I’ve Been Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder

I’ve Been Diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder

Trigger Warnings; Suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety symptoms, identity issues, and general awfulness

Image: UNSPLASH

I haven’t even been diagnosed from a Buzzfeed quiz this time, it’s legit! This is going to be sooooo long but I just have to do this. It’s going to be pouring out like a smoothie you’ve made without the top on. It’s going to ramble and get messy, and I’d forgive you for skipping it or reading it in instalments, but I just have to do it for me.

You probably have questions and curiosities. For example, what actually is Borderline Personality Disorder? What are the symptoms? How did you get diagnosed? What can you do about it? How do you get your eyes so blue?

I’m afraid I get my eyes from my gran and she’s awaiting a restock anyway so you can’t get them mwahaha*

*My gran is not the monster from Jeepers Creepers and does not harvest attractive eyes. Please do not arrest her.

But for all your other questions, I’m here to lend some insider perspective and some very very casual advice. I’m not a doctor, I’m not trained and when I say I’ve just been diagnosed I do mean like inside a month. But I think we can all agree, we are more open and aware of mental health than we ever have been in history; people are researching and admitting every single day, so as part of that, I want to share my experiences and encourage that openness. I also think with that openness comes help for those who are still struggling, so I really want to stress that you are not alone. You are not alone. You. Are. Not. Alone.

Image: UNSPLASH

Now, this news may not come as a surprise to you seeing as I opened a frank and heartfelt discussion about my mental health with a crack about my gran slashing out people’s eyes, but all the same, it was a bit of news to me. To get to the present, we need to start with the past though so you can see this hasn’t been plucked from thin air. This is something I have suffered with for years.

I got diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder around 5 years ago. I had just quit university after narrowly skimming a complete breakdown and was working part-time in Sainsbury’s and living back at home. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but it did not fit with what I wanted or what I needed in my life and so I found myself carrying that black cloud all the way from Leeds Uni to teeny tiny Holmes Chapel.  

These things all muddled together and the bearable symptoms I had been able to mask for years suddenly became unbearable. I would skip work, I would binge eat in secret, I would crash diet, I would cry constantly, I had severe panic attacks to the point I got misdiagnosed with epilepsy because of the tremendous trembling and faint feeling that occurred during these attacks. I wanted to die and planned several ways to do it.

I had been self-harming for years, but it had now started to attract attention from friends and relatives. I ran out of space on the top of my thighs and needed to venture to my calves to bleed. My brain was always racing and shouting disgusting abusive things at me. Cutting was the only thing that seemed to shut it up.

Since the age of 13, I had suffered horrific mood swings, liberally self-destructed with drugs and sex, and discreetly cut away at myself each time my brain told me I was quite literally the worst person in the entire world.

I really wish I could visit that 13-year-old girl now and hold her close. I want to tell her that she has so much power within herself and that she is worth taking up space in this world. I want to put bandages on her cuts and tell her she doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. I want to tell her if she doesn’t like how something makes her feel, she shouldn’t do it again. I want to stroke her hair and softly tell her she is more than enough, and she is loved.

In all honesty, I still want somebody to tell me these things. This is how I knew that initial mental illness diagnosis was only partially correct.

When I got diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, it felt revolutionary and enlightening at the time. I got diagnosed by a private psychologist. My mum sensed something was running deeper after years of telling me to get a grip were genuinely, really, solidly not working. She generously paid for me to see this psychologist but even in doing that I felt a sense that a decision was being made for me not with me. It’s an incredibly privileged stance to have and I know that; but denying how I feel is not going to cure deliberate deprivation and poverty in this country. I need to say this because there have been points in my life where I have felt directly responsible for at least a third of the world’s problems and it has taken years for me to finally let that idea go.

So, while it felt great to be seen and listened to about such terrifying feelings and actions, the focus of those appointments were typically on my mum’s terms. She didn’t come in with me and of course the psychologist didn’t share what we discussed; but after these appointments, my mum’s first question was always “Feeling better?”. There was another end goal she had set for me without my consent and it was one that was near impossible to complete.

There are some mental illnesses that can be temporary; I’ve spoken before about grief in one of my previous posts which is a good example of temporary depression. Some people are totally overwhelmed by grief and unfortunately won’t outlast such intense sadness, so please don’t feel I’m saying “Grief is easy, just get over it!”. But being depressed and having Depression are different things and one has a stronger possibility of being reasoned with than the other.

It’s very similar with Anxiety. Everybody can feel anxious and get anxiety, it’s a natural thing our body does to protect us. However, somebody who has Anxiety will find their brain and body are no longer trying to protect them from specific danger and what they’re trying to ‘protect’ them from is the rhythm and flows of their ordinary, daily life.

So when I went to these appointments, that impractical end goal was embedded in my psyche and reflected in what I talked to the psychologist about. For therapy to work, you need to be honest and you need to be open. I wasn’t and I found myself being treated for my symptoms rather than the underlying issue (through no fault of the psychologist’s; she was great and gave me valuable information I still use today).

Most therapies are client-led, and you’ll find there isn’t that much of a Good Will Hunting moment where the therapist really sees you for what you didn’t even know you were. I’m sure this has happened somewhere in the world, but typically speaking you shouldn’t expect it to definitely happen for you.

Which brings it to the present day.

Like I said, that diagnosis was around 5 years ago. I have found symptoms to get worse, better, and everything in between. I was given medication for this diagnosis, one being Propranolol to ease the physical symptoms I was having, such as trembling and heart palpitations and one being the antidepressant Sertraline.

