The Case for Corbyn

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Since Theresa the Appeaser, wife of the head of a tax-dodging firm, u-turned on a previous promise and announced a snap election, the consensus has been pretty universal: Labour can’t win.

The reason for this stark prediction is the fact that the Labour party is currently under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. ‘Unelectable’, ‘scruffy’, ‘weak’, ‘boring’ – apart from any, y’know, actual criticism of anything he’s done, he’s been branded with every insult available to Rupert Murdoch. The biggest one being that he’s ‘unelectable’. A bizarre accusation in the context of his years as an MP for Islington North and the two Labour leadership elections he has won with incredible mandates. Looking at the facts, he’s one of the most popular politicians to come along in decades. Labour membership has increased by the thousands under him, his speeches attract huge crowds, not to mention all the adoring memes from his supporters. When tory-lite Labour MP’s tried desperately to stage a coup, even going as far as to change the rules to block hundreds from voting for him, he increased his mandate. That’s unprecedented. And when was the last time someone photoshopped Theresa May on the back of a unicorn?

But the polls! I’ve seen negative reports on Corbyn’s low popularity in the polls constantly since the election was announced. If the last year of political shock and upheaval taught us anything, it’s that polls are not to be trusted, yet the BBC parrots them as if they sought them from an all-powerful soothsayer living on a Himalayan peak. That is when the BBC isn’t providing a platform for N!gel F@rage, an ex-leader of a party with one MP who defected… But I digress. What I haven’t seen reported quite as much is May’s steady decline in ‘The Polls’ and Corbyn’s steady rise. Most likely to do with May’s half-arsed campaigning, turning up in a helicopter to deliver a boring speech mainly involving the words “stable” and “strong” with a few connectives to string them together. Meanwhile, Corbyn is whizzing round every seat in the country, giving media-ignored speeches with great gusto, to cheering crowds. But this is nothing new for him.

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Jezza has consistently been on the right side of history. Working hard, not for the adulation it brings, but because it is the right thing to do. He is a man of principle, a man who means what he says and sticks to the promises he makes. He protested apartheid while Thatcher was calling Nelson Mandela a ‘terrorist’. He advocated peace talks with the IRA years before the Queen was praised for shaking hands with Sinn Fein. When other MPs were spending half their time attending dinners and travelling by Limousine he was wearing CoOp shirts and jumpers knitted by his Mum.  He has the lowest expenses claims of any MP. He voted against the Iraq war. When people in his constituency were unable to pay Thatcher’s poll tax, he risked prison by refusing to pay himself. That’s some Robin Hood gangsta shit.

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All of this is massively at odds with his ‘weak’ and ‘dispassionate’ persona. The right wing media has infamously demonised him for the slightest perceived indiscretion. Not nodding low enough, ‘dancing’ to a war memorial, not wearing a tie… It’s pretty telling in any argument if your opponent attacks you for such silly and superficial things. Murdoch shrieks and points and Corbyn’s beard while multiple Tory MPs are investigated for election fraud. He’s also ‘mates’ with ISIS and the IRA, basically for not advocating indiscriminately bombing them, he’s a dangerous nutcase who will cripple the economy by feeding schoolchildren and providing a wage people can actually afford to live on. You know the indoctrination has worked well when people baulk at the idea of being paid more and having four days off. Don’t think of yourself or your families, workers of Britain, think of your poor millionaire bosses. And what can we expect? For years the working classes have been told not to aim their scorn at the bosses who don’t provide a living wage or stable work conditions, but at their neighbour who claims child tax credit. It’s extremely effective. Paint your multi-billion pound media empire, your Eton-educated MPs, your smug fascist mouthpieces in tweed, as their advocate. An Australian billionaire who controls a good size chunk of all news media? The voice of reason – look! he likes looking at boobs as much as you do! The guy who makes jam, cycles everywhere, and would refuse to pay a tax because you couldn’t afford it? Why he’s an out-of-touch liberal elitist with no idea how the world works!

I waste my energy though. The biggest obstacle to Corbyn becoming prime minister is not the reactionary right wing press. I expect it from them. It’s the actual out-of-touch liberal elite. Imagine joining the party that started the NHS, the party began by trade unionists, the party made to be a socialist voice for the working person, and then throwing a tantrum and leaving when a guy who believes in all of this gets in charge. It’s neoliberal Blairytes who brand Corbyn ‘unelectable’ and paint him as a ridiculous extremist. It’s them who still insist he is weak and completely unelectable even after, despite their mass effort, he held his ground and increased his mandate. And really, any man who can face David Cameron at PMQs and not make a pig joke weeks after that scandal broke must have a will of steel. I stayed up til 2 am making pig jokes on twitter when that news broke… But I digress. Centrist Labour politicians and self-satisfied liberal celebrities roll their eyes in despair at Krazy Korbyn and his allotment antics, patting themselves on the back for being so astute in observing what a fool he is. Really, they’re covering their own asses. All your mates are saying he can’t win, join in so you don’t look a fool. Also, despite outward concern for socially progressive causes, it’s cruel and unregulated capitalism that made their lives so cosy and they’ll be damned if they don’t cling to it while wearing a mask of benevolent concern for the human rights cause du jour. They hate the problems but love the causes. It’s vital to them that Corbyn loses because he’ll topple their ivory towers. Take JK Rowling, for example. Imagine writing a massively popular series of books about teenagers using magic to overthrow oppressive forces, then decrying an old man in beige who wants to feed impoverished children for being way too extreme.

