Will A Haircut Transform My Life?

Anyone for a haircut? "Image courtesy of [franky242] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

Anyone for a haircut?
“Image courtesy of [franky242] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

 Among other things, it has been on my mind this week that I need to get a haircut.  Badly.  I hate getting my haircut.  It’s worse than going to the dentist for me, so even thinking about it is difficult.  Actually I hate it so much that while I know a haircut would improve my appearance, I’m sure it does nothing else for me than raise my anxiety levels, not to mention the trauma of putting myself through the ordeal.  I even wonder if Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a possibility.

So I was curious when I saw this story was the ‘most shared‘ on Facebook on Veterans Day this past week.  This You Tube clip has been viewed almost 14 million times.  A haircut has gone viral on social media.

Here’s a homeless veteran with a history of alcoholism. He was given a makeover back in September, and the results were scheduled to be released on social media on Veterans Day. It was timed to fit with a campaign to raise funds for veterans (by getting a haircut).  The social agency (Dégagé Ministries) involved happened to also make a substantial amount from donations from the social media activity.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m really pleased for the man.  He got his haircut, some new clothes including a leather jacker apparently, and he finally got listed for some housing  And he’s started going to AA meetings.  That’s great.  Except I’ve got this nagging sense of ‘there’s something not quite right here‘.  I’m wondering was it the haircut that meant this man finally got some help?

Why does he have to change his appearance in order to hit the big time on social media? He’s still the same person inside.  Why does a trimmed beard and highlighted hair enter him into the great social media hall of fame?  I just don’t get it.  14 million people watched this particular clip but there are plenty of other news sites also carrying the story, and particularly the haircut.

In my mind what matters is the person inside.  His appearance doesn’t count for anything.  Somehow because he put on a tie, he has become acceptable and maybe even ‘one of us’.  I wonder though, how he feels.  Social media are raving about the haircut (as I am, ironically) but who cares about the obviously broken man inside?  That’s what matters, surely.

I could go on about this but really I just wonder, am I the only one who thinks we’ve got something wrong here?  What do you think? Is it necessary to get a haircut, in order to access welfare services that should be available regardless of how he looks?

Social media is really good for lots of things, but I really wonder whether we’ve lost sight of what matters.  In my mind the haircut means nothing.  It’s healing the wounds inside and meeting the basic needs of life that will really make this man’s life live-able for him.  If the rest of us want a makeover show then there’s plenty on reality television.

As for me, I guess I’ll eventually get that haircut, but I doubt it will go viral.  I won’t be putting it on YouTube.  I know you’re disappointed, but I’m relieved.

“Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” 

― Aesop

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight…

My mood had been steadily declining as the week went on.  I had made a bargain with myself to get to Wednesday.  The fact that I had to make that deal with myself indicated in itself that things weren’t going well.  I got to Wednesday.  There was never any doubt that I would.  It was my niece L’s third birthday and I was hanging out for some ‘L-time’ and I admit it, I didn’t want to create a family crisis around her birthday.

L-time was perfect.  L, her father, her grandmother and I went out for coffee (and fluffy for L).  In a bit of a daze, having taken some extra meds to get through the day, L and I played with the toys she had with her… teddy, little monkey and Sally, not to mention the cafe’s range of toys available.  We were at a local cafe that had its buildings collapse in the 2011 Earthquakes, and now runs primarily outside (it’s spring here but they provide blankets for warmth in the winter and sun hats in summer).  There’s nothing unusual about that in post-quake Christchurch and it’s good when you have kids (and adults) who need a bit of space.  Oh, and delicious cake.  For local readers, visit Under the Red Verandah Cafe (a shameless piece of advertising).

Spending a few hours with L made a significant difference to my state of mind.  I mean it went from ‘I’m not coping‘ as I (strangely for me) posted on Twitter a few days before, to ‘I can do this‘.  I concluded once again that I must get myself into the presence of L when I feel that bad.  Do not stop, do not pass go… go directly to L’s home and have some quality time with my favourite person.

The thing is I came home feeling better but I still somehow posted this picture on my Facebook timeline that night (with no explanation):

sad_teddy_bear

Image credit: The DawgPoundFreeWeb
I have been unable to find more detail of image credit but would appreciate being advised accordingly if known.

I am not sure exactly why I posted it, but usually I am very careful about posting pictures or comments that could be disturbing and/or worrying to others.  I wasn’t thinking.  I posted it with a sense of being flushed down a toilet, or maybe jumping, and turned off the computer and went to bed.

