You can’t change the way she feels, but you could put your arms around her…

I dreamt about an old friend last night. A friend who is no longer living. It was a lovely dream that I was sad to wake from. As I tried to commit the dream to memory I realised that whilst I thought of her often, I hadn’t spoken out loud about my dear friend in a long time. Too long a time, which is something I need to rectify. I need to talk about her. Tell her story. Share how she changed me. And that is exactly what I am going to do.

Let’s start by saying I met J because we were both ill. I was in my early twenties & struggling to deal with undiagnosed PTSD. I was trying to hold together a life that was increasingly unsatisfying with a self harm habit that was spiralling out control. J was dealing with similarly unhappy circumstances and a self harm problem that becoming, frankly terrifying. We both found some comfort in a community of sick people who didn’t know where else to turn. We were people who couldn’t ask for help or had asked without receiving the sort of assistance the we needed. No one talked about self harm then. Except maybe in the odd film where it was usually portrayed as something a trouble teen might do or a suicide attempt. Even the mental health professionals treated us like shit (sadly, some still so). If our attempts to hide the problem had failed, our families & friends were frightened ( & in some cases cruel). We were dealing with real problems; rape, abusive relationships, miscarriage, escaping from cults, drug dealing parents & a multitude of other big, scary problems. We were of course also living with mental illness. Some of us had a laundry list of labels and others had not a single clue what the fuck was wrong. But there was absolutely something going very wrong for all of us. This is where I met J. Amongst this this group of desperate people I also found a salvation of sorts. These broken people offered each other a kind of support that we couldn’t find anywhere else. We dragged each other through the kind of darkness that most will never understand. And J was kind of our leader.
J was living with pain beyond what would be considered durable. Her mental anguish was compounded by the physical horror she was compelled to inflict upon herself. J was not ok. Every solitary moment of life was a battle hard fought. And, yet, she always had time for us. She had love and support and encouragement for her damaged flock. J lived in a different time zone, but she still called day & night to remind me to keep breathing. She wrote letters and sent care parcels. She compiled lists of all the things that just might offer one us a couple minutes respite from our own fucked up heads. She replied to every ‘ I can’t do this anymore’ with such kind & convincing entreaties to keep trying, that we did. Her words worked because we knew, that she knew. We were all able to help each other because we shared a world that most people didn’t know existed. For me, j was the ultimate inspiration. If she could do this with such grace, I owed it to her and all the others who loved me to at least not give up.

It’s such a cliché, but this goodness expanded beyond our group. She was studying to be a nurse because she wanted to help people. Everyone in her life adored her. J was that person who offered succour, but she wasn’t a martyr or a goody goody. She was fun. Her sense of humour could be wicked. Most of all she was strong. J fought to live. She engaged with mental health services that let her down over and over and over. She was still working and studying at the peak of her illness. She endured the brutality of her self harm and the callousness of those supposed to treat them. She did it all with dignity. Life beat J black and blue. This world committed an almost constant vicious assault on her. She fought back hard. She battled with and blood and heart and care and tears and wonder. She did not win.
J succeeded in taking her own life in a sad and awful way that left no doubt that she meant it. I wish with everything in my being that I could have changed how her story ended. Both the circumstances & the prematurity of her passing, but I don’t blame her. I understand that life was no longer a viable prospect for J. I hate that, but I do not begrudge her some peace. I am still angry at the professionals who failed her and the people who’s actions caused her so much pain. I will never be angry at J. She gave life her very best shot. Her suicide was neither selfish nor weak. It was just the only option she had left. It kills me that someone so beautiful was left with a choice so ugly. I understand it, though. Whilst I know it may be an unpopular opinion I can accept it. I can respect that it was her decision to make.