The world of polished politicians towing the centrist line and faking respectability to get in and maintain the status quo for capitalism so it can screw over people in their own country and poison people abroad is over. We can choose what emerges. Right now, what is emerging is even uglier. Trump, Le Pen, pepe the effing frog… we are witnessing a previously unthinkable resurrection of fascism. Actual nazis are walking the streets unpunched and sharing memes about gassing people they deem beneath them. They get a couple of thousand views of youtube and that gets them a right to speak at universities, apparently. I don’t know if you remember but the last time this happened, softcore liberalism didn’t defeat them. It won’t this time. We must put in place an equal and opposite force, not someone who will hold hands with racist tyrants.

I see it from my peers too. The general idea seems to be that people like Corbyn – they think he’s a good man, he’s principled, he’s intelligent, he works hard, they like his policies…..buuuuuut. And it’s a big ‘but’,

“He’s got good ideas, but he’ll never win!”

“I like him, but he just doesn’s seem like a leader…”

“It’s just the way things are, unfortunately. If he doesn’t move to the centre he’ll never get in.”

It’s hugely frustrating. People see that the system is garbage and Jeremy Corbyn might just fix it, but they passively go along with it. They hold socialist principles yet turn down the chance to elect a socialist. They’re intelligent people who see that he’s a good man and a good politician, yet they buy into the rhetoric that he’s a passionless pushover despite all evidence to the contrary. They say ‘but Labour needs a less extreme leader to beat the tories!’ If the only way to beat the tories is by imitating their every cruel policy, then I would rather Labour not be in power and work as an opposing force on the back bench. People hold the power to vote, yet insist there is no way Jeremy Corbyn can be voted in. If you see what’s really going on and you have the power to change it, why are you passively accepting the ever declining status quo while the world descends into fascism? Will you fight this? Or will you perish like a dog? Vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

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I was looking for a job and then I was looking for a job and then I was looking for a job and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now….

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In the grand scheme of things, career-search wise, I’m doing OK. I have a degree, I have experience including an internship, I actually know what I want to do, and I’m not subject to racial discrimination in my job search. However despite my constant searching and applying  on Indeed all I’ve got back in two months is a handful of rejection emails from the few companies who actually bothered to send them. Oh, and a call from a company offering teaching work in China which I absolutely don’t want to do but genuinely considered.

Inamongst all the thinkpieces calling millenials entitled, or making fun of them for having ‘fake’ sounding jobs involving social media or having ‘digital’ in the name (someone took the time to make an actual sitcom on the topic), few seem to question why so many of us still live with our parents. I know one person my age with the same education level who is in full time work. The rest are doing masters degrees or working menial jobs in the hopes of finding something more fulfilling. My sister graduated in 2012 and found every job she wanted demanded years of experience and every job she applied to as a short term money maker felt she was overqualified and would have no loyalty. I’ve found the same problem, despite the fact I have a three-month journalism internship under my belt. In truth, the hunt for a job feels like a fruitless, crushing dirge.

Dramatic-sounding perhaps, but hear me out. My recent internship (a piece of driftwood just about keeping me afloat in a sea of career hunting) was not my first flirtation with intern-ing. Back in the summer of ’16, towards the end of my degree, I was delighted to get a call from a local company in Hull who were interested in getting me to work as a content writer for 8-12 weeks. Unpaid, of course, I couldn’t possibly expect to get paid now could I? Their promise was 8-12 weeks with a ‘very real chance’ of a job at the end. Twelve weeks is a long time but it would just about cover the rest of my student flat contract and I was almost guaranteed a job at the end. I went along for the interview in high spirits, it was a nice office in the city centre, and the staff seemed laid-back with lots of freedom. I was told that I was the most qualified candidate. I had a second interview, involving a basic competence test, all was well. I got a call from the recruitment agency woman who had called me in the first place saying they were offering me a week-long trial to check I was right for them. A little annoying, considering I was repeatedly told I was the best candidate, and it was an unpaid internship (I was essentially being offered a trial FOR a trial) but it was still amazing to get such an opportunity considering I hadn’t even graduated yet.

So I went in with my coffee and pencil skirt feeling very business-like. I wrote some blog posts, transcribed a few radio bits they did, had to do some ‘business to business’ copy which was about the most soul crushing thing of all time but hey ho. I felt all was going well. However, after going home on the third day the recruitment lady called me again. ‘They don’t know how to go about training you’ she said (they perhaps should have thought of that before they hired an intern). She told me to take the rest of the week off while they worked out what approach to take. With a furrowed brow I agreed, but told her I felt fine with how things were going.

