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

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

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

Maybe I’m Not A Real Woman

English: Red Pinterest logo

Sometimes I just have to admit it. While there is a lot about me that indicates I might be a woman, there is also much which suggests that I’m not. Pinterest is just one of those things. Pinterest bores me senseless.  There.  Said it.

Some months back I decided that in order to spread the word of this blog, that maybe I should follow the masses and sign up on Pinterest. It would be one more place I could share my posts, in the hope that it would increase my readership. And I thought that maybe I might find something there that interested me. Wrong… on both counts.

I’ve never once had someone come to my blog from Pinterest, and while what I’ve seen all looks very pretty and nice (BTW, those words just don’t do it for me), I have simply struggled to see the point.  For me, it’s up there with reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  Certainly the two are very different, but what is the point of either?  In my mind, a complete waste of my time.

So I am told, Pinterest is a women’s thing.  Hmm.  Actually I am sure there are plenty of men on there too, but if it is a women’s thing, then I am obviously not a real woman.  Is something lacking from my genetic makeup?   Clearly, yes.  I simply just don’t see the point.

Pinterest tells me it is “a tool for collecting and organizing things you love“.  Surely, if anything, it is a tool for collecting and organising images of things you love.  It seems a little like collecting postcards from yesteryear, of places you dream of travelling.  Personally I’d rather collect stamps on my passport and actually see the places for myself.  What’s more, I also found it more interesting to read what was written on postcards, than simply the picture of a far off place.

Yesterday in my in-box was the weekly email from Pinterest telling me the ‘things that I love’… apparently.  I think they’re pushing it if they think they can tell what I love from my participation on the site.  Apparently, I will love:

Red lentil and coconut soup    (I hate lentils!)

“bows on the back of a t-shirt. this is adorable …” (that would look ridiculous on me!)

The New York Times. 36 Hours. 150 Weekends in the US and Canada   (ah, wrong countries!)

“bought my sister one of these in university, she’s …”   (I don’t have a sister!)

Marilyn + puppy   (is SO not me!)

Iceland   (looks the most interesting of the lot but still not something I want to ‘collect’!)

It’s all marginally better than the random pictures of mansions, room layouts, recipes, makeup, gardens, clothes, hair styles…   need I go on?  All of this is so not me.  And even if it was, why would I waste my time ‘collecting’ images of it all instead of making it all reality?  It’s really the ‘flicking through glossy magazines’ for the 21st century.  I was never into that last century, so it just makes no sense and says ‘complete waste of time’ to me.

All that said, I know many people (particularly women) who love Pinterest, and if you are one of those, I am happy for you.  You go on ‘collecting’ all these ‘wonderful’ things.  Enjoy, have fun with your collections.  Maybe I’m just ‘man’ enough (now there’s a joke) to say I don’t need these things.  There is enough on the internet without living with what I see as the fantasy of Pinterest.

Oh, and I can’t for the life of me see why people want to post pictures of what they cooked for dinner either.  Am I meant to be interested in that too?  I’m not.

“I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.” 

―    Madonna

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” 

―    Robert A. Heinlein

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

This Is Not About Animal Cruelty

Somewhere along the way I learnt to ask myself ‘what can I learn from this?’, when I see sad, or bad things.  It’s not a bad way to approach things when I think about it, and I suspect it is something that my father taught me, by example.

I’ve had a pretty tough weekend.  I can’t go into the details out of respect for people I love.  I know that’s not really the idea of a blog (in many eyes), but you’ll have to bear with me on this one.  I’d rather talk about what I’m learning than about the details.

This morning I saw a particularly nasty picture of animal abuse and cruelty, when I went through my Facebook news feed.  The issue of animal cruelty has always been important to me.  It is so wrong and I hate what is done to animals in the name of humans who think they have the right to do what they like.