There is a trend at the moment of holistic therapies being pushed over prescribed medications and that accepting medications somehow means you have ‘failed’ at your mental illness. Let me say right now, that if pills, oils, creams, injections, whatever the fuck it is that your doctor has told you will help, if they prevent you from killing yourself, please fucking take them. I will not be interested in what yoga and lavender did for you if I’m learning about it at your funeral.

I was given Propranolol during university when I went to the doctor about constant sweating, tightness in my chest and trembling. It was years later when I first moved out of my family home that my doctor suggested trying antidepressants.

I was at this point still only diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and it’s important to note that Anxiety and Depression can bleed into each other. I fell into deep holes of depression when my Anxiety symptoms made life unbearable or caused me to act in ways I didn’t really want to. I was fired for the first time and after the depression nearly drowned me, my doctor prescribed a short course of the antidepressant Citalopram.

That first day on Citalopram was exuberant. My brain finally shut up. I could go to the shop simply when I needed to, without overthinking and overplanning for four hours and eventually being too scared to go. I went to sleep that night when I wanted to, undisturbed by the constant bullying and whirring of my brain.

But that was pretty much it. I stopped taking the pills before they ran out and didn’t go back for any more. But eventually I needed to go back for help.

Just shy of a year later, I had just escaped a terrible relationship. He was a textbook gaslighter and my already diminished self-esteem was torn to shreds by his selfish tendencies. As far as I can recall, I don’t have any ex-boyfriends that I would dread running into when out and about; but I hate him. I hate him irrationally and rationally and I fantasise about his life being utterly awful from time to time.

Image: UNSPLASH

But that hatred didn’t have anywhere to go but back inside me. My sleep pattern, something I had struggled with since my teens, was non-existent. I didn’t leave my bed for days and didn’t eat for days at a time. When I did eat, it was a calorie-laden binge and I would medicate myself with awful food until I was physically sick.  

I could not live like this.

I went to my GP (At that time) and I really hope she realises how important her interception was. She thanked me and fussed over me for having the courage to come in. I hadn’t washed for weeks and probably smelled like my overflowing bins, but she treated me with respect and took me seriously. She armed me with pamphlets and wrote down several numbers to call and instructions to follow if I felt I was going to kill myself. She also prescribed me Sertraline.

Sertraline has quite possibly saved my life. After watching my dad fall prey to medication addiction, I have always been wary and sometimes scared of becoming addicted to pills myself. But she told me the figures of addiction were low and it was my decision as to how long I’d take them for.

I was also told to change my contraception methods, which at that point were the pill (Microgynon) and condoms (Cherry flavoured if they have it thanks, sex should smell like Calpol if you ask me). I will also say this made a massive difference to me and even though I was so put off by the grossness of the implant, I am eternally grateful to have it chilling out in my arm.

If you use contraception or suffer badly with periods, please please PLEASE do not think you have to just take what’s given to you. It’s tough to go by recommendations because each person reacts different to birth control methods. I know some people who had an awful time with the implant, but just try what you think makes sense to you and remember you can get it reversed if it’s not working.

So there I was; armed with new baby-blockers and Sertraline. And yet I still didn’t feel quite right.

Life certainly got better; I met a really great guy, got less convinced I needed to die, and was generally okay.

Then my mum died.

I had still been having issues with self-identity, self-esteem and these relentless mood swings that at this point I assumed were part of my personality. They initially got exacerbated in my grief and I didn’t like how I was behaving.

My mum’s passing upset me greatly and I miss her all the time. If I could bring back one person from the afterlife, it wouldn’t be Bowie or Hendrix; I’d choose my mum and I’d hug her tightly even while she inevitably laid into me about not choosing Bowie. But after her passing, even while dealing with grief and starting up some bad coping strategies initially; I started to feel better.

I felt a stillness and a passing. Not a passing of a life although of course I felt that sudden absence too, but like a baton passing. I felt like I had a say and I had control. I felt how I used to feel when I was a ballsy, opinionated smart alec toddler, invincible in the world and only worried about what I would do if cheese became illegal.

This came in ebbs and flows and a lot of symptoms came back strongly but infrequently. I’d fly off the handle at the stupidest things and make impulsive decisions convinced they would change my life. I still looked in the mirror and mentally beat myself up, while at the same time not fully knowing who the hell I was. Like I know my name, I know I’m Sophie and I’m an Aquarius; but I didn’t know what I enjoyed, what I wanted to be or even what clothes I liked myself in.

I pondered and kept track of these things and after months of searching around in mental health groups, the NHS website (We stan), and mental health activists on Twitter, I began to realise I had every single symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Now, I’m someone who self-diagnoses a lot without taking it seriously; I’m currently awaiting the definite thumbs-up for a PCOS diagnosis, but I’ve decided I already definitely have it. It’s always within reason, I don’t just look up rare diseases and pick one to make me interesting and I don’t really announce it or bother to work around it (lol really clever).

But the Borderline Personality Disorder was spookily fitting. Things I thought were part of my personality were suddenly laid out as a symptom to me. Private thoughts I’d had in my head were written around the internet for everyone to see.

Image: UNSPLASH

I needed to know for sure with this one. I didn’t want to fuck around.

I found an online psychiatry service and paid a handsome amount to speak to a professional about my symptoms and how I was feeling. Again, this is privilege at its finest and indicative of the serious revamp the mental health services of the NHS need. I would have had to wait three years to see somebody who could diagnose me for free if my GP (Not the previous one I had, she was an angel, these ones are twats) wasn’t immediately convinced or confident in a diagnosis. That is not acceptable. There are people internalising that hopelessness as we speak and weighing up whether they can stand to feel how they feel for any longer. It needs to change and soon.