Two weeks later, I had heard nothing. I emailed the recruitment agency woman asking her if, when I did come back, I would be coming back to an actual job or I would still be expected to work 12 weeks on zero pay. She told me it was the latter. ‘They’re only a small company, so they can’t offer pay at the moment’. I was tempted to point out that this was at odds with how often I had been assured of their rapid growth as a business, and to ask if everyone else who worked their was lucky enough to actually get paid. I replied that I had to decline coming back at all, that 12 weeks of no pay would essentially leave me homeless for a while. She understood. Oh, by the way, that ‘job’ was at a company running a search engine FOR JOBS.

I’m happy to report the second internship went far better. It only required one interview, I was able to work from home, I was paid £70 a week, given one-to-one training, and had to the opportunity to do cool stuff like interview comedians and write previews for art exhibitions. I came out the other side with solid skills and a sturdy addition to my CV. One month later, I still have nothing. Trawling through Indeed.com every day is a Groundhog-day like affair. Content writer, marketing, social media executive and so on and so on. Most are offering more internships, usually only pointing out halfway through the job description that they won’t actually pay you. Particularly with any kind of creative endeavor. They offer ‘experience’ and ‘exposure’, but such things do not put tofu on the table. Those that will pay are rare, and mostly require a candidate with 5 years of experience in the exact same job, preferably at the same company, and a relocation to London.

When you find one that seems imperfect, but you actually have a chance of getting, it sends you to a 10-page application form that needs filling out. You have a CV with all the same information the form is asking for handily put on one page, but they still want you to fill out the form. Call me a lazy, entitled millenial, but when it’s the fifth job application of the day and you don’t particularly want it in the first place, the impulse to give up on page 4 of the application is very strong.

Also while these companies ask a lot of their candidates, the effort is not reciprocated. Job descriptions are often quite badly written out, some with glaring spelling mistakes. Plus, they are often written so cryptically, so ridden with vague business jargon, that it is impossible to tell what the company does and what they want you to do. Take this for example:

“The role of Digital Marketing Executive will be to implement the content marketing strategy for this prestigious business, devising creative campaigns which will help to increase awareness, brand and drive sales and play a key role in driving the next phase of growth.”

Can anyone tell me what the even heck that means?

So where does this seemingly incredibly unsustainable system lead? Ultimately, it means only the children of the rich can get jobs. If you can’t find an internship you can do from home like I was lucky enough to get, you have to hope Mum and Dad are willing to pay your rent. After several such internships, you may finally get a full time job that pays, congratulations! Better yet, a close relative of yours works at the company, instant stability!

This market ultimately has to collapse in on itself. Denying  many young people the chance to support themselves for the convenience of businesses who are somehow disgusted at the thought of paying a living wage simply isn’t sustainable. It isn’t just Wetherspoons that takes advantage, but cozy white-collar office jobs. It’s a symptom of late stage, unregulated capitalism. Everything to appease the bosses, even if it means literally not paying a wage. Recently, a screenshot of an unpaid job at a London anti-slavery charity went viral. It’s gotten so bad that even my classically conservative grandma is shocked and appalled at the state of things. Colliding with other problems like the eye-watering rent prices in most cities and the accumulating student debt of those doing masters degrees to stave off the daunting search for a job, something has to give. And when it does give, I just hope it’s not the workers who bear the worst of it.

Bloody Hell

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NOTILE TE BASTARDES CORBORUNDORUM

It didn’t even take one day.

It wasn’t even noon before the pound sterling fell faster than Han Solo off the starkiller base bridge (sorry).

A matter of hours before Fuckface Farage admitted he should never have promised £350 million a week to the NHS since he can’t actually fucken do it.

No time at all before the UK lost its place as the world’s 5th largest economy.

I hadn’t even had my morning cup of tea before Pig Boy Cameron resigned, leaving the potential for an even worse (and unelected) haunted cabbage patch doll to take his place.

At this point, what’s keeping me optimistic is the hope that everything continues on this slide into chaos at such a rate that the public demands a return to the EU and Farage and his ilk are banished to Pluto.

But it’s not just this clusterfuck that has me turning from an optimistic young person to a jaded, disappointed twentysomething. To be honest, looking at what my country is doing is becoming harder and harder in recent years. I see no compassion, I see spite, bigotry, smugness and small-mindedness.

Take, for example, the microcosm of this kind of attitude displayed at Euro2016. Seeing Irish fans, whom I am claiming as my people thanks to my lineage, has made me smile. Seeing English fans has made me despair. Violent, bigoted, and arrogant – they’ve made us look small and stupid. Just look at this clip of English fans taunting refugee children and throwing coins at them. This is happening in TWO THOUSAND AND SIXTEEN.

