This week I have been considering the journey I have made the last decade with my mental health, the stigma I have encountered to the breaking point I reached and the help I got through therapy. A good friend posted a link on Facebook to a newspaper article with Kate Winslet’s negative view of therapy; she could outsmart the person giving her therapy and decided it was not for her. To me, I felt was very out of touch attitude and only added to make the stigma of mental health and addiction worse as could not look beyond what she felt was someone inferior to her.

My own experiences of therapy tell their own tale: It is almost nine years to the day since I started having counselling. I remember well the fear I had to send the email to the university counselling service, it was admitting I had a problem but could they help and did I really need to see a counsellor? I had only done so as my so called boyfriend had pushed me to do so as felt I needed the help they provided. Although it was something I had considered as far back as eight years previously, I never thought the time was right. However, I had decided if I had not moved in 2006, I would not see Christmas as my depression was strangling me so much and living with a narcissist mother that only wanted to control every iota of my life. Therefore, it was certainly the right time at almost twenty eight, to start to understand why I felt so depressed and suicidal much of my life.

My first meeting with Anne was like stepping into someone else’s home with the way she lit her office to the pictures around the room, so immediately felt less like I was going to another part of campus. She had a caring face with a gentle tone of voice that like the lighting made feel at ease. Over the next few months we both realised my issues were far deeper than counselling could offer, she wrote to my GP who by that time had me on antidepressants after I had become suicidal over the Christmas holidays, but he simply asked me if it was true what Anne had written and as I said ‘yes’, the letter was crumpled and put in the bin. It felt like a metaphor for my life, crumpled up and nobody really listening to me; the lyrics to Tori Amos’ “Silent all these years” rang with crumpled paper now sat in my GP’s waste basket. Anne and I tried a new tact and a different doctor in the practice after I had self harmed when in hospital for a then undiagnosed ear infection. This time action was taken and was referred to a clinical psychologist.

To say I was apprehensive on seeing a clinical psychologist was an understatement, to me that made it sound like I genuinely was crazy or mad. Our initial appointment I had to rearrange owing to a visit from my mother that left me in a state of deep depression as felt I could never be free from her clutches or control. However, when I met Ginny I met someone that was willing to go with me on a journey to explore how I got to where I was today, psychodynamic therapy. It took me longer to warm and trust Ginny as felt like it was her not listening at times or full of questions. It was far from easy at times as felt like I was left at the edge of a cliff and then was expected to return to the world, continuing my PhD research, with all these memories and emotions going round in my head that somehow I had to leave them and focus on what I needed to. It was only after my suicide attempt eight years ago that I began to realise just what it was she was getting at. By the following autumn as we said ‘goodbye’ I felt sadness as realised she had given me stepping stones to move forward in life and most importantly was no longer afraid of my mother!

Since then I have found good friends that I know I can open up to but know I do need further help to deal with some issues still unresolved. I use creativity such as writing and photography to walking around nature as my self imposed therapy. Through it all I have grown to accept and appreciate me the person as I see my mother for the narcissistic woman she is and my brother that hurt me badly as an overgrown child that depends on her so much, neither able to see or accept how much they did and do hurt me still. I also accept why my father left my mother and my many issues I felt with him leaving, not being there when I needed to support.

In addition, I have learnt therapy is something we all need at times in our life, it is hard and dark, but with professional help we can find candles to hang that show there is light and where it hides. I would go so far it is part of healthy living to know and understand it is okay to ask for help in this way, as you would a doctor for a lump on a breast or broken ankle. I am currently deciding if this is not a path I should consider myself, to become a counsellor or psychologist, as love to help others and naturally empathetic, using my creativity and love of nature. I welcome thoughts from others on this, some I have asked say it is very me as already the empathetic ear or shoulder to rest that does not judge anyone and lets someone be themselves, allow them to grow and bloom to whatever or whoever they want to be.

