Watch our language

Mariah Carey is hitting the headlines this week, not for her diva behaviour or music for once, but for acknowledging her mental health and that she has bipolar. Although she may not be a singer I like on many levels, however I have empathy with those that like myself that have mental health conditions, and having friends with bipolar I know the ups and downs even with medication can be horrific to deal with.

However, it is the language that I have seen used that disturbs me the most. Headlines that say she IS bipolar…would we say someone is cancer or diabetes, of course not so why do we say it with mental health? Why does this matter? The way language is used shapes how we see things, and in turn perceive the world around us as words evoke images and ideas. If I said my skirt today is blue and purple I’m sure you all will have an idea of those colours having seen them throughout your lives and interpret how it looks. By calling Mariah bipolar rather than saying she has it has a way to conjure up images of stereotypes from movies or TV shows of what this disease is like and continues the stigma as believe the stereotypical crazy mental health hospital patient. Their individuality is lost as seen as a label not a person. This negativity can effect their self esteem, hope for the future to accepting of help and negatively impacts on recovery to reaching out for help when they need it in the future.

The difference between physical and mental health in the ways we talk about them is from the past filled with scientific misunderstanding to social ignorance, which had those that have them seen as witches to possessed by evil spirits, or even as a sign of weakness or failing. The reality is that these illnesses can happen to anyone; they are biological and arise from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental impingement. We can no more ‘be’ bipolar than we can ‘be’ cancer. We cannot ‘just get over it’ and is not ‘all just in your head’.

When we have an opportunity with social media to humanise or dehumanise others when we talk about mental or physical conditions, so please think and use your words carefully.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Springtime

Listening to the sound of snowdrops ringing brightly,
Waking all across the land from their winter’s sleep.
With the croci’s stamen vibrating like a bass’ strings,
Vibrating throughout Britain’s gardens and fields.
A melody sung in harmony by newborn baby lambs,
Backed by the reliable evergreen ash, pine and holly.

This sets off daffodils dancing in the springtime breeze,
Blowing their trumpets as only ones so narcissistic can.
Trying to drown out the sounds of their rival bluebells,
Who have long dominated the woodlands and forests.
The tulips try to act as independent and impartial judges,
And let their red be a reminder of love not hate to all.

Then there are cherry blossoms dressed in pink and white,
Singing a duet that begins the next act to the spring opera.
Each white petal glides like a majestic swan as it falls,
And the pink as though thrown as confetti at a wedding.
A bittersweet relationship that is doomed to always fail,
As into the gutters they land to be swept away forever.

Let us not forget the biggest diva on Planet Earth is left,
For humanity is the fat lady that must sing the final aria.
Thinking their modern songs with autotune are far greater,
And their cover versions far better than all nature can do.
Finally before the curtain finally falls the days get lighter,
As colour fills Earth as a symphony of sound and visual.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Music – a definition

Music is everywhere and everything. It teases the ears with hypnotic rhythms that send us into a trance and waves of sound that make every cell in the body vibrate. Keys that define moods, major and minor, with chords that bring the sound together as one. Words that make us repeat them like parrots and take them to our hearts and soul as though written just for or about us. Every instrument paints in its own unique colour, making masterpieces visual not just aural, and opens our eyes to new journeys that words alone could not do. Vocals do not need synthetic additions, they’re an instrument in their own right, and lose their true emotion when become one with machine. Together it makes a special something that can lift our spirits or make us cry, a therapy and medicine that’s not a luxury but necessity for surviving life.

© Fi S. J. Brown

First Dates

I am not a lover of reality television, but decided to try watch a dating one called ‘First Dates’ as one of the participants like me has alopecia and was interested how the woman would be shown to their audience as well as how it impacted upon her and her life.

The lady in question was called Eve, much younger than me and a beauty therapist from Wales. I felt her tears as she told her story and felt proud of her for telling it in such a public way. She approached the topic with her date early on, which if had been me this would be not a topic for a first date even if for TV and led to her removing her wig. I have to say she looked so much happier and confident without it, the style and jet black didn’t suit her at all. She had a tattoo on her scalp with a few patches of hair (I have neither) but seemed to fit her personality as shown on the screen. The confidence she gave out was incredible and her date was lovely about it all; in the end he was too nice for her (why do some women do that I have no idea). The media and people on social media I have seen have been very supportive and positive generally, which has made me cry a bit.

