My name is not BAME*

* This is a continuation of my last post,’ I don’t want to talk about this but…(Part 1)’

20 THOUGHTS ON RACE

  1. My name is not BAME. My name is Funmi. I am not a minority or a victim. I am a champion. I am not a person of colour. I am a person. #Wordsmatter.
  2. Before I was Black, I was a human being.
  3. That said, I cannot afford to be ‘colour-blind’. That shit will get you killed in parts of the country. But, if you truly believe you’re colour-blind, please click this link.
  4. Racism is a state of mind. Discrimination is action. #Languagematters.
  5. It’s hard to ‘prove’ a mindset. Please don’t ask me to. 
  6. I prefer overt racists to covert racists. The latter love me in public and hate me in private.
  7. Yes, it’s true. There’s no proof George Floyd was killed by ‘racist’ cops. (See Point 5). The only certainty? He was killed by cops. Irrespective, something has shifted, something has changed. Why? Why now?
  8. I squirm when I hear the terms, ‘White guilt’, ‘White privilege‘. (See Point 9) I want to hear of ‘Action’ from those who hold power not guilt or tokenism or another enquiry or review or white paper or commission….
  9. A one-sided conversation is pointless. We, the collective, need to engage in uncomfortable conversations about race without getting defensive, guilt tripping or ‘cancelling’ one other. Demonising people only drives them underground. Light does not live underground.
  10. I’m tired of seeing Black folk being given a public platform only when the discussion is about knife crime or ‘youf’ work or gangs or poverty. I want to hear about Black people thriving, not dying. I want to hear about Black painters and sculptors, entrepreneurs and pioneers, creatives and cyclists, thrill seekers and randomites. #portrayalmatters
  11. ‘Black lives matter’, is sometimes met with the response, ‘all lives matter’. This response which misses the point is not worth my breath or finger strength to counter. That said, I won’t applaud companies/politicians who are saying/hashtagging BLM but really don’t care about Black people. Did somebody say bandwagon? BLM is not a slogan which empowers me personally. Why should I beg for something I already have (the right to be treated with humanity and dignity)? BLM is not a slogan I would use but it is a slogan I would defend. More so when phrased as a question. Do Black lives matter?
  12. My declaration of strength does not negate your strength. My beauty does not negate yours. Black people are intelligent, powerful and beautiful though mainstream media ignores or throws shade at our beauty.
  13. Nina Simone’s song, Young, Gifted and Black empowers me. It counters the narrative that Black is bad or criminal, or poor or dying, of Corona and other maladies.
  14. My pain does not invalidate yours. But ‘our’ pain is invalidated when we are told, ‘it’s a figment of your imagination’, ‘prove it’. Black people cannot keep ‘proving’ their pain’. When collective or individual pain is dismissed that pain is swallowed up until it explodes and kills ‘us’ or ‘you’ or causes sickness of mind or body or both.
  15. We are not a homogeneous group. Don’t treat us as such. We have shared experiences but we are not One. The term ‘Black community’ is a misnomer. It’s a plea (come unity). It’s as real as the term, ‘White community’.
  16. If you choose not to counter racism, you are complicit in it. I once sat at a table where the P word was used to reference Indian (not Pakistani) people. No one at the table spoke up except for me, the only non-white. Why?
  17. I struggle in all-White environments in a way that I never used to. I once worked for an organisation whose nod to Black History Month was to ask the following ‘trivia’ question: how often were African Americans lynched before Black History Month began to be celebrated? Suffice to say I didn’t hang around for the answer. When I was young, I had the mental strength to shrug off this and other Nonsensebut as I grow older, I grow more tired and more anxious in these settings. The result? I avoid/remove myself from these environments. (See Point 18) #sanitymatters
  18. Before I was Black, I was human. Don’t ask me where I’m from, don’t tell me about the Black people you know, don’t centre our conversation around race and don’t dismiss the prejudice which slips from loose lips. (See Point 17).
  19. I don’t want to see any more traumatic images of Black/White interaction. I don’t want to see more Amy Coopers or so-called ‘Karens’. I don’t want to see videos of Black folk being abused/brutalised. It makes me mad, reminds me of the negative interactions I’ve had with White people. The negative interactions don’t outweigh the positive ones. But the negative ones remind me that some people will never see beyond my race. I love my race but I am more than my race.
  20. I want to talk about something other than race but this world won’t let me.

 

 

 

I don’t want to talk about this but…… (Part 1)

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I’d rather be talking about cycling or writing. I’d rather be talking about the moon in the midday sky or the birds singing outside my house. I’d rather be talking about my love of languages.

I’d rather be laughing and dancing or singing and joking.

I’d rather not be talking about another Black death or negative interactions between Black and White people. I told myself I wasn’t going to talk about this. About another Black death. About overt and covert racism.

