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.

I Didn’t Forget My Mum is Dead, but Thanks for Reminding Me

I Didn’t Forget My Mum is Dead, but Thanks for Reminding Me

Photo by Lucxama Sylvain on Pexels.com

I lost my mum in August. It was very sudden, very unexpected and very traumatic. Eight months on and we still haven’t had the inquest or any legal asset thingamajigs finalised which should give you an inkling into how unusual the circumstances were and how miserable a time it’s been.

It’s Mother’s Day on the 22nd of March. Like all holidays, companies and advertisements are being promoted well in advance but this year there has been a noticeable twist; they are letting you know they know your mum might be dead.

It started with Thortful, a greeting card company you may have seen on Facebook that I purchased cards (Jeremy Corbyn cards as well, now that is a loss I’m definitely still mourning) from once. The quality, delivery and price were great at Thortful but be aware that once you order from them, you are bombarded with emails. Every day, “Hey order a card!” “Yo, here’s a funny joke to make you order a card!” “Hiya, did you like that card you ordered and do you want to order more cards?”, it’s constant. Thanks to that whole GDPR debacle, we can unsubscribe and be free of such harassment within a couple of weeks, but you probably know as well as I do that even a little click of a hyperlink in an email you don’t want to be opening in the first place is a mammoth task right there in the moment. So, like the lazy self-saboteur I am, I just deleted the emails or marked as read for months as soon as they came in, telling myself that eventually I would unsubscribe.

And then came the final nail in the coffin. No pun intended.

I freaked the fuck out. A total stranger was trying to relate to how I would feel in the very new wake of my mother’s death. Christmas, New Year’s Day and Eve, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Burns Night, they all happened before Mother’s Day but I didn’t hear a peep. Why so direct on this one occasion?

How did they know? How do I shake off this ‘Girl-With-Dead-Mum’ title hanging over my head once and for all? Was I supposed to be dreading the day? Was I a bad daughter for not shrouding around in black in preparation for one day I’d forgotten about?

It took a minute and a couple of screenshots from other people to realise it was most likely a blanket email and not targeted to any group of people in particular. Some people in my same predicament actually praised Thortful’s sentiment, and in the coming weeks more companies offered to ease my future suffering by generously allowing me to opt-out of those violently triggering emails if my little heart desired it. As I say, for some people, that was a nice gesture.

I thought it was fucking disgusting.

I want to make a couple of disclaimers here (though I don’t know why I bother making disclaimers anymore. Despite constantly tip-toeing and making sure I say on every tweet, status, post and spoken sentence that “It’s only my opinion and I’m not an expert and there’s other people out there and I’m not telling you what to do and oirfoijesrifjapsomfcskfjap…” a man will find me and tell me how silly and short-sighted I have been and demand I justify my answers and opinions right there and then. I thought it was pretty obvious these posts are OPINION pieces and I am entitled and equally qualified to make observations about culture and society as any man with a keyboard that thinks I need critiquing is. But they come through anyway, striking up “debate” without any foundation to even make small talk with me on, and not offering balance which you do need in a civil discussion; what you’re doing is actually just loudly disagreeing. That’s fine, but why do you think I want to hear it? I don’t. Stamping your opinion all over me when you disagree with me is not helpful to my writing. There is no feedback to be had from that. You don’t like my ideas. That’s fine. Bitch about it, share my links and ridicule them, comment on the blog as a visiting reader, block and delete me. But do you really have to find me personally and be all “Well ACTUALLY…” if you disagree with what I’m saying? Make your own blog sweetheart. Tell me about factual errors, if I’m endangering people, or if I’ve spelled something wrong. Otherwise fuck off).

First disclaimer is, I don’t know if that rant is grammatically appropriate for brackets.

Second disclaimer is that grief is not linear and there is not a universal one-fits-all way of showing it. How I deal with grief could be incredibly damaging and saddening to another person. Society loves rules and it loves expected behaviors. It’s how we separate the good from the bad and the safe from the unsafe. But grief and psychological response to traumatic events defies any rule or schedule you can try to give it, and what I’m about to say is only what my brain thinks is the best response to Thortful’s email and dealing with grief in general.