The situation with refugees and and the reaction to it in general has made me feel physically sick at many different points. A certain inflammatory columnist (who shall remain unnamed to bypass the mini orgasm she no doubt has every time some talks about her) calling them ‘cockroaches’ was like a nightmare. Watching footage of Nazi rallies and propaganda films about the Aryan race in history, I shook my head and wondered how so many human beings could become so cold, so hate filled towards their brothers and sisters. Seeing that, and facebook comments on far right pages calling for them to all be shot and rejoicing as innocent children drowned, I realised the modern country I live in has every potential to fall into that precipice. And it physically hurts. How anyone can see the drowned bodies of people desperate to flee war and persecution washed up on a beach and think “good! now I wont have to deal with them as neighbours!” is beyond me. How anyone can throw things at children starving in tents behind chain link fences is baffling. No, not baffling, heartbreaking. It breaks my heart. And I feel utterly helpless.

Utter helplessness in the face of terrible things is one of the ugliest and most harrowing feelings in the world. Whether it’s watching disease take your loved ones, or watching poison enter the collective consciousness of your country.

I now live in a country where hate groups invade Mosques and harass people at prayer, where they attack Muslim women wearing headscarves in the street, where they talk about the people who gave us advanced medicine and our numerical system as “scum”. It’s like I’ve gone to a desolate, cold planet 70 light years away, I’m looking through a telescope, and I can see a distorted but sickeningly recognisable version of the kind of hateful atmosphere that lead to the holocaust. We think that it’s impossible, that we could never let it happen again. We’re wrong.

It’s already happening. To Roma people in Eastern Europe. To indigenous people across the planet. To Syrians. We are the same species as people who did these things, who still do these things, we are perfectly capable.

Margaret Atwood once said that people would remark that the dystopian, misogynist society in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ could never happen. She would reply that of course it could.

It’s our duty to constantly fight this kind of hate. Hatred is a powerful force. To quote Hannibal “you are capable of righteous violence because you are compassionate.” We don’t need righteous violence, but righteous force. If people invade Mosques, we should form blockades to keep them out. If people throw things at refugees, we should stand in the line of fire and throw them back. We must treat this as a war, not an invasion.

But we haven’t found our force. We tried facts. This referendum should never have happened, but Cameron needed to cover his porcine ass so here we are. The Remain campaign had a simple message; this is a bad idea. Leave had smarmy, smug, puffed-up rhetoric about ‘taking our country back’ and ‘finding our place’, we just had hundreds of respected financial institutes telling us leaving would be A REALLY, REALLY BAD IDEA.

Apparently, meaningless but sexy sounding rhetoric wins. My flatmate walked past a car on election day emblazoned with the Ukip logo and blasting “land of hope and glory”. You can practically hear the stamping hooves of heroic crusaders on horseback, asserting their superiority over everyone else. It seems the majority of this bratty little island preferred to stick to that fantasy and cover their ears when those goddamn experts with their fancy book-learnin’ tried to tell them not to cut off their nose to spite their Polish neighbour.

We saw something uglier than ignorance too. MP Jo Cox was assassinated by a man who gave his name in court as ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’. A man mainstream newspapers described as a ‘timid gardener’ rather than a terrorist and a murderer, which he absolutely is, presumably because he spoke English and was white.

The Brexit campaign then flew a plane over her memorial urging people to vote leave.

So here we are. Our currency is in freefall, Brexit campaigners are backing out of every overblown ‘promise’ they made about NHS funding and restricting immigration. Young people overwhelmingly voted to stay, but we were smothered by older generations voting against our future. Our next PM will be unelected, Scotland will no doubt leave (and I will applaud them) and doors will be closed to us forever.

So well done, Britain, you small-minded, xenophobic, racist, arrogant, pissy little island. You’ve fucked everything up.

Someone gave you a gun and you shot yourself in the foot.

Myself, and the rest of my generation, have lost whatever flimsy patriotism we had, and the irony is it will be more difficult than ever for us to leave the country.

 

 

 

The bright side of being sad

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me being sad

Will Graham expressing my coping methods.

“There’s no room for demons if you’re self-possessed” 

“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that’s unacceptable”

(Both the wisdom of Carrie Fisher)

If I was going to describe the year 2015 for me, instead of using actual words I would probably just scream and punch something for half an hour. I had a devastating breakdown in my mental health, I had to deal with the fallout of that.  My stepfather’s illness got steadily worse and I heard the news of his death in the train station at eight in the morning trying to get home to say goodbye to him. No one in the station stopped to comfort me. One woman picked up her bags and walked away.  I spent Christmas with a family in mourning and read his eulogy while most people were buying stuffing. Even in the calmer parts of last year I dealt with my Mum’s appendicitis, my family moving house without me, and other slaps to the face. My family now joke that we’re cursed. As Carrie Fisher once said “the situation was getting worse faster than I could lower my expectations”.

It’s no coincidence that this was also the year I took up amateur boxing.

So now it’s 2016 and nothing that terrible has happened yet,save for the death of my great uncle Joe, who was in his late eighties. OK so that was not ideal… But, like a character in a movie with a hastily written tragic backstory (or an X factor contestant) I have changed a little.

I’ve always had a pretty sunny outlook, despite outward appearances of being quite grouchy. At heart, I tend to assume things will get better, or at least assume they can’t get any worse. This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with a lot of crap in my life, but still I’ve always kind of kept on truckin’. I tend to be calmer and happier than most when things are ticking along smoothly, possible down to denial, possibly down to just being glad bad things that happened in the past aren’t happening right now. Having knowledge that life can be terrible can make you pessimistic, or it can just make you extra grateful when things are less than terrible.

