The Uphill Climb to Defeating Stigma

So I’m buying a house, if any of you follow me on twitter you’ll know I am buying a house. You ask what does that have to do with defeating stigma well this, part of the process when you see your mortgage broker or adviser is life insurance. Meaning that if something happened to one of us the mortgage is covered and the survivor wouldn’t need to struggle paying it on their own. Great I thought we’ll have us some of that, just in case, you know it makes sense, seems like a sensible thing to do. Except for me currently it’s not that easy see the insurance company won’t insure me…. Why you ask?

Well you need to fill in a survey for them to decide if they can cover you, there is a question innocently waiting to trip you up… Have you in the last x years ever thought about or attempted suicide? Well we all know my medical history with my mental health by now so it probably isn’t a surprise I ticked the yes box because I have had thoughts of suicide less than 2 years ago. Then I get a difficult call from my mortgage broker telling me that I’d been declined for life cover; I simply asked ‘was it the mental health side of things?’ She went back, checked and then had to explain to me that the insurer admitted to her that they do not distinguish between suicidal thoughts and suicidal actions and that they consider them equally a high risk.

Wrong and wrong so very wrong

  1. Let’s be clear here suicidal thoughts and acts are two very different things I may think about ending it but that does not mean for one instance that I will. To assume that is to not understand the complexities of mental health and suicidal feelings.
  2. I’m sorry but neither of those make you a risk, that just is degrading I am as at risk of getting hit by a bus as ending it. More to the point what if I had attempted it to automatically assume that makes me more of a risk than someone else is just damaging and perpetuates the stigmas surrounding mental health.
  3. The time frame they asked I think was the last 3 or 5 years so I have suicidal thoughts nearly 2 years ago myself, thank you for thinking that all the work I have done to improve my wellbeing is nothing. Thank you for putting me in the same box as you would have done at my worse. Thank you for deciding what makes me a risk without understanding the nuances of my mental health.

This morning I went on Mind’s website to read their definitions of suicidal feeling you can find it here in their A-Z Mental Health according to their website:

 “Suicide is the act of intentionally taking your own life. Suicidal feelings can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life, or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide, or making clear plans to take your own life.”

See there is an ever so slight distinction in those two lines, we all know what the act of suicide is but feeling can range as the next line shows, and those feelings do not automatically equate to a suicide attempt. Now do not get me wrong I know from experience that those feelings can easily become an attempt, but to assume that and to figure either way we are a risk is damaging and irresponsible.

Some other key comments from Mind’s website on suicidal thoughts are as follows:

“Everyone’s experience of suicidal feelings is unique to them. You might feel unable to cope with the enduring difficult feelings you are experiencing. You may feel less like you want to die and more like you cannot go on living the life you have.”

See that line there? It isn’t as straight forward as always feeling like ending it, sometimes it’s more about feeling that you just can’t keep putting one foot in front of the other, is that different? Well in a lot of ways yes. You see there are so many nuances and complex emotions involved in mental health and a bundle approach to handling all is very dangerous.

Finally I would like to share this comment from Mind’s website:

“Suicidal feelings can be overwhelming. How long these feelings last differs for everyone. It is common to feel as if you’ll never be happy or hopeful again. But with support and self-help, the majority of people who have felt suicidal go on to live fulfilling lives.”

Apparently the insurance company in question doesn’t seem to think this; to them I am as much of a risk as I was at my worst 18 months – 2 years ago. Thanks, because you know what that takes away from me? All the hard work I have done to do exactly what that statement above says, to go on to live a fulfilling life. It removes from me the pride I have in working so damn hard to focus on my wellbeing  and to put my mental health first, damaging, disgusting and downright hurtful approach to dealing with a sensitive subject.

Another outcome is today when talking to my partner about him seeking help for his own mental health issues was that he said the experience I’d had makes him nervous to seek help. He simply doesn’t want to be black listed as a risk because he took the stand to support his own wellbeing and mental health because in essence that is what this is. By being strong enough to stand up and say ‘Yes I have Mental Health Issues’ I am now an insurance risk, way to go with all the talk in modern society of ending stigma to you know make me feel like a stigma, but I wouldn’t insure my life with your company if you paid me now.