For my initial appointment, I opted for the cheaper package which resulted in a shorter appointment and I would get a longer form to fill out before said appointment. It was actually on this basis I chose this option, as I find it so much easier to write down feelings and sensations and can make a conscious effort to check I’ve included every symptom and every detail of my life.

Speaking of which, you will notice I’ve mentioned my mum and dad while talking about this diagnosis. There is a reason for this.

The form asked me to almost write a mini biography of my family life and my relationship with all of my family members (Even my socket-scrubbing gran oh deaaaar**). When asked to describe how I felt about my childhood I said it was a happy one and I can’t remember wanting for anything. I also mentioned that it wasn’t until many years later that my mum had revealed how close that childhood was to being obviously difficult on one of our many gal-pal lunches out.

**Seriously she doesn’t butcher eyes, and extended family didn’t factor into my diagnosis at all in the end.

We were broke a lot of the time apparently. I didn’t even realise there was a reason we were going to car boot sales to get essentials, I just thought they were magical places were some rotten McDonald’s toy could be bought for 5p and I could cherish it forever.

My mum and dad were close to divorce multiple times. Anyone who knows our family well knows that their relationship was… tempestuous at the best of times, so this wasn’t really a revelation to me. However, when the psychiatrist said that wasn’t exactly ‘pleasant’ from the sounds of things, especially for a child to ‘sense’ and not have the clarification of. He then said my symptoms and my background were highly matched with the profile of somebody with Borderline Personality Disorder.

He zeroed in on the relationship I had with my mum. I found myself telling him things I had never dared to say out loud especially while the rose-tinted coating of grief is still rife throughout the mourners (If you ask my dad about their relationship for example, you’d get the impression they were a deadringer for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor rather than Sid Viscious and Nancy Spundgen).

I told him I loved them, which I do, and I would readily defend any of my family members with my life. I also told him how I basically didn’t have a dad from the ages of 14-25 and spent multiple incidences in my teens trying to handle situations of reactions and overdoses completely on my own while the rest of the family were away without me. I remember a close family friend privately remarked to my mum that I was eerily calm and unphased when she collected me from the hospital I had to deliver my strung-out dad to. Mum celebrated that ‘strength’ and we laughed it off. I even considered it boring because it was just another time out of hundreds and was more annoyed it had interrupted my profile revamping on MySpace.

That’s not normal and shouldn’t be applauded. I told the psychiatrist this. I also told him I was angry with my mum for so many things and the anger felt like a constant hot vomit that I was trying to swallow down. I was angry and jealous of the mum I got, compared to the mum my brothers got. I was angry at the expectations she gave to me without any assistance or clues as to how to achieve it. I was angry at the interests she convinced me to give up because they were not becoming or profitable. I was angry at the interests she forced me to claim I had, only to then attack me emotionally when I ‘lost’ the interest I never had in them. I was angry that she belittled me so often and connected minor mistakes to larger consequences.

I was angry I couldn’t remember her telling me “It’s okay and I believe in you” at any point. I was angry I couldn’t place what she felt like to hug or hold hands with because of how infrequent those times were. I was angry she took choice away from me for so many things.

I was angry we never got the chance to talk and she never got to apologise.

At this point I was sobbing and in fact I’m covered in tears even as I write this. I feel like the most ungrateful, spoiled, horrible daughter that’s ever existed. This is a woman who flew me to Thailand just because she wanted to go and couldn’t think of better company to go with than her own kids. My mum paid for my deposit and took me furniture shopping for my first flat. She gave me the gift of Scottish heritage and a romance for Scotland, something I absolutely milk the shit out of even to this day.

The psychiatrist asked me if I felt her actions were deliberate. “Absolutely not” I said, almost offended. How dare he?! DID HE NOT HEAR THE THAILAND STORY?! DOES HE NOT HAVE SOMEBODY IN HIS LIFE WHO GAVE HIM HIS FIRST IRN BRU?!

He slam-dunked that psychiatry training by retorting, “If her actions were not deliberate, why do you feel your reaction and feelings towards it are?”

I froze.

I didn’t choose to feel this way. She didn’t choose to make that happen. Even dad arguably didn’t ‘choose’ drugs over me but for the longest time, I felt attacked by their human flaws.

I do not understand how anybody becomes a good parent. There are parents I admire and children who grow up to be well-rounded adults, but Jesus Christ it’s not like kids come with a warranty is it? Parents fuck up their kids; kids fuck up their parents. Some parents don’t deserve their children and some children are spoiled with their parents.

This is a fact I have to work though. I have to accept and forgive. I want to forgive. It’s really gross to hope you see a ghost only to wish it’s a parent so you can go “FUCK YOU” before closing that Ouija board without another word. If I see a ghost, I want it to be Paul Newman because he was so freakin’ fit.

The psychiatrist told me to stick with the Sertraline for as long as I felt it was helpful. He has recommended something called Dialectal Behavioural Therapy as treatment. He has given me hope that although Borderline Personality Disorder is an ongoing condition, that means there’s room for it to improve and symptoms to eventually disappear.