By morning I could tell that a few friends were concerned about what I posted, but perhaps more so, I realised that for me, what I had posted was concerning.  Time with L hadn’t quite improved my state of mind as I thought it might.  I was still very depressed and struggling for hope.  Living one day at a time, although it had cut down to one hour at a time.  Time to admit there was a problem and get some help.  And time to apologise to to friends.

I guess the thing for me is that earlier in the week I had tried to ask for some help (twice)  from someone close to me, but they didn’t pick up on it.  Perhaps I wasn’t direct enough.  Perhaps there were just other things on their mind, but I had to accept responsibility for the need to keep asking until I got the help needed.  That’s something that is really hard to do with you’re depressed, hopeless and you’ve already tried without success.  You probably know that feeling too.

Yesterday I saw my doctor.  Actually he wasn’t my doctor (who was away) but a very good locum who I have seen on a number of times before, and trust more than my own doctor.  The first thing he picked up on was that last month’s lithium blood tests showed that I was only just in the therapeutic range.  He felt my meds should have been increased at that time the tests came back, considering that I was already showing as depressed at that time.

What worked for me was that I was heard.  The doctor heard that my mood was dropping by the week and that I needed some help.  I am terrified of returning to my years of hospital admissions, suicide attempts and self harm.  It was a never-ending cycle in one hospital door and out another.  I will do anything to avoid going back to that lifestyle (if I can call it that).  My mood might have dropped dramatically but I still had enough life in me to do anything I needed to do to avoid that.  My doctor acknowledged that, as he increased my medication.

I have also now been given six therapy sessions (free) which may help me deal with some of the family issues going on for me right now, and affecting my state of mind.  Meanwhile, today I am going out to see L.  ‘Therapy‘ of a kind for me, and her chance to show me her new scooter and balance bike (birthday presents).

Someone said ‘fall down seven times, get up eight‘.  I don’t know who but I know it’s true.  I just have to keep getting back up.  I know this is a recurrent illness and every time I get back up is another claim of hope that tomorrow will be better.

“Needing help doesn’t make you weak, in fact quite the opposite. It makes you strong, smart, resourceful, and realistic. Being prideful is a weakness. Asking for help when you know you’re in over your head is STRENGTH. Don’t ever forget that!”

 - Unknown

This Warrior Princess

Xena: Warrior Princess

Xena: Warrior Princess (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember Xena, Warrior Princess?  The television series ran from 1995 to 2001 and while I don’t admit to having been an avid follower, just sometimes I wished I was a Warrior Princess like Xena, played by Kiwi Lucy Lawless.  She seemed fearless.  She could take on any battle.  Oh, and while in the middle of battle she always looked damn sexy and gorgeous.

This Warrior Princess has been fighting this week, to stay afloat.  And it didn’t look pretty.  A fibromyalgia flare stayed firmly with me for the entire week.  I am just starting to feel vaguely human again, but only just.  That’s why I can finally write again.  I spent a fair amount of the week in bed.  When I wasn’t trying to sleep it off I wished I were suspended somehow mid-air.  With absolutely nothing touching me the nerve pain might have been livable.  As such means has yet to be developed, I’m offering someone the opportunity to put all us fibro-ites out of our misery and create such a thing.

To be honest though, I can be a Warrior Princess when it comes to physical pain… if I must.  Fibro pain doesn’t always make sense but it makes more sense than mental pain.  To me anyway.  I know there are people who will disagree with me, and that’s okay.  Just for me?  I’d rather have physical pain than mental pain.

Along with the fibro flare I have been dealing with the realities of having lost some friends.  Whatever happened to Queen’s lyrics

“Friends will be friends

Right to the end”

It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t always happen like that.  Lately I’ve lost a number of friends.  People who said they’d be there right to the end, and others who I always thought would be there right to the end.  But they’ve gone.  And try as I might to be Warrior Princess-like, it hurts.

Too often I think of something I want to share with one of them, but they’re gone.  Oh how easy it is to block someone on Facebook, or stop following them on some other form of social media.  They’re gone… just like that.  That’s exactly what has happened to me, with no explanation given.  Just gone from my world.

Oh, I can give myself an explanation, but it’s probably not the real reason.  What’s more I could turn up on their doorstep, except their doorsteps are half a world away, so that’s hardly practical.  And if you think that because of distance those people are not important, you’re wrong.

