The strangest feeling

Last week I kept getting baby thoughts in my head, a miracle birth much like the one many were to celebrate later that week, which followed a day later by an old friend announcing the birth of her daughter after years of health issues. I was genuinely overjoyed as know how far she has come to get where she is now, achieving many things that to me still seem and are impossible for different reasons. The smile on my face however was not to last as I received a message on Facebook to tell me news of a girl I was at school with twenty years ago, she had overosed and taken her own life. Both people knew each other but one had been an off and on friend for over twenty five years and the other had been one of the bullies that reduced me to tears and suicidal thoughts throughout my teens. I felt numb. As someone that writes and campaigns for an end to the stigma on mental health as well as being naturally empathetic, I wondered what had happened to the girl I had known and had she secret torment that had no voice. It was not a sign of weakness or selfishness to take her own life,  as when the rocking chair at the edge of the cliff breaks, it takes a very strong person to fling on, I have been there and it is not a pretty view or one I ever wish to see again.

I scanned my year photographs from high school that I intended to burn years ago and sent them to the girl that told me the news. I saw people’s faces and names I had not seen in twenty years trickle down my Facebook news feed as comments came in on pictures she and others posted. I could not bring myself to ‘like’ anything as was like being back in the playground with her usual French taunt in my ringing in my ears. Was I being selfish? Feeling that my pain was important as they were my experiences and memories of this girl, but ultimately felt they should be secondary to her friends and family dealing with the aftermath of suicide. It all left me with the strangest of feelings; nothing in life can prepare you for it and know what is right or wrong to feel or say. It comes at a time when I am considering setting up an organisation to support, spread awareness and educate on invisible illness such as depression to fibromylagia and endometriosis as feel along with my writing I need to take it to the next level but uncertain what way just yet. Perhaps her death shows how much pain we carry with us; we may have nobody to share it with or know where to turn. Just remember dear reader someone does care and will listen without judgement, never ever give up and always rember my mantra, believe it again. 

© Fi S. J. Brown

Tori’s lyrics

10 years ago the lyrics of this song and many others by Tori Amos haunted my ears and tears would fall from my eyes when I heard her sing as each one felt like I could have written them myself. Lines such as “I got the anti-Christ in the kitchen yellin’ at me again” made me think of my mother who I then called ‘she who must be obeyed’, as I was frightened of her, nothing I did was right if did do not do things her way but now know she is a narcissist and need to carry on being me regardless; “I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years” as I  started having counselling to try make some semblance of why I felt my life was painted in monochrome and saw myself more like Princess Fiona the ogre from Shrek than the princess, through a journey that was just as rocky as any shore with no lighthouse in sight, not realising I am the lighthouse; and “So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts, what’s so amazing about really deep thoughts” not realising how powerful they are and what a gift they can be to inspire others. Now life I see as multicoloured and multi-sensory, grateful for the special people that make me laugh and smile for being in it and the importance of living mindfully. Today is Tori’s birthday, so a timely reminder to myself of all I have overcome and remind others not to give up, making that first stepping stone today is possible as things do change for the better.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

20 Life Lessons

  1. Normal is an abnormal word, everybody lives a life that is normal for them in an ever judging world;
  2. Life is unfair, do not expect something or behave as though you feel it owes you a favour or two;
  3. Do not compare your life with that of another’s, you have your own highs, lows, twists and turns;
  4. Your friendships can help you grow and develop, but require loyalty, honesty and respect to blossom;
  5. Life is too short, so do not waste a minute hating and/or hurting another with envy, jealousy or greed;
  6. When you feel sad and hurt by life, allow yourself to cry aloud and learn to be gentle with yourself;
  7. You are a survivor of life and will learn to dance again after the thunderstorms have crashed around you;
  8. Stop looking for that physical sign to make your decisions, it is an invisible feeling from deep within;
  9. Yesterday cannot be changed and tomorrow lies unwritten, so live in the present moment of today;
  10. You can be old at 35 but young at 70 for age does not mean wisdom and maturity but years around the sun;
  11. How smart or intelligent you are cannot be measured by exams, numbers, letters, or pieces of paper;
  12. You do not have to be an artist or musician to be creative, so let your imagination flow like a child’s;
  13. Communication is key to any relationship you will ever have be it with family, friends or work colleagues;
  14. Your actions will always speak more than words alone, so follow through but do not make false promises;
  15. Arguments are not there to be won, learn to agree to disagree from differences of opinion to your own;
  16. Trust your instincts when feeling someone is being dishonest with you and talk with them but not assume;
  17. Deal with things at the root level before they become trees and forests that overwhelm you;
  18. Your happiness does not depend upon on outside influences, i.e. anyone or anything, it is up to to you;
  19. People can be toxic to you, do not assume everyone has your best interests at heart, even your family;
  20. Be true to yourself and what you hold to be your beliefs, you do not need to defend them to anyone.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The dandelion

The dandelion is a flower thought of by many as weed, regarded as one that should be dug up and thrown away as has no value or worth. However, it is actually a symbol of hope, spreading nurturance and joy even in hard places. So instead of being quick to judge another we need to help each other, spreading joy instead of hate to those we meet.