Tell me a story – Make it a good one, make it have battles and…

So for this blog I wanted to talk about storytelling and the involvement of storytelling in D&D and the ability to be a good storyteller and it’s importance to being a good DM. What does a good storyteller mean to a DM? If you aren’t imaginative or creative at spinning tales do those make you a bad DM? Is storytelling all that D&D and being a DM is about? Well OK the intention is to answer these questions or possibly it’s to inconsistently ramble till there are enough words for a blog, whichever happened first most likely.

So the other night I was chatting with my boyfriend about creating stories and day dreaming as a way to stop your mind wondering to those unhelpful , dark thoughts that it tends to when you are on your own. He was saying he wanted to try and create more stories in his head to keep his mind active and on positive thoughts, and because he’s just venturing into being a DM my response was ‘just think this might give you more story ideas so you can run some more games’. His response was that he felt  he wasn’t creative enough at storytelling to do more that encounter heavy one shots, and certainly (he says anyways) not as creative or a storyteller like I am.

Now here’s the thing I don’t consider myself a story telling, I do not consider myself if I am honest the most creative of people.  Yes I have created an entire world (my own cannon and very little out of the books) I mean OK I even have a story published and I work in marketing none of that to me really in my head makes me a story teller. My sister is a story teller – she wrote a book and everything so she certainly has proof, I like to call myself a weaver of threads. For me being a good DM can mean a lot of different things and I am not sure being an excellent story teller alone is one of them. I say this because some people like puzzle games or encounter heavy games, games full of traps and tricks, games with very little role-playing – all of these count as valid ways to play Dungeons and Dragons or in fact any RPG. After all there is no right and wrong way some people think in terms or skirmishes others in terms of deep character development. Story telling is one small part of an overall – it’s the bit that can wrap around the encounters – the bit that helps the characters grow and develop, but is that always necessary? Is that how every game must be played?

Also out of interest who is actually telling the story you, the players, or both? There are so many paths and twists that are starting to appear in my story and they aren’t all down to me. The players took the handful of notes I scribbled down and into them they fed their beliefs, their emotions and suddenly I am bribing them with cake to forgive the Gods who only got things wrong because players and I had to write their God chosen characters out of a game.

I think there is a lot more that goes into being a DM and for me personally I think it’s those things I tap into rather than being a storyteller. Firstly an ability to use what is given to me, see here’s the crux of my point so much of the apparent ‘storytelling’ I do is to take what the players hand me and develop it, use it and most importantly play with it, some twists and turns can come from what the characters do as much as the twists I create in the overall story. I am always mentally storing what they say and do to use at a later date to my own advantage and possibly to theirs. To me the key is being able to think on my feet and improvise, to use common sense and just think how would that look, work, sound, feel, the rest really guys is down to you – you give the colour and flavour – it is you who pulled that NPC out of 2D obscurity and right into the main plot.

More importantly I think the key to being a good DM is to just do it, stop questioning and second guessing you grab a book and go for it. Remember we all DM differently and we all play D&D differently your way is not wrong being a good DM for each of us is different so don’t compare yourself, I’m no Matt Mercer or Chris Perkins but hey I am still a DM and I’m never going to say any different. Also remember just because you are new your ideas are just as valid the way you do it is just as right as everyone else – that’s what’s great about a game where we make it all up in our minds – your mind is just as awesome as the next persons.

What’s your DM/GM style?

So what’s your style?  Are you fast and loose with the rules, or a bit of a rule Lawyer? Do you carefully craft a world spending hours on prep, writing and researching your world? Or are you more likely to go in with no notes and make it all up in the spur of the moment? Or perhaps you sit somewhere in between. Are you out to kill each of your players or make them heroes? The more I meet both Dungeon Masters and Games Masters the thing I am learning is we are all so much alike and so vastly different at the same time. The best part of being a Games Master or a Dungeon Master it is there is no right or wrong; there is no hard & fast rule to what makes a good DM because a good DM comes down simply to what type of game you want to play and if you and your players are right for each other and the game style. Some players and Games Masters do not work together, nothing wrong in that – no failures here you learn and move on and up to new games.

