my leg on the train whilst pretending to be asleep months ago. I remembered all of the other times he had made physical contact with me. Then suddenly I think of all the times I don’t know about, all the things I didn’t remember and all the times I didn’t see him, but he was there.

In the weeks before police intervention, I began making records of his behaviours and when he appeared. I took pictures of him watching me. The one video I will never forget was when I secretly filmed him on a train journey whilst I pretended to be asleep. He never broke his stare once. He never stopped looking, staring expressionless, not once did he break his gaze. As a lady stood in his eye sight he lent to the side so that he could look around her to just watch.

I’ll never know his name, I’ll never know who he was, but most importantly and most haunting of all, I’ll never know why.

It’s the never knowing why he did it, that means I’ll always be watched. My images of the watching man are not of him. They’re the figure of someone else but they are born from him. The image I see are from that disgusting Luther episode of the man hiding under the bed. That’s my mind’s invention of how the watching man appears in my empty home.

When my husband is here it’s the safest place in the world. When I’m staying away from home with a friend or family member I feel safe. But whenever I am alone, in the dark, at home or away. If I’m alone the watching man will always be there.

He might not be physically real anymore but to me his affects on me are completely real. For as long as he is there I will continue to play hide and seek with him. I will continue to know that he is everywhere and everything all at once. I will continue to feel him there. Waiting, breathing, watching.

Statistics show that 700,000 women are stalked each year. Victims do not tend to report to the police until the 100th incident – which is similar to my own experiences.

If you or someone you know needs help you can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300

I found them very helpful as well as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust http://www.suzylamplugh.org/

If you have ever been stalked or you care for someone that has been, know that it can take time for the effects to surface and that sometimes they make no sense. If you need support then make sure you reach out.

Only 4 hours left till I’m not home alone anymore.

XxXxX

What lasts forever?

I never know whether to put a warning at the start of some of these posts when they explore certain topics that may upset people. If you’re not in the right place to read about lack of control, lost relationships or the unknown then maybe this one isn’t for you. Or maybe it will help you to see that you’re not alone in your thinking and that there are others who understand.

I’ve had so many people come and go from my life, the strongest of relationships fade, to the point that I kind of feel that any relationship I have might not exist in 2, 5, 10 years. That’s not because I don’t want them to, but if the universe has taught me anything it’s that very few things are forever.

It can be a scary place to be. It’s quite worrying to think that my entire support network could be completely different or gone over the years. It’s quite an empty feeling to have. Knowing that your only guaranteed constant in your life is yourself. When something bad or upsetting happens I always think ‘I’m so glad I have X to help me through’ or ‘all that matters is that I have Y by my side’. But the scariest thought comes when my brain tells me ‘what makes you think they’re yours to keep’.

Thank goodness for puppies 💕

I want to write something comforting about how as individuals we need to be OK with the unknown and trust in time. I want to write that the relationships that mean the most to us will always be there. But today OCD isn’t allowing me to. It’s telling me that no matter what I do, at some point it’s going to be just me on my own and that any relationship I ever make, no matter how deep it feels to me, really might not be that deep or meaningful to others. OCD makes me feel unstable with no solid platform or level of control.

I have incredible friendships with close friends that would give me the world and I could never explain to them what they mean to me. It’s just pretty shit that OCD has this way of convincing me that eventually I’ll be alone and left again by different people over the years. I remind myself of all the people who also come into my life in recent years and the new relationships that I create but that just leaves me wondering who will ever really know who I am? If all my relationship end up being transient and ever changing.

Fear of being alone isn’t just an OCD thing or necessarily a mental health thing. But OCD does make it more real for me. It doesn’t become an ‘if’ it becomes a ‘when’. And even if I know in my heart of hearts that my closest relationships are here to stay my brain does weird stuff that tells me to not be so ridiculous, of course I’ll eventually be alone. I feel pretty selfish saying that.

It takes me back to the day I brought my wedding dress. The second I put my card in the machine my brain said ‘what are you doing? Why are you doing all of this? You’ll be dead before then anyway. You’re not going to be alive in a year. Why are you bothering with any of this?’

It actually felt ridiculous to buy a dress I would never wear. The thought and feeling was so real to me that I almost told the sales person that I was being ridiculous because I was going to die soon. And in my mind that felt like a completely reasonable thing to say. I found it really hard to enter my pin in to that machine at the same time as being absolutely sure that I wouldn’t be here to wear my dress anyway. Not because I didn’t want to be here, but because I just genuinely believed I didn’t have a choice and that nothing lasts forever including me.