Why is it that in this age of social media it is far too easy to cut people out of our lives?  Why is it that we don’t need to offer an explanation for leaving anymore? And why is it that we don’t stop to tell our friends how much they mean to us, until they’re gone and it’s too late?  Why are friends expendable?  Why is it that when they’ve served their purpose we just push them out of our lives?

Yes, I feel hurt…   and no, I don’t feel Warrior Princess-like.  Thanks to fibro I couldn’t possibly have squeezed my way into Lucy Lawless’ costume, but I wish I could bat away the hurt that easily.

This week it hurts.  Physically and emotionally.  I need my friends this week, but I’m down a few.  I’m not someone who easily gives away a friendship.  Friendships mean the world to me, even those half a world away.  Unfortunately I realise that it’s so much easier for some.

And if you say I’m better off without friends like that, well maybe that’s true.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to think that way, but right now it hurts.  Right now, I’m nowhere near ready to hear that.

“Why did you do all this for me?’ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.’ ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.” 

― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

Defining Friendships

Across my life I have had many people try to define who my friends should be.  Some were successful in their attempts, probably because I wasn’t strong enough to stand up for what I wanted and for what I knew I should have.

As a child, I had a number of adults who deemed that their offspring were not allowed to be friends with me.  What had I done wrong to get this judgement?  I was a Preacher’s Kid, and Preachers Kids had a reputation for being ‘off the rails‘ and generally a bad influence.  I wasn’t ‘off the rails‘ at the time, and if anything their offspring were probably a bad influence on me.  But the ‘jury’ had me announced to be bad news, simply because of my father’s profession, and so it was difficult to have the friendship we might have wanted.

As a teenager, and then as an adult, I spent many years being the victim of two stalkers.  Society seems to have this idea than stalking, and being stalked is a bit of a joke.  It’s not.  Among other things it plays serious havoc with the mental health of both the stalked, and the stalker.  Stalking is never a joke!

It was difficult not to let my friendships be defined by the actions of these two men.  Friends were an access point to their victim, and so I constantly had to be careful about who I spent time with, what I told them and where I went with friends. Some of my friends at the time were amazingly supportive, and I will always feel much gratitude to them for the way they supported and protected me.  But other friends fell by the way side.  It was simply necessary for trying to maintain that mental health, but I feel sad that I have missed out on much because of this.

By the time the stalking terror was over, I was married and again, I was told who my friends should and shouldn’t be.  Perhaps most memorable to me is the friend who was ‘barred’ from our house, particularly while my husband was at work.  She was barred because she smoked (he didn’t realise that I had started smoking by then), she too had a mental illness, and perhaps the most dastardly ‘deed’ was that she was a lesbian.  All of that made me more angry than ever, for so many reasons.  This particular attempt to define my friends very nearly ended in tragedy.  Thankfully it didn’t, but it was certainly not without lasting harm to both of us.  And to my marriage, which is long since over thankfully.

All of this came to mind in a disturbing manner this week when I discovered (I’m probably months behind most people) that Facebook has decided for itself who my ‘close friends’ are.  What’s more, without my permission, Facebook will tell these ‘close friends’ of my activity on Facebook.  The cringe factor sky-rockets for me instantly, and what I want to do is run as far away as possible from Facebook.

This might seem extreme to many, but not for me.  Again, I am being told who my friends are, and scarily similar to the many years I spent being stalked, I find that those ‘close friends’ get information about me which I have not agreed too.  Remember too that these ‘close friends’ are not my close friends.  A few maybe, but they are simply Facebook friends I have contact with regularly on Facebook.

I object strongly, Facebook.

Now that at least some of these people get a notification when I am ‘on-line’ (even though I permanently have the chat function turned off),  I am starting to feel stalked again.

People know what I am doing, and when I am doing it.  This is the scariest thing when you have been stalked.  The stalker knows more of what I do than even I know.  Somehow they seem to know before I do something.  They constantly know everything, and I have little or often no power to stop that.  I am left with that familiar feeling that there is someone standing outside my windows just watching me.  I lived with that reality for 15 years, and many years following as I tried to recover from the trauma of living this way.

Yet again, my friendships are defined by others.  Just when I’m learning to define myself, I have a social media that wants to do that for me.  That completely freaks me out.  It seems that I have little control over who Facebook determines to be my ‘close friends’ and I have no control over what they get told about what I do.