But I can’t block my ears or close my eyes. I can’t bite my tongue until it bleeds.

I can’t stay silent for risk of offence.

I could have stayed silent. Heck, I would have stayed silent if I’d not read some of the negative comments about Black people which I stumbled across in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

If I’d never experienced violence as a result of my race or had never heard derogatory comments aimed at my race. If I’d never had the N word thrown in my face or heard stories from Black friends/family about their experience of racism. If I wasn’t convinced that covert racism is more prevalent than overt racism in modern society and if wasn’t fed up of beautiful Black women being likened to men by some white women and men, then perhaps I would have stayed silent. But racism, fear and violence thrive on silence.

I can wait for violence to come to my front door before I speak. But it might be too late by then. Alternatively, I can speak before violence comes to my front door.

It saddens me that in the year 2020 I’m writing about racism. I am sad but not surprised. As the French say, plus ça change. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Like I said, I’d rather be laughing and dancing or singing and joking.

But this is not the time for that.

Relax, Reflect, Reconnect, Reset

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I spoke to an elderly family member on the phone yesterday and realised how much this lockdown might affect the elderly. I hadn’t considered the impact on their mood, their physical health, their motivation and desire for life. I didn’t realise that loneliness is not the battle for some.

I know that struggles in this period and in the aftermath will come for old and young alike. There will be people who face the prospect of financial ruin, those who are in danger of losing their homes, people living with abusive parents or partners, those no longer able to receive mental health support, isolated people, parents trying their best for their kids….

The list goes on. I imagine the impact of this time will be felt for months and possibly years to come. But, this forced slowdown, this time when someone or something has pressed the pause button in our lives might have some chinks of light in it.

As soon as the lockdown came into force, I noticed a flurry of activity on social media platforms. People rushing to create and share content (exercise videos, home schooling material, music related content etc). Whilst I am not against these things in theory, I wondered whether this busyness was a reflection of our struggle as human beings to shut down, rest, RELAX.

I know work is not only necessary but for some an outlet which helps them cope with daily life and keeps their mind occupied. Sometimes, work is our way of running away from ourselves. It certainly has been for me in the past. Given how busy work can keep us, it’s not a surprise that relaxation does/will not come naturally to some. But we can learn to relax.

Relaxation during this period means not feeling like we have to be super productive. It means not beating ourselves up or equating our self-worth with how much we get done. It also means not worrying about things we cannot control and there are plenty of those ‘things’ at the moment.

I know that for some, relaxation at this point is not an option – those with dependants, those who have to keep working… But for those who can choose to rest, it just might be the time to do so.

If the one thing you manage you achieve by the end of this lockdown is some rest, recovery, relaxation, that is in itself enough. The rest of this post is about what might come after rest.

I do struggle to rest at times but I know rest has its rewards. It can help us feel more refreshed and leave us with a clear mind. This clarity can help us REFLECT on life – our lives.

Reflection is not synonymous with rumination. Reflection does not mean worrying. It means giving something careful thought or consideration.

During my time as a teacher, I often reflected on my lessons – things which had gone well, things which had gone badly. Reflection helped me realise what I could have done differently, better. Rumination on the other hand would have looked like me staying in the past and focusing on the negatives rather than thinking of how to move forward.

The mother of reflection is reconnection. If we do not know ourselves, if we cannot be alone with ourselves/our minds, if we cannot be honest with ourselves, see our life as it truly is, then how can we reflect on our situation with a view to improving it? The ability to RECONNECT with ourselves (our dreams, our values, our gifts and talents), with others, with God, rarely occurs by accident. It comes about because we choose to do so. Over the years, I have chosen to reconnect with myself because the alternative was a slow death of mind and then body.

Relaxing, reflecting and reconnecting might help us press the RESET button.

When a virus infects our computer, we can choose to press the reset button and start again or live in the hope that the computer will somehow sort itself out,  fix itself. If we choose the reset button, it means losing everything – pictures, documents, music. But it also means starting afresh. Not being weighed down by who we were and the things we had collected in our lives.  A thing can be painful and exhausting yet still rewarding. This period might be just that for some.

Losing everything can help us see the fragility of life, the speed with which all can be lost. Losing everything can focus our minds on the things that matter most. It can create an opportunity to start afresh and change the direction of our lives if we so choose.

For many pressing the rest button will not be a choice. REBUILDING finances, careers, broken minds and ailing bodies will be a necessity. It will require patience with the process and with ourselves. For others, pressing the reset button will be a choice. Some will choose to reset and rebuild, others will not.

The process of rebuilding might be made a little easier by reconnecting with others and reaching out for help.