© Fi S. J. Brown

F is for…

I seem to have an issue with the letter ‘F’. My own name of ‘Fiona‘ sent tears of bitterness and sadness to my teenage self, bullied and abused for being myself, which others found something to pick holes in till I felt I resembled more a Swiss cheese than a human being. “Nobody is friends with Fiona” any new pupil starting my year of high school was told, one that tried was reputed to have been pushed and shoved along a corridor for daring to try to break this. Depression often called.

This in turn lent to me turning ‘Fiona‘ into ‘Freak‘, for who would want to befriend or date this girl that looked like the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame? I could not look in the mirror for its contents scared me that felt it would laugh back at me or even shatter to cause seven more years of misery. I had people stop and laugh in the street or in their cars pointing and laughing at me, so thought why do I not just die and end this miserable existence?

It was only through using my camera to record the world through my eyes that things started to change. I took a picture of myself in Italy and saw the real me staring back at me; nobody was laughing, pointing fingers or mocking me for having my eyes shut. However, I did not understand who this woman was and nearly did not stop to find out as decided the next year whilst on antidepressants to finally end it, jumping under a train seemed the best way to make my curtain call on life.

I was caught just in time but the misery was far from over. In the following few days I was told by family they were coming to “take me back to Scotland where I belonged”! I never felt so frightened in my life, ringing round social services to mental health helplines, nobody would answer me what I should do. Eventually I got a brother based in England to get them to stop and finally I could breath, and put down my dressing robe rope that was in hand to hang from the tree in my garden.

The years that followed I did end up back in Scotland but some things were different, I end up seeing me the woman not the ‘freak‘ of my head. She was and is highly intelligent, quirky and creative not a freak of a mad scientist that needed to be put down like a sick dog. I also learnt instead of ‘Fiona‘, my friends could use ‘Fi’ and I was mostly alright with that even if didn’t feel always me. However, the F decided it wanted to change from ‘freak‘ into a new word – ‘Failure’.

I have spent now three years with this F word teasing me like the others before it. I feel a failure to humanity, that some how I am not living life the way it is meant to be, always an outsider watching in. Unable to do the ‘normal’ things people do like gain a ‘proper‘ job or move away from where I don’t belong to having partner/companion of my own. My high school physics teacher remarked on how I could always do the advanced stuff but not the basics, which feels like an echo of my life.

However, tonight something has clicked in my head, I feel a new F word is dawning, that word is ‘fine‘. I am ‘fine‘ the way I am, not everyone leads life the same way and it is okay to follow our own path not going the same as every other one. I have no idea what my purpose to what my dreams really are, but that’s okay as I am not frightened. Where will I be this time next month or year, I do not know, but what I do know is that all will be just ‘fine’ in the end and suitably Fi-shaped.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Meaning of life

This week I have been enjoying watching the incredible new documentary by Yann Arthus-Bertrand called HUMAN. It serves to make us stop and question life – “What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?” Including perhaps the most profound question of them all – What is the meaning of life? I decided to take time out to actually think this through, what does it mean to me the individual with my knowledge, skills, and experiences of it and articulate my ponders to encourage you reading this to do the same.

Starting at the beginning, what is life?

Life is often said to be a journey, however for me it has always been a river. A river starts as a trickle among the hills before it sets off on its journey, encountering many sights and sounds along the way; with the different landscapes being thought of as the different influences around us. Every life is an unique that flows like a river through many twists and turns that can never be repeated nor predicted where it will go next. A flowing river makes a gentle murmur, which touches all that comes its way. This murmur is our voice that maybe one but can make a difference. The path a river carves out as it flows, the obstacles in its way, slowing it down for a time before moving free again, are all parallels of our own lives. A river’s colour acts as a reminder of these obstacles, as with scars our some visible and some invisible to the naked eye. In end a river merges with the sea, with the tunnels of near death experiences being on a boat on a deltas heading towards the sea.

The only constant is change

One of the great paradoxes of life is the ever changing nature of it. As much as we may feel we live a Groundog Day existence or have a set routine, each day is actually full of enormous and extraordinary changes that we often take so much for granted we miss the wonder of it. We assume that we will wake up tomorrow at night or that loved one battling a terminal disease will be there to visit tomorrow.

