A Fakebook of Friends

Facebook – whether we love it or loathe it, is still very much what we think of when discussion is about social media. We add our ‘friends’, at times with the most tedious of connections – you both play ‘candy crush soda’, that lead vocalist in a band you once bought a single of as fancied the vocalist for all of five minutes, the best friend from of thirty years ago at primary school, and our uncle’s dog Henry; giving a whole new definition to the word ‘friend’. However, isn’t the most tedious and fake friend on the entire network Facebook itself? Although Myspace gave us all one friend to begin with – Tom, we are not all automatically friends with or following Mark (Zuckerberg), but the sheer vastness and power of Facebook, has it now become the ultimate fake friend?!

It only takes a few days away from the site to realise quite what a stranglehold it can have on our lives. Although, some cannot go for more than thirty minutes without checking, a few days away may sound like a lifetime! The ‘so called’ friends we have no longer require nurturing or effort, their lives are presented for us to see at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. If someone ‘defriends’ us it can “oh well their loss” to “why have they defriended me…what did I say/do?”

We end up comparing our lives with ‘our friends’, rightly or wrongly’, and nearly always find ourselves dwelling on the negative aspects. I’m sure some also glee when they read of misfortunes of people they secretly never really liked at high school, as perhaps karma is calling their name. This however can also has a negative impact on our mental health, as see others soar and fly, while we feel confined to a cage (without bars). As we feel we are not good enough, leading to self-isolation and self criticism of our every move and move, as see them through the eyes of this new friend that has taken away our ability to just be ourselves. We crave likes and hearts just to be accepted by others, and some create fantasy lives just to hide the misery, or to seek attention from these 100s of friends we are meant to have, with only one answering us back when we message for help.

So what can we do? The ‘easy’ answer would be delete the app, remove our account, but that is not an answer for everyone. There maybe people we have connected through Facebook that are worth having in our lives, enjoy talking to and seeing what they are up to. Instead, take back our profiles as our own. Posting things we love and hate, if not much is happening in our lives don’t feel we have to update every week or respond to every post that fires us up or makes us cry happy tears. Keep our eyes, and not those of the fake friend that is telling tales behind our back, open – not everything is real just as real life. Be yourself always, your real friends will accept that and be there for you as you would them.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Autumnal Opera

Throughout the November days
An annual autumnal opera plays
It is party time for all our senses
Stop, look and listen for yourself

Hear the voices of the dawn chorus
Singing myths and legends of old
As their avian friends travel south
Flying for weeks just to reach home

Every morning grass shiver in cold
Setting all dew drop bells ringing
A warning to all nature to prepare
Hibernation time is coming soon

Meanwhile the twisting pathways
Are covered in reds and oranges
Lying as the tears of the forests
Remembering those now gone

Triggering human hunting season
In shops and on webs food and gifts
And cut down trees to decorate
With bright lights and coloured balls

I watch and listen from my window
With my teapot, notebook and pen
My spirit of an old soul dreams on
But my childish eyes in awe awakens

© Fi S. J. Brown

Hair Loss and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

My first blog for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 is on my experiences of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and hair loss.

In 2013 researchers found hair loss could even lead to exaggerated feelings of ugliness and, in the worst cases, trigger BDD, where sufferers experience acute anxiety about their looks. Doctors found that the ‘enormous emotional burden’ of going bald could lead in some cases to low self-confidence, mental disorders and even impaired quality of life. In fact some have said those with BDD, hair loss second most common issue, with further suggestion that it affects men more than women, but I am uncertain how true this is as I felt devoid of any femininity for many years due to my own hair loss. Much of the media reporting has been on men too, but to me this just adds to the taboo of female hair loss.

With all the twisted images and lies that the media (printed and social), it is no wonder we all feel bad about our appearances , and judge them against them. Many think of eating disorders with regard to BDD, but in my case it was loosing my hair completely over twenty five years ago. Hair loss is not just a cosmetic issue, hair transplants are neither cheap or for everyone, and can have far reaching consequences – and an underlying impact on well-being.