If you’re friends with someone that has OCD or poor mental health, know that they probably deeply care about you even if they are annoyingly always concerned that it’s all going to end soon.

If you’re friends with me then thank you. Thank you for dealing with my randomness, my sometimes anxious behaviour and my often fickleness. Sometimes there is method in the ‘madness’ or in this case, a reason.

If you’re in my life and you’re here to stay then thank you for being my rock, because as with any day living with poor mental health, I need you now more than ever and I appreciate you for everything you do for me. I’m so lucky to have an amazing husband and so many amazing friends that mean the world.

No matter how close or far from me you may be, I know you’re there and that to me is huge.

‘mad’ as always

XxXxX

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. 💚

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. 💚

So many of us are affected or know people that are affected by suicide. Sometimes we hear people refer to suicide as ‘selfish’ or people complain about ‘inconvenience’ when it means their trains don’t run. Just remember that someone was ill enough to end their own life and that’s a pretty awful place to be in. It is not selfish and it is not an inconvenience. Nobody wants to be ill and nobody ever wants to feel that it’s their only way out.

Usually people share posts and ask others to do the same. ‘share or post this so that others know you’re there’. They encourage you to reach out and ask how others are doing. But we often forget to ask ourselves how we are too. So today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, reach out to others and encourage others to do the same. But don’t forget to reach out to yourself also because it’s not selfish to make sure that you’re OK too 💚

Try Something

It’s been about 8 months now since I started my new role and over 8 months since my last blog so I thought it was about time for an update.

In my last blog I spoke about how it’s OK to be scared of change and to take those adventures. I explained that sometimes adventures and scary changes pay off and that sometimes they don’t. If they don’t then you have to find a new adventure.

I’m pleased to say that this new venture has really paid off and I’m really enjoying my new role and the people. Of course I miss my old work family too but I’m so glad I made the decision to not let fear of the unknown hold me back.

There were times at the start where I felt a little lost because my anxiety would tell me that I wouldn’t fit in. However at every turn my anxiety was proved wrong. It’s funny how nothing ever turns out quite as bad as your anxiety tells you it will.

It seems the more you begin to have faith in yourself the more the world listens because your behaviours change along with the way that you treat yourself.

I always talk about development in work and how 70% of what we learn is on the job and through doing. Only 10% is actually through formal learning with 20% being social. So I challenge you today, or this week, to do something outside of your comfort zone. Something that will challenge you. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be something small like taking a different route to work (which to some will be a huge challenge) or having lunch with someone new. Perhaps you could make that phone call that you keep putting off?

Take the opportunity to remember this moment and how you felt before doing it. If it goes wrong then that’s OK, you will still have learnt something from it, even if it’s just what not to do. If it goes right then you will also have learnt something.

Don’t leave the development of you or the betterment of yourself in someone else’s hands because only you can follow your true journey to see where you have come from and where you feel you want to go. And if you’re not sure where you want to go then try something because in doing nothing you are still making a choice about where you’re going.

Start today

XxXxX

Ecstatically Terrified

Some of you are reading this because you subscribe (thank you! And sorry!) Some because you’ve seen it on Facebook and hopefully some of you because the title means something to you.

Ecstatically terrified probably explains my emotions 50% of the time. As a human being I’m extremely adventurous and excited about my next journey. As a human being with anxiety I’m terrified of everything. And even if you don’t suffer with anxiety we all live with a little fear. So I’m in a constant state of unbalance, between ‘I want to fly to Nepal’ and ‘if I don’t make myself sick the plane will crash’ (OCD). ‘I want to visit Everest Base camp’ and ‘it will be my fault when my husband dies on the way up’. (Typing that makes me feel guilty like somehow it’s now more likely, I’ll be surprised if I don’t delete it.)

I felt the same hiking in California and Yosemite but when I made it to the top of Taft Point looking 8,000 feet down all my fears were gone. I could have died right there knowing I had truly lived. It taught me something I had said all along…

“The best views come after the hardest climb”

I mean in this sense it was literally. It really was the best view I’d seen in my life after the most exhausting climb. But it rings even more true in everyday life. Some of you will be going through the hardest battles you’ve ever faced and some of you will be facing your own challenges day to day, but you’ll make it through and I promise you it will be worth the climb.

Right now I only have 2 weeks left at my current job before starting a new opportunity. I’m absolutely terrified. Terrified because I love the people I currently work with. It’s the only work place that have accepted me for who I am, and a big part of why I’ve been quiet the last year because I haven’t felt the need to write so much. They have taught me that I am enough. They have loved me for my successes and my flaws. They have listened and they have taught me to listen, and for the rest of my life I will be grateful. I don’t know that they will ever understand the impact they have made on my life from now and forever.