When my symptoms improve, I will be more stable in every aspect of my life. I will have more energy and interest in life and its possibilities. I will give friends and family more trust and space even if they don’t realise I didn’t give it to them before. I will accept they are all human and will make mistakes but it’s not something to always take so personally. I will feel definite about my identity and be able to say ‘No’ to the things I know I don’t like. I will give Andrew the grace of more predictability and stability in my mood. I will love my body for carrying me this far in life and not letting me give up. I will heal my body from the inside-out to say thank you for everything its ever done for me (Apart from that one time I ate mussels from Aldi and thought I was going to die). I will love my mind for being weird and for trying to translate something it wasn’t born to experience even if it got it wrong. I will feel overjoyed in almost every minute of my life and in the slight times I don’t, I will give myself the time, space and resources to find joy again. I am going to be strong and decide who I am and how my life should work for me.

I am ready.

RESOURCES: The service I used was psymplicity.com but they are private so you will need to pay upwards of £200 for an appointment after the free, initial consultation. It’s via Skype/Zoom and not in person, which I prefer but others won’t.

If you are struggling with your mental health in any aspect at all, please visit any or all of the lifelines recommended by the NHS and please let somebody around you know what you are going through. Tell me if you like, just tell somebody.

The Most Motivational Films to Watch When You’re Unemployed

The Most Motivational Films to Watch When You’re Unemployed

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

When it comes to unemployment, I am an expert. I’ve been let go, fired, and I’ve quit, so trust me when I say, I know that being unemployed can be the most callous time you have in your life.

It’s hard keeping motivated. No matter how many jobs you apply for that are suitable for you, you get rejection after rejection, and it’s really hard to not take it personally.

‘Water off a duck’s back’ comes to mind, because unless you get tailored, specific feedback, you need to just believe that it’s not your fault if you didn’t get a job you’re qualified for. You might totally screw up the interview or application of course, but all sorts of reasons can contribute to a no interview or no hire situation that are beyond your control. You don’t know who you’re applying against and what’s happening behind the scenes in the company, so it’s more important than anything to not let those rejections get to you and stop them from ruining your confidence.

Easier said than done though. You need to keep a good mental head space when you’re job hunting, so while you’ve got a few more hours spare, watch these films after a long day of job seeking to really build the perspective, resilience and confidence you really need right now.

Into the Wild (2007)

I just ripped all the images off Google.

I’m not suggesting that if you hit a bump in the road you should say, “Fuck it!” and run away from your life. But Into the Wild (2007) sends the message that it’s okay to go against the grain and to look for personal, spiritual success over professional, monetary success. You will be hit with severe wanderlust after watching this, but also a profound sense of something that will motivate you to make your fantasy life a reality.

Tootsie (1982)

Every single one of them.

“I’m not psychotic I’m unemployed”. No words have been so accurate when you’re job seeking. If you’ve become unemployed very suddenly, odds are you’re just desperate to pay your bills in the immediate aftershock. So you start applying like you’re desperate, and you should apply like you’re desperate! There is no shame in doing a bad job well. This is a cracking film to watch to know that if it pays the rent and you know you can do it, it’s worth applying anyway, even if you don’t necessarily fit the bill of the job or think it’s a job you’ll love.

The Blind Side (2009)

Whatever, sue me if they’re your pictures.

I’m aware this is a very ‘white savior’ film, but it is a true story with a positive message. What you should take from this is that it is always worth your time to share your resources and help those who need it. If you’re unemployed or struggling, you can watch this and feel some hope that there are people out there who want to help you and want to see you succeed. Kindness can get you through this, remember that when you feel alone. Oh and there’s sports in it too, I guess.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Take me to court, I don’t care.

The ultimate example of patience paying off. This is easily one of the best films of all time, and it is unbelievable that it was a box office bomb upon its release. The slow but sure commercial success of the movie is motivational enough, but main character Andy Dufresne’s stoic patience, self-belief and resilience can inspire us all to hang on in there for a little while longer.

Whiplash (2014)

If they’re your images I will credit you.

This film is insane. Though yes, it might inspire you to keep pushing and working as hard as you fucking can for that one moment where you can go “I’VE GOT IT!” but I hope it doesn’t. I actually hope you can watch this film while you’re down on your luck from a higher perspective, one where you go “Jesus Christ, I might be struggling for now, but at least I’m not scary obsessive like these guys”. If working yourself to the bone puts everything else in your life into place then fine, but Whiplash (2014) makes us question; is it really possible and is it even worth it?

9 to 5 (1980)

Do you know how much time it takes to find out who the fuck took the pictures though?

One of the best movie examples of sticking it to the man. Something that has benefited me in interviews is going in with the mentality that the company has to attract you as well as you having to attract to them. Prepare, use the STAR technique, and don’t ever forget that you are a potential candidate because you have skills and experience the company needs. Don’t accept shit for nothing, and remember if Dolly Parton wouldn’t stand for it, neither should you.

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Like seriously, credit for images etc. needs to be as easy to find as pornography.

Oh god, just know going in that this is an emotional one. Will Smith was absolutely snubbed for an Oscar for his performance in this film, and the fact that his own son, Jaden Smith, is playing the child relying on his father’s success just makes the heart-tugging moments hit harder than usual. This film really encapsulates the ups and downs of going into business with yourself. Hard times might be ahead and you need to be ready for that, but ultimately believing that it will work at some point (And of course it will; pet rocks made a profit, so can you!) and keeping yourself motivated triumphs over all in the end.

Rocky (1976)

Also know I have no assets if you want to sue me.

The ultimate underdog, rag-to-riches story. Sylvester Stallone’s story is legendary; from stealing jewelry and selling his own dog to make ends meet, he wrote one of the most iconic films to date with the most uplifting message for anyone down on their luck in life. Whether you’re into sports or not, the self-belief Rocky and his writer had to instill in themselves makes this one of the most motivational films of all time. Even more motivational when you learn that after the film’s success, Stallone was able to buy back that dog he sold during his meagre times!