I haven’t included the picture in this post, partly because it’s not my picture and getting permission to use it would be time consuming; but more so, because it is simply too disturbing.  If you feel the need to see it, you’ll find it on the Empathy 2012: wake up – change yourself – change the world Facebook page.  But it’s simply a visual image that got me thinking.

Let me try to describe the picture.  There is what looks like a carcass of a rhinosaurus.  It has been severely butchered, and it is clear to see that the tusk has been savagely removed.  No doubt that is the reason for the killing.  Next to the carcass is a live baby rhino leaning against what is said to be the remains of its mother.  The caption on the picture says:

“This calf was found crying next to its mother; traumatized, devastated; and extremely lucky to be alive.  It is horrendous what these animals goes through.  This is how it currently is.”

This picture. as I ate my breakfast, broke my heart and made me feel physically sick.  It’s not so much a ‘tug on the heart strings’ image but a terrible witness of the cruelty of man.  That said, this post is not about animal cruelty.

My first thought was “who could do this?” but then I know the answer to that.  This is a regular event as people hunt rhinos for the value of their tusks.  This is what human beings do.

Without wanting to take away from the horror of animal abuse, my mind switched to “people do this all the time to other people with words”.  Often without a thought, we cut people down with our words.  Maybe we don’t leave them dead, quite like the picture I have described, but I can’t pretend that words don’t have the ability to kill just as much as the knife these hunters used to butcher the rhino.

It is all too easy to think of only the self, and to just say what ever comes to mind.  I’m no expert on bullying but it seems to me that is what happens in the case of a bully.  But bullies aren’t just kids in the school corridors or on social media. They are also adults who should know better but just never think about anyone but themselves.

I’ve mentioned this issue before (see Disturbing) but I keep reading blog posts about teenagers who have been bullied to the extent that they have taken their own lives.  Yesterday I read of an 11 year old who recently died.  Yes, that’s right.  She was only 11.

These are the cases that make it to our screens, that the media picks up on (and has a field day!) but I think we potentially do this to other people every day, simply because we don’t think before we speak or act.  Okay, so I might be exaggerating and not every interchange like this ends in suicide.  My point though is the harm that we are all capable of doing to others when we don’t stop and think, when we don’t put ourselves in the other’s shoes, when we don’t simply treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves.

So often we can say things, and never know the consequences of what was said.  And while we are not responsible for how another person reacts to what we say, I believe that I owe everyone I come in contact with, my compassion and understanding.  I’m not going to get it right all the time, but I can try to live by the principle of putting myself in another’s shoes before I open my mouth.

I’m sure that needs to be an abiding way to live in all our interactions, with people (or animals).  I’m sure that doing so would avoid the literal, or figurative, picture I faced on my screen this morning.  It’s not just children and teenagers who can be bullies.  We do it so often ourselves as adults, without a thought.  Surely it’s time we thought first.

“I would rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody.” 

―    Abraham Lincoln

Disturbing

Yesterday, I couldn’t take social media anymore, so I took a break.  Perhaps my poor state of physical health contributed, but I’d just had enough.  I made my post here, and then turned off my computer and phone.

Why?  Because what I was seeing was jokes at other people’s expense and  terrible stories of the physical and emotional suffering that a lot of people in our world are experiencing on a daily basis.  And people forgetting that there is another human being on the other end of that social media tool.  Someone who feels pain just like me.  Some people just attack others with no regard for another, and when I’ve seen too much of it, I know it’s time for a break.  I refuse to become part of that world.

Image courtesy of [image creator: M - Pics] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of [image creator: M - Pics] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve all seen the three monkeys (yes, I know these are chimps), and maybe seen the internet-tailored one with four monkeys.  I wasn’t able to easily find a picture that I could legally use here, so you’ll have to settle for the words:

Monkeys SEE no evil

Monkeys HEAR no evil

Monkeys SPEAK no evil

Monkeys POST no evil

Wouldn’t it be great if social media were governed by such rules?  Am I spoiling the fun?  Maybe for some people, but for others we would be sparing the hurt.