Personally I’m the King and Hero maker type I want my players to succeed and become heroes, but only in my main campaign. I have spent hour’s thinking about the world and their journey and for the most part I would rather they made it to the end and got to save the world, stopped the bad, reached level 20 and receive their epic Boons. However, I am also not going to force that hand, hey if they die they die, just because the Gods have chosen them as Heroes that does not mean they have never ending lives. Also on that factor, bringing back someone from the dead isn’t, in this world, always going to be easy just because they have a Cleric, I might want them to be heroes but I don’t want to make thing easy and I certainly don’t want them to go through the campaign without suffering because really where is the fun in that?

In One-Shots it is a little different and my DM style is a lot more let’s see how much damage we can do and what fun we can have. It’s silly and ridiculous and about pushing the characters and the rules as much as possible. Although I will be honest as I have gained more experience as a DM that side has come out more both in one-shots and occasionally in my main campaign. When I started last year I pulled my punches metaphorically so to speak because I didn’t really know what the players would be capable of and what was achievable at the different levels. With more experience under my belt and a little bit of trial and error and a lot of talking to other DMs that knowledge is getting stronger and I am getting more confident.

When it comes to creating a world, a session, one-shots and the rules I play it pretty fast and loose. For the rules I don’t worry too much if my interpretation is right or wrong so long as the game runs smoothly the players over all have fun (because well it’s not always exactly fun, it can be terrifying being a player.) and that they players and myself agree (or at least they accept) my interpretation of the rules. We sometimes talk it through and if I make a ruling that they aren’t sure of I am happy to discuss and hear their point of view. As for prepping as much as I style myself of Matt Mercer school of DMing (and no not because he’s cool or well-known I just like his style and it works for me and my heavily story & Role-playing based campaign) that is where my similarities end. I wish I could be more like him in his in-depth planning and creating – with a variety of voices and accents I could reel out at a drop of the hat, however the truth is I am not and I do not think I could ever be.  For me the impulsive, improvised element works, I get too stressed if I over plan and the story becomes to ridge. I create better and, I think, more interesting things if I think on my feet rather than spend time meticulously planning and writing things down. I really struggle with the concept of writing session notes, other than bullet points to trigger my memory on what the town is like, the people of course (mostly) key NPC names – until I have forgotten one that I’ve had to think up in the moment and then forget to write it down.

I will be honest my style doesn’t always allow for remembering intricate details and I don’t think my world will ever be as beautiful or as fully realised as say it is in something like Critical Role by hey this is a hobby that is good for my creativity, confidence and my mental health and therefore I am not going to stress if my bit of fun isn’t done the right way or I could be more in-depth – see that’s the point all are styles are different and nobodies is better or right. You DM you and I’ll DM me and so long as we all have fun and as a group of friends, laugh, cry, feel sacred and all the other D&D related emotions in between then you did right.

Trying to Thrive rather than just Survive

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week has the theme Surviving or Thriving as this week is just over year on from the worst point in my mental health to date; I wanted to look at my own surviving and to see if I had finally reached the destination of thriving. So having listened to the Mental Health Foundations podcast (which if you haven’t and would like to you can find it here) I most certainly during 2015 and the first half of 2016 was surviving. I barely could keep my head above water, just trying to keep on top of the washing, life, house work, work, friends, relationships and everything else was a struggle I just felt I was drowning more and more.

So am I thriving right now? Well I am certainly facing life’s stresses and dealing with its challenges better, I guess you could say I have found meaning and a purpose and I am trying to reach out and form closer relationships. It’s only really when you sit down and look how far you have come you can see that you no longer just survive on a day to day basses. For the most part I don’t think of myself as feeling different to 12 months or 18 months ago, because I guess I am too close to my mental health and to me and because I survived for so long that I am not really sure what it felt to do anything but survive. Although when I think about it I do not really relate to the person who tried to throw themselves out of a (slowly) moving vehicle, or wanted to smash their face into the mirror to get off work.