As well as hair loss, I struggled with self identity, bullying and abuse adding to the deadly cocktail that left me feeling like a freak and ogre. I was offered no psychological help at any stage with the trauma of dealing with being 13 (I am almost 41 now) and having no hair left on my body made me wish I actually had cancer as perhaps people might understand more, or I would have had offers of such help. My hair will probably never fully grow back, it did once but fell out again a year later, and almost twice but stress kicked in. I will always remember one little boy pointing at me, and asking if I had holes in my head when he saw patches, all I could do was run away and cry.

Being laughed at by my peers at school made me petrified to spend a few days away on a school trip with them…would they try to steal my wig in the night as some would find it funny? I would not have put it past them, but I kept it on all the time and cried myself to sleep each day. I did not want to be there; I even claimed home sickness to my teachers, when in reality home wasn’t where I wanted to be either. I was suicidal and rather be dead. By the time I did escape to university, I was so scared to be social as thought it might come off, and be laughed at anew by those I lived or studied with.

I have never had sexual attraction or a sex drive, I identify as asexual, which in turn was maybe a blessing in disguise. Nobody was attracted to me, or so I felt, so perhaps it was a good thing as how would I explain my hair loss. I struggled with every day life in terms of knowing who I was, self love, and identity as to me I was always in my narcissistic mother’s shadow and hair loss robbed me of any chance to fight back with individuality. I was so sure everyone knew I was wearing a wig, pointing and laughing at me in the street, or gossiping behind my back.

It took my love of photography to start the fight back, and win the war against my BDD. Photographs as I said at the start can be manipulated, but start off by someone taking them, and as someone who hated others taking my image I think taking them myself was equally about having that control of the image. Every time a family member took one of me my eyes are shut, I am blind in one eye and highly sensitive to light, so my eyes shut with sunshine to flashes, but he would routinely humiliate me having my eyes shut to laughing at me refusing to have him take any pictures of me. When your mind already says you’re a freakish ogre, you do not need this added to the cocktail. So turning the camera on me allowed me to see me, the raw bare faced image that the camera took. Over years, and selfies became a thing, I saw myself develop like an old film photograph. Now images of me by me are like the others I take, they are snapshots in time, which I do not manipulate as would not be truly me. Recently a student at work, who was working of self esteem, had to write something positive about everyone – her’s to me was ‘different and talented’ (I had to resist giving her a big hug).

I have learnt that my body is a shell; people see an outer layer but only as we let them closer do they see the different layers that make us who we are, with very few seeing our skeleton being. I may have very judgemental people in my family, but I have never been one except of my own self. BDD can still try crawl back, but like the black dog that is my depression, this dog’s begging will not result in treats! Ignoring those, or removing them completely, that bring us harm is just as important to do with ourselves – cutting out the toxicity we have for ourselves.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

The Slave’s Song

So you come into my world of convenience, let me show you
Through the hidden fingerprints of others that pay the cost
On paths that there are no apps or Google to direct you
The living underworld where you are the devil himself

I’m the slave without a ball and chain on my feet
The inconvenient truth, the ugly reality of modern life
I’m the fools gold that is treasured but has no real value
If I ask you to follow, will you dare to come with me?

So you come to my world of smart phones and laptops
A tap of a finger to bring you all human knowledge
Made with coltan from the new gold rush of Africa
A blooded gift from one seven year old to another

I’m the slave that hides in the shadows of the world
The voice that you pretend you cannot see or hear
I’m the normal in the abnormal anthrocentric world
The choir where no birds are allowed to sing freely

So you come to my world of designer clothes and bags
Where the cotton grows filled with deadly chemicals
And manufactured with fewer rights than your pet
These should not be a luxury items in anyone eyes

I’m the slave that can no longer be forgotten
The itch you now wish to scratch away to dust
I’m the awakening the blinds you more than ignorance
The worse of two evils that there is no middle ground

There’s a trail without the need for blood and wars
There’s another world that’s better for us both
It’ll take us home, out of this prison cell,
Where there’s blue sky and sun to share

So you come to my world to escape it all,
And you think you’re free from the liars and fools
Through the ease of using an app or click of a mouse
Laughing at those that you think you’re the master of