Nevertheless, some deserve to be thrown out to the rubbing pile for how they treat others, thinking they are better than us, want something we have but jealousy fires within, or expect something to land on their lap automatically. They are the real weeds and need to be removed from our lives asap as will only carry on as nobody takes the spade to remove them.

Therefore, treasure those that show us with their actions, for they’re the evergreen trees to support us throughout the seasons and like our personal army defending us against the evils of this world. Being mindful of those that pretend to be our friends, as when winter comes they’ll will show if evergreen or deciduous. Finally, see my drawing of a dandelion below, make a wish, and just maybe it will come true.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Dandelion

Friendship and mental health

There are various days and weeks for awareness to all sorts of funny things such as doughnuts to hidden illnesses such as depression. This week is mental health awareness week, quite timely as it is three years ago today since I saw two of my most special of friends; it is so long as we all lead busy lives and live far apart but make time to keep in touch.

Mental health can impact on anyone that is any gender, religion, sexuality, ability age, language etc. Yet some still stigmatise those with one of these hidden illnesses be it depression, anxiety, bipolar or schizophrenia. The person becomes lost due to a label on their health and we soon discover our true friends vs fair weather ones. Having support to cope with mental health makes a person feel they are still themselves and not a crazy person like media to entertainment portray.

On Monday I had a phone call from a friend with schizo-affective disorder in tears as is not coping with changes in his life (overwhelming him). I felt helpless but at the same time as he’s a friend I knew to just listen, reassure and empathise with him. That’s all any of us would want surely if ill?

All I ask this week is to remember to send a message to those you want in your life so they know and never stop telling them. Life is fragile but with friends it can be the difference between the glass vase shattering and bouncing.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mindful life lessons

Happiness – Is something we feel and cannot ever be bought or sold. It is learning to be content without wanting or expecting more. Some of us feel at times it eludes us or is meant for us but not ourselves. However, learning to regain the childhood imagination and wonder at the world, accepting what we have now not want or did have.

Love – The aged old cliché is true, love ourselves before we love another. Yet, how can we accept the love of another if we do not ourselves? There is also a balancing act with the ego, so does not turn into narcissism. Loving ourselves is a life time’s work, there are no short cuts via surgery or quick fixes; learning to know ourselves and accept us is key.

Respect – Realising that how friends and/or family live life is their way, and when find our authentic life we respect their choices as we would hope they would ours. Yes not everyone does as may try tell us it is not natural or normal, which can be as painful as it is isolating making self respect hard, but it begins and ends with us as individuals.

Authentic – Living life the way that is right for us, not what someone else wants us to be by controlling it with fear or anger; nor is it copying another’s out of jealousy and greed, feeling it should be ours too. Remember, it is not who we were five years ago and nor is it who we’d like to be in another five but who we are today and this moment in time.

Confidence – There are always people who will laugh and gossip behind our backs, but if we accept who we are why does it matter? As they may be as jealous and envious of what us wish we had that they have. Nobody walks our path with us or the same as us for life, keep on walking forward because their ego and jealousy will soon trip them up.

Maturity – With the passing of time we see many of the different colours and shades of humanity, as well as good and bad. It can take many years to realise what makes our life is different to another’s, sometimes the fight to try reach that goal others have achieved is one not meant to be for us or may simply not be what is right for us right now.

Present – We all have a past and we may have a future, but the only time we really have is now. The present helps us learn from the mistakes of the past so no longer has the same pain to hurt us, equally the future is but a promise and it needs the foundations laid today if wish the promise to turn into reality. So always be aware and in the present.

Life – Is hard. It has no fixed length but is fatal in the end. So make the most of what we have, money is not a driver but a means to an ends. Looking after ourselves, being gentle during the bad times and allowing ourselves to enjoy the good is key. Treating everyone we meet as the individual they are but as an equal, in the same way we would.