So, why I am writing this? What am I left with? Actually what remains is so much more positive than I could have ever imagined. Losing J was soul destroying, but life does go on. I go on and so do those other sad people that she cared for. I don’t want to disrespect those wonderful people by not acknowledging that they too saved me. We all helped save each other. In hundreds of big and small ways. After J’s death we continued to care for each other. We laughed and cried and screamed and swore together. We stayed up nights and called ambulances. We sent Xmas cards and made hospital visits.
From that group I maintain friendships with some incredible people. Some of us are entirely recovered, some still walk the tight rope; we are all still alive. We have partners, careers, babies, hobbies & passions. We all do our bit for mental health awareness. Whether that’s through writing, organising, working in the field, donating to MH charities or just supporting loved ones with their difficulties. I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to prevent others falling through the cracks. I will fight for everyone to have more choices than J. I know I am not alone. That is her legacy. She lives on through the people she touched. We endured. We succeeded. We survived.
WE LIVE

1 in 4 adult in UK will experience mental illness at some point in their lives. It is incredibly likely that you or someone you love will have to fight this battle. You can help improve the lives of suffering in a number of ways. Please do what you can to make sure more people survive.

Add mental health education to the national curriculum

Equality for mental health

Donate to Samaritans

Donate to SAMH

You an also make a massive difference by writing to your elected representatives an telling them mental health is major issue for you. Let them know that how they vote on mental health related issues matters to you. You can find your representatives here.
Find my MP
Find my MSP

 

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But I ask where is the poetry…

I’ve had a rough couple weeks. Ill health (myself & others), unavoidable obligations & insomnia rearing  it’s ugly head have led to an incredibly stressed out ly. Alas, the blog has suffered. Normal service will be resumed soon. In the meantime I offer a small poetic interlude. 

I find poetry incredible cathartic. I often attempt to write away my troubles. You’d be surprised how often it helps. 

Spoonie tour guide is go…

Last week my sis in law’s nephew was visiting from Australia. He is making good use of his youth & doing a little travelling. His epic trip takes him around Europe before hitting the south of Africa & then stopping off in UAE on the way back down under. Obviously we wanted to show our visiting family a good time. Thus, the spoonie tour guide & another week in pictures was born. 

Since Simon’s mum & aunts had spent happy years in Glasgow he wanted to have a good look around. My brother & niece are also cheerleaders for our fair city, so we didn’t want to let the side down. First stop was Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. Kelvingrove is one of my favourite places. An impressive collection of varied exhibits housed in a stunning building, which itself sits in a beautiful park. Simon was impressed with the architecture & variety. I was delighted to get reacquainted with my favourite Lowry, some early body positive art & a really old tree.


We capped of Kelvingrove with a quick walk in the park. After saying hello to some very friendly squirrels we were joined by my mum & sister for a bite to eat. Special mention for Brewdogs’s vegan hotdog. Yummers.

Pitch black & freezing by half 5 isn’t ideal for visitors used to a warmer climate, but it does show off the Christmas lights to perfection. I swear Fraser’s add more lights every year. I’m not complaining, I’m a sucker for a twinkly light. Argyle arcade is getting in on the action too. We thought this looked like a very festive cat. What do you think?

In between excursions I squeezed in a date night with the Toyboy. Wagamama’a vegan pad Thai & The Death of Stalin are getting a big thumbs up. They are respectively delicious & hilarious. The TB agreed. I also found a little time to beautify my nails & spread some #ProjectPostIt wisdom.

On Wednesday we took a day trip to Edinburgh. Simon was really keen to see the castle (his first) & it didn’t disappoint. We were really lucky to get fresh, clear day. The views from the castle were spectacular. 


I hadn’t been inside the castle since I was a child, but was pleasantly surprised. The buildings are amazing & the restoration inside is really well done. There are are so many little details that are so well done. It’s crazy to peer out of windows & realise much of what you’re looking is as it was hundreds of years ago. 


We met this fine unicorn fella & his lion friend keeping watch outside the National War Memorial. Plus discovered this cemetery for soldier’s dogs. R.I.P. puppers. 


Importantly,  our castle visit finally bestowed upon me the recognition I deserve. I am Scotland’s Crown Jewels. 


With temperatures dropping we got Simon inside for some food. Then had a quick mess around with the mirrors at the camera obscura. This is a fab attraction that we sadly didn’t have time for, but it’s definitely worth a visit. A quick glimpse at more Xmas lights warmed our hearts before we headed back west.