This time social media has gone too far for me.  I know that most people won’t even get why I am so disturbed for by this, and in a way, I am glad because it tells me you haven’t had to live as a prisoner of another.  As for me though, I need to work out what to do.  I can’t live like this.  Time for some thought.

“I cried for all of those things that should have just been for us…” 

― Kate Chisman, Creep

Remembering Who I Am

It is difficult, to almost impossible, to remember who I am when struck with depression, or indeed, anything that takes my mental health off an even keel.  Any number of the issues caused by the mental illnesses which plague me at times, make me forget just who Cate Reddell is.  That in itself is sad, although usually, at the time I admit I am not aware of it happening.

I become a shadow of me.  Maybe the clothes are left on the body, but the body is gone.  The face might be there but the happiness in the smile and the life in the eyes are nowhere to be seen.  If you only know the ‘surface’ me, you could get away with thinking I am still completely there.  But those few who love me and really know me, know that this is simply a shell of who I am.  Mental Illness has stolen from them, who I am.

The recent weeks have been difficult for me, as I have told you previously.  I have felt sad, lonely, depressed, jealous, angry and even at times, bitter.  Those feelings have been what have made who I have been in that time.  They have crowded out any feeling of being loved, happy, grateful…  and maybe a little bit silly.  Today I am reminded that these later feelings symbolise who I am when my mental illness gives me the chance.

I still feel sad, but not plagued by it.  I have seen a glimpse of the real me again, and I welcome her back.  It doesn’t mean the hard days are over.  They’re not.  I have more to work through.  I’m quite clear on that, but they don’t have to rule my life.  I can let ‘me’ shine again.

It has been said before that I can be a little bit ridiculous.  It’s true.  Actually when either alone, or in the company of people I know truly love and accept me, I can be totally ridiculous.  But let me be clear. I don’t see myself as ridiculous, or even just silly.  I’m just being me.  But I acknowledge that I can be seen this way, and that in the past I have lost some important relationships, because those people were unable to understand this side of me.

I so wish those people had celebrated the ridiculous in me, because it is worth celebrating.  It’s not only who I am but it’s who I once was, perhaps even as a little girl (when it was allowed).  But adults (particularly) have (in my opinion) a bad habit of knocking the ridiculous out of the child, let alone the adult who tries to display that trait.  In an extreme attempt, doctors tried to knock it out of me with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) (see On Being A Little ‘Weird’).  Shame on them.

To give you an example of the ridiculous I am referring to, in the past few days I have changed my personal Facebook profile picture to that of an Okapi.

Image credit: Wikipedia.com

An Okapi, so I have learnt, was initially thought to be a magical, mythical creature assembled from the best parts of the other animals around it.  I like that.  I could also see immediately, that by its physical resemblance, I could liken it (a small way, at least) to having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  My thinking comes from our susceptibility to take on the personality traits of the people we are with.  We do that because of our unstable sense of self.

But in my ridiculous thinking I became concerned for this particular Okapi, and this is what I wrote on Facebook a few nights ago:

“Don’t you feel a little sorry for him?”

(Reply by a friend) “I do. I think he must have some kind of identity crisis going on looking like that. What he needs to do is embrace the fact that he is different and be proud of it.”

“I totally agree. I was thinking he might need some therapeutic help to embrace his individuality. Either that or perhaps positive affirmations. My real worry is whether he might be victim to bullying for being a little different from the crowd. That’s why I have adopted him as my FB profile friend. Anything to support him.”

I recognised immediately just who of my friends could recognise, and appreciate, the ridiculous Cate.  That made the post infinitely worthwhile in itself.  Friends like that will always be treasured.

Why am I telling you this? Because for some weeks I had forgotten how to be the ridiculous Cate, and I realised that this was almost more sad than the depression itself.  That person is who I am.  When I’m depressed it is impossible to remember how to be me.

Does anyone else notice that I can’t be me?  I’m not sure.  I suspect that the few who know me really well, and love me in spite of my silliness, can see if I am just trying to mimic her, but I also suspect that to most of the world, they think they are just seeing me.  That too, is sad.

I read a this statement today:

Image credit: Facebook  – Bliss Sisters

I love that, and it’s what I’m going to try to do.  Maybe if I work hard enough on it, I can drive away the depression.  I am still me, mental illnesses and all, but it doesn’t have to be all of me.  There is much more to me than mental illness… thankfully.

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”

~Elizabeth Gilbert

Poison In, Poison Out

I’ve taken a break from Facebook for a while.  I’ll still keep my page (Infinite Sadness or what?)active but my personal profile is what I’m taking a break from.