Do not get me wrong I am not saying I have it figured and I am not saying that I am fixed and that I won’t ever have a relapse. Even over the last year as my overall mental health has got better there have been relapse moments and times when I thought I would never break the damaging mental cycles. There was an occasion where I took myself off my medication and have an awful full on slip right back into all the surviving techniques from before. Every day is about working on good mental health and what I have realised it’s like good physical health, it’s not something you do once a month or every so over. To keep good physical health you must take care of yourself, I learnt this recently when I have flu, now I have never had flu before and I have never been bed ridden. I was off work for two weeks and felt terrible, but what I had realised was that I wasn’t taking care of myself, I had stopped really thinking about what my body needed to be healthy and over time my immune system got worse and I ended up bed ridden. Since then I am making a conscious effort to eat more of the right things and do more of the things that promote good physical health. At the same time also taking physical care of myself is a habit and taking care of my mental health is becoming a habit too.

In the same way it is important to do this with your mental health, I am trying to do more of the things that make me feel stronger. Connecting with people on a personal level and trying to build rewarding relationships with them, I’d begun this before I had even realised I was. Now it is about actively continuing it. Recently I was looking over old pictures with a friend (I mean pictures that are 10/15 years old) and one of the things she kept commenting on is how happy and full of life the girl in the pictures looked you know what though this year I recognise her, I see her in me. There are still stresses I mean I am trying to buy a house, have a full time job, travel daily to London and I am terrible at adulting but don’t we all struggle with life’s stresses but I am not hiding this time because I know right now I can deal with those thing. Will I always be able to, well I guess that comes down to the continuation of focusing on thriving – I don’t think it’s a one off thing and I do not for one moment consider myself better or fixed.

Every day I make the pledge to myself to be kind both to others and to me, without self-care I won’t continue to thrive but I also won’t without the kindness, support and love of those around me. It is important each and every one of us to continues to thrive, to challenge stigma and to fight for better mental health support, because the only way we all will thrive with Good Mental Health is if the support networks are there. For young and old, wealthy and poor everyone deserves equal access and equal chance to thrive. Those of us who are able to Thrive shouldn’t be the lucky ones, because we were lucky enough to get professional support, because we are lucky enough to have friends and family nearby.  Everyone should have the chance to stop just surviving and to final thrive.

 

 

 

Running in the Shadows…. Trying out new RPGs

So one of the things I promised myself this year was to not only play more RPGs/D&D with the community from online but to also actually try a variety of RPGs. I have played a few systems but most of my current roleplaying experience is Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition which I love, but I really wanted to try more and to try other systems there is after all such a massive range out there to play.

So I have started running in the shadows with my new group ChummersInc. If you’d like to catch up on our smooth operation and skillful handling of the complex world of shadow run, well you might need to wait for a while, instead I’d recommend you catch us here on the lovely Hanno Ziegler YouTube page, and enjoy how we bumble through covert missions and a world of undercover behaviour. We’re currently playing 5th Edition which I’ll be honest means little to me as I have no experience of 1, 2,3 or even 4th edition, although I gather there are a few changes here and there. I also gather from talking to other players and GMs that 5th edition is cleaner and slightly easier and the core rule book is less complex. However if this is so then I never want to look at the older editions rule book – 5th is in-depth enough for me. If you want to know more technicalities of it I am sure there are plenty of reviews out there comparing the editions, as a side note they’ve probably also actually read the core rule book – which I might have not actually done yet.

Anyways I digress so I haven’t really read the core rule book, but I know what I needed to for Princess Glitter to be born. She is a young troll teenage girl, who believes some day dreams can come true and a prince will one day sweep her off her feet and she really will be made a Princess. She loves the finer things in life and has a taste for fancy things like Champagne, loves all things pink and glittery oh and she’s talented at hurting people and I mean really hurting people. So far she’s ripped arms off enemies who have stabbed her. Pulverized faces into the concrete all while wearing pink leather hot pants, teeny tiny pink bikini, huge biker boots and yes in pink and a long black leather coat and finally her hair is a fabulous rainbow of colour. This by the way is a little doddle that Hurm provided me so you can get a feel for Princess. If you haven’t checked Hurm out his twitter is here @Hurmly he’s a great DM and you can find him streaming some of his games online, sometimes he does doddle streams too – I’d highly recommend you check his things out.