On his last full day in Scotland we took our intrepid traveller to Loch Lomond. What better spot to show off our country than on the Bonnie, Bonnie banks?



The view from Luss pier is divine. The village is lovely, the pub has a real fire & hearty fare. We couldn’t ask for more. 

We got back into town with just enough time to check out the Xmas market, more lights & gorge ourselves in the swanky Atlantic Line. 

As much fun as I had during my stint as a spoonie tour guide, it wore me out. Thus a weekend in my jammies with this pair was in order. There is a lot to be said for hot baths, cuddles & carry on.

A privileged person’s guide to privilege…

I will never understand why the concept of privilege is so offensive to so many people. Mostly, let it be said, privileged people. It is beyond me why it frightens people to look at the privilege in their life & say yes, that has helped me and no, I did nothing to earn that aid. ‘Owning your privilege’ is merely acknowledging your good fortune. Privilege does not make you bad a person. However, refusing to countenance it’s existence makes you a bit of a dick. Since no one wants to be one of those, let’s go through this together.

If you belong to a group who hold power in society, you have privilege. If you belong to a group that is considered the default in society, you too have privilege. The fact that you do not face institutionalised discrimination just for being who you are is a huge advantage. Being born white, straight, cis, able bodied are all privileges. You will not face prejudice or disadvantages for merely existing in your body. Life is not a level playing field; some of us are sprinting before the starter’s pistol sounds.

Part of this kind of privilege is the fact that you did nothing to earn your advantage. Thus, many people will rail against the notion that they should have to apologise for holding it. Well, no one is asking you to. You are not responsible for the fact that you are white or male or cis gendered. No one is critising you for being any of these (or any other privileged) things. The problem comes when you refuse to own the benefits you have gained from life’s lottery. When some people have to struggle just to reach the starting line, ignoring that becomes offensive. We do not choose what privilege we come into this world with, but we do choose what we do with it. Acknowledge the factors beyond your control that eased your path. Then use your position to clear space for those without your advantages. 

Some of you may be thinking I have one of those privileges you speak of & my life is hard, so I don’t feel ahead of the game. Privilege is not a guarantee of fabulous life. You could be a straight, white, cis, able bodied man & still have terrible things happen to you. The privilege comes in the fact that they did not happen because you were straight or white or cis or able bodied or male. No matter your situation the abscence of the barriers that come with being a minority are still always advantageous. 

It’s also important to remember that it is possible to have privilege in one area & none in another. For example I am white, from a comfortable back ground, well educated, cis gendered & straight passing. I am fully of aware of the advantages my parents have given me and of the discrimination I have never had to face. I hold a lot of privilege. However, I am also disabled, I’m female & I’m fat; all of which incur significant hardships. My daily life is a slog. I do face discrimination & I am discredited, but I’m still lapping my trans, BAME, LGBTQ, impoverished (& so many more) brothers & sisters in the race of life. 

So, privilege isn’t always cut & dry. It does not translate to a perfect life. Nevertheless, it’s a head start. It is a whole bunch of problems you’ll never have to even consider. Privilege is being able to dismiss that the premise is even real. 

In keeping with my entreaty that you use whatever privilege you have to help dismantle the current societal hegemony I would encourage to read these voices on the topic.

Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Strong in broken places

Taking up too much space 

That crazy crippled chick

The Second City

Make it up as we go along…

Historically, relationships have been a fairly fraught affair for me. I have found myself involved with various types of difficult men. I never quite managed to align my expectations with theirs. Someone always felt short changed or infuriated or plain hurt. 

I’ve had men who wanted to control or tame me. Guys who loved my weirdness until they realised it was permanent & the novelty wore off. There have been proposals; both accepted & rejected, but I never did make it down the aisle. I’ve fallen hard for those who could not make me a priority & struggled to breathe with those who couldn’t focus on anything else. 

I’ve dumped so many men for so many reasons. The tiniest of infractions & the hugest of betrayals.   I’ve disappointed by being too ill or too strident or too independent or too me. Their lack of strangeness or loyalty or compassion has disappointed me right back. To be honest I had given up on the idea of finding someone & just being happy. I watched everyone I know meet someone & like them & build a life & make it work. 