I love my Facebook friends.  Some of them are friends from way back, or family, and some are wonderful people I have got to know and love through of Facebook.  But sometimes what I see on Facebook is too negative, and this time I have decided that it was affecting my health and I should take a short break.  Just enough to gain my perspective back.

Why do I need this?  You may well ask.  Facebook has some wonderful features to it, but lately I’ve seen too much bitterness, hatred, intolerance, judgement and hurt.  When I see too much of it, it starts to seep in and run me down.  It comes from lots of sources.  Some completely unknown to me, although appearing on my newsfeed anyway, and some closer to home.

I know there is also a lot of positive material on Facebook, and that’s why I put so much time into my page, but it’s hard to stay positive when that is being undermined.

The last few weeks have been pretty hard for me.  That’s not just from one source but a number of unrelated issues in my life.  My depressed mood has, in some cases, spun that out of proportion to the point where I was crying over the bowl my canine mate, Duncan needed to eat his dinner.  Yes,really.

Those issues, and my depressed mood have contributed to a flare up of my fibromyalgia symptoms.  That’s not unexpected for me.  I strongly believe that my fibro is affected by my emotions and my state of mind.  I know most sufferers disagree with this theory, and that’s fine.  It is however proven in my mind that my emotions influence the level of physical pain and fatigue I experience.

Last night after a day of bad nerve pain which was addling my brain, I accidentally took the wrong medication.  This wasn’t an intentional overdose, nor was it a suicide attempt.  It was simply that my mind wasn’t on the job when I was getting my medication for the night, and I got it wrong.  Stupid really, but it happened.

The night that followed was full of nightmares, and at one stage a belief that I was plummeting toward psychosis.  Actually I was terrified.  It was one pill I wasn’t supposed to have (with the others) and I was pretty unwell.

Today I am fine and I am reminded that when we put poison in, the outcome is also poison.  The poison that time was nightmares and a general ‘I’m going crazy‘ notion.  But it ties in with what I said about Facebook.  When I feed my mind with too much negativity from Facebook, then I feel that negativity.  I simply don’t want to go there and I certainly don’t want to end up generating more.

It is really important to me to be there for my friends, but if I don’t take care of myself then I can be no use to anyone else.  Whether that is conveyed in depressed mood, fibro symptoms, taking the wrong medication or anything else.  I have to look after me.

The ‘garbage in, garbage out’ theory is one I am well aware of from a nutritional basis.  I admit I’m not too good at following it, but I know how it works.  My mother was a dietitian after all, and I have had an eating disorder.

It’s the same for emotions.  If I don’t feed myself with good messages, then I get sick.  That’s not something I want.

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” 

― Deborah Day

Anyone Up For A Game Of Truth And Dare?

One of my favourite Facebook pages is The Nutters Club NZ.  Their mission is to

“to forever change the way people, feel, think, talk and behave in relation to our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual well being; and in doing so encourage us all to take ownership of our own health and well being.”

It’s not a bad aim, in my books, and they do it through humour, as well as a television/radio programme fronted by kiwi comedian, Mike King,  seeking to de-stigmatise mental illness.  My only problem is that kiwi media lords give them such late night spots that I often don’t get to see/hear them.  But I love what they are doing on Facebook.

Yesterday I came across a clip on their page, of Stephen Fry and Andy “Electroboy” Berhman briefly discussing Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT), sometimes called ElectroShock Treatment.

It’s one of those topics that my eyes spring wide when I see it mentioned, and I just can’t help but want to read.  Why?  Because ECT is something that I had, numerous times, over   about eight years.  It’s an important topic worthy of discussion simply because it seems that few have much understanding of it, or of what the long-term consequences are me, and the thousands of others who have had this treatment.

My eyes sprung so wide when I saw this clip, and some comments on The Nutters Club NZ page, that it was worth dropping back in from my ‘vacation’ of ‘baking pies’ (see Blocked).  For your sake, I hope I can make some sense,

You can read about my experience of ECT either in ECT – How It Was For Me or in my book, Infinite Sadness, 2009 which you will find on Scribd.com.

It’s now 10 years since I had my last lot of treatments, at which the psychiatrist administering the treatment sat me down (just after I had woken up from my general anaesthetic) and told me he felt I had received “too much ECT”.