The Intouchables (2011)

Like what you gonna take, my deodorant? Knock yourself out, it’s all I have.

This one is subtitled, but honestly unless you’re dyslexic or have visual issues, get over it. This film is feel-good and fun while reminding us we all need to ask for help from time to time, and that help might come from an unlikely place. Don’t be afraid to explore new opportunities and experiences as well, as Philippe would be able to tell you how rewarding taking those chances can be. As well as this, we can learn from Driss that even if you think a job’s not for you, your personality and charisma can make you a great fit, and fitting into the culture of a new workplace is a rare and valuable thing.

Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

Probably shouldn’t dare people to sue me if I’m already poor.

Another cross-dressing character, this guy needs a job enough to lie to his own kids. But there is some wisdom in there. You need to promote the skills you know you have, even if it means utilising them yourself. Think about what skills other people don’t have and what others have complimented you on in the past. Even things you don’t necessarily see as a skill, just market the fuck out of it anyway! Run with your strengths and apply for jobs under the premise ‘Hire for attitude, train for skills’.

Trading Places (1983)

My PayPal is on the ‘Contact’ page btw.

This film is underrated in all the categories it applies to. No one considers it a Christmas film, no one uses it as a fine example of Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy or Jamie Lee Curtis’ work, and I think that is truly criminal. If you’ve been working for ‘the man’ your whole life, you’ll immediately feel this film shows exactly what the top dogs of your company are doing to the peasants below them. The reason I’m putting it on here apart from to further my communist agenda, is because it reminds you how futile it all is; you can jump from rags to riches if someone takes a chance on you, and you can lose it all in seconds as well.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

I’m actually just fine tho sweeties.

Sometimes “it is written”. No matter your background or expertise, sometimes you find yourself in a rare predicament where you think “Everything in my life has built up to this opportunity”. However in this day and age, a lot of people fall victim to imposter syndrome, or being too modest about their accomplishments. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) is a harrowing story about luck and destiny, that will make you realise that it’s not all about the work you put in, but sometimes it’s about being at the right place at the right time. A rarer circumstance than you’d think, but before you think an offer is too good to be true, just watch this film and remember, sometimes it’s simply meant to be.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

As long as I don’t get sued anyway.

Can’t talk about this one for too long because I will cry. Although it might not end with a spring in its step, this film proves just how far you can go if you reach out for some mentoring. You might be at a crossroads or brick wall in your career, and despite your raw talent exceeding those around you, you can’t move past this block. Look to those with previous experience and ask for advice, and you just might find all your wishes come true.

Aladdin (1992)

Image: Google or some shit.

This Disney number ultimately carries the message that money and success won’t solve all your problems. I hope you get that job you want, but odds are, a career change won’t solve everything you think it will. We’ve been led to believe that if you change one thing in your life, the rest of your grievances will resolve themselves. Evaluate what you’re really unhappy about before you believe more money or more responsibilities will change it for the better, because as Aladdin (1992) shows, basically you can’t polish a turd or wipe everything clean in one go. Each separate component in your life deserves separate attention, and take it from me, if you’re in a break in your career and can afford to evaluate your own psyche and routines, I cannot describe how worth it that recentering is.

Do you think these movies would give you a boost when you needed it most? Or did I miss one that’s even more motivational? Let me know in the comments, and if you are facing some career uncertainty right now, keep the faith and reach out. It won’t last forever and you’re worth a decent livelihood.

Doctor’s Orders; How to Avoid Coronavirus and Look After Your Health

Doctor’s Orders; How to Avoid Coronavirus and Look After Your Health

Image: UNSPLASH

I’m actually starting this post with an apology.

Unless you’ve been living under the sea or in a coma, you will have heard about the global pandemic of COVID-19, an outbreak of coronavirus that is spreading fast and spreading wide. More than 90,000 people have been affected and related deaths have been recorded as in excess of 3,000.

Symptoms include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. In some cases COVID-19 has caused pneumonia and is particularly dangerous for those of ill health and compromised immune systems.

Like me, you might read that last bit and go “Oh that’s fine then!” and even more so when you chalk up the death rates to mean this strain of coronavirus has a 1% fatality. The use of the word only when people, health experts and the media are saying only vulnerable and already ill people are dying from coronavirus is ableism at its finest, and we all need to check ourselves on that right now.

A death is a death. Death is bad. We don’t like death. But for some reason, when it comes to disabled and compromised members in society, death is seen as a shruggable consequence of unfortunate genetics and biology. Take a minute to step back and realise HOW FUCKED UP THIS IS!

I’m not proud to admit I was guilty of this line of thinking and it took a tweet from somebody for me to realise I am a horrible person for it.

Sums it up really. The idea that the deaths of vulnerable persons is no cause for concern and nothing that needs addressing is nothing short of eugenics; ignorant, callous, Nazi-style eugenics. Nobody has a right to say any one particular group of people have less of a claim to space in this world. So I am sorry if by chance anything I have said in regards to the outbreak downplays the deaths that have occurred, and you should be too if you’ve done the same.