IMG_20170504_075641

Shadowrun has been fun to play and a very different RPG system to D&D it reminds me of the White Wolf, Vampire the Masquerade system but with D6’s rather than D10’s. Similar in the sense that you have attributes and skills and the amount of points in those areas determines how many dice you get to roll for whatever it is you are doing. The more skill & ability you gain the more dice you would have to roll. This has pros and cons I have found unlike D&D where you roll 1 dice and add your modifier to it, in theory as your modifier is higher  for things you are proficient in that usually means (although dice being as they are, not always) you have a high chance of succeeding in your actions. In shadowrun where your dice pools increases and you just roll more D6’s you really are subjected to the luck of the dice, nothing to add just roll all your dices and hope for some successes. I always seem to naturally have a good relationship with my dice and do well, but for those Wil Wheaton’s out there I am sure that can make for an interesting game.

Really am enjoying spreading my RPG/tabletop wings and trying out new games, have so many plans for this year. Finally will have access to a dining room table for gaming purposes and might even have a chance for a full games room.  So this means I need more games to play to make getting these things worthwhile so always feel free to make suggestions. In the mean time I shall run some more in the Shadows and really finally try to get my head round the rule book. Shadowrun is certainly less straight forward to D&D 5th Edition (which I’ll be honest I haven’t read all the rule books, all the way through for either) but as both a player this is really something I should do. Especially as Shadowrun is dangerous we can get hurt so much as so easily, thankfully I took high pain cos that last session 8 points of damage would have left me on some nasty minus otherwise!

 

 

 

A year down the Line – CritRole, D&D and a Community of Shared Experiences

A year down the Line – CritRole, D&D and a Community of Shared ExperiencesSo it’s a year on from the first time I wrote about Critical Role, the community and what it all means to me. So where are we now a year on, well wow so much happened the fandom grew and grew and well exploded. Like any family we’ve had ups and down and disagreements all round, when you join something as creative and passionate as this community you are going to get apposing thoughts.

There is even now, as I write this, disagreements waging which I feel in many minds over, you see part of me feels that it is difficult to criticise or demand of something that is improv. The actor in me who has done many improv sessions in the past and whom often waits until she’s opened her mouth before assessing her words feels it is hard to pull people up for a spur of the moment game. However on the other hand is it really just a game anymore? Yes it’s a streamed D&D game but is it now, with more 30000 subscribers to the channel it’s on, a talk show of its own and merchandise, a piece of consumed media and more than just a D&D game? Where is the line between the two and how much responsibility do the cast owe the community? I honestly do not know the answer and flit from one side of the argument to the other, what I do know is I have never seen so much criticism from one community and that is both good and bad. Don’t get me wrong not all criticism is bad and I do not think we should just sit by and consume without engaging, however I also know that the place of privilege I guess I come from doesn’t really give me a voice in this over all argument.

What is more I like to sit in a place of sparkles and positivity, which means I accept possibly more than I should but I will fight the right corner when needed, but honestly I also don’t think it is my place to criticise. No I am not saying you shouldn’t either – if you have a good point to raise, something that should be said then do it, that’s what is great about this community the amount of passionate, intelligent people who have so much of value to say. What we need to be remembered that same passion that goes into asking for representation also is the beating heart of the creativity artistically, writing, creating campaigns and worlds cosplaying that makes this community. This community blows me away with the people you find here, there are so many of you who create, who are talented and well the art is astounding. I have never been part of something before that feels so positive. I have met some of my closest friends who live all over the world, thanks to this crazy show with nerdy voice actors playing D&D. These are people I visit or will visit who have or will visit me, whom I speak to regularly and value wholeheartedly. I have bought friends from my day to day life into the community.

Due to Critical Role I found the creativity, not just with being a DM and creating my own world but writing and art. I have submitted short stories to be published and I draw and do photography again something that I had done in so long, and that is purely and simply down to your encouragement and belief. I guess for me that is the heart of it, for all the criticisms and I totally get many of the points. For the increase in the fandom (there are so many of you now – I find new critters all the time, gone is the day I knew you all), for all the errors and mistakes that may or may not be made by the cast and community – you know what I will always be glad I was here for the ride. Watching something that was so small when I first found it online and the community was tiny to see it explode into the juggernaut it is blows me away. This has been a wild ride but let’s not forget to really enjoy it before it is over, rather than spending time squabbling lets embrace each other’s points as valid and allowed and get down to the serious business of watching some nerdy voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons and in the meantime it is a pleasure every day to know you community and thank you for the opportunities you provide.

