Please let me get what I want this time…

I know lots of you have election fatigue. Our political landscape seems desolate. Truth & right & consequences appear to have become blurred. I understand if you are sick of it. I get it if you feel like you can’t make a difference. However, this election is literally life or death for many people. Your vote matters. Please use it.

I’m making a genuine plea for myself and for societal good. I beg you, don’t vote Tory. Brexit is and can only ever be a disaster. The NHS is on its knees, food bank usage has soared, homeless people are dying on our streets, child poverty continues to rise. The most vulnerable members of our society are being crushed by the conservative government. The savaging of our welfare system is purposeful & ideological. It is not possible to opt out of sickness, unemployment or ageing. Even if you vote purely for your own well being, the Tories are not in your corner. You never know when you may need the services & rights they are systematically destroying.

Please don’t vote Tory in white letters in green background

You have to look beyond the headlines & media smears. Corbyn is not an extreme left maniac. He has a fully costed manifesto of common sense labour policies. He wants to create a fairer society for all. He’s fighting for wages you can live on, a roof over everyone’s head & food in our bellies. He wants the incredibly wealthy to pay their share (at a rate that will not make any significant difference to their lives). The labour manifesto will secure our health service. Corbyn is not perfect. Frankly, I have major issues with his views on Scotland, but he is our best bet. He is principled man who has been consistently on the right side of the fight. He is trying to improve life for everyone.

I ask you to approach this election like a bus journey. If there isn’t a direct bus to your exact destination you find the next best option. You get the bus that takes you as close as you can get. A vote for the conservatives will only drive us into a ditch. Liberal Democrats have already shown us what they do with power. We have to be tactical. Vote for Labour or whoever can beat the Tories in your constituency. Only opt for other parties in areas where it can not benefit the conservatives.

We have a chance for real change. Please don’t let it slip away.

Don’t speak…

I’ve talked about the misguided things that people say in the wake of a miscarriage. Although these things can hurt, I understand that no harm is intended. I’ve been hesitant to tackle the other side, the people who say things they know will cause pain. Try as I might I cannot understand what they gain from this. Bear with me, I’m going to do a little blog therapy.

I can’t believe this has to be said, but here goes. A person’s stance on abortion is not relevant if the have a miscarriage. After my most recent loss it was suggested that my pro choice beliefs made my devastation over the miscarriage incongruous. Actually I think they were insinuating that it was hypocritical of me to grieve the loss of a foetus when I support the right of someone else to terminate one. Let me be clear, I support each individual’s right to choose. My experiences of pregnancy and miscarriage have only strengthened my pro choice convictions. Carrying a pregnancy and giving birth is an undertaking of such enormous magnitude that it should only ever be done willingly. My desire to have a child is not in conflict with my refusal to deny others bodily autonomy. I don’t want or need an abortion, but I will fight for those who do. Using that against me at my most vulnerable moment is cruel. Choice is the operative word. I had no choice in losing my wanted pregnancies. My dead babies are not a debating point. Attempting to litigate how upset a person is permitted to be is disgusting.

Choice clouds

Equally repugnant and heartbreaking was the proffering of surprise that I would be hit so hard by a fourth miscarriage. The reasoning being that I should have expected it may happen (I did of course) and that I should have become hardened to it by now. I can’t comprehend the lack of empathy it would take to think such a thing let alone say it loud. I don’t understand how one comes to the conclusion that reliving the worst time of your life over and over would make it easier. I can’t understand how anyone would imagine that having a worst fear realised is any less awful because you knew it could happen. Forcing someone to defend their distress is cruel in a way that must be deliberate.

I also wanted to touch on a group of platitudes that are offered frequently. Variations of ‘everything happens for a reason’, ‘god moves in mysterious ways’ or ‘it’s a blessing in disguise’ are never ok. I have been repeatedly assured that good intentions lie behind these phrases and I’m calling bullshit on that. They’re just lazy and ignorant remarks. Even a moments thought would uncover how inappropriate it is force your religiosity on someone. If you somehow take comfort in believing that ‘god’ purposefully snuffs out specific unborn that’s bizarre, but your business. To impose those ideas on fragile people in the midst of trauma is wilful ignorance. It is choosing to prioritise your own comfort above that of someone who is suffering.