It would be a shame if this lockdown period were to end with people feeling burnt out rather than revitalised or stale rather than fresh. It would be sad if people were to return to well-trodden paths rather than ready to embrace new ones.

Over the past two years, I have had to and am still rebuilding my life. The process has been excruciating at times. But I know that where I am is better than where I was and I hope that at the end of this period of lockdown and in the months and years which are to come, there will be others who will be able to say the same – that in spite of the pain of this period and this year, that were they are is better than where they were before this lockdown.

 

 

Guarding my heart and opening my ears

I have not been able to write for a while or read for that matter. The past 4 months have been pretty horrific and whilst I see myself emerging from it finally, I also understand the importance of keeping myself away from things that may cause me to slip down the black hole again. This has meant deleting a particular social media app, abstaining from watching the news or politics shows and taking note of times when I feel myself being sucked in by tragic stories. It also meant taking this blog offline for a bit. When you are at your most vulnerable, anything which amplifies that sense of vulnerability can feel very overwhelming. Excruciating even. At the moment, my mind is quite fragile and the best thing for me to do in order to come out of this current depressive episode, is to simply say no to certain things and certain interactions.

Music continues to be something positive in my life which helps me through episodes. Whereas last time it was South African house music that did it for me, this time, it’s been chillhop. Music without lyrics has been about as much as I have been able to tolerate and on some days, enjoy. Here are a few of my favourite offerings.

The road less travelled

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Today, it has suddenly struck me that much of life is about how you deal with the unexpected obstacles, roadblocks, dead ends that come inevitably to all. It is generally those that persevere in spite of these things that achieve their goals.

At the moment, it feels like there are potholes all over the road I’m travelling on and my general tendency has been to simply avoid all roads with potholes. This week, I decided not to turn to avoidance and to confront head on my restrictive tendencies.

In a conversation I had with a mental health professional a few weeks ago, she suggested that perhaps my mood would improve and become more stable if I can regulate my eating. I am loathe to do this. Restriction feels very natural to me but in truth, I don’t think it is the way forward in life.

Restriction works for me because not dealing with food means I can focus on writing or doing things. When I am eating often or in greater quantities, I feel totally paralysed. Unable to move, to focus on things, to enjoy the company of others or conversations. It is so back to front but it is what it is.

But I know that the fluctuations in my mood are also very dangerous. There is no mental stability when I am like that and there is the feeling that I won’t know which me will appear on any given day.

So, for the past week, I have given regular eating (3 times a day and then shifting to 4 times a day) a go. The first 3 days were awful and filled with a lot of tears and self-loathing and a hyper critical voice. Then I took a day off because it just felt like I was torturing myself. Day 5 was a hot mess and it was as though I was trying to punish myself for eating by overeating. Day 6 was another awful day filled with tears and more self-loathing. Worse still, I was so mad at everything and everyone, ready to flip out at any given moment. This subsided somewhat by the time evening came around and the company of a good person helped a little. Day 7 was more of the same with a rock bottom mood to top it off. I generally am not one for staying in bed the whole day. In fact, I don’t do that. But yesterday, was that type of day with tears after all 3 meals.

I can’t say exactly what the upset is about. At the start of the week, it was anger and then it morphed into supreme sadness. I know why I am sticking with it and generally, once I start something, I like to finish it no matter how challenging.

This process over the past week feels much harder than the refeeding I did early last year. It’s like the challenge last year was the physical symptoms which come with refeeding (oedema, sore joints and muscles, constant urination, night sweats, painful feet which meant walking more than 5 minutes was tortuous, swollen body etc). All that lasted about 9 months. But what I didn’t experience so much is the emotion which I am experiencing now. The tears, sadness, self-loathing, negative voice.

I don’t think this is depression. It has a different face. I don’t know what it is but I know I have to stick with this road – the road less travelled.

Whenever I hear anyone say ‘sit with it’, I want to punch them in the face. I hate those words even though they hold value. For me, this week has not so much been about sitting as much as lying in bed with it. Squirming as though there are ants all over my body, crying as if the most awful thing has come to pass.

I am giving this process at least a month, to see whether my moods do become more stable. I worry that my writing has gone to pot somewhat because mentally my head is so filled with distress that there is no space for creating. But this post in itself is some small success because I am up, showered and writing even if there is no beauty in this post.

The moment you realise something’s not quite right

‘No matter what we face, we all must face our moment of truth’.

There’s a time in a one’s life when you realise something’s not quite right. For me in recent weeks, I have had a few of those moments. It was in fact something which happened yesterday which prompted this post.