In the state I was in at the time, I was hardly fit to ask what he meant by this.  My mother was with me (she had to drive me home) but knew so little about ECT that she didn’t ask what was meant either.  I never saw that doctor again, nor has any doctor been able to tell me what he meant.  Was I now an over-charged battery?  Had he fried my brain and left it charred?  I don’t know.  I was simply left to live with it.

What troubles me (more) about ECT is the lack of reliable information available.  Since writing about my experience, I have had a number of people ask me whether I thought they should have ECT, as it was being recommended to them.  Obviously I have no medical training and therefore can’t recommend anything.  All I can do is explain my experience. And I am more than happy to do that so that others have more information that what I had to go on.

There simply isn’t enough information available.  At the time anyone is being offered ECT I would suggest that they are probably not in a fit state to be making such a decision.  It’s one of those ‘last ditch efforts’ by doctors who simply don’t know what to do with a patient who they have classed as having treatment resistant depression.

I was ‘offered’ ECT on three occasions in 1995, 2002 and 2003.  On the first of those occasions my (now ex) husband decided for me.  On the other two, I just had to go along with it because there was no one else to decide for me, and there were simply no other options.  I simply had to let them do what they ‘thought best’.

It’s not a very satisfactory situation.  It really comes down to the doctor’s opinion.  And what I’m now wondering is, if those doctors had been the one’s being ‘offered’ ECT, would they take it?  How many doctors would submit themselves to repeated treatments of ECT?

Not only am I concerned about the lack of information, and the hardly ideal situations for making such decisions, I am growing increasingly concerned about how little appears to be known (and publicised) about the long-term effects of ECT.

Whenever I read about so-called long-term effects, it is about the effect on memory in the time following the treatment.  What I’ve often read is that while memory can be affected in the short-term, that in the months following memory will be returned to normal.

That’s coming from health professionals, but what I know from my own experience, and from listening to others who have had ECT, is that it is different for everyone and for some, memory is never returned to normal.  That’s two quite different scenarios.

My own experience is that over three separate courses of treatments my memories of about a year around the courses have gone.  I just don’t remember anything of the year around each course of treatment. That’s a considerable difference to what I have been repeatedly been told by psychiatrists, but then of course they haven’t lived it themselves, have they?  They’re simply going on theory.

I also believe that my cognitive functioning has changed as a result of ECT.  Again, I can’t provide proof but I know that before ECT was even a phrase on my lips I was a highly competent multi-tasker (actually I was employed on the basis of my ability to multi-task).  I had no problem balancing a number of issues in my mind, but now I struggle with more than one. I can’t even have music on while I’m writing now.  I need absolute silence in order to be able to think and write.

I accept that I have no proof that this decline in cognitive functioning is due to the ECT I received, but I can look at my university studies prior to ECT, and that after ECT, and see a difference in how I managed the material I was studying.  It was much more of a struggle after ECT.

One person’s experience does not make it true.  I know what.  That’s why I’m thinking a game of ‘Truth or Dare’ might be good.  I came across a paper by the United States Food And Drug Administration on Research Findings on Memory and Cognitive Impairment in ECT published by PsychCentral.  It read pretty much as I had ever had memory issues explained to me by health professionals.  I’d like to see those dare to put their own brains under repeated treatments of ECT, and see if they say the same thing afterwards.

If they’re not prepared to do this then it’s time that we started listening to those who have actually been through this experience.  What was the real experience?  Rather than the theoretical?

I think it’s really important that ECT is talked about more openly, but also that it is talked about factually.  Let’s not just listen to the professionals, but be open to hearing from those who have undergone ECT.  Let’s really understand not only how it works, but what are its long-term effects.

Definition of Stupid

Believing everything you read on Social Media is true.

Social media is not Academia, and so everything that is said, is not backed up by 20+ references to prove it is fact.  It is simply a reflection of what someone wants to say.  And yes, even what I write here should not be taken as fact.  Is the above definition really the definition of stupid?  If you take the time to check it out in a Dictionary, for example, you will know that in fact this isn’t the definition of stupid.

It’s my definition of stupid for today, simply because it is something weighing heavily on my heart today.  It doesn’t make it true, and if you choose to believe that it must be true because I said it, then (I’m sorry but) you are stupid.

According to a more worthy source of factual information than me, The Oxford Dictionary, stupid is defined as:

lacking intelligence or common sense (1.)

Or if you don’t want to take such an academic approach, The Urban Dictionary, which for all it’s downfalls makes some valid points, defines stupid as:

Someone who has to look up “stupid” in the dictionary because they don’t know what it means. (2.)

