Depression

Depression is like being frozen in time and held prisoner in a cage with no bars. Filled with unseen, unheard, unspoken, unreleased and unhealed pain. Therapy can help give it a voice and shape, medication can temporarily numb and allow us to live, but the real difference comes from deep within. We have to defrost, work through it (slowly and sometimes repetitively) and release ourselves. It is not just the shadows that haunt, but repression of causes that may now have grown into forests as never dealt with the roots as saplings.

We still live in a world that encourages us to bury rather than express, manage rather than deal with, and silence rather than speak. This just makes us replay old thoughts like broken records, making enemies with our own being, and unable to move on as becomes lost in the forests of our own creation. There is no golden axe that can chop them down to the roots, but defrosting our feelings so no longer trapped in time, and forgive ourselves so we can be free. No more damming up our emotions as scared of the rivers that may flow from our eyes, let down the flood barriers and open our mouths to speak our feelings aloud.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Summer 2020

Summer is here, and for some of us the summer vacation/holidays have begun. However, this year with lockdown/quarantine the annual break from work has taken a different turn as for most of us it will be spent at home. Some airlines will be flying to take us away, but how many of us will risk catching Covid-19 in so doing?

It is also the time of year when we have adverts to pressurise us to loose weight for fitting into a bikini or swimming costume. The world is full of TV, magazines, and diet talk constantly reminding women of the young, smooth, skinny ideal. Men are not exempt from this either. Some blame on the rise of social media, and the narcissistic selfie culture that the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld rather accurately aptly described as ‘electronic masturbation’. However, reality tv shows such as ‘Love Island’ brainwash viewers with an idealised version of how both men and women should be in the 21st century. Then there are celebrities and influencers on social media, who edit their images and lives, and so when we do not match they can leave a big hole in our self confidence, self image and mental health, leading to depression and even suicide.

Despite lockdown, the pressure for the impossible ‘perfect body’ for the summer still seems to be in full swing, although much of our normal routines have changed, temporarily to permanently. Also, there have been many jokes about haircuts done during this time as cannot access a professional to do it for us. Equally, some have gained or lost weight as ways to cope with these strange times. I also realise this pressure will keep continuing as people return to their works and routines beyond the summer. Have you seen the Facebook meme entitled “When You Meet Your Friends After Quarantine,” which shows toddler girls baring their admittedly adorable bellies which they bonk together? So how can we be ourselves, comfortable in our own skins, when there is pressure to be something we are not? How do we combat these messages, and the negativity they may bring to our mental health?

It is not easy, but gratitude is a good starting point. Being grateful to our bodies for getting us through another day, and keeping going through an enormously stressful time for all human beings. For some keeping a journal writing five positive things each day about themselves may help, or even sharing them on social media to encourage others to join in. Finally, accepting that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect body‘, in fact in some ways every type of body is their type of perfect. A couple of quotes I like says it all from anon: “The number on the scale does not define your health or your worth” and “Imagine if we obsessed about the things we loved about ourselves.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

Escape from Lockdown

Sitting out on a sunny day
The blue sky the warm sunshine
Looking out over the Pentland Hills
To the lands of freedom so far away
Not far from these hills a pandemic lingers
An invisible grey cloud
Once in a while we would forget

The days we escaped to the beaches
And left our rubbish to the wind
The days we dreamed we could be free
Riding the waves of liberty
Meeting one more of our friends
And no homeschooling for our kids
Feeling the warm sun on our faces
And no coughing from our mouths

So we headed for dunes with suntan lotion
Made it thought the motorway queues
To the waves at Bournemouth
Coughs and fevers swapped for sand and ice cream
Not far from these hills a pandemic lingers
An invisible grey cloud
Once in a while we would forget

The days we escaped to the beaches
And left our rubbish to the wind
The day that we dreamed we could be free
Riding the waves of liberty
Meeting one more of our friends
And no homeschooling for our kids
Feeling the warm sun on our faces
And no coughing from our mouths

So we made our way
Through the Dartford Tunnel
To the southern coast of England
Through the sun and crowds
While the second wave waited on

The days we escaped to the beaches
And left our rubbish to the wind
The day that we dreamed we could be free
Riding the waves of liberty
Meeting one more of our friends
And no homeschooling for our kids
Feeling the warm sun on our faces
And no coughing from our mouths

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

T’s Song

Inspired by a friend’s experiences with autism, mental health and divorce during the coronavirus lockdown.

These four walls are not my home
I’m sat afraid and crying all alone
Trapped in a cage with no bars
There’s no freedom from here for me
Looking through the eyes of change
Shining like the evening sky’s stars
And a cold that makes me shiver
There’s no freedom from here for me

But through the darkness whispers
A light in the forest breaks
Gentle birdsong calls out my name
Singing out across the land
So high up into the heavens
There’s no freedom from here for me

I was blinded by your foolish love
Wandered from across the country
To be in the arms I thought understood
There’s no freedom from here for me
And the diagnosis nobody understands
The meltdowns as cope with uncertainty
A desert that grows barren by the day
There’s no freedom from here for me.