For example the view from the kitchen window looks unchanged as we look out as wait for the kettle to boil, but it is not the same view as yesterday. For it is only when we stop to look closer we can see what has changed. A few petals have fallen off the pink roses that grow to middle centre, the trees in the distance have started to turn red as now autumn in the northern hemisphere, and the birds that have been visiting the bird bath have now begun their flight south for winter.

I’ll do it tomorrow

We wait for a signal to start something new as will know when time is right but as with the constant change there is never going to be a perfect time to do anything as the whole ideology of perfection as I previously wrote on is flawed. Life is extremely fragile and changes in the blink of an eye, by procrastinating making a change we have no guarantee that time will come or be around to make the changes we want to make.

Tomorrow will also never come because it is based on the foundations of today, as when the time comes it is almost as though we cannot appreciate it as the present because we did not prepare properly for it or had such high expectations it could never live up to the way we would imagine it to be. As with living through the past, we cannot appreciate the little things right now that make it special, which is why only the present matters.

Money – a golden carrot

Life is often a golden carrot with false promises by others as well as ourselves. We fool ourselves with ideas of if only I had £250 extra per month, I could do so much more or it could go further. Unless we’re on a small income, that won’t cover anything. If we spend money on credit cards each month, we still we spend it on credit cards and perhaps more as know we have that extra a month. Money to many is the ultimate status symbol of success, showing the home they own with car they drive and all the contents therein.

However, it should not be a symbol at all as means nothing, to me it is almost fools gold. The home is bought on a long term loan, everything that has a bill is effectively rented, and every object may have sentimental meaning but does not add value to life. Since my teens I have struggled to understand how much power and emphasis we put on money. It has never been a driving force nor will it ever be for me to do things. What I mean is that I do things because I want to, not because it looks good or I’ll get rewarded for it in heaven by some god, but simply as I have the knowledge/skills/experience or wish to gain them from doing so.


Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner conceived of a theory of human development is based upon seven year cycles:

  • Ages 0 to 7: Coming into life
  • Ages 7 to 14: Stronger health & healing abilities
  • Ages 14 to 21: The emotional realm comes into being
  • Ages 21 to 28: Play that turns to responsibility
  • Ages 28 to 35: Peaking
  • Ages 35 to 42: A time of challenge and crises
  • Ages 42 to 49: Effectiveness of Earth
  • Ages 49 to 56: A growing vision and understanding of life
  • Ages 56 to 63: The crossroads – mastery of re-evaluation
  • Ages 63 to 70: A time of harvesting and spreading the wealth
  • Ages 70 +: Reflection

Ask people what the meaning of life is, many will say 42 after the work of author Douglas Adams who coined it as the ultimate answer to the meaning of life, universe and everything. Following Steiner’s patterns, at 42 we enter a cycle where by the soul works hard to impress the full forces of its personality upon the world. At this time, the soul has the opportunity to a higher state of consciousness called Spirit Self. So perhaps Adams was onto something afterall.

From my own experiences life did change at 28 as I began therapy a month before turning it but knew I had to make a change that year, otherwise I would no longer be part of it. 35 also changed me as was at turning 35 I finally accepted and had learnt to appreciate me who I am not for who I thought I was. Since then I have certainly felt a new level of understanding of not just myself but the world around me as well as start a new ‘path’ that feels where I actually belong in life and truer to me than I have been since my mid-teens.

My meaning of life

So for me life is an ever changing, ever evolving experience. Each day is full is full of patterns we recognise but new ones come in to colour in that pattern or change the shape of it so not the same as it was before. Equally, taking time to reflect each day to take in what has changed and what we have learnt, moving on from that day so no longer can hold the same pain it does today. Remembering money is a means to an ends not something we should expect or demand more of, or use it to make someone else’s life hell or put a large donation to an organisation out of guilt.

We all lead busy lives but need to appreciate money cannot buy everything or anything that has worth: the friendships that make us smile when we see a message from them on our mobile phones as they have a special place in both our hearts and souls to the people we choose to be our partners that communicating with is key so misunderstandings can be sorted out at the start not left to grow into something that then has roots and harder to remove as can no longer remember what actually started it all.

