Friday, 30 January 2015

Let's Talk About Selfies

Social media is being crushed under a bonanza of selfies. Oxford English Dictionary even crowned it word of the year for 2013. Really. And while the jury is out on whether the selfie is a 'bad' or 'good' thing, it's certainly worth reflecting on.

Do you take selfies? And if so, why? Do you even know why you do it?

Some say it's a fun way to show the world what you're up to; I'm of the belief it's a sad way to beg the world for validation on aesthetics.

Sometimes selfies can be downright toxic. If you have the misfortune of battling an eating disorder, I would suggest steering clear of tags on social media containing the word #recovery, #eatingdisorder, #anorexiarecovery, #bulimiarecovery, etc. Why? Because people's illness have also decided to jump on the bandwagon. Small frames are contorted into positions to emphasize the current state of malnourishment, and faces with dead eyes and pouty lips leer out, desperate for the affirmation that she/he is indeed 'winning' at the race to death.

Selfies litter Facebook, sometimes under the guise of a charity fundraiser. "Hey guuuys, here I am with no makeup, please comment below and tell me that it was worth the 15 minutes I wandered around the house assessing the lighting and taking dozens of tester-pics."

Some say it screams narcissism, but I believe it screams insecurity. People are selective about the selfies they release to their adoring fans. They somehow realise it's not a good idea to put a photo up of themselves eating cornflakes beside a pile of fresh laundry. But why do they think it's a brilliant idea to capture that moment as they sip the #greenkalepowerproteinCLEANEATING smoothie for the first time? I'll be honest, I'm much more curious about the happenings of your laundry than the happenings of your smoothie, and if nothing else I hope that demonstrates my disinterest in what you eat. Or what you drink at Starbucks. At least the laundry selfie would be a realistic snap of human life, and not the fabricated version of the perfect existence.

Being a teenager, heck being an adult, is hard enough as it is without the constant barrage of photographs that have been filtered to remove the dry forehead scales and the nice scars you got from picking your spots.

I will hold my hand up and admit that for a while I fawned over the collection of selfies I had on my phone. It was constant torture. Could I find a photo of myself in which I didn't look like a foot. Or a ghost. Or someone who didn't look like me but gosh darn it, wasn't she lovely!

Sometimes I crave that validation that I am attractive. That I wouldn't be kicked out of bed for eating toast. But I would rather build my inner security regarding my appearance on solid foundations. I would rather teach myself to validate myself, rather than post a photo online tagged #me and wait patiently for confirmation that I AM OK.

The odd photo of ourselves taken on our phones won't do us much harm. It can actually be fun to capture a moment when there's nobody else around to play cameraman. But we need to ask ourselves have we taken it too far.

I've watched a grown woman, old enough to know better, spend a whole tram journey taking selfie after selfie. She moved her hat a millimeter between each snap. I watched in fascination and horror.

To demonstrate my point: I just checked to see how many photos have been uploaded to Instagram under #selfie. Would you like to know how many photos there are?

226,103,236 photos. Yes, you read that right. There are 226 million selfies on Instagram alone.

Some questions worth being self-honest about:

Do you feel crushed if nobody 'likes' your selfie?
Do you feel elated if a group of strangers tell you that you're only gawjus in that selfie?
Do you spend excessive amounts of time taking selfie after selfie, trying to find the perfect one?
Do you post selfies to try to boost your self esteem?
Do you compare yourself to other people's selfies?

As with most things in life, the key is moderation. I am definitely not saying that seflies should be banned, or that we should throw rotten fruit at those who go a little overboard on the selfies. But what I am saying is that we need to question why we do this, if we do this. This post won't apply to everyone and I'm pretty sure my Dad couldn't tell you what a selfie is if his life depended on it. I believe we need to build our self confidence from the ground up. I believe we need to work at it, and rely on ourselves for confirmation that we are ok.