My seat’s been in the wrong position all along

A few days ago, I was on my bike which I’ve ridden for almost 3 years, when I realised that something was wrong. My seat was too far forward. Consequence is that whenever I cycle, I am forever shifting on the seat, trying to find a comfortable spot. I had been riding in an uncomfortable position for the past 3 years and hadn’t really realised this. I hadn’t realised that there was a more comfortable way of sitting on my bike. When I got home that day, I tried to shift the seat myself but because I had been riding it in that position for so long, it was hard to undo the bolt which keeps the seat in place. The following day, I found someone who was a bike mechanic and with little to no effort, she was able to find the right tool to undo the bolt and shift the seat back.

Result: I cycled home like a speed queen.

The height’s all wrong on my bike

Similarly, last year, I went on holiday and had the chance to cycle in beautiful parts of Europe like Montenegro and Slovenia. When I returned home, I realised that my bike seat was too low down. I am short but have long legs and a short torso.  It was only by going abroad, riding a different bike that I was able to see there was a problem with the way I had been riding my bike. I raised my bike and suddenly I felt like a new person on my bike.

Result: cycling felt so much better. I was able to put much more power through the pedals.

Tales from the classroom – when the abnormal becomes normal

When I was a College teacher, I got used to all sorts of behaviour and students acting in ways which were far from ‘normal’. I remember a student lying in the middle of the road on a residential trip, another flipping a table over with all the force of Hulk (the Incredible, not Hogan), alcohol and drug use on those trips etc. I became accustomed to the behaviour. So much so that it became ‘normal’, expected even. In truth, not all my students showed such extreme behaviour. And even those who showed such behaviour were on the whole, individuals who deep down, had many wonderful traits.

I remember leaving the job and speaking to a colleague who also left. This colleague said that it was funny how accustomed we became to unacceptable behaviour that we now considered it ‘normal’ behaviour. My colleague said that it was only once they had left the job that they realised that what happened at times in our classrooms, was not alright. Something was wrong, all along. It’s just that we didn’t know it.

Of late, it has dawned on me that something’s not quite right. I’ve become so used to me and all my ways that some things which I thought were just me are not things I should accept as just a part of me. This may all sound a little cryptic but that’s okay. The important thing is that we all have moments of clarity in our life.

May we all have moments of clarity in our lives

The hamster spinning on the wheel may one day realise that something is not right – that there’s more to life than the wheel.

The person who thinks that a few drinks each night is harmless may realise one day that they are unable to stop drinking – that something’s not quite right.

Those living in abusive relationships who have become accustomed to being on the receiving end of violence in all its forms may one day realise that things are not right – that violence is not a ‘normal’ part of life.

Those aha!!! moments may be painful or come with regret or sadness or fear for the future but whatever that case, it means that we are more empowered to do what we need to do to change things. We cannot address an issue until we realise it’s an issue.

I am glad that I love to learn about myself and others. I love that I am willing to take on board the opinions and ideas of others. I am glad that I am willing to be honest with myself even when the result is a painful acceptance of my frailties and faults.

When the teacher becomes the student

I remember a student of mine. I have many memorable students. He used to come to me at the end of the day and ask about his performance and what he could do to improve. Now, I would not necessarily recommend such an in-depth daily assessment of oneself but what I loved most about this student was that he was willing to receive feedback from others, take it on board and use it to grow and progress in life.

I learnt so much from this student. Not least that the perception others have of us is sometimes just as important as the perception we have of ourselves. If others can see that something is wrong, then we must be willing to consider that maybe, just maybe there is something that’s not quite right.

Like the bolt on my bike seat, I know that habits and behaviours calcify the longer they are allowed to exist. But, I know too that finding the right person or support to help shift that seat is possible. At least, I hope it is. I know things do not have to be as they are at present. But it takes patience, a leap of faith and support to find a better way to live.

Looks can be so deceiving when it comes to mental illness and distress

Today is the first day I have had some clarity all month. It feels nice to feel like myself even if only for a day. It feels nice to have a mind which is not plagued by the weight of my thoughts.

An honest friend will always be better than a friend who just wants to stay on your good side or make you happy

In recent days, I have had an email exchange with a friend today who is well versed in eating disorders. She stressed to me the need to let others in my life know how bad things are at the moment with my eating and overexercise. I feel I have done this to some extent, probably not as firmly as I ought to (in part to protect the things that help me cope with life) but I also know that the thing which spoke loudest in the past was emaciation.

Looking unwell provokes a reaction from others

When I looked unwell, no one would encourage my exercise in they way they do now. When I looked unwell, my intake was monitored more closely by others. When I looked unwell, there was generally more concern. And that is a shame. Because mentally, I am a big mess at the moment but on the outside, I look fine, good even as people tell me from time to time, with annoying pleasure. When people have seen you looking really awful, the fact that you look good becomes a block. It is a wall which blocks others from seeing and sometimes hearing the truth about where you’re at in the present moment.