How we choose to live life either by the culture and traditions we live by to what life has taught us from our knowledge and experiences, no one way is the right. People for example that live in tribes in the Amazon rainforest are living life their way, it is not backward or primitive but what fits with their surroundings and way life flows their way. Finally, no matter what we look like, race, disabilities, sexualities, beliefs, gender etc, we all share this life as a human being, no one is greater or worse than another.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Last Rose

She is now the solitary rose of summer,
All alone in the evening sun’s lonely slumber.
Her friends now gone are but memories,
Only footnotes captured in someone’s pictures.

Never to become part of a wedding bouquet,
But made that garden special every single way.
Hearts and souls of many she has touched,
With a fragrant pale pink sweetness they loved.

Counting the days till all her petals will fall,
As the trees’ leaves change for the autumn ball.
Each one a tear over another summer gone,
Will anyone remember her as the world carries on?

© Fi S. J. Brown

The power of three

For three minutes I would like you take time out your day to do the following. Sit down, read all through then shut your eyes, doing each bit in turn.

As you shut your eyes count to 3, 1…2….3… Good now repeat, 1…2…3… and repeat one last time 1…2…3…

Well done but before you open them pause a little longer. Now think of three friends; can be anyone, thinking of why or what makes them matter to you. Now think of three special gifts you have; perhaps somewhere to live, access to running water, or the ability to read and write. Now think of three luxuries you have that may forget actually are luxuries; a car to drive to travel from A-B at any time, access to the internet to find anything you want to know or buy in seconds, and freedom to be ourselves not what someone else wants or says we should be.

Now as you open your eyes look right; what three things do you see that you have bought, do you ever or will you ever use them? Now turn and look left; find three things that were a gift from someone else, what makes them special and priceless? Now look forward; what hopes and dreams do you have, what’s really stopping you fulfilling them? Now as you stand up, take a glance behind to see how far life has changed the last three years.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, the dark feelings associated with it are extremely painful; it is not selfish or easy to say we just cannot cope anymore. However, it is important to remember we are loved by others near or far, and more than we realise at times. These cannot ever be bought or sold, unlike the gifts that don’t have to be bought to show appreciation or love, and luxuries we all too often take for granted as forget not everyone has.

Nothing in life lasts forever, so call/message/write to three people you thought of above, even if not physically here now, still write. Think of three things that make you special to others by being in their lives. Finally, take three steps forward, these are three steps towards your hopes and dreams.

© Fi S. J. Brown


On this the day of International Literacy, I think of anthropologist Wade Davis work on languages; he states that half the languages of the world are on the brink of extinction. Pause for a minute and think what that means. To be the last person that spoke, read and wrote your native language with no way to pass this knowledge on. Amazing that every two weeks on average this happens to someone around the world. Davis states that this means within a generation or two we will lose half of humanity’s legacy.

As you read this, you may think doesn’t matter, we all speak English and/or wouldn’t it better if there was one language for all, would we all not get along better then? Sure, but let’s make it Chamicuro, Liki or Kaixana. Perhaps now we can understand what it may be like not to speak our native language. For many of us a world where people could no longer speak, write or read English seems unimaginable given how much is spoken, written and said in it daily. By losing languages we’re losing more than a solitary voice in the dark but a way of life, customs and traditions.

So as we go about today, reading and writing in our various languages on Facebook to E-mail and text think about this. Also, consider not just how lucky we are to have the gifts to do so, because they are gifts that not all humans have the opportunities to learn these even now in the second decade of the 21st century. Equally, embrace our diversity in all its beautiful colours that enrich the world, even removing but one colour from the rainbow would change the world around us forever before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Real life

As popular reality TV shows return for their autumn runs in the UK few stop to think of the contestants that in many ways are like actors in a play. Winners already decided to scripted arguments, edited video footage to manipulative judges comments, all make us invest emotionally in the contestants and vote in a certain way. Thus the contestants are presented in neat little packages, which are often far from how the truly are around friends and family.