Blurred light

I’m incredulous that I have to say any of this. It hurts to be forced into these unnecessary conversations. These aren’t blunders, they are examples of selfish agenda pushing. There is no kind reason to pursue these topics. It’s callous & inexcusable. Don’t do it.

Don’t worry, my arse…

I worry. Quite a lot actually. I stress over things great, small & possibly non existent. I probably worry much more than is either necessary or prudent. That’s the nature of worrying, though.

So, I while I confess to sometimes wishing I could turn off the worrying I find it incredibly frustrating when people suggest that is possible. There are of course strategies to deal with disquieting situations, merely deciding not to worry about it is not one of them.

I keep seeing this sort of thing offered as some kind of wisdom. This isn’t wise, it isn’t even sensible. It just displays an inability to understand what worry is. If it were possible for a person to decide no to worry, worry wouldn’t be a thing.

Obviously this is abelist. Anxiety is not always rational. Many people struggling with mental illness have spiralling worries. Ranging from the practical (money, employment, relationships) to the irrational & far reaching concerns that mental illness can bring. When you tell someone they can choose to stop, you’re kind of saying their anguish is their own fault. Advising a person to just stop worrying is as pointless as telling them to just not be ill.

Setting aside the ableism it’s still infuriatingly useless advice. Let me break it down,

Do you have a problem?

If I didn’t consider the issue a problem, I wouldn’t be concerned about it. So, yes, regardless of what an outsider might think, I clearly think it’s a problem.

Can you do something about it?

If I can, the solution must still be troubling or uncertain otherwise I wouldn’t be worrying.

If there is nothing I can do ignoring or pretending the issue doesn’t exist will not help me. Plus, lets me face it, if you are facing a problem that you cannot solve it’s unlikely that you can just magically forget it.

Saying this to someone in distress is unkind. It basically translates to I don’t care. Telling someone not to worry is not a suggestion of self care. It’s dismissive. Instead, perhaps try listening. Sometimes just saying it out loud can be helpful. If you can offer practical help, do. If you don’t know what someone needs, ask. A simple ‘what can I do’ can be so valuable. A little bit of time goes a long way.

Don’t tell me what to do…

In this world of self care & mindfulness it seems like everyone thinks they’re a therapist. Don’t get me wrong, sharing what works for you & talking about our mental health is great. It’s just that, to put it bluntly, some people talk crap. Others just regurgitate tired old advice that ain’t helping anyone. Man alive, I’m sick of it.

I want to talk specifically about the useless chatter surrounding self harm. I’ve been hearing & seeing the same patronising advice for YEARS. The most frustrating part is it often comes from people who really should know better. So, allow me to take you through why so much of the standard advice is just plain bad.

1/ Draw on your skin instead of cutting/burning etc.

This one usually takes two forms. The first opines that whatever relief/release a person may find in hurting themselves they can also attain by simply drawing on their skin. Now, let me ask you this, if drawing lines on yourself would make you feel better would you be causing physical trauma in the first place? The answer is of course, no. The components of self harm that serve a purpose vary, it may be pain, blood, disfiguring the skin or even a need to punish oneself. None of which needs are met by drawing.

The second part of the draw on your skin nonsense is the idea that you draw something pretty (often a butterfly) where you would normally self harm. The desire to preserve the ‘body art’ is then supposed to dissuade a person from ‘spoiling’ their skin. The stupidity of this idea is obvious. If actually scarring oneself will not prevent a person from harming themselves it seems very unlikely that spoiling a temporary drawing will. Even if by some miracle a biro butterfly were enough to assuage overwhelming distress, the body has a lot of flesh. Are people to cover every inch of themselves in rainbows & roses?

Butterfly drawn on skin

2/ Have a hot bath, cup of tea, blah, blah, blah…

Imagine the kind of agony you would have to be in to take a scalpel to yourself & cut for hours. Do you think a nice bath would magic that away? The answer is no. A bath helps you feel better at the end of tiring day. It does not release you from excruciating emotional pain.

3/ Distract yourself.

The need to self harm is powerful & persistent. For some reason lots of people (both professional & laymen) believe the urge is fleeting. I often see those struggling told to distract themselves until the urge passes. This advice betrays an ignorance regarding the workings of self harm. The need to hurt oneself does not easily wane. In fact, the longer a person self harms the stronger the compulsion becomes. Often it is impossible to focus on anything else. No sleeping or eating or thinking until the hunger to hurt is sated. It isn’t possible to distract oneself from that level of intrusion. When you cannot function on the most basic of levels watching a film or phoning friend are not options.