The problem with stupid (and I’m thinking of this in terms of social media) is that stupid takes what it reads on social media, believes it to be true, and then makes judgements about people on that basis of that which is probably not true.

I’ve written about the tendency to judge people before, so I don’t want to repeat myself.  Personally I don’t believe I have the right to judge other people.  It’s simply not my job as a fellow human.  I am just as flawed as the next person, and therefore have no right to stand in judgement.

Of course you may not feel that way, and I have no right to expect you to think as I do, but if you’re going to judge a person, at least check your facts.  What is said on Facebook, Twitter or even on WordPress is not necessarily true.  It maybe completely fabricated, and by your choice to blindly believe what you read, you run the risk of creating a whole lot of hurt.

Image credit: FB- Peeling Away The Layers

Image credit: FB- Peeling Away The Layers

If we want to stand in judgement of other people, let’s at least make sure we have our facts right.  Let’s at least make sure we’ve given the person we’re judging the opportunity to speak and that we’ve heard all of the story.

When we don’t, the risk of losing what is so important to us is much greater than we stupidly think.

“Evil isn’t the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it’s a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference.” 

―    Jim Butcher,    Vignette

Like Bees To A Honey Pot

CAUTION: This post contains discussion of self harm and may contain triggers for some people.  There are purposely no disturbing images contained in the post, but if self harm is an issue for you I recommend caution in reading.

Image courtesy of [image creator: Dan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of [image creator: Dan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sometimes when you have to compete with a chronic illness, there can be a delay in the process of the idea of a post to actually seeing it to the point of ‘publish’.  Thanks to fibromyalgia, this is the case, but it’s not always a bad thing.  It might mean that I am posting about an issue several days after the rest of the world, but at least it gives me time to think over what I want to say.  Meanwhile I guess I’ll never be ‘hot off the press’.

It doesn’t take much for some of us to be triggered by what we see and what we read.  A few days ago I got wind of the issue of Justin Bieber and self harm whirling frantically on social media.  First let me say that I never, in a million years, thought I’d be writing about Justin Bieber, but then it’s not really about him, is it?.

A few days ago a well-known website encouraged it’s viewers to self harm and send pictures of that self harm in ‘protest’ to news of Justin Bieber smoking marijuana.

“let’s start a cut yourself for bieber campaign. Tweet a bunch a pics of people cutting themselves and claim we did it because bieber was smoking weed.  See if we can get some little girls to cut themselves”

You can see a report of that (without images of self harm) here.  Social media went mad, and images of young people, either showing their dripping wounds or showing fake wounds, flew around with ridiculous abandon.

I saw some of the images on Twitter and Facebook and was very sad… and angry.  As well as the images, were the conversations that followed about people who self harm.  This is what I found the hardest to take.  Seemingly they are weak, attention seekers and from homes with poor parenting.

The problem with that is that it will have all been read by, not just Justin Bieber fans or people who know nothing of the harsh realities of self harm,  It will also have been read by those struggling, trying to recover from self harm.  They will all be like bees to a honey pot.

Often we know we would be better off to not look at something, but we do it anyway.  For me it’s images of self harm (it takes me back to my own past of self harming as a way to cope).  It is also images of people with anorexia (I don’t want to be that thin again but the reminder of the control I felt at the time is enticing).  Images of pumped bodies in gyms, remind me of the hours and hours I spent trying to tone my body to what I thought would be ideal, all the while damaging my body.

We know we would be better off not to go there, but we can’t help ourselves sometimes.  All the hashtags (which I’m purposely not including) which search the images freely for us.  We get there, and then we feel judged and very alone.  Just because the millions can search those images, does not mean they can, or even want to, understand the reality of self harm.

Self harm is not about sharing photos.  It is so easy to share a photo now days, all too easy, and we end up with this crazy, constant stream of triggering images of which no one has any control.  Self harm is also not some publicity stunt.

Self harm is a serious problem.  While it’s not about suicide, there are unfortunate occasions when self harm ends in death.  There are regularly serious consequences.

It’s really hard to beat self harm, for anyone.  It’s an addiction for many people, and was for me.  It takes years of battling urges and triggers, and finding effective ways that can distract you from the desire to harm.

It is a daily battle, even an hourly battle.  It’s not about attention usually, and certainly not about some celebrity.  If anything, sufferers try very hard to hide the scars of their harming.  Actually the trying to hide is what gives the secret away often.