Today, after my day off yesterday, I was greeted this morning with this, as the first post I read:

“We have lost over 40 kids to suicide since the beginning of this year!! When are we going to WAKE UP and do something about what we teach our children?? Why are we allowing violent and demeaning programming in our homes?? When are we going to get these kids some meaningful help??? MAKES ME SICK.”

That’s 40 teenagers lost to suicide, through apparent bullying, in 11 days.  No doubt the number has climbed since then, and more sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and friends and classmates have been lost.

I don’t have the details, but what I had in front of me was enough to put me off my breakfast, and because I knew that some of the bullying that would have taken place would have been in the form of cyber-bullying, I was again put off social media.  It was only a day ago that I wrote of social media being used to encourage teens to self harm ( see Like Bees To A Honey Pot).  It seems that every day I become more aware of the harm that is being done, and I hate it.

To find out some more I went searching for blogs about this topic and found one that distressed me further.  It was the list of ‘recent posts’ that got me.  We all have one on our blog, but not quite like this.  Each post listed was another teen known to the blogger who had committed suicide.  This blog is dedicated to making a stand about teen suicide by remembering each lost teen.  He says:

“Unless we really know the full impact, this crisis will continue to treated as a non-issue.”

This is about one part of the United States, but that made me think about how many more teen suicides there have been in the world in that 11 days.  Much of the reporting of teen suicides is very restricted and so it’s difficult, if impossible, to know the full extent but the one thing I know is that there is a lot of people hurting out there.

This is my point.  I know that there is a lot of good that comes from people working tirelessly, and usually unpaid, to support people through social media.  I also know that a lot of people (both young and old) feel less isolated because of the connections that they have through social media.  There is also a lot of good information sharing that goes on.  All these things are great.  But they get neutralized, in a way, by the harm that is generated through social media.

There has to be a better way than what we’re doing now.  We can’t afford to be losing teens (and adults) at the rate we are.  Maybe I’m being idealistic again, but society seems to have this idea that someone is free to say whatever they want on social media.  To hell with the consequences.  Society forgets that there are human beings, with real feelings, worries and insecurities on the other end of the computer screen.

My parents had that popular Christian saying of “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) as something that guided them in what they said and did.  I know a lot of people still operate by that, and if that fits with your spiritual beliefs then that is great.  It doesn’t work for me personally, but what does work for me is:

What If It Was Me?

What if it was me on the other end of what I am about to post?  How would I feel to be on the receiving end of that?  If we truly answered that question, wouldn’t it change how we post?  I guess it is just another way of saying ‘treat others how you want to be treated yourself.’  It’s easy really.

You know I was really lucky.  The circumstances of my high schooling were such that I could have been in for a really hard time with bullying, but it never happened.  I was bullied briefly at primary school (because my Dad was the local preacher!) and I struggled with that for a while, but really I was lucky to get off lightly and to have the support around me when I needed it.

What I’m learning is that so many kids don’t have that support.  So many kids don’t have the love and the belief in themselves to get through it.  Social media is great in terms of the support so many groups and pages are giving, but I’m sure we can do better.  The good stuff is unfortunately not the stuff that social media is known for.  It’s the bad stuff that is what we hear about.

And don’t think this is just about teenagers.  It’s not.  Through social media a lot of adults get hurt too.  It can be blatant bullying but it can be as simple as the joke you post.  Maybe it’s funny to you, but what about for those whom it hurts?  Is it really necessary to have your laugh at the expense of someone else?  Again, what if it was you?

“Do you ever feel like breaking down?
Do you ever feel out of place?
Like somehow you just don’t belong
And no one understands you
Do you ever wanna run away?
Do you lock yourself in your room?
With the radio on turned up so loud
That no one hears you screaming

No you don’t know what it’s like
When nothing feels all right
You don’t know what it’s like
To be like me

To be hurt
To feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked when you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
And no one’s there to save you
No you don’t know what it’s like
Welcome to my life” 

―    Simple Plan

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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

Just Like Me

It’s been a busy week for the news media.  Wow, I guess they’ve all earned their negotiated salaries, although I do wish they would be paid somehow on the basis of what truth they spread.  Social media has also been busy.  Often partly a response to the news media, sometimes spread what they’ve called their own ‘truth’ and sometimes simply spreading lies (like the news), or popular opinion.