This attitude isn’t always a good thing.

Flashback to early last year. I was living in my crappy, cold, dark house, with the knowledge that my beloved stepfather was terminally ill. If I felt bad about all that, I managed to push it right on down and ignore it. I looked at the positive. I had freedom, I was a university student living with my friends, young, healthy and I had my own double bed for the first time ever. I was no longer a bullied teenager living in a godforsaken comatose backwater village enduring my parents tempestuous divorce. I could come and go as I please, my stepdad was ill but he was doing ok at the moment, and I would often get good news about how his tumours were shrinking. Maybe he would be ok after all. So I just kept smiling, went out for the odd drink with friends and basked in the glorious fact that I could come and go as I please.

I had these little OCD ticks, but whatever, they would get better.

Spoiler alert, they did not.

So before I knew it I couldn’t function on my own, and I spent most of the day exhausted and in tears. I believe this is partly down to my refusal to just be sad already.

If I had just said to myself “hey, your life is crap right now. That doesn’t mean It’s gonna be crap forever, although it may get crappier yet, but instead of being lil’ miss happy sunshine giggle fairy, just brood a little bit and acknowledge that you’re not happy” I may have spared myself a repeat prescription of prozac.

I’ve always joked that I would make a great goth (I have the colouring for it) but I’m just “too chipper”. Well maybe forget that.

So surprisingly enough, this year I’ve found myself feeling sad sometimes. I’ve recently been putting up with this super fun chronic fatigue thing my body is doing, and a year ago I maybe would have just ignored it and told myself sleeping to much is better than having insomnia. The urge to do that still comes up. “Oh I’m fine besides that, it’s just a little bit annoying, you know?”. I don’t want to worry other people, and I don’t want to worry myself, so part of my brain goes “leave it, hun”.

I have pledged to myself that I shall not leave it. It sucks that so tired my eyeballs hurt. It sucks I can hardly face a 9:15 lecture. It sucks that in third year, when I have work piling up, all I want to do is curl up in bed.

And about that, it’s not just tiredness, even when I don’t feel the need to nap I want to snuggle up in my bed and act like the world is on pause. And it’s only expected that I should feel like that. I’m grieving, goddamnit, I’m recovering from a serious mental health episode. I am now going through life knowing it’s potential for random, sustained cruelty. I have threads of real sadness in me that weren’t there before.

Acknowledging this brings a strange freedom. I find I’ve become bolder, more assertive, more motivated (when I’m not napping). All the inspirational facebook posts in the world had nothing on the motivational power of an awful year. I say things like “fuck it, we’re all gonna die anyway” and I mean it and I do the thing.

And when I feel sad? I let myself be sad. I listen to sad music, and I cuddle my stuffed rottweiler puppy Ronnie (who I definitely didn’t get as a Christmas present just this last year) and I just let it happen. I keep an eye on it for bigger problems, but I let it happen. I think about all the reasons I’m sad, I have many, and I just let myself be a moody bitch. I’m experiencing the effects of grief, the fatigue, the irritation, the infamous “seven stages” which are meant to follow each other in an orderly queue but instead hit you all at once and just swim around, not making a whole lot of sense.

Sometimes I’ll remember something arbitrary I did with my stepdad once. I’ll remember the time we had a carvery on my way back to Uni or when we went to a beer festival or when I found him holding his hand in pain by the fridge cos the chemotherapy made him extra sensitive to the cold. And sometimes I cry. And I just let it happen. Same with horrible memories of my illness. Memories of my stepdad will come from nowhere, when I’m cooking, when I’m trying to sleep, and It’s like a big knife in the chest. Grief likes to ambush you, and it can hurt physically. I’ve decided not to ignore that. That sadness will be there forever, and trying to forget it would, as I’ve learned, be very unhealthy.

Obviously sadness can take over your life, sometimes to the point of crisis. But It’s a natural emotion, and I’ve always believed emotions are a part of us, they are not separate, they aren’t switched on and off through sheer force of will, they are us. So now I’m practising what I preach, and I’m letting myself feel bad as well as good.

 

Living Life Post-‘Breakdown’

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So earlier this year I had what many people would term a ‘mental breakdown’, which is a phrase I never thought, and never hoped, I would have attached to myself. My life long low-level anxiety and OCD took over my life to the point I couldn’t look after myself and I had to leave uni and come home to recover.

Thanks to counselling sessions, prozac, being looked after and generally having time to heal I am more or less back to ‘normal’ and I can function well. But carrying on life as if it never happened is not a choice I have and I can’t help but feel I had the stuffing knocked out of me and you can see where I’ve stitched myself back together. So I thought  I’d take a look at just what it means to live after a breakdown.