We have a duty to look out for each other in society. So while yes, you might be perfectly healthy and not at risk of anything more than a cough, put the below tips into practice to stop the spreading of coronavirus and recognise the impact this outbreak can have on those that are vulnerable:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue/sleeve when you cough or sneeze (Do not use your hands)
  • Wash your hands often and make sure you scrub your hands well
  • Scrub your hands when washing for 20 seconds, or if you want to have some fun, sing the chorus of ‘Africa’ by Toto. Yep, it’s 20 seconds, and makes basic hygiene incredibly epic
  • Call 111 if you suspect you have symptoms, have been in a country or area with high recordings of coronavirus in the past 14 days, or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus
  • Do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital if you think you have it. Call 111
  • Isolate yourself for 14 days if you have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus even if you are not showing symptoms
  • The virus is spread via droplets from coughing or sneezing that land on surfaces and get picked up when a new person touches said surface. For this reason, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose with your hands if you can
  • Keep surfaces you frequently touch as clean as possible using wipes and hands-free options where offered
  • Do not share things like food/items if people are using bare hands to handle it
  • Avoid shaking hands and kissing even if you really really fancy them
  • Do not travel to affected areas if it can be helped

Obviously, some of these are easier said than done. These tips shared from the NHS and other government bodies also further raise the point of who ‘deserves’ to be kept safe from infection and who doesn’t in the eyes of society.

For another example, as far as I can tell, there has been no national or widespread effort to get homeless people tested and ensure their safety when they are without question one of the more vulnerable demographics and capable of spreading the virus further. It’s all very well for government officials to tell us to be clean and stay at home, but where are the directions for when that isn’t an option?

Sex workers are also being ignored despite many people’s livelihoods depending on physical contact or shared spaces. I don’t necessarily just mean paid sex, but even strippers and other legal adult entertainers are at greater risk than others due to their line of work and there seems to be no effort to minimise potential risk.

As usual, advice to tackle the pandemic and efforts to reassure have been mostly directed at able-bodied, financially healthy office workers. Only some mention of action in schools despite kids being notoriously germy and sticky as well.

But is this blanket short-sighted advice because we’re not really allowed to get sick?

Despite following the guidelines issued by the NHS above and being healthy and able-bodied, anyone can still get sick. And let’s face it, if you are usually healthy and able-boded and you get sick, you are going to work no matter what the papers say.

This is also, fucked up.

Despite countless studies, pieces of medical advice, cases, agreed feelings, articles, and general common sense, people go to work sick and it’s expected that you will not leave even if you’re absolutely dying.

The Office for National Statistics found that workers in the UK take an average of 4.1 sick days per year (whatever the fuck that means, like what is 0.1 of a day? A lie in?) as of 2017, whereas it used to be 7.2 days in 1993. Are we healthier? Is work better?

I wouldn’t say so. But we do feel guiltier.

There is a culture in working life to work yourself to the absolute bone as your day-to-day effort. Half your entitled lunch hour at your desk, come in early, leave late… it’s not right. Chronic illness or physical impairment? Sorry, that doesn’t play well in the workplace! Better put yourself in danger to be seen as a productive staff member!

I may not have had the steadiest employment history as any of my close circle can tell you, but I do know that if you are not paying me for it, I am not doing it. If you want me earlier, pay me from earlier. If you want me to work through my lunch, pay me to work through my lunch. If you want your workers to ignore their own personal conditions, you better have funeral costs included in your benefits package. We all need to stand up more and realise that work is an exchange, not a negotiation. Do not try and slip your workers more work than their paygrade, hours or ability that you advertised for require.

And that includes sick work.

Image: UNSPLASH

How sick leave ties in to my ranting about coronavirus is that apart from you denying what you’re legally entitled to when you don’t take sick leave, you are actually being a selfish prick.

As discussed above, those who are more adversely affected by sickness are rarely thought of when illness is on the table. You might think you can push through the beginnings of the flu, but your desk neighbor with lupus can’t. You might think it’s better to show your face and just go home early but your boss you just shook hands with has a diabetic child that doesn’t. We as a society need to start thinking of health as a community issue, not a personal one, and that starts with shaking off this mentality of “I’ll be fine so I don’t need to worry”. There are thousands of people who will need to worry because of your arrogance.

Taking care of yourself ultimately results in taking care of others. You are a human and you are allowed to be sick. Do what you can to prevent getting sick in the first place, and if you’re unlucky enough to get struck down with something, quarantine yourself and let your body repair.

Now, let’s all listen to ‘Africa’…

What Makes The Perfect Victim?

What Makes The Perfect Victim?

This year’s NME Awards garnered more attention and more controversy than usual. Everyone and their dog has put their two cents into what they felt went down that night, but it also raised a larger question about accountability in incidences of sexism and what The Perfect Victim actually is.

Northampton based rapper Slowthai (nope, me neither) came under fire for acting like your average drunk dickhead at the event despite winning the coveted Hero of the Year award. He spouted nonsense into the mic, tried to physically kick off on an audience member, but most noticeably got a little fresh and a little creepy with one of the award show’s hosts, Katherine Ryan.

“Babygirl, I don’t want to have to do this to you right now, but everybody – she needs to understand the levels right now,” the 25-year-old slurred to the 36-year-old comedian, adding “If you want to do something, see me later,” before staggering off stage.

Ew.

Rapper Slowthai getting a little too close for comfort to comedian Katherine Ryan. Picture: GETTY

In this age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the leery, culturally accepted actions of men that (mainly) women have long put up with have been starting to get questioned. If you behave like a twat, you should expect to have backlash for it. But what I am struggling to come to terms with is that people were indeed handing out backlash in the wake of the 67th NME Awards… but to Katherine Ryan?

Personally, I adore Katherine Ryan. I’ve seen her live, I’m familiar with her work and I even quote her on a regular basis like a proper geek. The panel show prom queen is fierce, quick and absolutely takes no prisoners, so I was not surprised when she came out on Twitter to say that she really didn’t feel like a victim at all.

