Monday, 1 December 2014

Word Hack

If you have words that you use that you learnt to use because you grew up in a culture that likes to "other" people which you don't want to use because you don't want to "other" people you might find this life hack useful. 

These are the words I have left to get rid of. Who knows what words I will add in the future? If you have a word I use that you think I shouldn't please always let me know. (I will ignore you if I either disagree after contemplation of you are suggesting it to fuck with me.)

10 years ago I would have included sex worker, and more ableist terms.20 years ago gay as a pejorative term and a problematic term for mixed race people. Most of them went more easily than these last 4. Generally I just needed the meaning of the word explained to me. Gay took the longest because of "irony" which is strange as this word and much more homophobic terms were used towards me when I was growing up. But at the time that usage was even more normalised than now. My gay friends used it that way. Words are complicated. That's why you can't ban them. But you can decide not to use them or to change your usage.  

Many other problematic words were never part of my vocabulary but they may have been part of yours. You can't change the moment in history you were born into but I guess you can change yourself. I've had some success. Hopefully I'll have more. I'm no supporter of enforced language change but I am in favour of us questioning it's use and consciously evolving our language. Because language matters as anyone who has been repeatedly subjected to slurs will tell you. Words do hurt you. Words have hurt me and I have hurt people with words. Use them advisedly is my advice. If you choose to want to change your words it still takes time and is difficult. I've found this hack really helpful. 

It's particularly useful because the time when words hurt people the most is when they come into contact with them. When writing on my phone I am often addressing at least a bunch of people with diverse experiences. I wouldn't want them to feel I thought "intelligence" or mental health are things I would judge them for. 

This hack is a development of something @judeinlondon tweeted.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bonfire night:

Where we burn a pretend human to celebrate a moment when the ruling class stopped some other members of the ruling class who had different religious leanings from blowing up a building. The gunpowder plotters weren't just thwarted, they were hunted down with the survivors of the chase being hung, drawn and quartered. But still might as well pick one of those rich Catholics who wanted a different flavour of monarch and make them into a symbol of how dissent will be punished. Let's tell children this is a story about bad people being thwarted or about how revolutions can't happen. And let's get people to gather together to pretend to burn a person. 

Not that Catholics weren't being persecuted by the state of course. The persecution of either side of the religious divide however could be argued to be down to which ruling class was winning: kings v popes. 

I like bonfires, don't get me wrong. I enjoy fireworks (in moderation so I'll be avoiding tonight's smoke filled semi warzone).  

But bonfire night spins and distorts history and celebrates state control. 

Remember, remember the 5th of November: torture, murder and lies. 

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Why I signed the petition against #SamaritansRadar

I think this app whilst well intentioned will do damage to people who are vulnerable in myriad ways. It will enable people to harass and bully other's more efficiently, it will cause people to feel guilty and responsible when they can't help their friends, it will cause discord and confusion between friends and acquaintances and it will mean that people will feel unsafe using social media and their voices will no longer be heard. As someone with mental health issues who loves people with mental health issues and wants people to be supported and that love and empathy and care are important I have signed this petition asking twitter and the Samaritans to pay attention to the large amount of feedback on this. (Feedback being given by people who use twitter and who have mental health issues, the very people this app is supposed to be for.) For some people this may be a life and death issue, vulnerable people who are already suicidal and then are exposed to abuse, and I don't want any of those lives lost.

(The reason I stress the love and empathy bit is not to say I'm a good person, trust me I'm under no illusions of that, or to say I'm unusual in thinking these things are important, it is to emphasise that the exact things the app thinks it is helping to spread are the things the system in practice lacks.)

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

O brave new tweet/ That has such content in't!

What a piece of work is my tweet! 

How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! 

In form and moving how express and admirable!

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty feed from day to day,

To the last retweet of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted tweets

The way to dusty death. 

Out, out, brief twitterhandle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor tweeter,

That struts and frets his hour upon the feed,

And then is heard no more.

It is a tweet typed by an idiot,

 full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

O, reason not the feed! Our basest twitters

Are in the poorest thing superfluous.

Allow not nature more than nature needs, 

Tweet's life's as cheap as beast's.

Now is the winter of our discon-tweet

Made glorious summer by this prime content.

And all the subtweets that lowered upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

If these twitters have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended:

That you have but retweeted here,

While these visions did appear;

And this weak and idle meme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend.

If you @ us, we will mend.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Last Week...

