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 forget to shout…

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s a wet, grey day & my mood is bleak, so it seems like an apt day to talk about suicide. Although, to be honest I want you to do more than talk about it.

Suicidal ideation impacts the lives of more people than you would imagine (1 in 5). It’s not rare for a person to reach a point where they are so desperate that they just don’t want to continue. In my experience those thoughts are insidious. Once you have seriously considered ending your life, it enters the sphere of available options. So, whilst I absolutely do not want to die; I can’t deny that occasionally at really bad times ‘kill myself’ would be the last entry on my list of possibilities. What makes it a remote last resort rather than an actual risk is a combination of factors. People love me, I love them, there is joy & purpose in my life. The only reason I can recognise & enjoy those factors is years of intensive support from mental health professionals. I am grateful for the people who stood by & helped me access the treatment I needed because without that professional intervention, I would certainly be dead.

World suicide prevention day

So, yes, I do want to us all to talk about this. I want to break the taboo. I want people suffering to not be silenced by shame. It is important that you listen to loved ones in trouble. It matters that you care, but what is even more important is that there are effective mental health services to seek help from. Talking & listening isn’t going to save anyone unless it’s backed up by solid treatment. In short, we need better mental health services.

There is no point in asking people to reach out for help when none is available. A cup of tea & chat with a friend is nice, but it will not solve the underlying issues that lead to suicide. We need to be able to offer people more than a 6 month waiting list for a hand full of CBT sessions. When your loved ones tells you they want to die, you should be able to take them to a dr & get them immediate help. Instead the current response is often no beds & here’s a crisis team number.

I want you talk about suicide. I want you talk about mental illness. I also want you to do more. Don’t vote for people who will continue to decimate the NHS. Find out how the mental health services are performing in your area. Write to your Mp/Msp about provision of those mental health services. Sign petitions. Write to newspapers. Share your experiences. Do everything within your power to raise the profile of mental health services. We are failing really vulnerable people everyday. We beg them to ask for help & then tell them none is available. If you really want to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts, you have to do more than talk. We have to fight to give them another credible way to end their pain.

Actions speak louder than words

Find your MP here.

Find your MSP here.

Check your MP’s voting record here.

Trigger bang bang…

Anyone who spends any time on social media will have become familiar with the term triggered. Over the last few years it has entered the public lexicon. Unfortunately, it’s meaning has been incorrectly implanted in the public consciousness.

Triggered is actually a psychological term usually related to PTSD. A trigger is an external stimuli that produces a very uncomfortable emotional response; most often panic attacks or flashbacks. However, varied symptoms can result from the triggering of a traumatic memory. It absolutely does not mean offended or hurt. I’m sure most people will have come across the correct explanation of the term. I have certainly witnessed many try to explain why using the term as an insult or a vehicle for mockery is not ok. Yet, the misuse continues. It occurred to me that perhaps what is needed is an accurate representation of what happens when a person with PTSD is triggered. Maybe if people understood the reality they wouldn’t throw the word around so carelessly. So, I thought I would share what triggered means to me.

Whenever I have been pregnant I have been unable to wear my regular perfume. I wear the same scent everyday in life, but some weird olfactory sensitivity means during pregnancy it makes me nauseous. Thus, I change it & the scent I wore I during my first pregnancy is a major trigger for me. Triggers can be anything & no one has any control over what might become one. I experienced a million sights, sounds & sensations during that time, most of them hold little power over me. That scent, though, is potent.

Snow patrol, blue sky

Formidable enough to render me a sobbing wreck. Being taken off guard by that scent whilst shopping forced me to run shaking from a book shop to vomit in the street. All the while struggling to breath & bring myself to the present. A nurse who had too liberally applied the fragrance sent me shuddering back 15 years. Leaving me so panicked I crawled behind a chair & hid. I stayed crouched on the floor desperately trying to claw my way out of the worst day of my life. Completely trapped in my own personal horror film until some kind soul got me some diazepam & did me the kindness of handing it over without questions. That heady aroma has caused nightmares so vivid that I’ve woken myself with my own screams. Dreams so painfully real that I’ve had to keep myself awake for days. Sitting in the company of someone wearing that perfume once contaminated me. On returning home I could not rid myself of the smell. Real or imaginary it lingered until I smashed my hand with a marble pestle. So tortured was I by the memories the scent brought to life that I ploughed that pestle into my hand until I broke two fingers. The cracking of bones a welcome jolt back to the here now.

