Pay it forward…

Phew, we made it. January is finally over. It felt like making it February wasn’t guaranteed a few times. If you’ve also been struggling, I hope the new month brings better things. I am by no means back in tip top condition, so I will be taking my return slow; bear with me. I thought I’d start with something that can make us all feel a little better.

Random acts of kindness are small things you do for strangers for no reason other than it’s nice to be nice. I often feel like I’m too small to make any lasting difference in our big messed up world. I think refocusing some of my efforts onto the wee picture can help. I feel less lost & hopefully the person on the receiving end feels good too. Keeping ourselves politically informed, active & compassionate can be exhausting. The feel good kick of helping someone out can go a long way to recharging our philanthropic batteries.

So, here are some simple & cheap tips for putting a smile on a stranger’s (& your own) face. These are all things I have personally tried or know of someone who had positive results. I will endeavour to tick off the whole list & repeat regularly!

Tampon dipped in red glitter

Tackle Period Poverty

Period poverty is a multi layered issue. Domestically it seems that our governments are finally trying to tackle the problem by providing sanitary products in schools, council facilities etc. There are still lots of people who will fall through the gaps and struggle to access the specific products they need. I’ve found a simple way to tackle this directly is just to leave tampons, pads, wet wipes etc in public toilets. Homeless organisations have suggested that train/bus station facilities often used by those sleeping rough are good places to leave supplies. I also leave them in bars, restaurants, fast food places, shopping centres, anywhere I go really. I can think of so many situations in which someone might be unable to buy period products or even just be taken by surprise with a period. If enough of us leave a few pads or tampons on a regular basis, it could make a bad day a little better for lots of people.

Please & Thank you

Manners make a huge difference. Whether it’s a thank you to the stranger who held the door open or please to the person who got your coffee. It costs us nothing to be polite to each other. A smile or acknowledgement when you accidentally catch someone’s eye is much gentler than a scowl. I am not by any means saying we must all wander around being happy 24/7. I know life is hard, but just trying our utmost to be pleasant to those we come across makes the world a much less threatening place.

Black text, please and thank you are still magic words on pink background

Tip

Taking the last suggestion a step further, please tip if you can. Unless someone is outright awful to me I always leave at least a little tip. Food service staff, taxi drivers, juniors in the beauty industry, all of those lovely people who deliver things right to your door! If someone goes the extra mile for you, bump up that tip.

Leave a little extra

If I buy something from a vending machine and don’t need the change for a specific purpose, I’ll just leave it there. I started when I was at hospital with my mum. After hours of waiting I was starving, nowhere was open & I had a long wait for a taxi. I only had £1 coin which didn’t go far in the vending machine. Lucky for me, some lovely soul had left their change. I was able to get a cup of tea & a nut bar, which went a long way that night. It struck me as a simple, but incredibly effective act of kindness.

Clean up

It always saddens me when I visit somewhere beautiful and discover people have discarded litter. A really straightforward act of community spirit can be just to collect any litter you find when visiting beaches/parks and so on. Cleaned up beauty spots are much more enjoyable, plus safer for kids & wildlife.

Spread the love

Compliments can make a person’s day. I always feel great when a stranger gives me specific compliment. ‘I love your nails’ or ‘your shoes are pretty’, gives me such a boost. When it comes to strangers I think it’s safer to praise something in particular. Unknown folk saying you are pretty or similar can come off a little creepy. A smiley ‘great coat’ is much nicer. With people you know well, go for it. It feels good to know that someone genuinely likes your style.

Pin badge with I like you style on confetti background

Fill a stomach

If you want to help someone in need places like Social Bite are amazing. Social bite do lots of work to combat homelessness. They provide free meals, employment & have even built the social bite village to provide housing. When you buy lunch at their cafes you can order & pay for an extra lunch (or lunches) for a homeless person. Those in need can then claim one of those pre paid meals. If you just want to treat anyone you can simply pay for an extra coffee/cake and tell the cashier to give it to the next customer. I saw this happen in a coffee shop and the recipient of the cake was utterly delighted. The smile on their face must have been worth two quid of anyone’s money.

Grant a wish

This one is a little whimsical, but it appeals to my soppy side. Leave a jar of pennies by a wishing well or fountain. Thus ensuring anyone who wants to can make a wish. At least some of have to come true, right?