“He didn’t make me uncomfortable. This is why we need women in positions of power. I knew he had lost from the moment he opened his mouth like any heckler coming up against a COMIC – not a woman – a COMIC. I was operating 2/10. What a sweet boy. I defused it.”, she tweeted after the incident.

If Katherine Ryan does not feel the need to call herself a victim that is a good thing. It takes any power out of what Slowthai did, it makes him the loser, it bounces off her skin like raindrops on a rock. He also didn’t commit a crime, such as sexually assaulting or raping her, and from what I can find out about the ordeal, he wasn’t pursuant or relentless after Katherine shut him down. If you vomit in the pub, you’ll get barred, you might have to pay for refurb, and the locals are absolutely going to judge and hate you… but you don’t get sent to prison.

Slowthai’s actions were shitty. Not so shitty as, say, Prince Andrew having legitimate ties and suspected custom with a sex trafficker and convicted sex offender (which as far as I am aware, nobody in the royal family has publicly commented on or condemned). Not as gross as Joe Exotic preying on vulnerable young men and forcing them to reject their true sexuality. Also not so shitty as the literal President of the United States having a real recording credited to him where he literally says “just start kissing them … I don’t even wait” and “grab ’em by the pussy” (which Donald Trump has claimed was merely ‘locker-room talk’ and faced zero consequences or investigation into this jarring advice that he himself gave on tape).

But Slowthai’s the one that everybody is talking about. Slowthai is still shitty, I don’t deny that. So why did everyone start saying Katherine was the one at fault?

After Katherine Ryan tweeted about how unfazed she was at the rapper’s creepiness, a lot of people vocalised their disappointment with her. Many responders believed that while Katherine may not have felt uncomfortable, another person could have, and she therefore had a responsibility to call out Slowthai’s behavior. Other people felt that Katherine was essentially giving a free pass to any men behaving similarly in the future, as the comedian had unwittingly approved that for the rest of time, this leeriness and all the escalations that can potentially come with it, are absolutely fine and nobody has any business to ever be upset about it.

What. The Fuck.

Katherine Ryan is a comedian. She is not a police officer. She is not a law maker. She is a ballsy entertainer who responded to an incident that happened to her as she saw fit. This situation happened to her, it is up to her to decide how she personally feels about it and up to her to decide how she wants to respond to it.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Comedian Katherine Ryan is photographed for ES magazine on July 8, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Amelia Troubridge/Contour by Getty Images)

Slowthai was the one was behaved abhorrently. Not Katherine. That is all that should come into it when you decide who you should be gunning for. If you need a specific reaction in order to condemn an objectively shitty action, you are pretty much part of the problem.

The whole incident got me thinking about victimisation and what society believes a true victim consists of.

I believe Katherine Ryan got so much flack because she did not behave how a victim ‘should’. Society is unconsciously built like a script for a pantomime; everybody has their roles, and everybody is expected to behave in an almost formulaic manner, and if you don’t play your part correctly then you specifically deserve all the bad press that should be shared among the cast. Slowthai behaved like a perfect villain and nobody panicked. Katherine Ryan didn’t behave like a perfect female victim and everybody grabbed their pitchforks. And, scene!

Victims are not supposed to look or behave a certain way. Countless psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can confirm that. However, through constant affirmation and subconscious indoctrination in media, law enforcement and cultural behavior, people do genuinely believe there is a ‘right’ way to behave like a victim and a ‘wrong’ way.

The Perfect Victim is typically female or a child. This is even tenuously used as an excuse in the victim selection process in torture-porn horror flick Martyrs (2008). Women and children are weaker, dumber and co-dependent. It’s why they get to flee the Titanic first and why their tragic stories sell better in those magazines you only lower yourself to read at a hair salon. Children are so little and fragile, and us ladies constantly need rescuing. Please help us, we are so useless without you big, burly men.

Women are also very delicate and emotional, so when we inevitably become a victim of some awful affair, the expected responses and attributes of the victim are –

  • Crying
  • Shyness
  • Good-looking but in an accessible way so as not to cause jealousy
  • White. Ethnic minorities bring it on themselves and steal everybody’s jobs
  • Middle-class. Poor people also bring it on themselves but we all get a bit ‘French Revolution’ and gleeful when something bad happens to one of the elite. Striking a balance is ideal
  • Humble and afflicted presence to gather mass pity, but without looking like you want it
  • Co-operative and automatically trusting of anybody who wants to help
  • Domestic but also a little bit professional. If you don’t have a family you must be selfish, if you don’t have a job you must be lazy, if your husband is the one who stays at home with the kids you are stripping away his manhood which is mean
  • Straight and cisgender. If you are a transwoman then you’re weird already and if you’re not a heterosexual woman then you are selfishly robbing the world of your sole, true purpose which is to let straight men put a baby in you
  • Bonus points if you are disabled, but only visibly disabled and you have to be really upset about it all the time

This is what makes The Perfect Victim. And this, of course, is all total bollocks.

Anyone can be a victim and therefore anyone who is telling you something awful has happened to them and they don’t like or agree with it should be treated with sympathy and respect. Likewise, if you believe something that happened to someone else is awful, it’s not up to you to decide if they are a victim or not.

There is no right way for a victim to act because every person is an individual. Where one person might cry, another person would get angry. One person might be stoic about their plight, whereas another would be dramatic and intense about it. This is a point that especially needs to be hammered home when it comes to how we treat women who have been a victim, because for some reason, the general rule of thumb in treating women seems to be Find one woman who wants to be treated ‘x’ way and apply rule to every woman you ever meet regardless of what they tell you’.