In all honesty, I kind of don’t mind it. I have spent more years looking well than I have looking unwell and looking well comes with many benefits (some good for the person, some good for the illness). Looking well allowed me to hide my eating disorder from my family for about 14 years. Now, it allows me to continue restricting and exercising without others commenting. But in the longterm, all these things which I use to manage the worst of my depressive episodes, only serve to plunge me deeper into my eating troubles.

Dispelling myths about eating disorders

People sometimes have the wrong impression about eating disorders. Let me dispel a few myths.

  1. People who restrict do eat but don’t necessarily prefer salad. I don’t care for clean eating or veganism or any other fad. I love me some butter on my toast. In fact, at times, I don’t really care what you put in front of me. If I am doing good mentally, I can pretty much manage most foods. Unfortunately, doing good mentally has proved somewhat elusive for me over the past year.
  2. Sometimes it is not concern about one’s body that makes the ED become entrenched, it is an inability to manage the anxieties of life or the fear of becoming a full-time depressive.
  3. A person may look perfectly fine but be close to death. Bulimia leads to low potassium. Low potassium can and has been fatal for many in the past. I have ended up in hospital numerous times for this condition, hypokalemia. A 16 year old girl, Libby Rose died of it in August 2017.
  4. Most people with eating disorders are at a ‘normal’ or ‘above normal’ weight. Only 8% of people diagnosed with eating disorders in the UK are considered anorexic (underweight). That means that the majority (92%) do not ‘look’ like the stereotypical image of a person with an eating disorder.
  5. Bulimia will eventually lead to serious dental issues: erosion of enamel, decay in one’s teeth and loss of teeth.
  6. Going from underweight to a normal weight does not signal recovery. It just means a person has done the physical work and now they have the mountain of the mind to climb.
  7. People may need just as much support when they are underweight as when they are at a ‘normal’ weight.
  8. Independent and flexible eating will take a lot more time than it takes to restore weight. I spent 9 years underweight and restored my weight in 5 months. Not only has this been a shock to my body but it has also been a shock to my mind. I need just as much support with meals now as I needed then because it is impossible to undo 20 plus years of an eating disorder in 5 months. I thought if I could just eat normally then I would be fine but that is not the case.
  9. Appetite is regulated by mood for some. With every episode of depression, my appetite takes a massive hit. This in turn reignites my eating problems. I sometimes have just about enough time to recover from one episode before another hits me.
  10. People frequently move from one ED to another. In recovery, it is likely that you will fit no diagnostic criteria. I am not anorexic (though I restrict at the moment) because I am not underweight, I am not bulimic (because I don’t throw up at the moment). I exercise a lot but not to lose weight but rather to manage the depression. I am not orthorexic because I don’t care for clean eating though I do exercise a lot (for my mind not for my body). I have in the past been both anorexic and bulimic. Eating disorders are fluid in nature. They morph into one thing or another depending on where a person is in life and in their mind.

Taking responsibility for my own recovery

My recovery is my business. I cannot and will not blame where I am on anyone else. At my current weight, I would likely not be eligible for any NHS support with my eating and I am okay with that funny enough. I think I am okay with it because I made way more progress with my brother’s support than I ever did with NHS support.

My brother helped make this happen only because I took responsibility for my recovery. I set up a meal plan, I read up about what to expect in recovery, I bought books and read blogs to help me restore my weight and deal with it mentally and I engaged in after dinner distraction.

I think I am struggling to take responsibility for my eating at the moment. I met up with a friend on Friday. I knew after talking to a professional earlier on in the week that I ought to use it as an opportunity to have lunch with said friend. Instead, I avoided any talk of food. When this friend eventually asked me if I would have lunch or at least share something with her, I completely backed out. I am allowing the depression to dictate my every move because nothing scares me more than the thoughts which come with depression. I have always feared a lifetime with depression more than I fear a lifetime with an eating disorder.

Nothing, at least for me, endangers my life more than depression.

So where now?

I think the first thing I must do is seek more support for the depression, which I have been trying to do since last year but it is hard to find good longterm support. Waiting lists, incompatible therapists, incompetent organisations, waning motivation are some of the things which get in the way from time to time. But I am hoping in the coming year, at least before this year is over to find more support to help me deal with the thing which triggered the depression in the first place.

I think confronting the depression head on is the way I will learn to eat better and manage life better.

I also know I have a lot of healing to do in relation to the grief which comes at times to steal every ounce of joy I have about life and living.

I am a work in progress and that’s just fine.

And as a final thought, consider this:

What exactly does a person with depression look like?

This? Anthony Bourdain

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This? Kate Spade

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Or this? (Gary Speed the night before his suicide)

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It’s not the likes of Trump we need to fear but rather, the silent majority they represent

This post is inspired by Matt Haig, fiction and mental health writer.

Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson

Haig recently replied to a Tweet by Katie Hopkins, the well-known controversy courter. She recently said in a tweet: What matters is the fight back for our Christian culture we desperately need to defend. Whilst I am not quite sure what this ‘Christian culture’ she speaks of looks like, the lady is passionate about defending it. Does this ‘Christian culture’ look like a Friday night in any UK city. Or does it look like the aftermath of a Millwall football match? Or perhaps it’s her culture of hate rather than love. Who knows.

Whatever the case, Haig was the first to weigh in with a reply, saying: This is the heart of it, Katie. You court this. You want to be called these things. You are virtually asking for it here. Why do you want to be so hated? Before it was Muslims, you hated obese people and working class people for money and attention. Why choose a career of hate? 

A career of hate does seem at odds with the central message of Christianity but perhaps Katie knows best. She also recently retweeted a Trump ‘speech’ in which he said, ‘if you hate our country or you are not happy here, you can leave’. Hopkins added her own comment when she retweeted the video saying, ‘How I wish we had such leadership in the U.K. “Don’t like this country? Don’t like what it gives you? Then leave”. Donald Trump is clearly a fan of Hopkins. He recently retweeted a couple of her tweets.

Hopkins is also a supporter of Tommy Robinson who is currently in prison for contempt of court. He believes he was ‘convicted of journalism and wore a T-shirt just to prove it.

Robinson was basically reporting on an ‘Asian-grooming gang’ case even though reporting of the case was not supposed to happen. He read out the names of the accused who at that point had not been convicted and also filmed them. Robinson reserves his ire for Asians who abuse girls. He talks about Asian ‘grooming gangs’ as though they alone sexually abuse young girls. He does not talk about the powerful politicians and men of power who abused boys back in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Nor does he talk about the general objectification of women in Western culture or the oversexualised society we live in and the harm this does to young minds. How about the availability of pornography and the harm it causes young minds. I know everyone has a cause but demonising a race is perhaps not the best cause to tag yourself onto. It stinks of subjectivity. It stirs some, sure, but it deafens others.

Donald’s latest targets

The Donald stoked up tension recently by suggesting four female non-Caucasian politicians ‘go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came’. But where these women come from is America (The U.S of A). I know they may not ‘look like’ they come from America, but they do. Trump acknowledged these women were American but still insisted on saying what he did.

Trump continued with his vicious tweets, ‘if you hate our country or you are not happy here, you can leave’. Implicit in the word ‘our’ is the idea that the country belongs to some people but not to others. Since the non-Caucasian politicians were told they could go back to their countries of origin, I will make the assumption that Trump believes America is not their country. I assume also that anyone who is not happy with the way things are in America should leave. Though where they should leave for is not quite clear.

It’s the silent majority we need to fear not the figureheads who represent them. 

I always prefer those who speak their mind over those who bubble away in secret. I’ll always prefer an outright racist to a secret racist. I’ve experienced overt and covert racism. It’s the covert racism which sometimes leaves me feeling paranoid and fearful. I much prefer to know that you think less of me because I am Black than for you to smile in my face and spit on the ground when I have left your company.

Hopkins has almost a million followers on Twitter (986.3k to be precise). Trump has 62.2 million followers on the same platform. Whilst I recognise that some of these supporters follow the latter just to see what he’s up to (Victoria Derbyshire????), if you take a look at the ‘you can leave’ tweet from the 16th of July, you’ll see that it had 334,000 likes and over 76,000 retweets. That’s scary. That means that there are plenty of people that think that America only belongs to a certain kind of person and that if you are not white, you are less likely to be that certain kind of person.

As for Tommy Robinson, he does not appear to have a Twitter account but he does have a whole host of followers. Some of them congregated on Westminster Bridge on the day he was found guilty and stopped traffic from heading up the bridge. There was a woman on a motorbike shouting in support of Tommy, lots of other white men waving British flags. The silent majority will not be silent forever. Today they will close down a bridge and tomorrow they will burn down the bridge.

In the latest episode of Trump, the man who defies all logic, we saw a bunch of his supporters shout at one of his rallies ‘send her back’ in reference to Ilhan Omar. Trump said ‘I’m not happy .. when I hear chants like that’ without acknowledging that his rhetoric of hate whips the crowd up. Trump said he spoke over the chant but it took him 13 seconds to speak again once the chant started. He did not silence the crowd, the crowd simply started to simmer down.

Behind every Trump, Robinson and Hopkins type character, are hundreds of thousands of supporters. These are the people I call the silent majority. They are the people that for the most part only say hateful things when they are in the company of similarly minded people. They are the majority because they are the kind of people that got Trump elected.

