Mental Health Awareness Week (2017)

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week worldwide, so excuse my little essay that follows. For it is a chance to start those conversations that for some are so difficult to begin we do not know how, and need to listen actively with an open mind that does not judge or laugh back. We all have good days and bad days but when those days seem to merge into one grey mess it can be hard to find the courage to ask for help as do not know who’s hand will grab ours back and those that will push us under to drown us. It is often through surviving through the thick fog we discover our true friends that will always have one hand there for us and the other with a tea/coffee to give with us; sharing experiences and a slice of cake and laughter as realise we do that thing too.

For some the image from Hollywood movies is still very much how they see someone that has any mental health condition, yet the truth it can happen to any of us at any time and we look no different to anyone else. We cannot just ‘snap out of it’ as events can leave scars that may not be visible but inside are ripping us apart days to weeks and months to years later, reliving those times again and again without them ever stopping. We may also have a brain who’s chemistry is out of sync, so need medication in order for it function, just as we may take insulin for diabetes. Finding an outlet such as writing, painting and dance can also help us, but others turn to alcohol and/or illegal drugs, as sometimes we just want it all to stop with a full stop/period.

Going to therapy is a way to express just how we feel, words aloud can be scary and ring on in our minds after we have said them. Letting in a stranger can feel as invasive as brain surgery, which is why a qualified therapist is a must. The current UK general election has even been discussing mental health provision, at a time when many services have been or being axed already perhaps this should have been considered first. Health should not have to be split into health and mental health as adds to the stigma; medicine should be holistic covering body, mind, and spirit as everything is interconnected. We are all human, we all experience this journey uniquely, and we are all loved and appreciated, just remember that. The past is gone but yet still may hurt us, the future is unwritten but we can choose a new path; yet we live in the now, we can support and be there for each other today, and we can end this old stigma on mental health for good.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Earth: The Movie

Lilly of the valley ring out all along the river bank as the daffodils nod their heads like jaded heavy metal fans to a new beat but young tree branches sway back and forth like teenagers at their first gig. The sun shines and paints the sky in a blue of 50 shades and clouds gather like sheep in the fields. River waters run past hearing stories and songs from the birds to bees as it goes by but never stop long enough for the endings. Generation after generation this is the way the movie went, well until now that is.

Ragged men and plastic women walk on by oblivious to the songs and stories around them. For theirs are not those of their ancestors but ones repeated from words and pictures seen and heard on black boxes; as false as a rabbit laying chocolate eggs and lies spinning in quicksand. As young cyborgs cling to handheld blocks with screens to create their own tales and music that are just as false and fake as those from the black boxes. Creating new worlds but do not know the script of fate is already written.

How long until the songs of nature are replaced forever with auto tuned cover versions by the cyborgs and will anyone notice in a decade or more? Pictures of their ancestors are mere images stored in clouds in cyberspace but nobody dares look at the sky’s clouds as chemicals fell poisoned many. Stories that nobody alive now remembers how as it was before, rewritten and spun so many times now so are accepted as truths and history of this planet but not the one many fought and died to try to preserve for them.

The world is always changing as the Earth spins on its axis with few prepared to pole dance at the north or south. Human song is a symphony by a group of composers but not the only one on the planet. cats and dogs, flowers and forests, sing too, just listen. There are stories written down by the birds and bees to the trees and mountains engraved in an ink that is not invisible. Humans stop trying to direct and act this movie, it’s not the role for us, grab the popcorn and enjoy the journey to the fullest.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Memories

Memories are curious things, one song or smell and we are taken back to a time or event that is just a something from our past. I sit writing this in Aberdeen, at the campus of the university I attended for degree and first masters and finished almost fifteen years ago, but it is like a different world from my time at the university as now based by the River Dee as a very modern single site campus not spread out over the city. I have have visited twice briefly since my time living here, once for a job interview eleven years ago and seven years ago for a gig, making memories of the city mostly from when I lived here before.

Upon arrival by coach, just as I had when I first visited Aberdeen to an university open day in early 1997 the city’s grey stood out, it is not nicknamed the ‘granite city’ for nothing, one could say it had fifty shades of grey before it was cool! I wandered briefly around before taking the bus to my current destination with a mix of memories that flooded back and new ones being made. Sites like the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre that brought back music to my ears from concerts to musicals I attended there and others that had been the soundtrack to my days living there. Street names jumped out in my memory of the events that took place on them, Market and Union Streets and others such as South Silver Street I finally knew the name of. I laughed upon seeing a bar called The Grill on Union Street that famously did not have a woman’s toilet until 1998 (it did not allow women at all until 1975) and smiled on remembering my project management lecturer saying he’d be propping up the bar if needed help with his course.