That’s exactly why I have to leave. It would be so easy for me to stay, to be comfortable in my role but to never push the boundary and explore more. Being that routine makes me comfortable, I need to keep challenging myself to keep challenging my mental health and grow my comfort zone. I’m ecstatic because I get to take on a new role in a University which is so exciting to me because I love learning. The people seem incredible and I’m really excited to learn new things and meet new people.

So here I am. Stuck somewhere in-between ecstatic and terrified. I’ve thought about staying put, staying in my safe place with the people that have looked after me so well this past year and a half, taking the time to understand my OCD and anxieties. But if I do that I’m never giving the rest of the world an opportunity to prove that it too can be kind.

And I remind myself that if it all goes wrong, if I slip and I fall again, I’ll pull myself up and keep walking like I did before. I’ll climb up that mountain and I’ll remember Taft Point and feeling more content than I have in my entire life.

Whatever you may be facing now remember that when you get to where you need to be it really will be magical. You might not even know when you will succeed or what that even looks like. I didn’t know that my current role was going to be so good for me, I just made that jump with no expectations or preconceived thoughts. I would like to say that they fixed me but really they just allowed me the space I needed to fix myself. Sometimes all we need is a little patience from others.

I recently read online that in video games you know you’re going in the right direction when you meet the biggest enemies. Whatever your enemy may be and whatever battle you are facing know that it will be worth it and you will make it through. Don’t allow your excitement and ‘ecstatic’ to loose against your ‘terrified’ and when it does remember that it’s OK to slip and fall, no mountaineer ever made it to the top without some stumbles. It’s what you do after the stumble that matters. Get up and keep climbing.

The view really will be one of the best you’ve ever seen.

A Circle of Worthless

Find your Rainbow 🌈

So looking through my drafts it says I wrote this on the 2nd January 2017, almost 2 years ago.

It’s always good to look back sometimes to see how far we’ve come. I can honestly say I feel differently now in a good way. Don’t get me wrong, I still do have days where I feel this way, but certainly not on a daily basis like I did back then. I’ve also been helped by the most incredible woman who has taught me that feedback is a gift and that you don’t always have to accept it. Now I see feedback as an opportunity rather than fear it – more on that another time.

I thought it was worth a post anyway, to show that even when you feel like this you can still turn it around so that you don’t have to. Sometimes you just have to learn to find the rainbow in the rain.

XxX

Sometimes I feel totally worthless, like I bring no benefit whatsoever to this earth or to what I do. Sometimes receiving ‘constructive’ feedback, to me I just hear ‘you’re so stupid’ ‘how thick can you be’ ‘I may as well have done it myself’ ‘what’s the point in you being here’ ‘you’re like a child’ ‘do you have no initiative’ ‘do I really have to explain this to you again’.What’s the solution? I honestly don’t know. Can people perhaps sugar coat their feedback more? Possibly. But would that really make a huge difference? When all is said and done I will still be receiving feedback on something I need to improve upon.

I seem to lack the ability to defend myself sometimes, even if I’m right, not wanting to appear ‘defensive’. So I take the blame myself, perhaps I didn’t position that right, maybe I should have explained better, no honestly it’s completely my fault, I probably am just totally useless. Further reinforcing my belief that they think I’m useless.

I often wonder what happens once that door is closed behind me. Do those I work or interact with roll their eyes like ‘she’s just not getting it’ ‘spoon feeding her again’ ‘argh she’s so exhausting’ ‘she’s so lazy’.

Day by day I get this impression that I’m just not good enough and I never will be. I’ll always be the one riding on the coat tails of other’s successes. And anything I do create myself will just be pointless, completely off the mark and wrong.

So why am I here? Why do you want me here? I’m continuously a burden that you have to help and that is totally and completely annoying. To top it off I bring no benefit whatsoever because anything I ever do will never be good enough.

So in the end I stop trying. I stop trying to be great. I stop trying to be my best me. And I stop trying to have a purpose. Because when I do try it’s never quite right and it’s just another example of a time where I’m wrong. So I accept that I am useless, that I am stupid, that I’m totally unqualified and that I’m totally worthless. It’s easier to produce nothing than to produce something that is totally pointless.

And then I feel isolated. Wondering what the person next to me or in front of me is thinking about me. I can’t concentrate so I stare at a blank screen reading the same line 10 times until I realise people must think I’m mad or most likely lazy ‘she’s not doing anything’ ‘waste of oxygen’ ‘here I am working my ass off and she’s just sitting there again.’