Selfies can offer short term validation, but ultimately true validation comes from within.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Song of the Day

I like this song by an Irish artist called Wallice Bird. This song is called "To my Bones". You can have your money back if it doesn't cheer you up- even a little.

I like this bit: 

"Oh life I love you to my bones
Man, everything is just so simple
When you're laughing until your face is sore"


Listen here.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Feeling suicidal is temporary. The act of suicide is final.

I think we can agree that feeling suicidal is a feeling (hint: it says it in the phrase!). And the issue with feelings is that they are not facts. We can feel like a burden, but we are not a burden. We can feel like a failure, but we are not a failure. So, relying on feelings is a risky way to live your life. Because feelings sometimes aren't truth. In fact, they're often not the truth.

The other issue with feelings is that they change. A lot. You've probably felt at least three feelings since reading this post. And probably felt one hundred feelings since yesterday. And if you can realise this, they hurrah- because you'll also understand that helpful phrase: This too shall pass. It's true though. Those deep (and frighteningly dark) feelings of wanting to end your life can and do pass. 

Many people are alive today and are able to explain the feeling. Many people have survived feeling suicidal, because as we discussed, feelings change. A lot. And sometimes we have to just stick around long enough for them to change.

I know some wonderful people, myself included, who felt that very scary suicidal feeling. Sometimes it was fleeting, but sometimes it hung around like a bad smell. But those same wonderful people are here to tell the tale. And since I am not writing from the other side, then you'll know I made it out too.

Something which really helped me was that quote by someone (presumably very wise) that goes like this: Don't make permanent decisions based on short-term feelings. And I think that's pretty smart, don't you?

Sometimes I get very excited when shopping, and feel very adventurous. I could act on those feelings and spend all my money in one go. But of course that adventurous feeling will pass and I'll be left with no money. Sometimes it can seem like a very smart idea to sign up to something because we're in that frame of mind. Then feelings change and suddenly we're regretting it.

That concept works for suicide too. Suicide is very very final. You cannot undo it. Once it's done, it cannot be undone. But feelings change, and sometimes it's worth riding out the tough ones because we never know what the future holds.

I didn't believe I would change my mind about wanting to die. I didn't believe my feelings would change. But they did. And I am writing this from a place where I'm imploring you to consider that feelings change, and to please hang on.

It's worth it, we promise!


Simple advice can often do the trick!

Sometimes I used to get so irritated when people offered me advice. Sure what did they know? They didn't understand what it felt like to want to die, so why should I listen to them?

Well, I've since learned that sometimes the people with the best advice, are actually the ones who "don't get it".

If you think about it, those Advice Givers have somehow managed to figure out a way to live their life so that they don't get sucked down the Black Hole. They still have difficulties of course, because we are all human. They still get hurt, struggle with money, have difficulties in their jobs, fights in their families, bereavements and so forth, but yet they manage to cope.

When they suggest you focus on all the good in your life, they actually have a point!
Maybe it would be helpful to think about your blessings.

When they suggest to just distract yourself from your problems, they actually have a point!
Maybe it would be helpful to throw on a movie or get out for some fresh air.

When they suggest an early night, (because tomorrow is a new day)- they actually have a point!
Maybe going to bed a bit earlier will give you a break from the noise in your your head.

When they suggest 'calming down' (my goodness I hated that one!) they actually have a point!
Maybe it would be helpful to take a really really deep breath and try to relax a bit. 

So- next time someone comes at you with all that advice that makes you want to run in the opposite direction, it's worth taking a second to see if what they're suggesting might be worth a try!

I eventually realised that some of the simplest advice was actually the most beneficial.

Monday, 19 January 2015

January Blues? Nahh

So, it's Monday and it's January, and it's allegedly the most depressing day of the year if we want to listen to the media.

That's a pretty heavy introduction to the week if we take these factors and use them as a foundation for our mindset. People bandying about the phrase 'January Blues' and despairing at the dark evenings, and gosh now isn't it only Baltic as well, the roads aren't great etc. etc! 