Liberals forget that just because they speak the loudest or dominate mainstream media does not mean that they are in fact in the majority. Some liberals have an extremism about them which they oftentimes fail to acknowledge and which simply leads to people like Trump supporters, hiding underground waiting for an opportunity to show their hate. Some liberals are unfortunately less liberal than they would have us believe. I have seen lots of people with opposing views shut down, shamed, no platformed etc. Neither liberals nor conservatives should have a monopoly on discourse.  All this does is stoke up more anger and division.

Boris Johnson is on the verge of being chosen as Prime Minister of the UK. Some of the careless and downright ignorant things he has said about Blacks, Muslims, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe amongst others show that the man is not fit to be Prime Minister. And yet he will become Prime Minister, most likely. He will be supported by the silent majority within the Conservative membership.

So where now? 

I will return to the post I wrote many, many months ago called The Dying Art of Conversation/Where Now For Rage?

We will not win the argument by silencing those who disagree with us. It’s true that sometimes it is impossible to win people over. But, we must still attempt to reach out to others, encourage them to speak about the things which ail them, reason with them, listen to them, provide facts where they provide baseless arguments and also be willing to accept the validity of some of the things they rail about. We need to hear from people who feel marginalised for whatever reason and we need to respect rather than ridicule them.

If not, we face more situations like Brexit, the election of Trump, the rise of populism – this appeal being made to people who feel marginalised by mainstream politics and political elites.

When a lapse turns into a relapse

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Over the past 6 months, I have struggled with successive depressive episodes which has not only impacted my ability to get on with life but also, my relationship with food.

I think I knew when I made the decision to recover in 2018 that there was always a chance that I would have a recurrence of the kind of severe depression that I experienced several years earlier. It was in fact the severity of that depressive episode that led to a complete descent into eating disorder hell as I sought to find a way to escape the thoughts which were plaguing me at the time.

For the first two months of my recovery last year, I did not experience one depressive episode. In fact, I had not had one episode of depression in the previous 7 months. Hallelujah, I said to myself. I thought that perhaps, I was free of it and perhaps the joy that recovering from the eating disorder brought me would be the thing which freed me from depression.

Unfortunately, this has not played out as I had hoped. I have experienced more depressive episodes in the past year that I have ever experienced in any one year in my life and this has inevitably led me back down the rabbit hole of the ED.

One of the key features of depression for me is that it leaves me feeling unable to stomach food. It also increases my anxiety around eating because the distress brought on by eating sometimes worsens the depression. I tend to feel calmer when I am not full and I guess for me, I have used not eating or restricting as well as binging and purging as a way of helping me manage my moods. I have used it as a way of helping me function.

The first two episodes I had of depression last year occurred in the early stages of the refeeding process. I was still experiencing a lot of extreme hunger and my weight had been climbing pretty rapidly. Once the weight gain stopped ( I put on about 40% of my current body weight in about 5 months) and the extreme hunger stopped, I lost interest in food in a pretty spectacular way. My appetite lessened and I went from 6 or 7 meals a day to about 4. At times, my appetite would return to me and I would honour it but once the third episode of depression arrived at the end of last year, my appetite completely went south.

It almost feels as though the only way my mind knows to protect itself is to begin to reject food. Almost like a choice needs to be made between food and suicidal thoughts. It is not so much something I will into existence as something which seems to happen quite naturally. And so begins a return into the eating disorder. I think that human nature is such that we will always choose to fight for life, until we can fight no more. I will always choose to fight for my life but I do realise that I cannot continue to use restriction as a way of dealing with mental distress.

After the refeeding process stopped for me in the autumn of last year, I started allowing myself a meal off here, a snack off there but only when I wasn’t hungry. Whenever the depression kicks in, a meal off here and a snack off there turns into more meals off here and more snacks off there and less food on the plate and a general return to restriction.

So a lapse begins to morph into a relapse. And when this happens, my mind generally begins to have a less rational relationship with food and my body such that I can see that clearly, this is a recurrence of the eating disorder. So now, I am managing two things rather than just one.

What I have noticed in the past month is that for two, every fortnight, I begin to experience extreme hunger. I am always inclined to honour my hunger but this begins to set off alarm bells in my mind and I start thinking of returning to purging which is a hellhole like no other. And so this then increases the depression because I become very tired of the endless cycle of depression and eating disorder.

I tried for a long time to force myself to eat mechanically as I have heard it said so many times in treatment and for a while, I was able to do so but there comes a time when fatigue sets in and ‘je baisse les bras’ (I give up). I stop willing myself to eat when I don’t feel like it, I keep myself busy just so I don’t have to think about food or deal with it, I avoid eating around people I don’t know, I avoid eating outside of my home because I cannot make choices about what to eat. It all becomes so ugly and all-consuming once more.