It’s made me pretty sad.  Sometimes it’s made me cry, that they can get away with saying the things the do, let alone convincing a somewhat gullible public that they are right.  Other times I took my own advice (Step Away From Your Screen) and literally stepped away from my computer, my television and my phone.  I had to do that to save my mental health because the whirlwind of information (true or otherwise) has wanted to wrap me up in it.  At times I wanted to fight some battles (because that’s who I am) but mostly I took my advice, backed off and watched with sadness.

Image credit: Chenspec/Wikipedia.com

During this week a lot of people have died in this world as a direct result of violence. There are the many who have made the news media, but there are also many more that we never hear about, yet their death’s are just as tragic.

The obvious victims are the 27 children and adults who were shot in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  A tragic loss of so many lives that were mostly just beginning.

For a moment I want to consider two other deaths I have been aware of this week.  One is the 28th person to die at Sandy Hook, the shooter himself who turned the gun on himself.  Another tragic death I heard about this week was a man in England who was murdered in his own home. The details aren’t really important to what I am thinking, apart from to say that it appears his death was some type of vigilante pay back for a crime this man had recently been accused of having carried out.

In the case of both these men, the news media and the social media have played a part in spreading accusations and generalisations.  One man we have heard a lot about, the other you probably haven’t heard about.  What hasn’t been given is the truth.  We don’t know what is real and what is simply hearsay.

What I do know is that both of these men were just like me, in some ways.  They weren’t so different.  They had blood flowing through their veins. Like me they needed love, affection and acceptance.  At some point they had both probably been hurt badly, just like me.  These men were human beings, just like me, who it appeared that for some reason, everything went askew.

Maybe it was mental illness, maybe it was a developmental disorder.  Maybe too, they had some degree of evil (whatever that means) in them to drive them to the things they are said to have done.  Those things haven’t been clarified, yet the world has been quick to condemn.  Of the Connecticut young man I have seen a number of people describe him as ‘not human’.

That’s what leaves me sad.  I’m not condoning the actions of either of these men.  It was all wrong, and terribly devastating, particularly for those who lost family members and friends.

But these men were human, just like me.  And somewhere in spite of the horror of what has been happening, someone is no doubt grieving for them too.

I believe that these men were victims too.  I know that might be an unpopular stance to take, and I have no problem with people disagreeing with what I write (as long as I don’t get abused for an opinion).

Once, a number of years ago, both men were little boys and sometimes I find it helpful to think about them as when they were innocent children.  Again, because of the tragic death of 20 children last week it’s even hard to look at one of these men that way.  It just helps me to realise that while something has gone terrible wrong, these men were once just like you and me.

Yesterday I was at a barbeque (it’s summer here) which was a Christmas party for a group of people I know.  At one point I was sitting at a table with a lovely young man who I don’t know very well.  I’ve only met him a couple of times but what I do know is that he has Asperger’s Syndrome (a condition that has been subject to much media scrutiny this week).

It occurred to me while I was sitting eating my lunch with him, that it must be pretty difficult for him this week.  I know what it’s like to be looked down upon because I have a mental illness.  This young man doesn’t even have a mental illness (that I know of) yet the media have been putting him and other sufferers of Asperger’s in a group and saying we have to be careful of these people.  Apparently they might do ‘what Adam Lanza did’.

This man I was sitting with was, again, just like me.  He doesn’t deserve to be judged just because he has a disorder that makes him a little different from me.  Like me, he was enjoying having a drink, eating fresh berries and getting silly ‘Secret Santa’ gifts.  He had less to say for himself than most people on the group but that was the only noticeable difference.  He was, like me, having a good time.