Shops and bars that were like friends but now had changed but not gone either; Ottakers bookshop where I sat many a Saturday afternoon with a tea and book is now Waterstones, and Triple Kirks the pub which was a firm favourite of many studying at Schoolhill and St Andrew’s Street without its pew seats. This in turn reminded me of an event forever ingrained in my memory – my friends doing a pub crawl with a 6ft inflatable alien called Hilary, who did it all from karaoke with Fraser to Iain’s attempts to keep it blown up before either Ewan or Rich put their cigarette out on it until they were no more. Nobody knew if Hilary was meant to be male or female, perhaps they were truly gender fluid before we mentioned such things as do now. There are also many statues in the city centre such as Edward VII and William Wallace but it is the lion war memorial that is the one I remember most as forever an almost unspoken right of passage by students in the near by Woolmanhill halls of residence to ride the lion during their fresher’s year when drunk (no reader alas I never did).

I come back to the university and sat in what is now where students would go to learn similar to I had in my day. One friend from my student days remained here and is now a lecturer. I had went to see the university library, which in my time had been a subject specific one in my part of the campus and remembered someone sneaking in fish and chips to it! I usually hid in the jurnal section so not to be disturbed but in later years  Alex and MC joined me with MC’s pile of biscuits and donuts that never got even a tut from the librarians! Computers around everywhere for students to use where as we had a few open access rooms in the building and one specifically for us within Applied Sciences; giggling at the thought of a lecturer searching for water sports but got the wrong kind, which led to a firm talk at the start of every year on being careful when surfing the internet. I thought of people I had known then and those I have contact with now, how life had panned out for us and what we expected it to.

Recently I read something that said our past is just stories we tell ourselves in the present, and being back in Aberdeen made that statement feel so very true. All the memories I have sat writing about are just stories of the five years I lived here, the city has changed but so had I in so many positive ways, equally there are many parts that remained just the same and can say the same of myself. The past may make us who we are now but the present is all we truly ever have, for the future is a whisper and not a promise. We do not skip to the end of a book to see what happens in the end, we take it page by page just as life is a page in the book of our life. Finally, life should be led like a piece of music, it can only be truly enjoyed in one direction with all that it brings with it, and dancing the rhythm of our life not anyone else.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Magic of Christmas

It is that time of year again when it’s not only bells that are ringing but tills with money spent on gifts that we hope will not be returned on Boxing Day to our ears from hearing that song by Slade or The Pogues again and again. The days have become shorter and shorter as ‘to do’ lists get longer and longer only matched by the queues everywhere we turn. The excitement reaches near hysteria as we count down to that man’s arrival with his herd of reindeer to deliver gifts on the 25th, but only if we have been good of course! For some it is extra special for marks the birth of the son of their god in a stable in area of the world that today tears of joy have been replaced by grief and blood.

Those that find themselves more ‘bah humbug‘ than ‘ho ho ho‘ are seen as the party poopers but we have to remember some of us may find it hard to find “that perfect gift” for family and loved ones, whereas others do not know if they can afford the cranberry sauce let alone the turkey or where they will be living tomorrow as the street may become home. There are of us those that live with hidden illness, from mental health to chronic pain, which want the feelings of sadness, darkness and/or pain to go away once and for all, not what Snapchat filter shall I use on my selfie today or which programs do I watch on my new giant TV first. There are also some of us that have nobody to celebrate with, as feel suffocated by the so called ‘magic’ not hypnotised.

When the clock strikes midnight on the 25th of December just remember it is but one day; it does not matter if we mark it or not for there is nothing to say we must celebrate, no matter what anyone may try to tell us otherwise. Do not feel guilty for not giving a physical gift because every day we give a bit of ourselves to those we love and those that appreciate, accept, and respect us for who we are, making an effort to be in our lives, remember this and know it can never be bought or sold. Finally, accepting who we are and what we have now not what we’d like to be/have or were/had, as well as accepting and respecting others irrespective of differences is the magic of Planet Earth not just on this one day or time of year, and spreading peace, light and love everywhere.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The whisper of 38

I sit here writing this as my thirty eighth birthday is almost whispering in my ears, and have decided to write another of my reflective pieces considering what this year been has been like and what I would like the next one to bring. Last year after being asked what I would like the next year to bring I wrote about the jigsaw puzzle of life and hoping it would mean a key piece would fall into place, which was followed by finding a physical jigsaw piece sat on the bench at a local bus stop a few days later; I still have the piece and plan to frame it to remember this year and what it has brought.