January is not unique, Mondays are not unique; there's always something to complain about, and there's always people only too happy to do the complaining.

But where does that ever get us?

Today could be a fantastic day, but if we're already being told it's the most depressing day of the year, how much of a chance are we really giving it?

I don't intend to disregard the fact that January, like any day or month, can be challenging, but I want to offer up the possibility that it could be great- either way, it's up to us.

My bus was ten minutes late this morning and I was daunted at the shed load of work I was going in to and the weekend went by too fast and Christmas is a distant memory and it's Monday, in January...

I could easily have let those thoughts continue to race and take over (and ruin) my day, I'm a retired pro at that.

But they were fleeting and instead of fast tracking to an overwhelming whirl of anxiety, I stopped. I heard them and I knew how it would end up if they kept going on. I wouldn't get any joy out of the day, simple as. 

I can't control the bus, I will get through my work as I need to, and there's another weekend at the end of this week. 

When your mind starts speeding off on a negative train of thought, kick the driver out and take control of that train. Your thoughts are always manageable and even when they seem to be so worryingly true and so overwhelming, there is almost always a counter argument that your positive mind is waiting to give but sometimes it's whispering against the deafening negativity.

I'm sick of the negativity's noise stealing the good out of my day before it has even begun so I don't even entertain it anymore. 
I made sure I had my music in my ears, book in hand and brought myself back to being present.

Yes it was a hectic day, but it was also a good day. There were little moments throughout the day that made me smile and those are what makes each day more enjoyable. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend every Monday-Thursday wishing it was Friday or the entire month of January wishing for summer. I want to seek out little moments in my Monday that feel as good as any Friday. I want to enjoy the crisp mornings of January and the excuse of the cold to enjoy more coffees. And I want to be helping myself get what I want.

Your day is what you make of it. Of course life can throw all sorts at us, but we're not as bad at catching as we might think. Catch those moments of panic or low moods and either put them down for now or throw them away. We can't avoid the tricky days, we can't create a Tuesday-Sunday week, but we can learn to manage what we have to deal with.

Regardless of what the noise of the media or whoever is saying, find your own voice and decide what kind of day you want.

Be the voice that you want to hear, that you would like to listen to, that you would be uplifted by.

And give January's poor Mondays a chance! They've done nothing wrong ;)


photo from http://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2015/jan/19/blue-monday-most-depressing-day-year



Thursday, 15 January 2015

Look For the Possibility

They say, 'when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up'. 

I remember a nurse in the local mental health services saying that to me when I had found myself in that cold hard place, and it was said with such certainty and unshakable confidence, that it has stuck with me since. And echoed in my mind each time I revisited that rock bottom (yes, I undertook a few revisits..y'know just to be sure it still sucked..)

When you feel like there is zero hope, nothing is going right and life is losing any inch of appeal it may have had, yeah it makes sense that the likelihood of it getting much worse is significantly smaller than the possibility of it getting even a teeny bit better.

When you're in that place of despair and any idea of hope is akin to a fragile wisp of smoke, having a sentence like that is helpful to refocus and think, 'this is it, this is as bad as it gets and I'm still here. It can only improve from here.' 

Saying it's a horrible place to be is an understatement, so I won't play it down but what I will say is that this is where real growth can come from. This is where you can say 'This is exactly what I don't want life to be', and that's a pretty solid foundation for change to emerge from. 

Ever think about how flowers grow? That tiny seed beneath the surface covered in dirt and completely in the dark. It can't be easy busting out of there and pushing through to become something beautiful. There's a quote that puts it more eloquently, but you get what I mean, we all have this potential.

Rock bottom is that point for a lot of people where the thinking is 'I just can't take this anymore' and unfortunately, sometimes we transfer that sentence onto our lives instead of onto our emotional distress. We can handle life

What we can't and don't need to handle is the thoughts that are wrecking our heads or the behaviours we can't seem to control or the feeling of complete inadequacy and incapability at being a normal human being. 