© Fi S. J. Brown

What you don’t see

This week is Depression Awarenesses Week, which this year is focusing on #whatyoudontsee. As open as I am with acknowledging I have depression on social media it is not as look at me but more a listen to me not judge or mute me.
By writing about my experiences it helps give them a voice of their own that can be heard by others and thereby lose the power they try have over me. Another reason is the stigma many of us with depression (and other mental health illnesses) still suffer from and it is about time that this taboo was shattered for good. A final reason is not everyone has a voice or able to talk about depression, so I am trying to open doors in order that people feel welcomed not judge or mocked.
To anyone reading this that thinks that depression is abnormal, consider this; if I asked everyone of my friends to make a cake I would have a variety of cakes with no two being exactly the same, each one is representative of the individual that made the cake but none of them would be abnormal. In the same respect we are all shaped by our experiences, traditions and beliefs. Imagine wearing our neighbour’s underwear every day as we both live in the same neighbourhood or feeling the odd one out at family gatherings despite sharing genes. Equally, we may share the same experiences but how they impact upon us varies, and sometimes we cannot “just get over it” as the trauma is still deep even decades after the event(s) may have occurred.
When the black dog calls, it is like a dog barking constantly at me from the garden until I give in and let him in. Then he licks my face all over till it is wet, but in reality these are my tears. In the past I would sit in silence for days as not even my favourite music that got me through my teenage years would bring me comfort. However, now I get out my pen to write or put on my walking boots armed with my camera to go for a walk, sometimes take a piece of clay to make my feelings 3D, other times I go to one of the many musical instruments I play to let them become a song and also cooking or baking as help me focus on the present moment, especially making bread by hand. So for me finding coping mechanisms like these as well as loyal, loving and trusting friends is what helps so I do not give up and remembering there are stars shining and ringing even when it looks pitch black outside.
© Fi S. J. Brown

The animals of mental health

Winston Churchill and I have a few things in common- we were both born in the United Kingdom on the 30th of November and have experience of depression, to which he likened to a black dog.

To me a black dog is an interesting analogy for depression; tears fall from my eyes do leave my face feeling like it has been licked all over by a dog and equally I feel like curling up into a ball to do nothing as the world is a cold and dark place I wish to retreat from. However, unlike a dog that wants attention, the last thing I feel like doing when depressed is having attention from a group of people but a reassuring hug every so often does. When depression hits, I try to think positively of the good people and things that exist at this moment in my life, but find myself saying but do they really want or need to hear I am not coping? Some days I wish I could give them good news, yet all I seem to find is the negative and think it is better to say nothing at all.

For many that do not feel the impact of mental health or seen someone close to the battle it, they cannot understand how we look well on the outside, yet inside came be feeling so bad that we may wish to take our own lives. Some even believe as it is in the head it equals being crazy and will do stupid things as read in the media or see on TV/movies how mental health patients are and as such should be locked away from others as may kill them in a rampage instead. I have realised this is because mental health is a masterful magician making us appear to be a fluffy pet rabbit on the outside, but on the inside feel like an old rusty ornament from years of neglectful abandonment. For those it impacts it is sometimes hard to work out which we really are, is the fur others see nothing more than a mask or is the rusty one a truer reflection of what we have experienced through life? Is there any way to find the truth?

The journey of life is hard to do alone, family are not always there and maybe even the origins of why we feel as we do from abuse or other toxic actions. We also try to make friends and even partners, people we want to share the journey with and would hope they love and respect us as we do them. When we let anyone close it can be hard for any of us, let alone when battling mental health as scared of how they will react. For when they realise we are not the fluffy bunny at all, feeling our fur disappearing in front of them and that first glimpse of rust. It can may may make them run away at any moment, scared through lack of understanding or amusement that we hear voices to survived a suicide attempt. Others may try to help, but feel powerless to do so and scared to say the wrong thing around us. Which all leave us feeling naked and lost.

What can we do? First how about oiling the rusty looking rabbit? Try it, as to those of us with mental health conditions it is like giving us love and support, as it help us to feel we can carry on again today and maybe even tomorrow too. Equally, it may look like rust but give it a polish as that becomes a form of reassurance and comfort that someone else cares about us. With oil and polishing we discover that we are not rabbits at all but flowers; all of different shapes, sizes, colours and textures that with support can bloom, being whoever and/or whatever we want to be. Collectively we become like bouquets as cluster together and showcase what makes each other so special, rather than a single flower in a bud vase.

Even if do not understand mental health, how our minds can make us think so negatively about ourselves and/or life, do not let your ignorance be an excuse. Ask and learn from those that it impacts not judge and mock, as may find more people than you realise are fighting this battle. Remember appearances can be deceptive, as do not tell all we have experienced in life to get to this point and how hard every day life can be. Today maybe hell with torrential rain and grey skies, but tomorrow can be blue skies and sunshine, nothing lasts forever. Equally, the reverse can happen, what someone may mock and laugh at today may come back to haunt them tomorrow, unable to cope in the relenting rain as did not learn from before. So lets work together to end this stigma, supporting each other, being a best friend that is loyal like the dog and gnaw away at problems like the rabbit with a carrot.