4/ Throw away your self harm tools.

The rationale here being that if one does not have the apparatus used to self harm, then self harm is impossible. WRONG.

As already discussed the compulsion to injure oneself is incredibly strong. Desperate people become ingenious. Trust me, when you really need to, you can hurt yourself with anything. Believe me again when I say those fraught & frenzied moments are when people make mistakes. As incomprehensible as it sounds self harm can be the very thing keeping someone alive. Asking or obligating an ill person to give up their lifeline is dangerous. It is also cruel.

5/ Ping your wrist with an elastic band/hols an ice cube in your hand etc.

My objections to this one are again two fold. To begin with it’s just ineffective. Self harm is both a habit firming & escalating problem. A person almost always experiences a need to increase the severity of their injurious behaviour. This takes us right back to the start. If the nip of an elastic band were sufficient, no one would be putting themselves in hospital via self harm.

A more serious objection, though, is the message this sends. Telling a vulnerable person that hurting themselves is ok, is a head fuck of massive proportions. Self harm is never the real problem, it is a symptom. In order to tackle self harm one must deal with the underlying issues. That is hard work, time consuming work. It’s much easier just to counsel harm minimisation. In doing so, you validate a sick person’s maladaptive thought process. That mental health professionals routinely tell patients that hurting themselves is ok is a disgrace. The basic premise of the hold an ice cube/ping an elastic band technique is that hurting yourself is a reasonable response to emotional turmoil. Just don’t do it badly enough to bother other people. By suggesting someone harm themselves in a small way you have shifted the conversation from, ‘let’s help you not hurt yourself’ to ‘hurt yourself in ways that do not draw attention to the act’. It is ignoring the root of the problem & allowing a person to believe that they are deserving of pain. It’s lazy, it counter productive & it is bullshit.

Hand holding ice

If you are struggling with self harm or you know someone who is, don’t feel helpless. When you are searching for help & find only these sort of suggestions it can feel like there are no answers. Whilst there are no quick fixes, there is hope.

See your Gp. If they don’t listen or offer help, see another Gp. I know this is exhausting at a time when you can least afford a fight, but please, don’t give up. If you have a friend or family member who can be your advocate, take them with you. You deserve treatment. You deserve care.

If you have badly injured yourself please seek medical advice. Again, if you have a friend or family member who can support you, take them along. If you do not & are worried about how you will be treated taking a copy of NHS NICE GUIDELINES can be helpful. You are entitled to be treated with the same compassion & respect as any other patient. Most emergency personnel will do this, but a few may need reminding of their duty. Being able to quote these guidelines helps in such situations. As scary as this may sound, do not put yourself at risk by avoiding treatment. You are worthy of diligent medical care.

If you are not yet ready or able to see a Dr, you can contact The Samaritans 24/7.

Call – 116 123 (uk)

Email – jo@samaritans.org

Friday favourites…

Wow, it has been a big week. I’ve felt all the feelings & did all the things. I will catch you up on my goings on soonish. In the meantime please content yourself with a variety of my current favourite things. You know the deal, all the wee bits that get me through the good & bad days.

First up is appropriately named First Aid Kit . I am rather in love with their new album Ruins . It has just enough melancholy to nurture my ‘ i just need a small cry’ moments whilst also containing sufficient uplifting ditties. It’s folksy & soothing, but also pleasantly raw in places. It is an added bonus that the band wear the most divine clothes. Their hard hippie aesthetic wets my whistle. In short, three cheers for the Swedish sisters charming my senses.

First aid kit, ruins Album cover

Next is a yummy little treat that pleases my tum. Yes, I take comfort in food, sue me. I have always been a lover of jelly, but obviously not all jelly is vegan friendly & some vegan brands lacked a satisfactory wobble. I am chick who likes some wibble. This winter my cupboards have been packed with Hartley’s 10 cal jelly pots. I first discovered these years ago during an insane starvation diet, but they are utterly delicious. These days I couldn’t care less about the calorie count, but do love their variety of fruity flavours. Everything from classic strawberry & orange to elderflower lemonade and Black Forest gateau. Every single variety is packed full of fruity flavour and not a single non vegan ingredient. They are also exceptionally easy going on the stomach meaning I have something tasty to eat even when mine is at it’s most uncooperative. Yeah!