It’s funny, I’ve only felt this way for the past year. I was always so confident in myself and my work. Always ready to take on the next adventure or fight the next battle. But something changed in me in my last 2 roles. My only regular feedback was the negative kind and anything positive just, didn’t need to be said. You can only face so much negativity before you start thinking ‘what’s the point’.

It’s a vicious circle. A circle that I’m not sure I will ever escape. I’m not good enough = anything I do will be pointless = don’t do anything through fear of doing it wrong = she’s lazy = what’s the point of her she’s just a burden = I’m not good enough. And so on.

The only way I will ever get out of this circle for good is to accept that what people think of me is not who I am. Sure I can try really hard and produce something really worthwhile but it’s only a matter of time before I will fall down again. So the only way to truly escape is to accept myself as I am and to not be driven by what others think of me and place my worth on the value of what others think.

Easier said than done.

XxX

Christmas OCD happy, sad, and everything in-between

Ok so I haven’t written in a while so this is long overdue. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right topic and other times I think of the perfect thing to say but just don’t get round to actually typing. So here I am actually typing.

With Christmas around the corner, people arguing about when the tree should actually go up and the fact that there are Christmas cards in the shop in October. I’ll be honest, as long as it makes people happy it doesn’t bother me that one person puts up a tree in October or another person December. What actually makes me sad at Christmas is happiness. All those that can’t relate right now are thinking ‘OK that’s a bit weird’. Hear me out.

It’s not the happiness of others that makes me sad, it’s my own happiness. It’s a really difficult one to explain really and I’ve spent years trying to understand it. Is it my OCD and being terrified of loosing what I have, maybe I feel I don’t deserve it when so many others struggle, maybe it’s unmet expectations of being able to be with all family members all the time, is it the break in routine and a fear that Christmas traditions won’t be kept? Or maybe it’s all of them put together.

For me, and many others I know with mental health difficulties it can be one thing or memory that brings on that emotion. I remember being about 17 maybe one evening late in December. My mum called me to say we’re going Hamleys today and to look at the Christmas lights in London (something we do together every year) this year it hadn’t been planned and my parents had decided at that moment that today was the day. They asked if I wanted them to pick me up from my boyfriend’s (now husband) house. I thought about it but answered too quickly perhaps.

I said No.

That year I missed the trip to Hamleys.

Even typing that makes me cry. Who says no to spending time with family at Christmas? Who says no to keeping a family tradition? In truth lots of people do and it doesn’t mean they don’t care about family it just means they have to skip this one event this year. Unfortunately many people like myself with OCD or other mental health difficulties will hate themselves forever. I’ve never gotten over that and I don’t think I ever will. From then on my feelings around Christmas time changed. To me it became a time of year where I let people down and don’t do enough to bring happiness. To me I broke my mum’s heart and to her she probably doesn’t even remember it and probably didn’t even mind. My mind tells me that it taught me I was capable of choosing doing something else over being with my family.

As a person who’s OCD tells them they are going to loose everything all the time and everyone is going to die, knowing that you just rejected your last trip to Hamleys with your family is like living in hell. I instantly knew I had made a mistake and spent most of the evening crying.

Top that off with the fact that emotionally I believe every Christmas is the last. And not my last. I wouldn’t be nearly as concerned if it were my last. It’s the belief that it could be my husband’s last, my mum’s last, my sisters last, etc. And because OCD tells you something WILL happen, not that it might, it means I’m already grieving for a loved one every Christmas. And how selfish is that? So many people actually ARE grieving for a loved one and here I am with mine unable to fully appreciate it – that makes me feel pretty selfish to top it all off. Sadly I can’t control my OCD or irrational thoughts because, well they’re irrational!

As I walk down the street I see people sleeping out in the cold and I wonder what I have to celebrate. How can I celebrate whilst there are people sleeping alone outside on Christmas day? Guilt. Again everything is about why I should feel bad and why I’m selfish for being happy.

It’s a difficult one to tackle because let’s be honest, feeling responsible for those less fortunate than us is not irrational and is actually very helpful in society because we should be caring for others. Unfortunately for me, coupled with everything else above, I spend an awful lot of time hating myself for any kind of happiness. When in reality I should be appreciating it.

It seems in life in general the happier I am or the better things become, the more terrified and ill I become inside, because now I have more to loose. The more in love I am the harder it will be when I fall, the better my relationship are with friends and family the more crushed I will be when that person’s gone. So what do you do? Hug less? Try to see things more rationally and less emotionally? All easier said than done and neither of them very healthy.