The biggest change is now knowing what is ‘wrong’ with my mind. I always noticed my compulsions and irrational worries, but I always just sort of… put up with them. I believed my worries were legitimate and my odd compulsions were just a habit, a tic, an annoying part of being me. Now I know what to call myself, and these labels are more freeing than oppressive. Knowing that these are illnesses I have and not just something that I am is empowering, now I can fight them when I see them, they can’t sneak up on me. I talk about it as a ‘blessing in disguise’, it was horrible but getting to the point where I had to seek help and learning what I had meant I could find out how to fight it.

What surprises me looking back is just how passively I accepted what was happening to me. I was having a bad time anyway and when my anxiety flared up and my OCD became the cruellest, most abusive dictator imaginable who delighten in seeing me torture and humiliate myself, I suppose my strength to fight it was waning. Or I just didn’t know how far it could go. I didn’t think it would leave me in physical and mental agony, I just thought it would eventually die down like it has done before. I will no longer remain so accepting of it. Now if my compulsions come back I fight them. Walking down the street while visiting friends in Hull I had the same nagging voice return, telling me to walk on certain patches of pavement or step there or go back to that and I shouted NO. Out loud, in a (luckily) empty street. There was no way I was letting that nagging voice inside me keep me from going where I needed to go. It helped, strangely enough, I surprised myself with my newfound assertiveness.

The other side of discovering this strength is realising just how weak I was at the time. I now live with the horrible knowledge that my mind is capable of turning against me so entirely that I can’t take care of myself. That is a terrifying thought. I have to be on guard for the rest of my life, and I must learn to accept that what happened before could happen again and I will have to adapt to that and learn how to cope. A stranger at the post office kindly offered me a lift home the other week, and told me she worked in mental health. I said what had happened to me and we discussed just how common these problems were and how they could happen to anybody. I certainly didn’t think I would ever have mental health issues as a part of my life, they were something other people suffered from. Now I know I am no less weak or susceptible than anyone else, which applies to everyone.

Generally I view myself at the time it happened as a stranger. That wasn’t me, it happened to somebody else. Sometimes it comes back, like 5000 volts of electric memory, the times I nearly passed out with exhaustion completing my routines, the times people stared at me or shouted things at me in the street, the time I was stopped by a policeman asking me what was wrong. When I remember, really remember, I feel terrified, vulnerable and lonely. I usually curl up into a ball and tell myself it’s all over now I and I will never be that humiliated or scared again. I have always prided myself on being a strong person, someone with insight and enough emotional intelligence to withstand things. Nothing is more humbling than fully remembering. I don’t really like talking about it that much, and I only do so when I feel it is necessary. I hate listing my tics or discussing them openly, I found it hard enough to write this. I understand terms like ‘mental scars’, what happened was, in every sense, traumatic and it’s a horrible thing to know happened to you.

I’m more aware of myself and the world than ever. Now mental health issues apply to me, they mean a lot to me. I was delighted to hear Jeremy Corbyn had appointed a Minister for Mental Health, and to hear people discussing what needs to be improved in treatment of mental health. I wince if I hear someone who is a bit tidy describe themselves as OCD. I ended up bonding with people around me who had similar issues, and I joined the mental health awareness society at uni. It’s a shame that it took something as dramatic as that to make me take notice of just what a big problem it is. It will remain as an issue close to my heart and I will try to be as helpful as I can to others suffering similar things. The prejudices I had about mental illness have gone and my language has changed. I’m happy to see this happening on a bigger scale, people now seem to seriously debate the issue and try and take down the stigma, and I often find myself against people belittling anxiety, OCD and other disorders, or not changing their language to reduce stigma and false stereotyping. I will always be on the side of political correctness.

So I have emotional and mental scarring, which, while invisible, often feels like I am living after a serious physical injury. Knowing what I have is both a blessing and a curse and will require me to take care of that part of my health for the rest of my life. However it is freeing, knowing I can get over this, I shouldn’t put up with this and I am certainly not alone.

My Psychological Connection to ‘Hannibal’ (last post about Hannibal I maybe promise)

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This will be a slightly self indulgent and fan wanky post about my favourite show (yet again) but I just wanted to record and organise my thoughts about it and how much I relate.

I’ve been looking up Empaths and Highly Sensitive People and I think I may partially be in the same category. Looking up the traits, I tick a lot of them off. Random unexplained pains, a feeling of “just knowing” or understanding things, connection to animals, dislike of conflict etc, etc,… The last one particularly. When people are arguing near me, even if it is about something trivial or just a superficial debate, it is something I can’t stand. The second voices are raised I have to leave the room. It’s hard to explain, but I almost feel like they are angry at me and I can feel the bad ‘vibes’ (no better word) from their emotions in my own body to the point I feel physically ill. I can’t even watch question time. I openly cry at sad films; scenes of cruelty, particularly to animals, really shit me up. I can sense people’s inner motivations better than most. I often have mild out of body experiences, suddenly overwhelmed with the miraculous coincidence of my existence and I have to shake myself back into reality. I have vivid dreams and they start as I’m falling asleep. When I close my eyes clear images appear and sometimes my thoughts are so loud they sound like they are coming from the outside. My relationship with reality is… fractured. I don’t have full on hallucinations or anything, I just find it hard to keep entirely focused on what is happening and not daydream. Particularly if what is happening is dull and mundane (even if it is incredibly important). This is frustrating, for me and everyone else.