If anyone thinks self harm is a joke, let them try to give up a serious addiction, probably with little help.  The people who are fighting to recover from self harm deserve our support, and our admiration for beating something so hard.  It takes guts to beat this thing, something of which most people have no understanding.

They don’t need ridicule.  Let’s give them our love, support and our acceptance.

“Other times, I look at my scars and see something else: a girl who was trying to cope with something horrible that she should never have had to live through at all. My scars show pain and suffering, but they also show my will to survive. They’re part of my history that’ll always be there.” 

―    Cheryl Rainfield,    Scars

Violating Community Standards

I had firmly in my head, what I was going to write about today. But you know how things happen. We see things, we read things, and suddenly there is a whole new post bursting out of us? That’s me today.

English: Facebook Silhouette

Image credit: Wikipedia.com

Earlier this morning I came across a picture on a Facebook profile which I found offensive and disturbing (not the image above).  I know I’m prone to be disturbed by such images depicting violence, and so usually I have to take a step back and ask myself ‘would others be offended by this picture?’  I thought they would have, so reported the picture to Facebook, hoping that they would also find it offensive and remove it.

I’m not posting the picture here because of how much it disturbs me, and I don’t want others to be disturbed by content on my blog.  But it was an image of a woman holding a hand gun to a man’s head.

This is what Facebook reported back to me:

Status

Photo not removed

Details

Thank you for your report. We carefully reviewed the photo you reported, but found it doesn’t violate our community standard on graphic violence so we didn’t remove it.

Someone has a gun pointed at another person’s head, and that’s doesn’t violate community standards?  Excuse me, but I find that refusal almost more disturbing than the image I objected to.

Interestingly when I followed their hyperlink to graphic violence, I found a lot of words but no specific definition of graphic violence.  What they did do was define violence and threats as:

“Safety is Facebook’s top priority. We remove content and may escalate to law enforcement when we perceive a genuine risk of physical harm, or a direct threat to public safety. You may not credibly threaten others, or organize acts of real-world violence. Organizations with a record of terrorist or violent criminal activity are not allowed to maintain a presence on our site. We also prohibit promoting, planning or celebrating any of your actions if they have, or could, result in financial harm to others, including theft and vandalism.”   (1.)

But that’s talking about what people say on Facebook, rather than what they depict in their images.  What happened to the phrase we all know ‘actions speak louder than words’?  The same ‘images speak louder than words’ could apply, but my guess is that because it wasn’t the owner of the Facebook profile portrayed holding a gun to someone else’s head then everything is fine.  That’s not fine too me at all.

I accept that the gun laws in my country are very different from in other parts of the world.  It is one thing that makes me glad to be a kiwi.  But look what the world was faced with just a few weeks ago when 28 adults and children were tragically killed by gunfire.  The idealist in me would like to think that social media would have reacted quickly and prohibited this type of violent image to be shown.

Personally I can cope with seeing the image, although I find it very disturbing and unnecessary.  I can manage my reactions so that I don’t think that the behaviour depicted in the image is acceptable behaviour.

But my 13-year-old nephew can see this image too, from his Facebook profile.  I think he is a pretty wise kid, but he is a kid and I don’t think it’s acceptable that he is confronted by this sort of stuff simply in keeping up with his friends.

I’m wondering what would make it unacceptable to Facebook?  All I can think of (and I apologise for the graphic impression) is that is the image included a bullet travelling into the victims head.

Facebook say above that “Safety is Facebook’s top priority“.  What a joke.  What safety do they actually care about, other than their own?  If impressionable minds see the type of image I reported today, they assume that such behaviour is normal and acceptable.

I will never accept that one person holding a gun to another’s head is either normal and acceptable.  And God help us if our society gets to the point where it is.

Right now there are people talking about wanting to keep guns away from people with mental illness, but it is not just those people who need to be kept away from guns.  It’s the people who think that the use of guns against others is okay.

And in that group, I’d be inclined to put Facebook. Shame on them, they have an opportunity to take a stand against gun violence yet they aren’t interested.

After-thought:  There were some other issues about this Facebook profile which should have been of concern to Facebook too.  Don’t get me started…

And apologies to any American’s personally offended by my use of this quote today.  I simply use it, not to offend, but to make a point:

“You can’t talk about fucking in America, people say you’re dirty. But if you talk about killing somebody, that’s cool.” 

―    Richard Pryor