Starting the year the way I plan to keep going…. Scaring the hell out of my PC’s and all the D&D

So at New Year we chose to see out 2016 and in 2017 playing D&D, for me with what D&D and more importantly being a DM meant to me throughout 2016 I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate a new year. We introduced two friends to D&D as well and there really isn’t anything I love more than first time players, I love explaining the rules, getting them to build their character sheets. I love that moment when they stare at you blankly with a rabbit caught in headlights expression but later when the sheet is done, the dice rolled, the stats chosen, the feats taken and suddenly it all makes sense, it all seems to easy – so this was a perfect new year gift to myself!

So what was the game – well we played 5th edition because I honestly feel as an introduction to D&D it gives you all the fun and feel of older editions but it is less rule heavy, a lot less rule heavy. It allows for more character flow and there are less ‘um I think you’ll find the rule says….’ moments, perfect for new players. The setting – As I haven’t yet used the pre-planned campaign stuff that Wizards of the Coast have produced this was once again a Kat brain inspired one-shot. Partly I haven’t used the pre-planned stuff because when I first started I did not know much of the original settings and lore and felt I needed to know it all if I was going to dabble in the world. I am finding that this is slowly changing meeting and talking with other DMs and Players is slowly helping me understand the wider D&D world – there is a wealth of information out there and so many willing people who want to help, advice and encourage you to grow as a DM. To be honest though I do largely like to make up my own settings, worlds and lore – for me I find it easier to put that work in than base it in a world I do not know well enough. As it was over the Christmas naturally I wanted to do a Christmas themed one-shot. I also wanted to combine some of my favourite stories into it. This session very much had Critical Role inspired elements, it was heavily Joe Hill’s NOS4R2 inspired with your typical Christmas dream sequence – it was scary, silly and all the Vampire’s… oh and of course they went to Christmas Land.

This game was a fantastic catalyst for the new players, who knew of D&D and RPGs for years but had never felt comfortable dipping a toe in the RPG water.  They now have play in several one-shots, have joined my main campaign and one of them is about to take part in a PugMire Campaign that will be streamed, I honestly couldn’t be prouder. The way they have taken to RPing is warming to watch and makes me proud to have been their first DM. As for me I am working on an honing my DM skills, I had an aim to play more D&D this year but more importantly more D&D with the critter and RPG community – so that means you lot. Have I managed this? Well I’ve done 2 one-shots and joined a monthly campaign which is 2 one-shots & 1 monthly campaign more than 2016.  Because I’d played so little D&D I had very limited experience on what makes a good DM. As wonderful as Critical Role is and  as inspiring Matt Mercer is as a DM it is a lot to live up to if you are insecure or new to the whole thing.

Also in Matt’s defence he has been doing this for years and is making a show out of his game so he sort have needs to be tight and slick with his DM skills but when you are new and not sure what you are doing he can inadvertently be a lot to live up to. Playing other games with different DMs has helped me to be more comfortable with my mistakes and to feel surer of my story and the rules. As much as I think I am a better DM than a player and personally if you asked me I am a DM and not a player, playing and seeing others DM has really helped grow my ability and skill.

So this is a quick overview of D&D and the beginning of 2017, there is so much I haven’t written about yet. Playing in the Shadows and becoming a Runner, branching out into writing – oh and filling up what time is left when not running in the shadows or DMing with Neverwinter, now that has been an experience for me. I am making no promises here but lefts hope this is the start of a little more regularity.

 

 

When you call me beautiful… the life of the insecure

I am going to preface this with simply saying this is not an ego piece nor is it designed for you to tell me I am wrong or say ‘oh but you are beautiful’. I am not fishing for complements here I can assure you that. What I do want to do is learn to be more honest with and about myself. With that honesty hopefully it will not only help me, but give some insight to those around me about my weirdness. Maybe this will even reach out to you – perhaps my sharing will give words to your own thoughts and feelings. As today is Time to Talk day – I chose to talk about part of my Mental Health I don’t often talk about my insecurities and physical dislikes.