Coins in a wishing fountain

I hope you find these ideas inspiring. A little kindness goes a long way. We could probably all do with some extra good will.

Mother Glasgow…

This month I’ve chosen a charity close to my heart. Refuweegee is an organisation that uses the famous warmth & generosity of Glaswegians to support refugees. Their tag line ‘we’re all fae somewhere’ perfectly sums up why we should offer a helping hand to anyone who requires it.

You can donate to Refuweegee in a number of ways, a direct monetary contribution or you can put together a welcome pack. Refugees often arrive in Glasgow with very little & some basics to combat a new life in a new climate are indispensable. Add some Scottish treats & a handwritten welcome letter to complete your pack. Full details of suggested donations below.

Refuweegee welcome pack suggestions

Refuweegee are also currently in desperate need of toiletries. As I’m sure you can imagine hygiene basics are paramount for anyone. If you can donate any of the following they would be gratefully accepted.

Refuweegee toilet bag appeal

As we near Xmas lots of folk are giving more thought to charitable giving. I hope you will consider a gift to this wonderful organisation. No one knows what the future holds or when we might need the kindness of strangers ourselves. Humanity doesn’t stop at borders, our generosity shouldn’t either.

Smiling children with text we’re all fae somewhere

Oh Christmas lights keep shining on…

We’re into the second week of Christmas; I’m not sure if that’s really a thing, but go with me. That means it’s time for more festive nail art & acts of kindness.

I stuck with the Xmas tree theme, but turned up the glitter factor. I am very pleased with the end result.

On the charitable front I opted for direct help this week. I had to be in the city centre a fair bit, so decided to just give cash & food to as many homeless people as I could. I do try to give directly to homeless people throughout the year, but usually just whatever change I have on me. This week I gave a bit more and got some hot food or a drink for those who wanted it (circumstances permitting). I’m not interested in the giving homeless people money doesn’t help argument. It helps that person in need. It helps them maybe get a room a in hostel or buy a warm blanket, pay for transport or whatever the hell they need to make their very difficult life more bearable. Even if you can only spare a little change, it could make a big difference to someone in need.

I am fortunate that what brought me into town were seasonal meet ups. Christmas is always a good time to catch up with folk you haven’t seen for a while. I have been doing just that & it’s been lovely. I really do feel very lucky to have so many fab people in my life. I’m also kind of in love with Glasgow’s Xmas ornamentation. How pretty does my city look?

It’s coming on Christmas…

I’m feeling the need to immerse myself in the festive spirit this year. The tree is up, the presents are wrapped, but I want a more. Thus, I have concocted a not at all cunning plan, but I think it will be effective.

Step 1 – Up the daily merriment with lots of Christmas nail art. I always keep my nails adorned anyway, so I might as well up the glitter quotient & get my crimbo on. First up was this simple swishy tree. Rouge Noir is never not perfect.

ly h Kerr Xmas nail art

Step 2 – Spread the goodwill. As Cliff said, it’s a time for giving and there are hell of a lot of people in need. I have decided to commit to one bigish charitable act each week of December and as many small gestures as I can muster along the way. First up is the reverse advent calendar. Basically, you get a box and put a foodbank donation in it every day of advent. Individual foodbanks list what they most need at any given time, so check their websites. At this time of year I like to add some treats along with the basics. If a person can’t afford food they are unlikely to have money for Christmas present and extras. No one should have explain to their child that is Santa isn’t coming. I am by no means rolling in it, but with a little planning it’s possible to pick inexpensive items that will make a huge difference to a little one. Even chocolate Santas/coins can really help a family struggling at Xmas. We are living in difficult times, the continued roll out of Universal Credit in particular is leaving many people in financial hardship. Those of us with enough should & can give a little (or a lot) to the people our society is currently failing. Plus, it makes you feel really warm inside. It’s a win/win you feel like a lovely person, people in need feel a wee bit less bleak.

If you’re local to me here are some links to Glasgow Foodbanks & other food services. Otherwise you can search via postcode here. Sadly, Foodbanks are springing up everywhere, there will be one in your area.