Vegan jelly

No fav list of mine would be complete without some reading material. My current book just happens to be one of my all time favourite writers, Alan Bennett. I absolutely adore everything he does, but in particular I love his diaries & memoirs. I find his writing as comforting as a cup of mint tea. Even when he tackles heavy subjects he does so with such a light hand that it soothes me to read his words. I love that I can trust his politics, his wit & his decency. He writes about complex, sensitive issues with an honesty & compassion missing from so much of modern life. His most recent collection of prose, Keeping on Keeping on is as enchanting as ever. His daily doings & opinions on the world at large have been getting me through a tricky start to the year. If you need your faith in humanity (& beautiful writing) restored, Bennett is the man for the job.

Cat poking his head over a book

Bronan doesn’t enjoy Alan Bennett as much as I do. He’s a less reading, more ear rubbing kind of cat.

Another small item bringing joy to my life this week is badges. I am a longtime fan of the humble pin badge & am rejoicing in their revival. Not so long ago I had to search for badges that pleased me. Now pins with messages that delight are everywhere I look. There’s nothing better than wearing your heart (& your politics) on your sleeve or in my case chest. I have taken to expressing my mood with a collection of badges each day. They are a darling embellishment to every outfit. Plus, no one can say they haven’t been warned; they tell you what to expect before I even open my mouth.

Feminist badges

Last but not least is Now Tv. I had a Sky package of one kind or another for years, but constantly had problems with it. My broadband dropped, I lost signal for no reason and it always took 3 weeks to get through to customer services. So, I ditched it and got Now instead. It’s so much simpler and cheaper. Oh & now my internet consistently works. I am useless with services like this & tend to put up with problems forever because I worry changing will be just too much hassle. This switch was so easy that I am now checking out what else I could benefit from changing. Suppliers beware.

A time for giving…

According to Cliff Richards, king of the xmas tune, this is a time for giving. Whilst Cliff is wrong about most things, I think he’s right about this. I love Christmas. I am fortunate enough to have wonderful people to share it with. We always have more than enough food to fill our tums & plenty presents under our tree. If like me, your festive cup runeth over, please consider making a donation to one of these excellent organisations.


Simon Community helps homeless people in Scotland. They provide a number of wonderful services. From teaching life skills to providing accommodation to help people get on their feet, they support homeless people in a multitude of ways. This year they also launched a new initiative to provide both period products & education for people experiencing homelessness. You can help Simon Community by donating your time, money and a number of essentials items. You can find more information here.

Luisa Omielan is my favourite stand up comedian. Her material is not only hilarious, but covers incredibly important issues. She talks about mental illness, body positivity & female empowerment in her hysterical routines. This year she lost her Mum suddenly & horribly to cancer. She has now not only incorporated the difficult topics of palliative care, NHS under funding & death into her routines, but has also started a foundation, in her mum’s name, to raise money to provide comfort items to hospices. My own family was also touched by cancer this year & I became aware of just how important good hospice care is. Until now I was not aware that hospices are charities that do not receive government funding. People at the end of their lives, often suffering, should have access to the best possible care. Luisa is trying to make that happen. Please give whatever you can to Helena’s Hospice Foundation.

Save the Children work around world with children in desperate need. Their mission is to keep children safe and healthy, whether that means battling poverty or exploitation. They fight to create and enforce legal rights for children as well as providing food, clothing and other essentials for those in need. There are too many frightened children in too many places tonight. If you can help give them a better tomorrow, please do.

Tribe is a Scottish animal sanctuary providing a loving home for animals who have been victims of abuse, neglect or who have been saved from slaughter. Their aim is to keep animals safe, but also to encourage compassion for animals not normally considered pets. The sanctuary was founded by John and Morag, animal advocates who wanted to truly live their beliefs. They currently house cats, dogs, cows and chickens. You can get to know their growing family & find out how to donate here.

Please dig as deep as you can and have a very Merry Christmas and a fun filled Hogmanay.