I have been wearing a wig for over twenty five years now and could never have done this so fair play to Eve. However, it has gone from seeing me naked if saw me without it to just part of what makes me who I am; only last night my best friend and I were discussing what colour and style I should try next time, which I could never have done a few years back as felt shamed that my body killed its own hair cells like they were a disease. Every time the wind blows heavily I worry it will blow away, which can lead to panic attacks and why I always have a scarf on me, but it fits my personality anyway. Being bullied for my hair loss and wearing a wig in my teens are still massive scars for me, which I don’t know if time will fully ever heal. I maybe able to take selfies and share some on social media but that took therapy and a huge effort to get there, going from an ogre to a rag doll, to rewire my brain that I am not ugly or a freak to the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and Hunchback of Notre Dame. One day I would love to do a charity walk without mine but for now I will plough on finding new confidence daily. This free spirit is learning to fly, the phoenix I will forever be, who needs hair anyway…not me!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Fireworks of my mind

For as long as I can remember I have been blessed (and/or cursed) with being highly sensitive alongside an excellent long term memory, strong sense of empathy, curiosity to know more than the surface area that I am told or learnt, a vivid imagination that opens doors to new worlds, and highly visual mind that paints these. The world around me acts like fireworks with one thing firing off these, which together makes up something uniquely special. I am only ever sad that I have yet to find media beyond the spoken or written word to share these with others, perhaps an installation of some kind. However, I am uncertain if they would understand or get what they are saying and/or showing, as sometimes something very personal or just of that moment in time so may not be able to replicate it again.

As a child I felt like that many grown ups were just as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had written in Le Petit Prince (‘The Little Prince’) with no imagination, with only my Great Uncle able to tell the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor that ate an elephant. Teachers told me to write about what I knew, not the stories I felt from the world around me from reading newspapers to watching starving people in Ethiopia with famine or war hit families in Bosnia and Iraq all of which called out from beyond the television screen to the rivers and hills with the animals that called them home that I passed regularly when out with family on foot, bus or car. I wanted to tell their stories, the empath in me wished it could do more than watch my fellow humans hurting in ways I could never imagine and giving money felt like a tablet that never cured anything. As well exploring the rivers and hills to tell the stories that people like my ancestors would have known and told the tales of. Being a grown up I still want to tell these stories. but now more determined than ever that I do, as they need to be seen and heard with their own voices not through the biased lenses of the media or anthropomorphise into cutesy images that no longer speak to the younger generation.

My family enjoy the arts and are highly musical: as a child my father and I enjoyed visiting art sales in the local area and beyond, as well as his own painting (sadly I do not remember what he painted) to the playing organ, often Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with a passion you could feel as his fingers touched the keys and were escaping to the worlds he was playing as I sat beside him equally immersed in this world but with my spin; where as my mother sings alto in choirs and plays the piano a little but lacks the artistry with it as almost a painting with numbers not colour when she does, and does not get art beyond the popular artists of Monet and Turner. This I often find when I hear mainstream pop musicians their voices are similar, perhaps as they are not investing in the emotion, feelings and story of the lyrics and music, which with autotuning have become quite grey and maybe because they did not create it  to begin with (despite claims they have done, but perhaps only changed the odd word if that) and was written for profit not as a piece of art to be admired, it truly is disposable.

The song Pure Imagination from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ for me celebrates imagination and showing us that it is all around us if we let it. Our imagination can be a comforting way to escape harsh realities in our present world rather than dwelling on what has or is hurting us now, which with an outlet can stop the pain from flowing for a while. I find it hard to understand, despite my empathy, those that may see this is childish or day dreaming when great ideas to art works can come from it, but then I remember an art installation I saw a few years back with the following quote:  we live in a contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”. I find anything and everything can start the fireworks display in my brain, from something I have seen or heard, a picture to a quote to a song or video, I never know what will next and that is part of the enjoyment and excitement as it is endless.

One example of my recent fireworks display was walking back from a shopping centre/mall on Easter Monday. I have walked down that street umpteen times, yet rarely walk up it as it is a steep hill, which may explain why I had never spotted an old mile stone on it, simply showing Edinburgh 2 miles. I stared at it for a good minute and took a picture of it before walking on but then my imagination kicked in, what was this street and area like when this milestone was new. I am now watching the 21st century disappear around me and be replaced by how it may have looked around three hundred years previously when there were distinct villages all over that are now part of the city of Edinburgh. As my visual mind and imagination worked in tandem to create a scene so different to the one I now found myself in, as tried to use my senses to get a clearer idea of what it was like to be there then. After about five minutes I took my phone out to investigate further the area as curiosity was now wanting a piece of what imagination and mind were doing, as I could not draw or paint the scene I decided to let it and return to the 21st century. I discovered that author and creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle had lived during his childhood aged seven to nine (1868-1888) around two minutes from where I had seen the milestone, which ticked a box in my head as to why the doctor’s surgery by the shopping centre/mall bore his name. The house he lived has recently been restored, and believe me I had to resist running back to look and see! Learning this created fresh ideas and colours to paint into the scene, ensuring Arthur was the little boy at one of the houses, that I will continue to see for some time when passing that street.

© Fi S. J. Brown

World Mental Health Day (2016)

If we lived in a world like something from a science fiction novel where we could go for a full body scan at any time that would tell us what was physically and mentally wrong, which would be followed up with a customised pill to cure whatever was wrong with us, would we live differently to as we do now? Would we be free from bullying and abuse or jealousy and envy? How would we define or set limits to what a normal human body should and should not be capable of? Would a human being’s blueprint be just like we read about in science textbooks? What about individualism? Would we see that as dangerous as all should looks and feel the same with a hive mind? Is being different being abnormal?