I am at least grateful for a few things. In fact, I am grateful for many things since I started recovering but more specifically, I am glad that I am still honouring my hunger, I am glad that I am not throwing up anymore and that I am a year plus into that state of being, I am glad that I am still receiving some support from my brother and I am glad for the friends who encourage me when I am with them, to eat in their company. I am glad that I have the mental space to write from time to time and that my life feels fuller some days.

I do find that eating with people I am comfortable with, who know me, who I don’t feel in anyway judged by, helps me manage any distress I feel around eating but I am also aware that the ability to nourish myself independently, without support is still something I struggle with.

I want to be able to live a full, expansive version of life rather than a redacted version. I want to be able to eat freely, be free and just be. I also desperately want to be free of depression and it is the depression which induces a fear like no other. It is the latter that makes relapses of lapses.

I know I have a long way to go. As I am often told, recovery is not a linear process. I know. Now please give me pound coin.

But I think I oftentimes end up choosing the calm of not eating over the distress of eating simply because I want a break from the depression. In the long-term, this cannot and will not be the way forward.

If I end up with a complete relapse in terms of the eating disorder, I will inevitably end up in a very dangerous place mentally and that is not something I want.

The challenge of reading fiction during the fog of depression

I had a conversation with someone recently about why I have struggled to read works of fiction over the past seven months. I have completed one fiction book in the past seven months: The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola.

I told this person that I do not have the patience for reading about made-up things and that I much prefer reading about real people’s lives at the moment.

The person I spoke to about this fiction/non-fiction split asked me why I am not interested in the escapism which fiction brings. I do not really know the answer it but I guess I just have less patience at the moment with made-up stuff. I have never really been one for escapism, low mood or not. I think reading for me has always been about the use of language. I am not pretentious but I do love words and how people combine words to connect to a person’s soul. So I can and do appreciate fiction. Not so much because it takes me elsewhere but because it connects me to somewhere.

Of late however, I have struggled to connect with works of fiction. One of the symptoms of depression is an inability to take pleasure in things. This inability to take pleasure in low moments has significantly affected my desire to read. However, over the past 3 weeks, there has been somewhat of a change in this which has coincided with a shift in mood.

I want to read about the battles (of the mind) people face and how they have overcome, sunk under the weight of or managed those battles.

I guess it gives me hope that just maybe, there is a way forwards for me too.

In the past seven months, I have had more than a few episodes of depression. Apart from the fact that this makes it difficult to read or write anything, what I have noticed most is my declining interest in reading or writing fiction and my growing interest in non-fiction books.

I have read about 9 works of non-fiction in the past 3 weeks. Something came over me during the last episode of depression and it was as though books were the only thing which gave me an ounce of comfort whereas normally I would not even be able to lift a book much less open and read it. Weird.

Some of the books I’ve read include:

  • Caroline Elton: Also Human: The Inner Lives of Doctors
  • Emilie Pine: Notes to Self
  • Dr Graham Easton: The Appointment: What Your Doctor Really Thinks During Your Ten-Minute Consultation
  • Arnold Thomas Fanning: Mind on Fire
  • Marya Hornbacher: Madness: A Bipolar Life

In each of these books, the writer talks about the challenges they have faced or the challenges of others they have come in contact with, and how things subsequently unfolded.

The challenge of blogging about my mental health is that I am not over the mountain. In fact, some days, I am not sure where I am on the mountain. Some days I cannot see the top of the mountain so I cannot even estimate my journey time. At times, I wish someone would wake me up when it’s all over. I am like the child shouting in the car ‘are we there yet?’ Only to be told not yet.

I hope to fall in love with fiction again at some point. In the meantime, I am trying to gently rekindle my love for it by reading short stories. I am currently reading a collection of short stories called The Book of Tehran (Reading the City), edited by Fereshteh Ahmadi. I am also planning to reread some of my favourite short stories including:

  • Vladimir Nabokov: Symbols and Signs
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: A Temporary Matter
  • Raymond Carver: Cathedral
  • Flannery O’Connor: Everything That Rises Must Converge

Short story writing has always been a source of comfort to me. Knowing I could start and finish something inspired me to get back into writing when I abandoned my first novel ten years ago after my mental health took a leap into the pit of hell.

I have struggled to read or write when my mental health has been at its worst. I think I had a period of 3 years within the past ten years when I did not read a single book. I am a long way from that but I do go through months where reading is a struggle. It is like the words become disjointed so that my eyes are unable to form sentences. My eyesight changes and my ability to make sentences out of the words is lost. I am grateful that at the moment I am able to read something.

I know these seasons come and go but I guess for me, it is better to read something which nourishes me in some way than to force myself to read fiction for the heck of it.