If I am an empath, it is something I share with Hannibal protagonist Will Graham. He uses his mind to profile criminals, I mainly use mine for writing and sussing people out. I’m realising more and more how much I relate to Will Graham, and not just with his love of dogs. In the first season Jack says “Will deals with huge amounts of fear, it comes with his imagination” Alana Bloom replies “It’s the price of imagination”. This fully resonates with me. I have recently realised that I suffer from anxiety, manifesting itself in OCD. Internet jokes about Will’s “unstable” nature helped me learn to laugh at a recent and overwhelming bout of anxiety. It’s wonderful to see a show that accurately represents what it is like to live with these traits and the downsides, and to celebrate the benefits of it. Will is invaluable to the FBI, his mind is the best tool they have and he’s every bit as emotional and dreamy and neurotic as me. It shows my unreal mind does not make me useless and laughable in the real world, it just means I have a different role to play.

As I’ve learned more about my mind and its qualities I have become more defensive of it and more confident. I can now explain my own way of seeing the world and defend myself when people call me lazy, over sensitive or out of touch with reality. I especially react strongly if people dismiss my emotions, or emotions in general, as “silly”, “illogical” or “crazy”.Emotions make sense if you have enough sensitivity to understand them. It’s a cold hearted and dismissive person who thinks emotions are irrelevant. Emotions can form the basis of opinions without voiding said opinions. Why else would you form a particular opinion without feeling something about it first? And if I start crying during an argument it’s because I hate arguments and I’ve been holding in the tears for hours, not to “emotionally blackmail” you. Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller has spoken of his love of “emotional plotting”. In Hannibal hallucinations appear as though they were real. Visual metaphor and magical realism also play a huge role, always being prioritised over grit and realism. It has always been an insecurity of mine as a writer that I could never come up with an intricate, world spanning plotline like George R.R. Martin, I have always had a concept or feeling to communicate and struggled to come up with a solid, workable plot to weave it into. The meaning comes before the means. This is what makes ‘Hannibal’ a unique and beautiful show, rather than a weakness. I love seeing something that reflects my approach.

The cinematography of Hannibal is like seeing my view of reality played out on a screen for the first time. Much has been written about the detail and artistry of the look of ‘Hannibal’. Every set is impeccable, the clothes are gorgeous and even the murders are Gothic masterpieces. I usually can’t watch murder shows as their bleak aesthetics get me down, I need to surround myself with intricate, beautiful things to feel comfortable. Any bedroom I’ve ever had has always been a bit of a visual cacophony, the wall of my room in my old-old house (I’ve moved six times) looked like a huge collage. I can’t stand bare, minimalist spaces. ‘Hannibal’ is deliberately, defiantly baroque and macabre and beautiful. What fascinated me was the attention to tiny details that usually get missed. I have often been teased for finding myself transfixed with things that don’t seem especially exciting. Seeing an extended close up shot of milk billowing like a nebula in a cup of coffee on ‘Hannibal’ was seeing my worldview finally understood. There is beauty, cosmic beauty, in the most mundane places and the makers of the show understand that. Whether it’s watching the way steam rises from a kettle and swerves and curves past the kitchen cupboards above it or the way blood mixes with milk, there is artistry everywhere if you know where to look. ‘Hannibal’ knows where to look and every frame is a masterpiece.

The strangely romantic relationship between Will and Hannibal has been explained by way of their understanding of one another. Even when Will knows what Hannibal is he can’t resist someone who ‘gets’ him. Whoever you are and whatever your mind, finding someone or something that seems to 100% understand you is rare and sometimes never happens. For me, so far, its ‘Hannibal’. It is reassuring in a world that sometimes dismisses and belittles me to know there is a piece of art and pop culture that will always psychologically have my back. Now I just need to get a job writing for them…

For the love of God – improve funding for mental health

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“Write hard and clear about what hurts” – Ernest Hemingway.

It has taken me some time to pluck up the courage to write about this, but I feel as someone who aspires to being a writer and someone who is finally in a place good enough to talk about this, I have a responsibility to shout into the ether of the ‘net what happened to me. Or rather, in me.

All my life I have suffered, or put up with, anxiety and OCD. It’s always been low level, flaring up like acne in times of stress. However so far it has always been something I could live with.

This changed around spring this year. I was having a bit of a bad time. I was living in a cold, dark, miserable house at uni. My finances weren’t great and looking to get worse. My family were moving away from the lovely house we had lived in for two years without me there to psychologically separate from it. I was lonely most of the time. I come from a busy and noisy family and despite living with 8 people I spent sometimes whole days on my own in my room, my flatmates quite understandably spending time with their partners and revising. On top of that there was an illness in the family. This was all getting me down, things really got bad when I was hit with unusually bad insomnia.