I really struggle with compliments I honestly do not understand what the etiquette is if someone says you’re beautiful or pretty, sexy… blah blah blah. This goes as much for my boyfriend as when anyone else says it, for example if you compliment me over twitter I usually just say something along the lines of thanks, but I am I meant to compliant you back? Doesn’t that then sound false? How do I make it sincere when it feels like I have been prompted? It’s even worse when it’s the boyfriend, he is so flattering and so loving and I am like ‘Uh… yeah… um…thanks’ mean while my head is going ‘COMPLMENT HIM BACK!!!!’ Followed by ‘No don’t, how fake will that sound I know wait, then do it,’ ‘how long?’ ‘I don’t know – 10 minutes, is that too soon?….JUST SAY SOMETHING!!! START WITH THANK YOU!!!!’ – darling if you are reading this, this is why sometimes for just a few seconds I stare at you – this is what is going on behind the eyes.

The other problem is that I do not get why you compliment me, now I can be subjective in the sense that I understand that I have nice shaped eyes, that my mouth is a fairly nice shape, that my hair frames my face well and my cheek bones are a nice shape. All together that sounds like I should think I am beautiful… far, far from it. I can look at the individual parts but the package is nothing special – it’s tired looking, and well it’s just a face, it to me is just average. It’s difficult to explain as I do not think I am ugly I just do not think I am anything special – I exist in this state of just being an average face one that at times I just don’t like.

This leads to most people having no idea I am not confident, no idea that I am insecure. That I really do not like the way I look. Sometimes my insecurities lead me to being embarrassed I’ll hide or cover up the part that is being complimented and yes even after 11 years of complements from the boyfriend I will go all coy and shy, hide my face – I just simple do not know how to handle it I am not sure I ever will. So remember when I am weird about things this is why – be gentle, be understanding – more importantly if you feel the same be reassured that I know that feeling, I know the insecurities and I know it goes deeper than just a pretty face (or not.).

A lot of this feeds into feelings of value and lack of worth, when I do not feel worthy I certainly do not feel worthy of complements. Every day I will struggle to feel worthy and every day I do it reminds me to tell you – you are worthy too.

 

Every day is a day to talk about Mental Health

Today is Time to Talk day – and yes it is time to talk! Grab a cuppa, grab your colleagues, grab your friends and be open about Mental Health, discuss it in an open manner with pride! However there is just a few things I want to say about Time to Talk day because when the clock strikes midnight tonight don’t pack the conversations away till next year. Keep talk – do you have a friend who is depressed? Then don’t let today be the only day you take them for a cup of tea and ask them if they are ok. Don’t forget that tomorrow and the day after they will still be suffering in silence, make this the day that you talk about Mental Health and that you pledge to talk about it every day – make sure today is the day you break down stigma and you keep it down because tomorrow we’ll still need you and the day after that.

Today is important to tackle stigma, shout out about how Mental Health is not shameful and that seeking help is not shameful – the proudest thing I did was this time last year when I admitted that I’m not ok. I went to get help, I was signed off work and I went on medication, a year down the line I am not ashamed to admit I am still on medication I am ok with the fact that it might be sometime. I swear though that I won’t just be proud today, I won’t just talk about my wellbeing and my mental health today – I will talk about it every day if needed until I don’t see stigma anymore.

Remember that today is about having all the conversations, about reaching out, that as someone with Mental Health problems you discuss it with honesty and openness. As someone reaching out to those around you with Mental Health problems – be respectful, remember we struggle because stigma and negativity says that we are faulty, we aren’t and we never will be. Our greatness is in our struggle, are greatness is in the fight we face every day, offer us the chance to show you the world through our eyes.

Be respectful, don’t push and remember sometimes a cuppa and a hug works just as well. Let us know today that you are prepared and ready to try to understand, that you are willing to be open and loving and that you will be there through the better times and through the dark times. Remember even with Time to Talk day – sometimes we don’t want to or need to talk sometimes we just need to know you are there, that you love us, that you aren’t ashamed of us, that we aren’t broken or faulty. Today don’t let go of the fight and don’t let the compassion leave, after today remember to make everyday time to talk – make every day a day where you say no to stigma and you say yes to love.

And should you need guidance on how to talk, or with mental health here are some links to help:

Mind Website

Time to Change Website

Violence and Hatred, what now is the answer…. Where does Love and Unity belong?