Something I have really struggled with throughout this process is how much it feels like everybody is waiting for you to break down. People don’t seem to grasp that you can be hurting whilst being functional, that any instance where I can go about my day normally doesn’t mean I’m ignoring my grief or trying to forget my mum. I want to process my feelings on my terms. But people want you to talk and talk and taaaaaalk about the death constantly and it feels like they’re waiting for the “GOTCHA!” moment where they can reveal that ha HA, you thought you were coping but I wore you down, I know you better than you do, after my interrogation and forcing you to recount traumatic events you CRIED, HA, I KNEW YOU WEREN’T REALLY OKAY! It’s not that I don’t want to ever talk about my mum or how I’m coping, it’s that I don’t want to talk about that stuff with you.

When you have an anxiety disorder like me, you spend a lot of time analysing your behaviour and how your thoughts and emotions work and connect to each other. Stepping outside myself to do emotional damage control and being introspective enough to pick apart why I do certain things comes pretty easily to me now. I don’t deny anymore. I know my triggers and my slippery slopes. I’ve worked with psychologists, counselors and doctors over the years to fully understand how my mind works and why I react to things the way I do. I have my support system in place and know when I need to reach out. I give myself a break but ensure I have routines in place. So honestly, as nice as people intend to be when they bring up how they feel sorry for me because my mum’s dead and then corner me to force me to share my private thoughts and feelings; I can handle it by myself.

I don’t want to talk to you about my mum’s death because even if you’ve been through the same thing, you don’t understand how I feel. Any attempt to pluck a breakthrough Good Will Hunting therapy moment with me feels insincere. You can’t give me what I need by callously prodding at me in public. My sadness is done behind closed doors, without distraction and without judgement. I am private about my sadness because I’m more comfortable that way, but I am not in denial over the loss of my mum and the tears that I will always cry over that.

I don’t think I will forget that my mum died for as long as I live. I live in pain from it every day. There are parts of my mind and memories I can’t even visit and may perhaps never be able to because it is too painful. Every time I re-realise I’m never speaking to her again, my stomach squeezes itself and I feel my eyes starting to look sad. When you love someone so deeply and sincerely, everything in the world reminds you of them and everything you ever experience is connected to them in some shape or form.

An old picture my mum would hate because it’s prior to when she got her teeth did

And yet Thortful thought I’d forget that unless I saw their oh-so special email promoting Mother’s Day.

Society is run by corporations. Social media affects our supposedly democratic elections for Christ’s sake. So I’m not surprised when companies inflate their worth in their customer’s lives in their robotic, money-making minds at all, but it still pisses me right off.

I wanted to email back saying, “How dare you. If I’m so horrifically affected by a fucking greeting card company mentioning that Mother’s Day is indeed still a thing that didn’t cease to exist when my mum died, I’d make fucking sure I’d done all I can ALREADY to mute any correspondence associated with it. Thanks for assuming I am both selfish and stupid. Cheers love, yours sincerely, Girl-With-Dead-Mum xoxoxox”, but it’s not Thortful Sophie’s fault.

That is how it feels though. Mother’s Day might make me sad. Like I said before, grief is not linear. It makes it a fun little game because you could be absolutely fine one day and crumbling down the next. You can’t even prepare yourself for triggers; I was reasonably okay at my mum’s funeral, the day when you think I’d be most upset. But then not long after, I went to my GP for a medication review and started sobbing uncontrollably when she said the word ‘Tablet’ because it reminded me of how my mum was crazy for tablet, the Scottish delicacy.

That doesn’t mean I spend every day in anticipation of being devastated on certain days though. In all honesty, I’d forgotten about Mother’s Day. I usually do until a week before. And yet an email that was made to spare feelings that I didn’t even have yet, conjured up more worries and panic in that moment than what I (now) am expecting to feel on the actual day.

Corporations are getting way too encroaching. They’re like a new being sharing the space of the planet. There’s humans, plants, animals, and corporations. The trouble with this is, corporations are trying to act like pally humans more each day, and humans are starting to act more like corporations every day.

As I said before, what works for my grief will not necessarily work for everyone. If you want to support a friend, colleague or family member while they’re grieving, you need to unfortunately listen to them and know them well enough to recognise the unique signs that mean they’re not doing so well. Unlike Thortful, you don’t have a wholly sincere and incredibly personal email you can send that will erase all feeling of loss and improve their lives in an instant. You and your person are humans, not corporations.