I thought, maybe, I just wasn’t built that way. All my love songs were heart wrenching. And so very complicated. 

Then I took a chance on a cheeky smile with a social conscience. This time, romance is easy. For once we might be on the same page. After all this time, I met someone I liked & I want to see where it can go.  So far it’s taken me to fun & comfort & excitement & care & trust. Oh & access to a really sweet arse. 

Sure, we bicker. He is full of nonsense. He never picks up his socks. He always wants to debate my veganism. I have tell him to suck my dick way too much, but I feel like we’re on the same team. I don’t feel pressured to be anything other than I am. We’re just taking life as it comes & it feels good. 

Early bird gift guide…

I know I am getting into the Xmas chat a bit early & I apologise. I only do it because it takes me ages to get organised. I have loads of Dec birthdays & far off loved ones to send to on top of regular Xmas. The added complications of spoonie life means I’m usually already quietly Xmas shopping in October. I am certain there are others just like me out there, thus I thought some early gift guides might be useful.

I’m staring with this fairly random guide as I think most folk are a bit eclectic in their tastes. I find all those really specific guides a bit annoying because very few people fit in just one box. So, i have collated this bunch of cool, but varied gifts. I’m calling it, traditional eclectic, all the standard crimbo fare with some twists. 

I may have mentioned before that christmas without velvet is just not on. Velvet clothes feel divine, so imagine how amazing this most tactile of fabrics would feel right next to your skin. Yup, velvet lingerie is definitely a sexy festive gift. Of course along with something to slink about in, something to slob in is also required at Xmas. Never underestimate the power of good jammies. 

All good book shops, New Look, Plus size lingerie lounge, New Look, All good book shops,The literary gift company. 

Hand in hand with nightwear go a really good book & this delightful cushion to lounge upon. I have become a bit of a cushion fanatic, but I think most book lovers would be pleased with this couch addition. 

Everyone likes a bit fancy at Xmas time. Wether that be twinkling on your eyelids or quirky touches around the house. 


eBay, Asda Home, Urban Decay (Heavy Metal). 


Barry M, I want one of those, Pyro Pet, Ciate (Glitter Flip).

The rise of the christmas jumper in recent years has tickled my fancy. The sheer variety of festive knitwear means there is something to suit all tastes. Chocolate & jewellery are also Xmas staples. Again, if you look hard enough you can find some to please everyone. 


Vegan Town, Marks & Spencer’s, Bonnie Bling. 

As a kid I always had a holy advent calendar, so the idea of a vegan choc one really appeals to me. Making a statement with my accessories is so up my street, but sometimes I just want my baubles to look pretty.  There’s a bit of each here.


Rebel Circis, Marks & Spencer’s, Fuck the Tories. 

If my haste upsets you, I get it. If however you have a massive Xmas list that you need to get ahead of, have at it. 

The ghouls all came…

Happy Halloween! Everything about this season is a win. Dressing up ✔️scary films✔️pumpkin fun✔️ an excuse to eat all the monkey nuts ✔️ What’s not to love?

I kicked off my Halloween hijinks with a little Greek mythology. My amazing sis in law’s sister (surely their should best word for that rejstionship) sent me this Medusa  headdress all the way from oz & thus a costume was born. On Saturday night I got all greened up & headed to a party. I was accompanied by my troll doll sister & the TB in the creepiest Trump mask in the world. I was so impressed with the costumes at the party, people really went all out. I of course forgot to snap pics of most of the costumes, but folk were really smart & funny. 


Next on the spooky agenda is a scary film on the big screen. Cineworld are showing The Shining tonight & I cannot wait. I’ve only seen it once & my sis has never seen it. We’re both prone to screaming at the jumpy bits, so it’s bound to be an eventful night. My excitement has spilled onto my nails, which may have gotten a tiny bit themed. 


Last, but not least, it wouldn’t be Halloween with about a pumpkin. I have no spoons for all the mess of carving, so I got a bit creative with some paint. I’ll be out tonight, but I’m sure the kids will be happy to help themselves to some treats. Bronan approves of the reduced door knocking.