We are not all the fucking same. This is a very boring point to keep having to reiterate, and I believe most of us would let it slide if it wasn’t dangerous, but believing there is a correct and incorrect way for all women to act in a crisis is very very dangerous.

I think about the case of Angelika Graswald as an example of this. There is an episode dedicated to her on Netflix‘s The Confession Tapes (2019, Season 2, Episode 3 ‘Deep Down’) that examines how after a kayaking accident resulting in her husband’s death, personal bias, straw-clutching ‘evidence’ and an 11-hour police interrogation led to a coerced confession and guilty plea bargain from Ms Graswald despite more credible theories into her husband’s death being offered and Angelika’s maintaining of her innocence.

In the documentary, the people interviewed about Angelika’s case are rife with biased views. Where I was being sarcastic with my little rant above about what The Perfect Victim should look like, these are professionals and law enforcers who genuinely believe that if a woman has gone through something, she should be crying hysterically from the get-go. She should exhibit “normal victim behaviour”.

Angelika Graswald didn’t behave like the perfect victim. Picture: NETFLIX

She didn’t confirm to the societal script of the grieving widow and victim. Just like Katherine Ryan, she was hounded for reacting to something horrible in her own individual way and in Angelika’s case she was actually imprisoned for essentially ‘not behaving normally’ in the eyes of law enforcement.

This is just one of many examples of how having the idea of The Perfect Victim in our heads is incredibly damaging. Another Netflix production called Unbelievable (2019) is an 8-episode drama series in which a victim of rape is doubted, essentially for not behaving or appearing like a “normal victim”. It’s definitely worth a watch but would caution that it can be pretty intense and upsetting to some. I’d argue the pros outweigh the cons in terms of shaking up your own subconscious biases though and think you’ll find it shocking how easy it is for those personal biases to actually ruin a person’s life as you watch the main character Marie’s life slowly unravel in front of your eyes.

And that’s what it all comes down to really. Like I say, I think if certain trains of thought were not damaging and couldn’t impact people’s lives, nobody would complain about it. If you think brown sauce is better than red sauce (it isn’t), it doesn’t change my life or how I’m received as a person, so I’m not going to fight you about it. Well I might, but only if there’s a bacon butty at stake.

But this idea of what The Perfect Victim should look and behave like, it’s already damaging lives. Male victims of sexual crimes are laughed out of reporting the incident. Female victims are not taken seriously when they don’t behave as expected. Ethnic victims are ignored as it’s expected that they’ll be a victim. Disabled people are even touted out as victims regardless of whether they themselves feel like they are or not. Even bigger a point, criminals can get away with their actions because they know how to play The Perfect Victim role! Everything needs to be treated with context and people need to be treated as individuals. Let’s start that now and get rid of this culture of bias that’s seeping into everything we know and deciding conclusions ahead of the facts.

I also really want a bacon butty with red sauce now.

What Makes You So Special?

What Makes You So Special?

“I think the most creative people veer between ambition and anxiety, self-doubt and confidence. I definitely can relate to that. We all go through that: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ ‘Is this what I’m meant to be doing?'”

— Daniel Radcliffe

That’s right motherfuckers, I just quoted Harry Potter in a serious context.

I want to start this blog by talking about why I never started it before; imposter syndrome.

Ladies, you’ll probably be very familiar with this concept. Fellas, not so much, because the way the world has been built up to stroke your ego and feed your ambitions has meant generally speaking, this is something that affects women more. No offence guys. Even though that all sounds lovely by my reckoning.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which “people believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative, despite evidence of high achievement”. Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, coined the term back in 1978, so surely it should be old news by now right?

Wrong. An estimated 70% of women have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their lives and a study conducted in 2018 found that two thirds of women had fallen victim to imposter syndrome within the last year. Societal roles and societal expectations certainly play into this way of thinking as well. However, despite gender equality and workplace mentality improving leaps and bounds over the years, there are still people out there convinced that they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, their talents aren’t really talents, and they’re fraudulently working and existing just until someone notices what the fuck’s up.

So what does this have to do with me you ask?

It’s actually nothing really important at all. I basically don’t have confidence in the skills and abilities that have always been celebrated and pointed out to me for my entire life. Despite all those Disney moments telling me to believe in my dreams throughout my childhood, I have reached my twenties with absolutely no self-esteem about what I can do and what I have done.

I have… imposter syndrome.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it? Literally hundreds of people throughout my life have told me I write well and should do it professionally. People like to hear my rantings and ravings for the most part and tell me they want to hear more. I have read paid professional’s works and thought “I could definitely do a better job” and yet the thought of pitching, writing and blogging terrifies me. I’ve never handled rejection well and it all just seemed like a fantasy to me.

But I’ve decided to just do it. Getting all Nike on the situation now.

Recently it occurred to me that I don’t believe I deserve to have a career in writing or even just to put my writing out there into the void for free. However when I pressed myself on that (I have a lot of conversations with myself, it’s like Fight Club in my head) I really couldn’t justify that line of thinking.

“Other people want to do blogs and write professionally, but they can’t!”

Okay… but people aside from them also wanted to and did so. People made it work. People thrived doing it.

“There are so many talented writers out there and people with more to say than you, what makes you think you should be the one to do this?!”

What exactly is it that means I shouldn’t be the one to do this?

“No one will read it, no one will think you’re good at writing, and everyone will laugh!”

Fine. I’m already assuming that’s happening anyway. If nothing comes from pursuing writing about society, culture and food, I’m in the same position I started in.

So we’ll see where this goes.