So what has the last year brought? In the past people’s negative comments were like being shot with a loaded gun, with positive ones unable to stitch up the bullet holes and would end up being pricked by the needles of others that tried to as did not always have my best interests at heart. However, I have learnt over the last decade to deal and cope with health issues particularly with my mental health, i.e. depression and anxiety to poor body and self image, which this year although tested at times, including a tearful breakdown at Easter, I have bounced back from and have served to remind me why I nickname myself Zebedee (the Jack in the box in the Magic Roundabout) as I will bounce back from whatever life throws at me. I know now I am a strong woman despite my extreme sensitivity and I may hurt me initially but it will not stop me from saying ENOUGH I will dance in the rain as the thunder and lightning roar for they will not drown me or kill me.

Did I find that key piece of jigsaw? Yes is the shortest answer but it is far from simple. I started the year by reflecting back to my teenage years, as realised I needed to learn from my mistakes from then to the present to truly be in the present and dream the impossible dream of the future not yet written. By the age of around 15 I knew what mattered to me and the path I felt drawn to, yet let myself be swept in a series of waves without remembering I could swim and could do alone if necessary. Others made recommendations which I followed almost blindly, but that only lead me up dead ends, as I did not question them and thought they knew better than I did. The truth is only we know ourselves as only we walk this life with our knowledges, skills and experiences, thus walking another’s path is like wearing our neighbour’s high heels for ten miles and wondering why we have blisters all over our feet.

I have interests and passions that I no longer hide from as thought others would bully and/or hate me for more as well as accept me as a ragdoll made up of all my many experiences and adventures in life so far not an ogreous beast my head had painted. Through the clarity of the ragdoll now in my head I saw she was also symbolic of the support and help I give others and what I learnt from them, which is stiched together not with needles that will hurt me but with love from my closest of friends. For those that try to fire bullets now do so out of jealousy, envy and greed as do not like that another stands up for themselves and that of others; putting the voice of the abuser or bully to mute and turning up those that deserve to be heard. For this is my key piece, this is what and who I am to others and must do for myself too.

So what would I like the next year to bring? Well I knew a long time ago I would never have children of my own but my youngest niece reminds me of the magical innocence and imagination we can have in this world and exploring it at times together will keep me seeing it afresh and perhaps a touch less cynical (if that’s possible); her big sister I gave a copy of my favourite book, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), which I hope she learns to love as much as I do in time and the messages it contains. Life as well as a path, journey and jigsaw puzzle is also a maze, which I am near to finding the centre of mine as now know I am on the right path and after finding that key piece in the jigsaw I am certain it is.

I no longer want to build a wall to protect myself from the world, but breakdown them down all over the world and use the bricks to lay new paths for those stuck behind them through discrimination and prejudice. There are some that wallow in the pond of self pity but do not realise it takes part of their soul every time they do, which I try not to do as know my wings would be singed again and this phoenix is ready to fly far and wide this coming year. So watch out, watch me fly without fearing my wings will being clipped or hitting glass doors and I will soar further than I can ever dreamed I could.

© 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

R*A*I*N*

When the world feels claustrophobically overwhelming, trying to be gentle with ourselves can be the last thing on our minds. That is when we need to stop, look at the sky, catching the RAIN falling in our hands and remember the following:
 
R – Relax, take that time out away from what is hurting us, even if it is a five-ten minute tea or coffee break. With every sip think of a beach and feel the grains of sand under our feet that at times may feel like quicksand dragging us down but keep walking on and let the sea’s rhythm match our heart.
 
A – Accept that this moment maybe feeling like it may be the end, there is nowhere to go or friends to turn to; but there are, just stop on the beach and listen out for the birds singing as they are nature’s messengers carrying messages filled with love, peace, hope and light from friends near and far.
 
I – Investigate the forest that lies up from the beach. At first it can seem like we have got ourselves lost but to move forward we need to clear the trees that block our path; cut from the root so remove the source of the pain. There maybe false starts to dead ends while doing this but it happens to us all.
 
N – Nothing lasts forever, so when we see daylight as the forest clears and the storm ends pick up the red shoes that sit at the side of the river and dance. Then take the first step on the stepping stones on the river and follow whether they lead but do not look back as cannot ever be changed.
 
© Fi S. J. Brown

Mindful living

Climb to the top of the mountain and giving praise when it warranted. Remember that we are all important, it does not matter who we know but how we are treat others. Only we walk the path that belongs to us, but embrace those that make that journey easier and those that mean us harm follow our senses to limit their damage.
 
Dare to fly and to dream, for the impossible is not what it may seem, we’re only limited by our own imaginations. Embracing who we are now not who we were or like to be, as well as what we have not what we had or would like. Remove worry, fear, and hate, live life and love it as it today, for tomorrow is but a whisper and never a promise.
 
© Fi S. J. Brown