But through the darkness whispers
A light in the forest breaks
Gentle birdsong calls out my name
Singing out across the land
So high up in the heavens
There’s no freedom from here for me

Knowing this is where my story may end
Poor in wealth, body, mind and soul
Standing too close to the edge of the cliff
There’s no freedom from here for me
Burned out like days old cigarette butts
Awaiting fate’s final twisting tale
Defrauded of every love and need
There’s no freedom from here for me

But through the darkness whispers
A light in the forest breaks
Gentle birdsong calls out my name
Singing out across the land
So high up in the heavens
There’s no freedom from here for me

© Fi S. J. Brown

June 1st, 2020

I reside in one of Edinburgh’s many streets
At the fifty-fourth house I call it my home
A shelter from an uncertain changing world
As a virus holds all its citizens to ransom
No mountains of toilet rolls can protect them
Or pasta shaped cure to be found for now

As the humans are now the caged animals
Venturing out only to forage and exercise
An unmentionable odour of death lingers
But some try to break the rules in blind hope
Meeting in large crowds while the sun shines
Leaving behind litter as a sign of their escape

A second peak lingers on like a dark shadow
The strength to keep fighting is wavering thin
Track and trace with big brother’s little sister
Defenceless against the sleepwalking sheep
Lest we learn any lessons from recent past
And enlightenment is driven into the night

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Be Kind

It is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which this year is on the theme of kindness. In modern life it has be come a norm to overlook many things in life—to shrug it off, roll our eyes, and simply walk away. We avoid interaction on a very basic level unless on social media. Prior to lockdown, we missed so many opportunities to extend our human kindness to each other and ourselves.

Life was like a fast-paced chess game with no end. Trying to to stay two steps ahead of ourselves as went from A to B, our brains would be filled with worries and thoughts. We saw poverty, abuse, disease, war, hunger, bullying, and violence on the news and online, so often it was so overwhelming that we choose to do nothing. We did not have time or energy to do something someone else, as did not even make time for ourselves.

As human we have a gift that can change ourselves and others – that of kindness. It can be a smile at a passing stranger or a comment on Facebook. Equally it can be having that piece of cake without feeling guilty. It costs nothing. It is a true kindness when we don’t expect anything in return, like gratitude or reciprocation; we simply want to make someone feel better.

Finally, kindness is good for our health. Being kind regulates our heart rate; we get a warm, cosy feeling. Our brain releases dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, all of which make us happy. So don’t be hard on yourself for any weight gained during lockdown, or the grey hairs are starting to show, we all are struggling.

Life cannot carry on as before, we need to throw away this idea of normal. We are all unique, there is no such thing as an average human life or being. Instead, lets be kind and respectful to ourselves, others and the world around us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Real Dystopian Life

Thinking about the false images and stories that the media and internet are filled with. Where the truth is hidden like the tip of an iceberg we will never see the bottom of; scratch the surface and the only thing we get is a bit cold, but dive down and discover a whole new world exists full of tunnels that once discovered there is no turning back. Back on the surface they are sensationalised and toxic norms that want us to fit into tidy boxes, which make those that don’t question their beliefs and sanity, rather than throw away the boxes we were never meant to fit into in the first place.

Twenty four seven news, advertisements, publicity and entertainment is the diet we are fed direct from the black box in the corner to the black mirror in our hands. How can we tell if it is a promotion for a new film, or a car commercial that looks more like it is selling perfume than something to drive. It makes us scratch our heads and overthink, which results in us remembering the product longer than we thought and even consider buying one as given it that much thought.

With celebrities famous for the slightest thing ready to cling on to the false spotlight above them. Only a few walk away from the false light, because it becomes as addictive as the white powder that they are given to sniff and become locked in contracts they can never escape. Whilst influencers prey on the vulnerable in a bid to try grab that light onto themselves, and begin to believe their worth, which is in fools gold not real money. Filled with toxic smoke and mirrors, which are really best left alone.

We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic, our every day lives have almost stopped with a full stop with the noise of sirens and flashing lights in the background. Those that at the turn of the year were in jobs that were seen as unskilled, have become essential to keeping our countries and world running. As the media plays on and on with updates upon more updates, creating fear and worry, making trying to adapt to this changing world harder and harder. Many feel their comfort blankets have been taken away and replaced with ones of different colours and textures, but are meant to hold on to the familiar faces still there on the black boxes and black mirrors, as though that should bring us comfort.

And so, as I now sit here, staring into the screen of my laptop, finding myself looking at my friend’s latest posts on social media and answering emails from work. None of them seem to offer any real hope or break from the falseness that infected our world long before the virus. The door to the outside are out there, they just forgot to let everyone know they could tune out at any time. My suspicion is that they do not want us to know that we have the key the whole time.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Education and Disability

This is a bit different from my usual writing. However, I decided to share it as I had saved it to my drafts on my work email and had sat there for five months without a home. It is based on notes I have made from experiences and courses I have done on disability, education, and low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Education is a fundamental human right and essential for the exercise of all other human rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) sets out the responsibility of states to provide an inclusive education system at all levels. Article 24 states that people with disabilities have the right to education on an equal basis with others and without discrimination. The CRPD committee’s General Comment on inclusive education further articulates the right to education for people with disabilities.