© Fi S. J. Brown

flowers

 

 

 

Life Lessons

Nine lessons I have learnt in life:
1. Love – self-compassion and being gentle with ourselves when things are rough and/or black, letting go of self-criticism.
2. Kindness – random acts of kindness by others can lift our spirits, so why not be the giver rather than wait to be a receiver.
3. Resilience – when life knocks us down, don’t be out for the count, instead learn to adapt or spring back by from the punch.
4. Hope – one of the greatest gifts we can give another and helps us move on from the obstacles that block our paths.
5. Courage – not only an absence of fear but to be able face problems head, trying something different or new.
6. Mindfulness – being aware of the present moment, who and where we are now not who were or maybe in the dreamy future.
7. Gratitude – little things are like sweets in a jar mean far more than one giant bar of chocolate as can appreciate alone or in all.
8. Support – be it friends and/or family, they are keys to our growth as their love waters, enriches and strengthens roots.
9. Individuality – we all contribute to this world in unique and special ways, each one of us is a superhero with superpowers big and small.

© Fi S. J. Brown

My life purpose

I was reading an article online entitled “How do you find your purpose when you don’t know what it is?” I felt an affinity with what the article was about, as often find myself playing over again and again in my head or writing, what is my purpose in life? I then remind myself of a song from the musical Avenue Q called “For now; in it the character of Kate Monster points out who really does know their purpose and the cast sing about the importance of the present moment, with some things only being temporary. Remembering the lyrics to this song and words from a close friend help me stay focused on the present moment, i.e. living mindfully, so worry less over the things I cannot control and enjoying the good things when they come.

Going back to the article, I found four things stood out, which are listed below and then my answers to them, therein lies my life’s purpose. The four are:

  1. What am I grateful for?
  2. What are my gifts and talents?
  3. What do I love?
  4. What feelings do I want to have?

Gratitudes

  • I am grateful for being able to read and write. This makes me happy or benefits my life because to me there is so much to explore that others have said before me to writing my own experiences of life or giving voice to those that have none. So simple yet taken for granted by many as learn them at a young age but not all have the chance to learn them at any age.
  • I am grateful for being able to see and hear. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me look beyond the surface level, looking deeper and longer, and hearing the songs of Mother Nature to musicians that write their own and/or play ones that paint visuals in my mind, become soundtracks to my life, and give words to what perhaps I find I cannot.
  • I am grateful for good friends. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me feel loved, appreciated, and accepted in the world where many get jealous or envious, wanting more without realising what they have already, and feel like the ugly duckling now gliding down the river of her life as the swan she truly is not the ogre she thought she was.
  • I am grateful for being an empath and highly sensitive This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me appreciate the little things that cross my path, keep the light shining for those that are in darkness as know that it can suffocate when it overwhelms, and although I may not understand psychopaths or narcissists they show me what I am not
  • I am grateful for surviving the bad times. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me know the importance of this present moment, which can change from bad to good or the reverse at any moment. They taught me lessons that I can share with others so they can survive their own and do not define me as a victim but a survivor of them.

Gifts and talents

  • I am lucky to have the gift to write my thoughts and words of others so that their songs can be heard even when I am gone.
  • I have also the gift of a vivid imagination and a visual mind, so can look at a scene to see it many ways beyond the initial glance.
  • Another gift is having a non-judgemental ear to comforting shoulder and arms to hug those that come on the journey with me.
  • I have a talent for research, looking beyond the tip of the iceberg, diving deep to see how far I can go and what lies hidden.
  • I have also the talent to realise there is so much in the world to learn, so each day I try find something new to wonder at a new.
  • Another talent is knowing myself, strengths and weaknesses, pushing myself when needed and withdrawing when needed.

Love

  • My closest friends who mean the world to me, I’d do anything for them as their place in my heart and soul is as unique as they are.
  • Walks along with nature as my guide and friend, fighting all my senses at once which one that I should taken in first or all at once!
  • Writing and/or photographing to record or give voice to a sight, sound, experience, thought or moment so has its own voice and/or image.
  • Supporting others as feel privileged and honoured that out of all the human beings on this planet that could help them, it’s me that does.
  • Exploring somewhere old afresh with a child’s eyes, as well as somewhere new where there are memories and stories to tell.
  • Mindfulness and meditation, to be centred on this present moment, realising there are more roses than thorns growing at any time.

Feelings

  • Freedom – To be me, not what others expectations or wants. Follow my path not one created or walked by others, the so called normal life.
  • Appreciated – I have no desire to be rich and/or famous, but to be appreciated by those that I enjoy having in my life as they do with me.
  • Determined – Not to give up when feel lost in the darkness or suffocating from trees I should have dealt with when were but seeds.
  • Inspired – Every day and by everything, seeing the world like a child and not taking it for granted that it will be there again tomorrow.
  • Worthwhile – I do not want to reach the age of 60 and wonder what I did with my life or why I continued to ignore what my teenage self knew.
  • Wanderlust – I would love to see more of this world with its different cultures and traditions that share similarities and differences to my own.

© Fi S. J. Brown