However, it is not just confined to TV shows, for it is something nearly all of us are guilty of. Take a look at your Facebook profile, if have one, and see the image of yourselves that you promote to the outside world. We share our lives like the diary room on the show “Big Brother“, editing our photos to elicit a certain response, trying to look slimmer and younger than we are, to the portray of how life is and the person we want to be seen as by others.

Learning to be comfortable in who we are can be very difficult. Combined with the media and entertainment telling us we need to do x or y to become rich and successful or this is what true beauty looks like via a heavily edited photograph. Those that differ are seen as abnormal or freaks as their individuality is erased at a click of a mouse. Therefore, nowhere do we see examples of ordinary individuals as almost want to conform to these ideas.

Is it not time we stopped watching and listening? Gave ourselves a break for not being how the world paints what human beings are to be. Not everyone will have a partner and/or children, a fulfilling career does not mean one that brings lots of money and owning houses to cars are extras that should not be forced as must haves; what is wrong with renting a home or use public transport, owning a car may seem convenient but costs so much to run.

However, by all means continue watching television and posting to social media if you wish, but perhaps tuning out from or switching them off them now and again so can appreciate what we have without needing to share it, the little things that are special to each of us. Spending quality time with friends and family as life is precious and short, which is why the present is the only time that actually exists; based on foundations of the past and start of tomorrow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A question of survival

This cage is no wilderness,
And the computer screen
Can conjure up the image
Of an Edinburgh sunset
But it doesn’t know it from
A sale at Next or Sainsburys,
So it’s up to me to remember
Birds singing, leaves dancing,
Puddles for jumping or leaping,
Skies filled oranges and reds
Memories fading as day ends.

A person thinks they make a living
But the real living is far from here
I see a dog run into the waves,
Trying to fetch his ball again,
Following the horizon and beyond
Watching dreams just out of touch.
Wishing I could soar like an eagle,
Over those hills and far away
I light a candle but blow it out
Making that wish and whisper
Believe it again under my breath.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Wabi Sabi Woman

I am a Wabi Sabi woman. I am far from perfect but what or who is? We all have quirks and idiosyncratic ways that give our personalities colour. We are all also fighting to bring down walls and barriers other people put in our way. They also may try to box us in or put walls up but together we can break them. Nobody is abnormal, failure or a freak, how we experience and live this life is different for us all. Pause to reflect the journey so far but not dwell on it and let the roots from that show who we are today. Equally, remembering what and who we are today form the roots of the future, if we’re putting off that choice or decision – do it. Finally, be gentle with ourselves and others, be a light in the darkness not one that switches off the torch.
© Fi S. J. Brown 


Letter to self

Dear Fiona (aged 23 and 3/4s),
I am writing to you from thirteen years in your future and have managed to scrape through to 36.75, sometimes you’ll wonder how but have learnt to focus on the present not past to pains that still scar but are covered in patches sewn by the love of friendship and think of the future but only see a cold and dark tunnel.

You are coming to the end of your time living in Aberdeen, having studied for a degree and a masters, but not sure what direction you want to go next. Well here’s a spoiler, you have another masters and PhD to go but they’re not listening to your inner voice, which you only learn with hindsight and life experience.

A freak that is the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame is how you feel, right? Wrong, by my time you have grown to accept and appreciate who you are. No you haven’t resorted to drastic measures to change every iota of yourself as per those nightmaresque dreams you always have.

The reason for this letter is to say, you’re doing just fine. Yes, the way your life goes is not like others but that’s why life’s journey is unique and special, we can empathise and understand that of others but only we know our path. And yes it does hurt, do cry but do also try to focus on the positives that are part of that journey.

As to where you’re going to be at the age that I am now? Lets just say frustration on some things never change, no matter what we do these seem set to plague us but some will change. No matter how they seem today, like the newspapers that are tomorrows fish and chip wrappers, let them fade with the sun setting.

One final thing thing, you’re a strong woman that keeps going longer than any Duracell bunny ever could. So dry those tears that fall, not hard with your hand, but with a tissue and let yourself feel them like drops on a drum for they’re the rhythm of your heart and soul. And don’t give up, believe it again, carry on forwards.

Love Fi (aged 36.75) xx