Diazepam 10mg

Triggers are uncontrollable. It is not within the power of a traumatised person to select what reactivates their trauma. Nor can they choose not respond. Our minds shelter dark territories & they’re all one way roads. Once you’ve slipped in, you have to press on through. Being triggered isn’t a foolish over reaction. Nor is it the hurt feelings of the overly sensitive. It is the raw & brutal reality of those who have dealt with the unimaginable. It’s a battle scar on the brain.

I can’t stop anyone from misappropriating a word. Ignorance abounds. The only tool I have to fight with is honesty. The truth is that trivialising a serious symptom of illness hurts. It stifles the conversation & prevents people seeking help. It makes vulnerable people feel weak & ashamed & stupid.

So, no, I’m not triggered by your cheap dig. I’m just tired of the stigma. Very, very tired.

Keep your rosaries off our ovaries…

Today I joined the counter demo against catholic anti abortion group 40 days of life. Regular readers may remember that I also attended this protest last year & I am incredibly frustrated to have had to return today.

40 days of life are an international group who use their faith as an excuse to harass vulnerable people outside hospitals. They have taken American style anti abortion protests global. It both saddens & enrages me to see them operating in my city. During lent the group protest outside the maternity buildings of various Glasgow hospitals. Their claims of wanting to help people planning abortions are belied by their actions. I have seen this group standing outside my local hospital & they are helping no one. Their chosen location is outside the maternity building, but also at the main entrance to the hospital, providing maximum opportunity for intimidation. Regardless of the situation no one is happy to discover an unwanted pregnancy. To seek to cause distress to people in an already difficult situation is cruel. To add to the burdens of persons who may be traumatised or desperate is sickening. Their talk of kindness & love are incongruous with their actions. As is the fact that their hospital vigils cause unneeded stress & upset to expectant mothers, women who have miscarried, women with seriously ill & premature babies. All of whom use the building they protest outside. Their signs & prayers can be seen & heard from various wards in the building. Their presence causes untold harm.

Photo Credit : Elaine Graham

I was truly sickened today as I listened to their lies, inaccuracies & smug self congratulation. I could barely believe my ears as I heard Robert Colquhoun (40 days of life, international director) praise the group for their work. He talked of how happy he was at protests in Argentina & how he hoped they might prevent a proposed change in abortions laws. For the record Argentina currently only permits legal abortion in cases of risk to mother’s life or rape. In practise even in those cases abortion is by no means guaranteed. The influence of Catholic Church is a major factor in current abortions laws in the country. The result of which laws is huge numbers of illegal abortions. Many people die as a result of unsafe illegal abortions. Many suffering treatable complications also die because there are legal penalties for those caught undergoing ‘back street’ procedures, thus many are afraid to seek medical help. As always those living in poverty are hardest hit. The poorer the person the less likely they are to be able afford decent care, making them more likely to experience serious complications, death or be plunged further into poverty by the responsibilities of additional children. This is a situation that Coluqhoun & his cohorts are actively trying to maintain. To call such an organisation pro life is laughable.

Colquhoun went on to identify a clinic in England that performed the majority of late term abortions in England. He talked of wanting to protest that clinic in an attempt to stop those procedures. Let me remind you that late term abortions (after 24 weeks) are performed in the UK only in extreme circumstances. Namely that the physical or mental health of the mother is at extreme risk, that continuing with pregnancy would pose a threat to their life or that the fetus is found not to be viable or to have a condition or disability that would severely impair their chances of any quality of life. In plain speaking those who have late term abortions are about as vulnerable a group as it is possible to find. We are talking about abused children, raped & tortured adults, people who want to continue with their pregnany, but face death if they do so & those whose unborn child will be still born or so severely ill they are likely to live only short lives filled with pain. Is there anyone amongst that group who you would wish to see harassed? To have possibly one of the most painful periods of their life debated in public? These are the very people that 40 days of life today cheered the notion of obstructing. That they would pin point a clinic performing such essential procedures is evil. All their talk of God’s love & the sanctity of life amounts to deliberately tormenting & shaming people who have already suffered more than anyone should ever have to bear.

These are just two of the selfish speaking points. There were many more disgusting acts celebrated. Many lies told. It is crucial that we do not let this go unopposed. These American tactics are new to UK & we must not let them take hold. Religious extremists (for that is what they are) must not be allowed free reign to abuse people undergoing lawful medical treatment. We have to stand up & protect the right to choose. Access to safe abortion saves lives. Beyond that every child should be born to parents who both want to & are able to properly care & provide.

I passionately believe that everyone has a right to quality sex education, access to contraception and complete bodily autonomy. I am absolutely prepared to fight for those rights. I hope that you are too.

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. 

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.