I’m the slave without a ball and chain at my feet
I’m the beggar, the looser, the cheat
So you arrive at the store to download the latest edition
Will you tap or walk away, the choice is yours

So you come to my world to escape it all,
And you think you’re free from the liars and fools
Through the ease of using an app or click of a mouse
Laughing at those that you think you’re the master of

© Fi S. J. Brown

Jealous

Jealous comes to the English language from Middle English jelous, gelous, gelus, Old French jalous, Late Latin zelosus, and Ancient Greek ζῆλος (zêlos, “zeal, jealousy”), from ζηλόω (zēlóō, “to emulate, to be jealous”). It is often used when someone is envious; feeling resentful or angered toward someone for a perceived advantage or success, material or otherwise. I see it every day from comments of colleagues to family, and on social media from the replies and silence, but yet I have more frustration with life than jealous of another.

Only this evening have I heard one person complain about how another’s face is craggy, as a way to hide their jealousy over this person being slim when they have put on weight. Another has not replied to a message about the 26 mile Kiltwalk I did last weekend because she cannot pretend to be happy for me even by a text message. Meanwhile I read about people posting horrible things on social media to a celebrity after she won a talent show, targeting her weight and looks, as jealous of her success. This woman made a documentary that made many in the UK talk about her, with a few even criticising how she is now, without understanding or knowing the secret pressures of being in the music industry. So called ‘keyboard warriors‘ that think free speech on social media allows them to do so, but should we let them? Perhaps something for another blog.

My life has never been a straight line, picking up experiences that bewilder and baffle with equal measure. Is it my fault for having multiple interests, and actually try to experience them…life is short so why not? I have been told when I write a full resume/CV it is impressive but intimidating, yet when you know me in person can see I am far from latter. People have tried to put my experiences and me into their neat little boxes, but even when they see I won’t fit they try to as to them one size must fit all or leave me out as I am the exception to the so called rules. The frustration I feel experiencing life would make for jealousy in another, but do not understand how another actually living that experience feels or my history that has led to the position I find myself at that moment.

I do not understand the point of jealousy – would I like a cottage near a river or sea, a partner, and children/dog? Yes, but no, as realised some things in life just are not meant for me. For example having children, intuition in my late teens said this was never going to happen for me, despite being told by adults how I was a natural with them. I would love to have a partner or companion to experience the world with, but not ever been something I have actively tried to find, as understanding what I want to actually searching is just not me. I am happy for others that found satisfaction with this way of life, but try to remember it is not for or meant to be for everyone.

Whilst we continue to let jealousy live, we will never understand empathy and compassion, as cannot see through those green eyes that blind us to the opposite of rose tinted glasses. As a child I was told ‘I want does not get‘ and ‘all this world, apart from you, wants is money‘ as I tried to make sense of life. As an adult I know life is hard and short, yet others through their jealousy want to add to it, but as a pacifistic I won’t fight back with abuse but will speak up if hurting someone I love or something that hits a nerve. Perhaps instead when jealousy hits ask them about it, is there a way you can experience it in a way that fits your life, and sometimes we just have to live through the frustration to find something meant for us only.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts from the Kiltwalk

On Sunday I took part in Edinburgh’s annual Kiltwalk, 24 miles walking for a small charity I work for. It gave me plenty of time for thinking. Seeing people of all ages joining together to walk to support all sorts of charities and non-profit organisations, country wide to small local ones, put a smile on my face. It was such a wonderful friendly and supportive atmosphere, which was great, but made me wonder why we cannot have that more often these days. People smiling and laughing not stuck on their phones, chatting with each other and enjoying each other’s company. Equally, why online there is more hate and judgement, with trolls determined to bring people down for perhaps looking and/or being different to what they know.

Also, we as people have also physically changed, many of us torturing ourselves over how fat or thin we look, distorting our faces and bodies into the weirdest shapes, and some living their whole lives online. Trying to fit into a world that would rather we all be the same, while we struggle to be individuals as want to fit in. Whilst in other parts of the world they struggle to feed their families, try to stay alive in conflict zones, and coping with non existent medical treatment when things go wrong. What a flawed beings we are, all living at the same time but experience the world in such different ways it can be hard to understand.