Some corporation-minded people have done the wrong thing for me while I’ve been grieving, that I will say, and I do think some of it can actually be applied to anyone going through grief. Here are some of the few things you shouldn’t do to anyone while they’re grieving:

  • Don’t apologise for not going to the funeral. The day is a total blur and they have enough to focus on. You will know if you should be there, so if you’re not there, odds are the grieving party weren’t looking for you or refusing to start proceedings until they saw your face. To be blunt, someone has just died; they don’t care where you are.
  • Don’t encourage any life-altering or big decisions to be made in the immediate aftermath. When you are grieving, your head is all over the place and you are in no position to be making permanent arrangements while you’re essentially in shock. Yes, moving home or going inter-railing might help, but don’t chance it while you’re scrambled in the head. Tell your person to breathe, sleep on it, and revisit in a few months.
  • Don’t reassure someone that they don’t have to be ‘brave’ in front of you. If someone is being solemn and reserved, odds are it is not for your benefit. For some people, that is a way they can comfortably cope with overwhelming situations. For others, they get hysterical in private and simply have already used up their mourning energy earlier that day before you saw them. For a lot of people, playing the part of normalcy makes them feel good about themselves. When you reveal that you think they’re acting brave, regardless of whether it’s true or not, all you do is make that person feel that they’re not convincing you. Their safety net has been rumbled and now they feel awkward, shitty and like everyone is judging them, all because you wanted to come across as the little holier-than-thou guardian angel you think you are.

That’s about it though.

It’s also tough for the surrounding people in a grieving person’s life for that reason. You’re having to navigate this process of loss yourself in how you respond to someone’s grief and what you do to make that person feel safe and loved. It is really tricky, but all you can do is listen to what they tell you, let them know you are there for them, and make sure they know there is no pressure for them to behave any particular way or do any particular thing. You’ll know the little personal touches like their favourite foods or if they would appreciate getting out of the house, but that comes with ‘knowing the person well’ territory and can’t be applied in a blanket way across society.

Whatever you do though, if I’m your grieving friend, don’t send me a fucking email about it.

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.

Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?

Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?

On the odd chance somebody from outside my tiny Cheshire village finds and likes this writing blog, I suppose an introduction is in order.

I’m Sophie. I’m 26. I’m basically always cranky.

Honestly I’m just using the exact template WordPress already gave me. You may call it lazy, but I call it efficient, and I think that little exchange sums up like 75% of who I am as a person.

We’ll call this blog article an introduction, but depending on how you feel about it I might rename it a warning. WordPress has asked me, ‘Why do this?’

  • Because it gives new readers context. What am I about? Why should you read my blog?
  • Because it will help me focus my own ideas about my blog and what I’d like to do with it.

Quite honestly, I’m simply using this blog to flex my writing skills. I miss writing creatively and writing critically. It’s taken me until the age of 26 to start owning skills that people have been telling me I’ve had since I was about 2.

I want to write professionally. How realistic that is, we’ll find out as we go along, but finding my voice, practicing my craft and having a ramble about society, culture, and food online seems like a relatively harmless way to get started.

I’m also convinced it will save the people I love from having to let me know go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…

Here’s some basics about me, but if you could also imagine me 5st lighter that would be great too:

  • I grew up in Holmes Chapel and now live in Stockport
  • My mum was Scottish and I absolutely milk the celtic roots of my heritage because of it
  • Dogs are my most favourite thing of all time I love them all
  • I am fat. Doesn’t affect my personality but if I need to put it on Tinder, I need to put it on here
  • I have two brothers, one older, one younger
  • Being the only girl and the middle child is just too much
  • My dad is essentially ‘off the grid’ and has no concept of modern pricing after being housebound for the best part of a decade
  • I have blue eyes and brown hair that is constantly getting bleached and dyed
  • My partner has the same birthday as me aside from the year
  • My ex-partner had the same birthday as Adolf Hitler. I have the same birthday as Eva Braun. That should have been a sign
  • I like certain pockets of every music genre, but I tend to lean towards the indie/rock side of things
  • I’ve seen all the films
  • I fucking hate lasagne

By no means do I think this is the best or necessarily the worst about me. Just stuff of note and things that have shaped me into who I am. It’s an amuse bouche of me I suppose, enough to show if I’ll provoke an attack from you or if I would amuse you.

Hopefully it’s enough to convince you to join me on this online journey. I didn’t enjoy writing that sentence, I felt like a very seedy old man who listens to prog-rock and has a wizard painted on his sketchy van.

But I’ve written it now, no turning back, we’re in this together, us against the world. Hot takes on societal expectations, articles with sociology and psychology themes. Critiques on Netflix dramas and documentaries. Fantasising about food and bragging about places I get to eat at.

God help us all.