So I ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ I build every relationship, try to maintain every tradition and convince others to understand why it’s so important to put the time in, to make the effort, attend the family traditions because one day they will all be gone and all we’ll have left are our memories. Pretty awful outlook to have on Christmas I know. So this year, if you’re like me, try to be a bit more forgiving of yourself. Do the things you’ve always done, and spend time with the people you need to. But remember your life, love and relationships are not defined by that one moment, that one evening or even present. They’re defined by the small things, the Monday morning ‘how are you’ text and the Friday afternoon coffee, the ‘ill he right there’ when you’re needed. That’s what people remember and that’s what matters.

Buy breakfast for the person sleeping outside and give to those that need it most. Just remember that you do deserve some happiness. I’ll be honest I’m still working on taking my own advice but I’m sure I’ll get there.

For those friends and family that don’t experience Christmas the same way and that don’t suffer with mental health. Know that when I get upset that you don’t want to keep the tradition this year, or your too busy to come to Hamleys or to have Christmas dinner. When I get upset and probably come across as pushy and mean it’s because it means something more to me.

It means more to me than I could ever explain and more than you could ever understand.

XxXxX

What is strength? 


We talk about strength so often, ‘she’s so strong’ ‘he has such strength’ but what does it actually mean? And does it mean the same to you as it does your neighbour? 

A quick Google search will show you multiple definitions we have for the word.

 

I would say my husband is incredibly strong, he can bench 120kg and barely break a sweat but I would say that his mental strength far surpasses anything he can do physically. It would have to for him to survive me everyday!

In our family, and amongst friends, I have always been seen as strong, robust or a bouncy ball as they used to say ‘always bouncing back’. At some point in life, after so many bounces, you begin to loose your elasticity and your once bubbly and energetic bounce becomes more of a hauling yourself off the floor whilst trying to not cause further damage or sustain long term injury.

I really do feel like that bouncy ball, a year or 2 ago you could have kicked me down and pushed me round, you would have found that I still come back smiling. Today I’m a much more fragile kind of ball perhaps more glass than bounce. A pretty strong type of glass mind, just much more open/transparent and a little less bouncy.


So I fall harder and I recover slower. Does that make me ‘weak’ or any less strong? It all depends on your interpretation of strength. Before my mental health got really bad, bouncing back was part of my nature and not something I found so difficult. Now days I find myself taking the negative things in life much more to heart and they affect me more deeply. My mental health can be both my best friend and my bully. And there is no harder bully to battle than your own mind.

If somebody makes it into work when they really don’t want to but I only just make it to my living room, does that make them mentally stronger than I am? What most people fail to realise is that to some, making the smallest steps can be the biggest achievement. For me, getting on a bus or going to a social event is one the bravest things I can do and is a time where I show incredible strength. Because strength is relative. 


Lifting 120kg on the moon might not be all that impressive so it really depends upon which planet you’re starting from. To me the rest of the world experiences set backs, and life in general, relative to the gravity on the moon. I on the other hand can experience them relative to the gravity at the centre of the earth. It’s still the same amount of weight, technically, but our ability to hold the weight and the pressure it places upon us are very different depending on where we stand. 

Just because you might handle a situation different to someone else or because you can’t work 24 hours 7 days a week doesn’t mean that the person who can is stronger than you. 


The times when we are at our strongest are when we are most scared but continue anyway. When we ‘feel the fear but do it anyway’. 

We are all uniquely and independently strong. There is no such thing as that awful phrase ‘man up’ which disgusts me to my core. What does it even mean? The words ‘you hit like a girl’. Where does that even come from? They’re ‘weak’ or they ‘just can’t handle it’ you have no idea what that person is having to ‘handle’, not a clue.

The next time you feel the need to compare your ‘weakness’ to someone else’s strength, ask yourself, are we dealing with this problem under the same gravity? 


Yesterday I did something that made me terrified. I thought I was going to faint the whole way there. I even had a friend kindly come along to provide support. Part of me was kicking myself for not being ‘strong enough’ to not cry, to be head strong, to face the fear alone. But do you know what? I did it. I was strong not because I wasn’t scared when others might not be, not because I was ‘head strong’ or ‘determined’ but because I was absolutely and completely terrified and yet, I still did it. 

“I was powerful not because I was’t scared but because I went on so strongly, despite the fear.”

Never mistake your silence for weakness, your kindness for acceptance. Never believe you are not enough because today your head and mental health was just too much to fight. Today you are alive because you win your fight every day. And for that you are the strongest person I know. 

Do not be afraid to be afraid.

XxX