Now consider the world we do live in. Why when someone is diagnosed with cancer, arthritis or asthma are our reactions different to dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety? Why do some let a diagnosis change how they see a person was from the person they knew yesterday? Why are they now not normal, and what therefore is normal? We are not robots or clones, we do not experience this world in the same way as anyone else has or ever will again. A book can only so show much of the human experience, but does not allow for individualism that comes from being true to ourselves and living life the way that is normal for the journey we alone are on.

What about the future? In the past we may have swept problems or issues under the proverbial carpet to locking someone up in an asylum as a danger to society, but even now mental health issues are stigmatised as cannot see by looking at someone how much they are suffering mentally. More and more the world is getting darker with fear, greed, envy and jealousy, instead of light with hope, empathy, compassion, and understanding. Unless some of us start to punch holes in this darkness it will only continue until we all stagger around blind and deaf to the needs of others. Today World Mental Health Day, so let us use it as a stepping stone to hold open doors and windows with light today and every day.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Music of the stars

Insomnia called my name so loudly no part of me would sleep,
Opened my window in hope the pre-dawn air would defeat him.
My eyes looked out at the view I painted afresh every morning,
But something was different this time as no birds were singing.
I scanned up, left to right as though looking in a word search,
In that moment the stage curtain went up to begin the show.
Then the first few began to appear like in Cats the musical,
Crawling out in song throughout the different parts of the sky.
 
Ursa Major led the way front of stage with her distinct patterns,
Like the lead actress that everyone would know the name of.
She was joined by a chorus of other constellations in singing,
As I watched and listened to the musical of the morning sky.
Gemini and Leo sang a duet of friendships and partnerships,
Which reminded me of close friends that bare those signs.
No cameras recorded it but all the atoms of my body danced,
I felt privileged l was watching a secret screening of this show.
 
Slowly one by one their songs were done and sky went dim,
And a cold breeze touched me all over like the fat lady’s finale.
I took my old blanket from my bed to wrap myself up for sleep,
Shutting my window to a view now forever covered in glitter.
Lying down I felt like the mire from the week now drift away,
Freeing from the pains and worries that had made me cry.
I shut my eyes afresh knowing I had survived another week,
A fresh chapter had begun but must sleep for the next page.
 
© 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

 

 

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

Time, age and life

Are we aware of the passing of time? I saw a band I loved twenty years ago called Ocean Colour Scene being interviewed recently and found myself saying but Simon (Fowler) doesn’t look like that, forgetting how long it had been since I watched him perform last and often listened to their music on vinyl, CD to MP3 and sometimes YouTube. It got me thinking about my age, particularly with assumptions I have encountered and cultural traditions. It is no secret that I will be 38 later this year, but feel stuck in a wilderness where I am too old to be young and too young to be old. Am I middle age and having a crisis or part of an existential crisis?

We see pictures in the media and on websites that tell us anyone over 30 is “past it”. We almost obsess with youth and looking younger than our physical age. I meet people surprised I have not got a partner and/or kids as the age most people have or expected to. Even when I explain it is one of those things that just never happened for me they find it strange; my love life history is as barren as many deserts. I felt for years it was meant for others but not me as thought who would real want to be a partner to a freak like me? The negativity I put upon myself I realise was immense, and perhaps the age old adage of loving yourself first was quite true. I have begun to understand the companionship a partner can bring but do I can let myself be vulnerable with my heart and soul, giving it to another and hoping they are gentle?

I have always felt older than my physical age, I have close friends in their 70’s that I feel more affinity with and understanding that many of my peers, yet doubtful I will ever reach that actual age. I have always admired those that are older than me for their wisdom and knowledge; spending time with my great uncle was my favourite time in childhood, when not let loose among the shelves of a bookshop, collections of a museum or gallery, at an art sale buying a new painting to adorn the family home and listening to music (often live with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra).

I have been called an old soul to an indigo child by some as seem older and wiser than my peers. I have feelings I know things from my past without remembering reading about them or seen a pattern emerge for at least the second time in this lifetime. One of my childhood memory is of my parents’ frequent dinner parties in the 1980s; I was to take the coats of their guests and put them on my parents’ bed (before going to my own bed). However, I always ensured they knew where the light switch was; many found me amusing to strange, for as I showed them I would say how important it was to know where the light was in the world as there so much darkness already. Something I echo now decades later, as often tell others to be the light and not turn someone else’s off or leave them alone in the dark.

Am I young or older, or does it really matter? We can be old at 25 but young at 75. As someone that has followed mindfulness for almost a decade I know the importance of the present moment, trying to let the negativity I put on myself become neutral if not positive. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, so perhaps I need to remember the advise I give others and just let what is meant to be, be, and let go of expectations of others, we are whatever is normal for us. I do not believe in fairy tales but I know I am a phoenix that can come back from the ashes as I am a survivor of life. Grasping opportunities that come my way and learning lessons from my past, as I take my next step on the stepping stone that is the journey of my life.

© Fi S. J. Brown