Crookston Community Group & Foodbank

Storehouse Foodbank

Glasgow City Mission

Wayside Club Centre

I don’t know where I stand…

About 7 months ago, after years many years of knee pain & a limp that had become almost permanent I had an X-ray that revealed arthritis. After even more pain & increasingly frequent falls my Dr recommend a walking stick. 

I had been experiencing pain in my right knee for years. When I first mentioned it to a Gp he put it down to a small accident I had whilst playing with my niece. I had plenty going on health wise & at the time it wasn’t a constant or severe pain, so I left it at that. The knee got progressively worse & I mentioned it a few times to various gp’s but no one was worried & it got sidelined by more immediately pressing health issues. By the time I really couldn’t ignore it anymore I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The knee pain was attributed to fibro & that was pretty much that. The pain however continued to get worse. It hurt all the time, standing or sitting. It even  woke me in the night. Then came the swelling, then the limp shortly followed by the knee giving way & me falling on my arse more than once. Back to my Gp I went, but only to seek advice on what might help my knee; I believed it was fibro related. Finally, over four years later I was sent for an x-ray, which revealed significant erosion in my knee joint. I didn’t expect to have a condition like arthritis at 37 & I certainly never envisioned myself with a walking stick, but here I am.

Foot & walking stick

There are so many things I could say about the difficulties of getting a diagnosis or even investigations when you have chronic conditions. So often when medical professionals see things like fibro in your notes they will just link everything to that. When you have multiple chronic conditions  multiply the difficulty. Add to that mental health issues, being a woman, being fat, the drs who think everyone with chronic pain is drug seeking & honestly, I’m just exhausted. Yes, it could have been spotted sooner. Yes, I would probably have a better prognosis if it had, but at this stage I’m just too tired to even think about that. There isn’t anything that can done about it anyway. It is what it is. 

Unfortunately what it is is pretty shit. On a number of levels. I hate to admit it, but there’s been a real mental adjustment along with the physical. I find it really hard when people see me with the stick for the first time. I worry that they’re thinking, oh god, she has another thing wrong with her. I worry that they’re embarrassed. I worry that I’m just too much of an inconvenience. 

I hate it, but a walking stick is a blow to the self esteem. I don’t feel particularly sexy as I hobble along, so obviously I question if others will view me differently. Intellectually I know there is no weakness in disability, but emotionally I feel weaker. I feel less useful.

Less fun.

Less appealing. 

All the while I’m telling myself what nonsense that is. That I know better than to indulge in such ableist thinking. Then I think if I, a disabled person am having these thoughts, then others certainly are & that’s not a productive thought process. I’ve already experienced how ignorant the world can be. How many people will still push past me or not offer me a seat. I’ve learned that places who bill themselves as accessible, just aren’t (and my mobility is still so much better than a lot of people’s). The weird thing is, I think the kind folk are almost harder to take. Every time someone offers to let me skip them in a long queue or asks if I need help, I feel utterly exposed. I’m grateful for the seats & the consideration, but I still feel very vulnerable about needing them. I’ve put so much stock in the power of being independent & capable that another level of disability is a struggle to accept. Yet, writing those words feel very indulgent. How dare I ‘woe is me’ when things could be a millions times harder, as I know they are for millions more if people. I know some of this linked to my mental health issues. There are familiar themes here; shame, guilt & a big helping of get over it. I suspect though, that maybe these feelings are pretty common for those dealing with disability. Thoughts & feelings aside, life is just a bit harder. For me & I’m sure for those around me. I’m slower & more limited. I can’t go anywhere without checking a dozen things beforehand. I’m grumpier & less reliable. Spontaneity is out, relentless checking is in. I hurt more. I need more rest & assistance. I find everything exhausting. I sound like an absolute joy to be around, right?


Finally, there is the stress. All of the above is stressful. Everyday tasks, trying to do something fun, the future are stressful. Attempting to manage all the stress, is stressful! 

I realise this is all sounding very negative & I don’t want to be that person, but I do want to talk about it. I’d like there to more of a conversation about chronic illness & disability. I’m sure some of this will get easier. Some of it won’t & I’ll have to adjust. Spoonie life is nothing if not challenging. The opportunity to spill my guts definitely makes it a little bit easier. 

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.

Kelvingrove park

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

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
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