Let me be very clear.  I’m not saying that horrific crimes committed against innocent people are acceptable.  They’re not.  It’s a terrible tragedy what has happened this week.  But we can’t afford to be looking at these people and thinking they are somehow different to us.  I’m not qualified to say why they might have done what they did.  I do have views on things that need to be done in society to prevent this from happening again, but those aren’t important right now.

What is important to me is that all the people who died this week (somewhere in the world) as a result of violence are human like me.  Someone loved them.  And to me, that puts a slightly different spin on things.

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy,  we can all sense a mysterious connection
to each other.”

~  Meryl Streep

“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant with the weak and wrong. Sometime in your life, you will have
been all of these.” 

―    Siddhārtha Gautama

Step Away From Your Screen

Step Away from your Television

Step Away from your Computer

(after you have finished reading this) ;-)

Something very terrible happened yesterday in Connecticut, and there’s no denying the trauma that has caused for many people, both those involved directly and those of us who are watching it all replayed on our screens.  In what I am about to say I am not down-playing what happened, nor am I ignoring the needs of the victims and survivors.  What I want to talk about it how do we manage our feelings as onlookers.

I have a mental illness, and because of that there are a number of things that I have difficulty with.  I know I’m not alone in this, and that’s why I am stepping away from my normal policy for my blog of not giving advice.

I just want to share something I’ve learned over the past couple of years.  With the shooting yesterday I know the automatic thing is to sit glued to the news channels, etc.  Don’t.    You’ve got the facts.  Now turn off the television/computer/ phone, or whatever your source of media information.

The media are there to give us the information but so often in times like this, they ‘play it up’ for want of a better term, they go on to talk about why something has happened, and really they don’t have the knowledge or the experience to do that without setting people off on tangents that really aren’t helpful.  They might give us information but they make it more emotional, hype us up and leave us more upset.

It’s hard for anyone to handle, but it’s harder for people with mental illnesses for a number of reasons.  Firstly our moods can already be lowered, and news like this plummets anyone’s mood lower.  For some people (including those like me who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) we struggle at best of times to regulate how we’re feeling.  News like this leaves us unsure of how to react, and how to manage those feelings we have.  The temptation can be to reach out to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, drugs, self harm and the like.

We know it’s happened, we know it’s terrible.  But we don’t need to go on tormenting ourselves by watching it.  Turn it off, light a candle, say a prayer or whatever you need to do, and then do something nice for yourself.  We don’t need the details replayed to us, over and over again.  Turn it off.

The other thing that is difficult for people with mental illnesses is the inevitable talk of whether the gunman had a mental illness.  I am choosing not to debate that here because I don’t think it’s helpful right now.  What does matter is that if we have a mental illness ourselves, we can hear what the media, or other people say about people with mental illnesses…   and we hear them saying that stuff about us.

Suddenly we’re thinking that media and others are saying we’re capable of such terrible acts.  That’s not what is being said, and if it is then they’re saying it as a cruel generalisation.  It’s hurtful and it’s dangerous.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I commented on my personal Facebook page that watching the television news was very traumatic, and that it could replay in our minds things from our past.  I said this in relation to a weather event in New Zealand, because watching it had brought to mind all I had experienced in our earthquakes in Christchurch during 2010/11.  Simply watching the television was replaying my traumatic memories.

What is being played on television and other media today, and in the weeks to come, is traumatic for anyone.  But for a person with a mental illness is going to be so much harder to bear.  I really believe (and am choosing to do this for myself as much as possible) that it is time to turn it all off.

Remember the victims and the survivors.  Think of those who are working to help the town grieve for their lost.  But what good can come from having it replayed over, and over on your screen?  What is something more productive that we could do?  One thing we can do is something to soothe and take care of ourselves.

Image credit: FB/Bullying is for Losers

Image credit: FB/Bullying is for Losers

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…” 

―    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,    The Little Prince