More and more when I read the news, when I look on social media I am sick to my stomach, I am not sure I even recognise the world around me anymore. Where once I felt that the majority of people were ok, good and decent now I am not so sure. I know for the most part the people around me both in real life, at work and in the realms of social media are like minded. For so long I took for granted that this was the great wide world out there full of decent, caring, humble people. These days not so much I realised how narrow my view was and how naïve I was to the world brewing out there – and it’s a cold dark world that is threatening decent folk…. No wait let me change that it’s a cold dark world that is threatening folk – every single one of us one way of another is threatened by this fear, this hate, this violence and every one of us needs to stand for what is decent and right.

We need to stand up and we need to fight – does fighting mean violence, is violence ever the right answer? Yes they threaten, harm and terrorise innocent people because they have the wrong beliefs, or the wrong skin colour, the wrong gender or sexuality, and that is unforgivable, disgusting and deplorable because each and every human deserves the right to be themselves, the right not to fear for themselves and the right to be accepted as themselves, I still believe that and always will. As the right movement grows and gains traction, I will always believe humans deserve to be themselves. But this is where that gets tricky because to believe everyone has a right to their own belief, to be their own person means you have to accept both ends of the spectrum the decent with the less decent. So let me rephrase that everyone has the right to their own belief, to be their own person, but they also have the right to safety and freedom and therefore I can’t support and will not support a belief that threatens the safety and freedom of others. I support the fact you are entitled to it if you must but I don’t support you I don’t support your hate.

I have to be clear here though I am not sure I support hate on either side or violence on either side, all across twitter last week I saw celebrations of the ‘Nazi Punching’ and yes don’t get me wrong he is a vile, deplorable person and a small part of me inwardly cheered to see it, but all we do is diminish our arguments. You see on one hand yes he deserved the punching on the other hand all it did is feed into the rights rhetoric that they are right, the liberals are wrong ‘look at them saying no to violence and hate then punching someone, they are hypocrites’ which perpetuates the continuing cycle, the continuing hatred and lies. All we do by shouting down each other is make the gap wider, make any way of aligning too far away. I can’t support violence, I will always help someone in need and I believe we fight by being better than the other side.  Don’t get me wrong I am not for one instance saying that we lie down and accept that we become meek and passive. Not. For. One. Minute – Fight, stand up for people, stand up for those who are the most affected – fight alongside each other – but for me I believe there is more to fighting than violence.

I still feel there is a better way to fight this bigotry, the racism the misogyny the vileness by decency, by kindness and by love. I remember last year walking to work and discovering a guy passed out along the canal, I waited with another person, only two of us stopped to help this person. We called the ambulance, we waited and when the passed out guy came too I calmly sat and talked him down from a freak out, he was under the influence, very worse for wear, cold and frightening and kept lashing out at people. The ambulance turned up and eventually with some encouragement we got him to agree to being taken home. I’d been there some time, hours, I was late for work because of it, at the time I remember people being amazed by my kindness, ‘wasn’t I scare that he might have been deranged, violent’ – that I was ‘brave for helping because I didn’t know what kind of person he was’. No I didn’t, I still don’t, what I do know is that he was a human being and life is precious and valuable and it was in my power to do something. I guess my problem is I am still that person I would still stop and help that passed out person in need of kindness.

I’ve been thinking about that event a lot recently, because I realised that I will always be that person so I can’t say I’ll help anyone except ‘Nazis’ (which I have seen people stay now) but how do we know – how do I know that person wasn’t right winged in his beliefs, how do we pick and chosen who to support, who to hate, what identifies the other as ‘other’– how do you know. Just because I will be kind and loving I am no push over, I do not have to believe in, or support and share your rhetoric. Your systematic abuse of those not able to stand up and defend themselves won’t go un-noticed. This year I will do more good, I will love more, harder than before, a friend shared this tweet on twitter (you can view it here). This speaks so hard to me – I won’t be quiet this year, I won’t be passive and repress my fear but I won’t hate and I won’t condone violence – don’t be passive, love, laugh, find joy, spread joy – share joy with all around you and come together. Love all those who share this earth with you – show them that gender, race, religion, colour, sexuality and everything else in between does not matter.

 

Yes I feel like an aging dying hippy, I sometimes feels like the last of my kind but I believe love to be more powerful than violence, there has to be a better way.