However, learning environments are not always inclusive and safe places. They can be sites of physical, verbal, psychological and sexual violence, and social exclusion. For children and young people who are perceived as ‘different’ and who do not fit into dominant cultures in societies, schools can actually be alienating and marginalising spaces. Moreover, violence in educational settings is a daily reality that denies millions of children and young people the fundamental human right to education.

However, despite global progress in achieving universal access to education, more than half the 65 million children with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries are not in school. They face multiple barriers to receiving an education including inaccessible schools, inaccessible teaching materials, prejudice and discrimination from teachers and bullying from peers. The situation is particularly concerning for girls with disabilities,as they are at an increased risk of violence, which can also lead to families choosing not to send them to school. In conflict settings, the risk of gender-based violence increases for all girls. Leaving them in a cycle of poverty and inequality that extends throughout adulthood.

Globally, we are facing a learning crisis. Not only are children out of school, but once in school, they are failing to learn. Children with disabilities experience lower levels of enrolment, attainment and literacy. The attainment gaps between children with disabilities and children without disabilities are growing, and children with disabilities are being left behind.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Back to Normal!?

It is said the only 9% of Brits would life to return to ‘normal’ once lockdown is over. This has caused others and me to address the elephant in the room…just what is this normal they want to return to and is that not impossible in light of everything that has, is and will happen over the next few weeks?

I feel the impact of the coronavirus, covid-19, will impact on life much the same as the end of World War 1 (WW1) and Spanish Flu changed life at that time. We are not fighting our neighbours or another country, but something that might very small, yet to some is potentially fatal across the world. Six million men were mobilised during WW1, and of those just over 700,000 were killed. That’s around 11.5%. In fact, as a British soldier you were more likely to die during the Crimean War (1853-56) than in WW1. Those that returned were forever changed by their experiences, with what today we would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The frontline may have changed, where the soldiers have been replaced with medics in hospitals, but it is still a war, which is far from over.

For every day people, unemployment will rear its ugly head, and economies of countries will drop, as the price of living will increase, making the poorest around the world struggle even more than before. Equally, our routines of meeting up with friends and family to shopping at the supermarkets will continue to have to be restricted. The virus will still be around, and we will need to be diligent as it has and will mutate making it harder to deal with. Vaccines will not be developed overnight, proper trials will need to be done before they can be given to the public, there cannot be and should not be any shortcuts to this.

Time at home, especially those not used to it, with restrictions on what we can and cannot do will change how we are now and in the future. Some saying how this experience has increased mental health awareness, but has it? Mental health is so much more than depression and anxiety, although the experience may make people more understanding of how others feel that do. With too much time on our hands we are liable to overthink; for example, the little things about partners we love and hate amplified like never before, questioning just who the person is, and the what if’s that will go round and round in circles in our heads as try make sense of a situation that there is little sense to be made of.

So how can we return to the world we knew before lockdown? That world does not exist, for the changes keep happening, which for many with autism spectrum disorders in particular is hard to cope with. It is said ‘we are in this together’, but are we? How we are and will have experienced it, as with any experience be differently unique to us. Normal is used to describe something that actually never existed, and will not exist in the future. For example for many in Britain being married with two kids, a house, car and dog is one way to live life, but calling it normal to me is wrong, as there are many ways to live life. Even in the 41+ years I have been alive it has changed, take gay marriage that for many now is accepted, but twenty years ago it was still hard to acknowledge one had feelings with someone of the same gender. Personally, I find it harder for people to accept I am asexual, and what that means than if I had come out as gay.

I’ll finish with the words a friend once used to say to me – ‘normal is a function on a washing machine’. We are not artificial machines, we are the sum of our genes, environment and experiences, and normal is just being ourselves not collectively. So I personally won’t be going back to my old ways, as this experience is teaching me more about myself each day.

Stay safe and at home, but if out there doing your bit, thank you.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Locked in

Outside windows birds sing so loudly and freely
Inside we are the ones trapped in a cage with no bars
Tunes sweeter than the Easter chocolate now gone
As the bitterness of lockdown continues to bite us

Cloudless blue skies taunt like playground bullies
Making our tears the only water drops that will fall
We caged the animals in zoos and circuses for fun
Now we have been given karma’s gift from Earth

Just how long it will our collective sentences be
With our white mountains now made of toilet rolls
Office pens replaced by bits of penne or fusilli
And the only alcohol left is in the hand sanitiser

Few metallic beasts still roam the empty streets
Counting shrieking ones with flashing blue lights
For we all silently chant “we’re in this together”
But none of us want to ride on that beast’s back

The black box sells us fear in the name of news
As we click off and onto the web no spider made
To a book of the many faces we have ever known
And hide behind a mask that no virus can attack

How can something so small cause so much hurt
Yet we do it too with our words and actions daily
A finger that points now covers our muted mouths
Silencing the hate as the panic grows inside us all

One day this will be just another footnote in history
A human war that waged across the whole world
When a cough becomes less of a threat once more
Will we learn the lessons of 2020 that engulfed us

© Fi S. J. Brown