So as I approach the last week in my job the thing I'm finding the hardest is dealing with other people's sadness. Having to navigate so many other people's feelings about me having my job cut when I've already got so many feelings of my own. I feel sad because I'm leaving a job I have loved (in varying degrees) for the last 5 or so years. I feel lost, scared of the free fall that is freelance that approaches so fast and so slow. There's no security in my future and I'm dealing with this at the same time as I'm managing and finally acknowledging my long standing cycles of anxiety and depression. I'm also sad for the children and parents losing the service me and my team provided. And all the other even more essential services. I feel sad at a society cutting public services whilst protecting and pandering to the rich. And I feel sad just on the personal level of saying goodbye to so many people I have worked with, the children I have seen growing up, the colleagues and parents I have come to know. 

And at every centre when I tell my groups I am going everyone wants to share with me how sad they are about it. Everyone wants to tell me how much they value what I do, the effect that me and my team have had on them and their children. People tell me how angry it makes them. They ask me what I'm going to do. They have so many suggestions about what I might do. Everyone offers advice and sympathy. Next week I expect they'll also be offering presents and goodbye speeches. 

When I tell them I am going freelance they assume I'm doing children's work. When I start to mumble about audio production and hosting storytelling nights they look at me like I'm suddenly strange and unfamiliar. My plan sounds ridiculous in my mouth. 

I am overwhelmed by all the love and the sadness. I am overwhelmed by the scatter gun advice. I am overwhelmed by the powerlessness of all concerned. I know it's all meant well. I mostly manage to take it in good grace. I save my tears for the walk home. 

The worst thing is when the kids are sad, there eyes are so big, their hearts so exposed. The worst thing is imagining the ones who look forward to seeing me every week coming in the first week I'm not there. Too young to understand why and yet so young that in the future they probably wont remember I was ever there at all. Young enough to feel the loss but too young to remember the joy we had when then look back. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Children give the best heckles:

Me: There are lots of frogs around at the moment...

Child 1: There are lots of dragons around at the moment. I like dragons. They are big and breathe fire. They are my favourite animal. 

Child 2: I like dinosaurs. They are MY favourite animal. 

Child 3: I like crocodiles!

Me: Well, dragons are really great animals but sadly they don't exist. Dinosaurs are also great animals but they lived a very long time ago and aren't around anymore. Crocodiles are also great but you don't really find them in this country. Anyway frogs...

Thursday, 6 February 2014


Today is #timetotalk which is set up to get people talking about mental health issues, to combat the stigma and make those of us who experience them feel less alone, and to encourage people to actively try to get help. 

Some of you who know me personally may be aware that I experience a wonderful combination of anxiety and depression with additional sprinklings of rage. I have panic attacks generally triggered by crowds or similar claustrophobic moments. 

I've had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and found it useful. I've never been able to get talking therapy on the NHS but I'm lucky as I have a conversation based podcast that has really helped. I'm currently not interested in medication although I know many who it works very well for. I do drink far far less often than when I was younger as people occasionally note. That's helpful. 

I've always been very open about the rage part because I like to wallow in guilt and put people in positions where they can think the worst of me (whilst desperately hoping they won't.) Although ironically that's the part I've always had the most success in controlling. It took me years to admit to myself I suffer from depression and anxiety, partly because since I "cope" I've never felt those labels were mine, knowing so many friends and family members who suffer those conditions more acutely or other conditions that are life debilitating. Even writing this I am battling the thoughts telling me I'm a fake who is appropriating others pain. But I know that is just my self-loathing and anxiety talking. 

The thing about trying to deal with these things alone (still my default instinct sadly) is it makes you isolated as well as anxious and depressed. Also it means that the only person who sees me at my worst, who has to deal with all the shit I'm holding back and hiding it my partner, which in turn makes me feel guilty about that too. It amazes me that she's stuck with me these last 13 years considering how terrible I have often been to live with. 

And let's be clear when I'm talking about depression I'm not talking about feeling sad, I'm talking about wishing that I didn't exist, that I was rubbed out, that nothingness could embrace me. It's not sad it's empty, it's numb, although inside that numbness or maybe behind it are the squirming maggots of anxiety telling me I'm worthless, toxic, ugly, weak, pathetic etc...

Anyway, there we go, that's me. Or rather one facet of many that form me. Not one I want to be defined by but one that I am sick of denying. 

I think talking is good. And the more we talk about difficult issues the better it is for everyone. But not everyone is ready. Not everyone has access to safe ears to listen. Attitudes out there are pretty shitty. Let's try and talk more and listen more. Let's try and be understanding. 

Here's a conversation I had with my Aunt that talks about her much more severe mental health issues.