Try to comprehend that which you’ll never comprehend…

In the midst of a wonderful weekend at the Edinburgh Fringe I had two really inspiring experiences. Both of which fuelled in me a desire to share some writing that hasn’t seen the light in quite some time. On Sunday I saw Neil Holborn perform his stunning poetry. He is very open about his struggles with mental illness & includes his own experiences in much of his work. The power of his honesty & the emotional response he received to some of his pieces really struck me. He reminded me of the power of sharing the dark reality of mental illness. Later that day I was introduced to a friend of my boyfriend who also talked openly about his past mental health struggles. This led to a discussion of how helpful it is to talk about these issues; how more often than not other people will then share their own experiences of mental illness. We talked a little about how that realisation that mental illness is actually really common relieved so much shame. It reminded me how important it is to talk frankly about my experiences, so that those in the depths of illness can see that they are not alone. Equally important is to reach those who have never been touched by mental health problems. Letting people see that this can happen to anyone, that the pain is intense, debilitating & uncontrollable lifts stigma. I really believe that the way to fight ignorance is information. Not just statistics, but brutal insights into conditions often misunderstood. It is so much harder to dismiss mental illness when you have been confronted with it’s reality. 

With this in mind I decided to review work I produced in my darker days. For those unaware I have battled with PTSD, depression & self harm for most of my adult life. Although my mental health is much improved from the time of this piece, it remains a daily struggle. One is never cured. The best I can do is learn to live with what I cannot change & fight for what makes my life beautiful. I am profoundly grateful to no longer be actively self harming. I am also aware that urges still exist. It takes work to maintain my current life. I make a daily decision to keep fighting & I am far from alone. 

I know these words may be disturbing to some, but I ask you to read them anyway. I share this because I passionately believe that a deeper understanding defeats stigma & grows compassion. 

i had another little crisis

despite a transfusion in late december,

my haemoglobin had again dropped to 6.6

causing doctor’s to get jumpy

&

prompting talk of another transfusion.

this fuelled  a panic in me

i do not like having blood transfusions

i feel incredible guilt.

other people are more deserving of this blood

someone selflessly gave of themselves.

i will waste it

i know it will feel horrendous inside me

i do not want it.

i don’t really have the option of

saying

no

they will call in a psych consult

which could lead down a road

i can’t

even

think about

my first stupid reaction

is

i must cut

whilst the dr’s decide

i will blood let

i know it doesn’t make sense

to most

but

there is method in the madness

my hb is already low

i may as well be hung for sheep as a lamb

i will hate myself less for shedding my own blood

if i lose enough blood

do enough damage

i may feel sated for a while

with this in mind i set to work

after two disappointing nights

of

slicing

&

producing inadequate wounds

i got angry.

on the third day,

the gp called to say they had decided to go with an iron infusion the following week.

i considered myself free

to

paint the town RED

i felt it couldn’t be that bad

if i didn’t need a transfusion

i had still better fit in as much damage

before treatment

&

truthfully

after two pitiful nights

i needed it

so,

feeling enraged with myself

i set to work

i chose a spot on my slightly less scarred right forearm

i cut vertically

downwards

towards my wrist

everytime i reached a depth i could live with

i elongated the cut

&

started to work down into it again

i got into the most dangerous mindset

where

i just can’t resist

a little

bit

more

i ploughed through the layers of my flesh

fascinated

with what lay beneath

i watched three distinct fountains of blood

flow into one

sticky

hot

pool

i pulled the wound apart to make the blood spurt higher

i sawed through

some

tough,unknown inner material

and

thrilled

as the spray soared out

and hit my face

when i was finished

i watched

for

i don’t know how long

long enough to become dazed

i had created a gaping trench

the entire length of my foream

that continuosly filled with blood

and

spilled over, flooding the floor.

i could not stop the blood

nor, could i think straight

i wrapped a towel around my arm

put a huge jumper on top

and

took the bus.

yes,

the bus

to a&e

i trailed blood into reception

& collapsed in the triage room

i was so ashamed

dreaded trying to explain myself

lay in a cubicle

crying

i had done this many times before

but somehow

i couldn’t control my fear or self loathing.

i received 21 stitches

a transfusion

and

was hospitlised again for three days the following week with chest pains & breathing difficulty 

requiring

another

two units

&

suffering from severe pain

i spent those 3 days in & out of a morphine

induced altered reality

Junior dr’s were too scared to take blood from my arms

apparently experience is required

to find a vein in this network of scar tissue

the consultant was overly kind

fellow patients

stared & whispered

i lay there in

shame

pain

fear

all of which added up to

another attempt

to stop.

11 days

and counting……

20/03/2012

Blood on a mirror