I then thought of what a strange world we have created to fit in with our environment, not the one of nature but humans. The homes we choose, the traditional brick houses to the ultra modern with views out to sea. Gardens full of flowers to one with the scariest looking scarecrow I had ever seen. A few kids en route waved good luck, one even shouted ‘good luck’ (I replied ‘thank you’ and the eight year old shouted back ‘you’re welcome’), and the odd car honked its horn to acknowledge our feats. My favourite bits were walking along the coast from Musselburgh to Leith, and in the parks of Edinburgh with the green of trees rather than grey concrete that was more fifty shades of sighs.

Overall, I was glad I did the walk, a huge personal challenge but reminded me how much we can do when we put our minds to it. Equally, even though life can be physically and mentally difficult for me and others by doing this I can look back when things are bad to say you did that Fi. What will I do next…I am not sure but like everything I put my all into it as want to make a difference to the world, not so I can show off but lead others to see they can do it too. I believe in you, and maybe now myself too! I remembered the line from Mary Schmich’s speech – ‘do something every day that scares you’ – as I walked, and thought maybe I should do this sort of thing more often. Here’s to next year’s walk!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Brave the Shave – Not in my name

I caught MacMillan Cancer’s ‘Brave the shave’ advert on television this morning, which I previously posted about. How is this campaign still going and winning awards? Oh yes, it brings them in millions of £. I cannot believe they still do grasp how insensitive this is. Not only does it trivialise hair loss, which has been a source of many tears and self loathing for over twenty five years for me.

Loosing our hair is very different to shaving, unless you experience it for yourself, you cannot grasp the emotional and mental changes that go with hair loss. Would we ask people to paint bruises on their body to empathise with victims of domestic abuse, neglecting the emotional and mental abuse that can accompany it? It is distasteful.

The advert has people looking in mirrors desperate to see how they look now, with hair loss mirrors become something to hide from as scared of the image they now show. Shaving hair is not empathetic, I mean why would you choose to look this way? Hair loss isn’t all in one go either, it can be a slow process of waking up to hairs on the pillow, which are only matched by our tears, until it is gone. It is heartbreaking.

This plays up to the narcissistic, attention-grabbing, selfie generation that want to show they are doing good things for charity, but it is really all about them – lapping up all the whoops and grins from others. As they spend the follow period showing us how their hair is regrowing, never sparing a thought for us that it will never grow back, and forgetting the cause as they do too.

Go on bra walks, run marathons, or make cakes, but please think before you pick up that shaver in someone’s name.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Visions and Sounds

Sight and sound are equally important in the way we experience the world, yet the visual dominates.

Sound has an important role to play in nature and human societies. From the bird song that breaks out to let us know dawn of a new day has begun, the use of drums by some cultures as a form of aural communication, and the songs we sing to accompany of life’s journeys, to the speeches made by orators that move us by their words alone. What we hear influences how we feel and what we do.

As technology has advanced, the world has become an increasingly noisy, confusing and disturbing place. However, the visual still overides the sound. Social media has reinforced the visual with Instagram, Snapchat and even Facebook focusing on it. How many reading this have tried the filters on them, or the new age app to see how we will look when older? YouTube is about the moving image, but it is still more watching than listening that dominates it. Furthermore, loosing our eyesight is seen as far worse than our other senses – research found in medical students almost 60% considered blindness worse than deafness while only about 6% considered deafness worse. Yet, we can buy a pair of reading glasses from a supermarket for our eyes, why is it not that simple for our hearing?

We live in a world of fake and manipulated images, so how can we believe what we see as real? Equally, what we hear is just as fake – from the latest pop song that the vocals maybe the vocalist’s own mixed with others then autotune to produce the voice we hear streamed in our ears, to the mainstream news stories told by reporters as fact but maybe spun or based on slight truths. In many ways we live in George Orwell’s 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.

Perhaps we let visual dominate as we like to see the world through rose tinted glasses, and by listening we are forced to hear things we may not want to. Equally, by listening properly we have to engage in a way we are forgetting, as have become too addicted to the little black mirror that has more technology in it than took a man to the moon fifty years ago.