I’m usually a great sleeper, as soon as my head hits the pillow I’m off.Then one night I just didn’t sleep. I freaked out so much about it I didn’t sleep the next night. This continued, I knew it was because I was anxious about not sleeping that I wasn’t sleeping, vicious circles and everything. I would dread going to bed and would often end up staring up into the dark, frozen with fear about not sleeping. Other people may have brushed it off, watched a dvd and tried again later, I just couldn’t for some reason.

This anxiety over not sleeping brought the OCD on. If you know me you’re probably thinking “you are the least likely candidate for OCD ever” and you’d be right. I’m messy, disorganised, I hate order and routine. But the thing is, like most mental health issues, 99% of what you hear about OCD is utter bullshit. Condensed into an easy to swallow, watered-down concept they can make freakshow documentaries about. Mine, much to my flatmates dismay, did not take the form of tidying. I would get the compulsion to do rituals and physical tics, pointless activities to temporarily settle my anxiety. I restricted myself unnecessarily as well, in what I watched, read and ate. The words I used, my nights out, and so on. For a while it was merely a pain in the arse to deal with. Even then I didn’t think it was pointless and I should stop, I just saw it as my own personal burden I had to ever so catholicly deal with. People asked me why I was walking funny, or performing arbitrary routines and I would brush it off and change the subject.

After Easter break it very quickly spiralled out of control. I wasn’t eating enough and I lost a lot of weight. Routines and stupid rituals could take up hours of my day and physically exhaust me. My knees were in agony due to an ongoing tic of sitting up and down in chairs for literally hours. I had blisters on my hands. I was dehydrated. The worst one, the one that made me realise I truly needed help, was walking. My trip to uni featured lots of different pavement slabs and patchy tarmacing and my OCD compelled me to walk on certain things in certain ways, sometimes going back to them several times. A journey that took 15 minutes normally got longer and more frustrating. One day it took an hour and 45 minutes. I came home and collapsed in a chair, sobbing. The journey was hell, I was in tears most of the time, paralysed with panic and trying desperately trying to steady my breathing and wishing someone would break away from their life and rescue me. I knew then I absolutely had to tell someone, which naturally terrified me. I thought people would think I was a nutcase, I thought I was a nutcase. No one wants to be labelled. It was walking home that finally rescued me. My friend Jennie blessedly found me a few days later trying to complete the same journey and failing. She smilingly asked me how I was and I broke down in tears. She took me home and I told her what was happening. She, and everyone else (with one exception whom I will not name) was of course overwhelmingly kind. People are like that, most of the time. I bought my flatmates prossecco to say thank you. The next week or so they took me to doctor’s appointments and meetings at uni to get extensions on my coursework which had become an insurmountable task to do. They made me cups of tea and talked to me, and walked me to and from uni. They were angels. They didn’t judge me or laugh, they stayed up stupidly late while I did my batshit routines and even cooked for me. Eventually I went home and slowly but surely got better. These days it is still present but not overwhelming. The kindness of others was not something that gave out on me.

The problems came with trying to get solid medical help. A psychiatrist in A&E gave me my options but could offer me no real help there and then. I couldn’t get a doctors appointment in time and had to wait til I got home. A doctor called the emergency mental health team, who didn’t see me as an emergency as I wasn’t suicidal or harming myself or others. Eventually I got put on a six week waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy. Another doctor prescribed me prozac, which has worked.

Everyone I spoke to was sympathetic but told me I would have to wait. Admitting you have a mental health issue takes time and a crapload of courage. Once you’ve told someone, you want and expect help straight away. Then you’re told you’re going to have to wait even longer.You are torturing yourself and humiliating yourself and you get a waiting list. Everyone said the same thing, mental health is the worst and most underfunded part of the NHS.

I love the NHS, I think it’s the thing we should be the most proud of as Brits. Mental health is stigmatised, misunderstood (“I have to tidy! I’m so OCD!”) and not physically apparent. You have to be suicidal to get immediate help. The way we see mental health has come on leaps and bounds, half a century ago I may have just been lobotomised, locked up and forgotten about like a minor royal (ouch). I’m grateful to have been born when I was born. Things still need to improve however.

What startled and upset me when I told people what was happening with me was how many people shared similar experiences. Nearly everyone I know had dealt with depression, anxiety or some other disorder at some point. This isn’t something other people have to deal with. I always thought that. Now I realise it is incredibly common and present in people from all walks of life. Any other type of illness this omnipresent would take up a sizeable chunk of the NHS, yet it seems near impossible to get help quickly and effectively. Things aren’t looking good with the outcome of the latest election either. My stepdad, who is ill, joked “I’ll be dead and you’ll be a looney!”.

The whole of the NHS is suffering but, like mental health sufferers themselves, this part of the NHS is shuffling along, neglected, silent and misunderstood by many for far too long. This isn’t the problem of exceptional individuals you don’t know, I guarantee you know someone who has suffered from mental health issues. Maybe you’ve had them yourself. I’m still getting better and I’m finally understanding what I have and what it will mean for the rest of my life. Many others are still living in the dark and we need to help them, right now.

I don’t know who exactly this post is addressed to. You, George Osbourne, The media, the general public, the Government, the Health service. I just hope someone hears.