So what can we do? Use all our senses, not just our vision and hearing. “Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” Roy T. Bennett,

© Fi S. J. Brown

Happiness

I used to think I wasn’t allowed to be happy, then I slowly realised I did not know what happiness actually is.

From the small child that had tears in her tummy like a Care Bear through bullying and isolation from her peers to abuse from family, which at times was disguised as fun and games, to the adult that felt like the alien watching a world go by that she was never meant to be part of. I also blamed my black dog, i.e. depression, as it painted the world in monotone and every day felt like one step away from falling down a cliff whilst sat on a rocking chair. How could I find this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, when I could not even see the rainbow? And if I found the pot, what would I do with it, for I knew I would not want to keep it to myself.

I decided to go back to basics and see what others had deemed happiness to be. For many happiness was linked to being successful, which in the most simplistic terms was money, power, fame, looking hot, owning stuff. None of which had I ever wanted and/or craved, but did not seem to me the path that would yield happiness. They seemed more a fool’s gold type of happiness, superficial and fake, as well as following the Pied Piper who was never seen, but everyone followed his tune. It all reminded me of my late father saying to me in my teens ‘all this world, apart from you, wants is money‘, after a conversation discussing this golden carrot we seem to be programmed to chase, and some how when I was reincarnated into this life I missed the injection for it!

I realised the above was superficial, and I had always been one to go through many layers to strip away the falseness and lies so would never be able to accept the ‘normal’ way of defining happiness. I also knew the one person I needed to know and love above all else was myself, which I was not doing and felt I almost needed to reboot myself after a breakdown. In the end I decided that a restart from a safe place was the best option, as I knew as a child what made me happy – deep discussions with my great uncle to music and nature that were my comfort blankets. Rediscovering my passion for music through good friends and their friendship showed me a world I had not understood before – friendship. People that cared, not on a superficial level, but gave a damn back and saw the world through eyes I had tried hard to make sense of alone, now knowing it needed more than one pair to truly see through the forests of mists and lies. Finally, awaken what and who I truly was, that was hiding amongst the test tubes, chemicals and microscopes, instead with my piano, pen, paper and tea mug.

It is said happiness can never be bought, I would completely agree. Equally, that pot of gold is everywhere and nowhere as there are little things each day that bring us happiness, which we should remember and not take for granted, but also it is highly individual and inside of us. There is no right or wrong path to happiness, no street map or guide, it is far deeper than the superficial things we have attached to it. Furthermore, there is no normal, we need to stop inferring an one size fits all approach when no two humans are alike from their outer shell to how they experience it. Perhaps once we have relearned these, alongside empathy and understanding, then we may find the happiness meant for us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Song of my senses

I see a road
that runs rings round an extinct volcano
and metallic beasts travelling fast
taking part in a race built for rats
trapped in a maze without borders
Others walk with their heads down
holding a spectre of a black mirror
and blowing kisses to the reflection
like Narcissus did long before them
sleep walking through their lives

I hear a voice
manipulated on a machine to sing
and not one that flies in the sky
all colour is reduced to white noise
and marketed like the Emperor’s clothes
Tweeting not for joy but on Boris and Hunt
their road leads to number ten in London
and tell lies but their noses never grow
choices yet seem unknown to the sheep
but the ripples will be felt for decades

I touch the stars
trying to catch the falling ones in my hands
like lost souls they need empathy not hate
troubled from traumas from a painful past
now only whispers that fear to speak aloud
As the moon sends others into a madness
too much worshipping the sun not her beauty
as false gods entrance into hypnotic obedience
with the truth lies within below the painted flesh
and wear masks to fit in boxes they do not belong

I taste the freedom
swallowing not the red that continues the lie
taking the blue awakens the brave new world
like the onion with many layers the lies go on
creating false tears as slice through to truths
Travelling a journey that never goes straight
looking back is best at with a passing glance
distractions to the left and right only entrap me
forwards one step at a time dancing to my beat
and singing songs in multicolour not white noise

© Fi S. J. Brown