That's the stuff we need to put an end to. But this rock bottom is just where we are going to build our foundation for the life we actually want to live and can get excited about. 

Bit by Bit. 

Where can you go from rockbottom? What is 'Up' from here?

That's where the beautiful, inextinguishable potential of Possibility comes in. 

Look for the multitude of possibilities in life. 

Life has beauty, opportunity, connection, art, travel, music, sport, books... it is so full of possibility for each and every one of us. 

What you focus on grows so if you want to seek out positive possibilities and the potential for your journey up from below, start looking around and taking note. 

As always, start small, see how the next few minutes could be better. Is there something you could do for you? Is there something that could put a smile on your face? Is there a quote or a line that could make you want to change your mindset? 

Maybe consider the possibility in the next day or few days. Maybe go bigger and think of all of the possibilities for your future if you start building your foundation up now.

Define your own 'way up', and let loose exploring the possibilities that could be yours for the taking.

For me, my life really began when I started that process of building up from the bottom. Like any strong foundation, this takes time and work and by no means is it just a straight road, but it's still a road a long way from how it was and continuing on that road is my way up. 


Photo from http://alifetimeofwisdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/an-arrow-can-only-be-shot-by-pulling-it-backward-so-when-life-is-dragging-you-back-with-difficulties.jpg







Monday, 12 January 2015

Go anyway – Don’t let going alone mean not going at all.

Social media has introduced us to a world of photos, check-ins and tags enabling us to share our experiences not only with those with us at the time, but every follower we have too. This can give the illusion that we or others are surrounded by friends in our every endeavour and everyone is always up for going out and having a good time.

Real life however, can be a little bit lonelier, as everyone is busy with their own stuff, keeping up with packed schedules or are just exploring different hobbies. Have you ever wanted to go somewhere but because none of your friends were going you passed up the opportunity? I’d hazard a guess and say it’s probably happened once or twice.  Maybe it was a gig, or going to a new film or just out for a coffee, there can often be a long list of things that we want to do.

While it’s definitely great to enjoy these things with people, they may not always be ready to go. And if it’s the case that no one is available, is it weird to go anyway? Going out alone can be an uncomfortable area to venture into, especially if you’re self- conscious and sensitive to that constant contemplation of ‘what others might think.’

Wherever you go though, you are always there. You are your own company, so it’s a good idea to get comfortable being solely with yourself. I swear, developing a relationship with yourself isn’t just a nice way of saying ‘I have no friends’ but a key part to becoming at ease within your own company, becoming independent and secure with who you are without external validation.

This is something I started looking into because sometimes, circumstances dictate that people won’t always be there to accompany us. With a recently acquired zest for life, I’ve found that I am not going to miss out purely because I don’t have a plus one all set to go at all times.

I want to be getting out there, getting involved and experiencing music, poetry and film whenever I can grab the chance. Even if you’re just branching out into a new interest that you haven’t managed to convince anyone else to try, it’s worth pursuing regardless of the fact you may be doing so alone.
There’s so much to do and experience that we’re depriving ourselves if we lean on the excuse of having no one to go with.

So, battle the question of ‘What will People think’ and just get yourself out there.

Initially, going places on your own can be difficult. Not only is it much easier to cancel plans, but it can also leave us feeling vulnerable. Suddenly the crowded room is full of couples or groups and it can feel like everyone is wondering who the loner in the corner is.

I’m not going to lie, it can be uncomfortable. And I’m not going to act like I never felt that. But after that initial indulging in feeling inferior, I stood a little taller and figured that if they were looking my way, they’re missing the show. If they feel bad for me, they mustn’t have done this before themselves. If they’re embarrassed on my behalf, they’re the only ones feeling that.

When we embrace feeling vulnerable it makes us more open to connection and being real with people. Anything I have gone to on my own was because I had a genuine desire to go and see something, and I could experience that completely because that’s all I was there for. Besides, if you’re going with the wrong person, you can end up feeling just as alone anyway.

What I’ve found is, if it’s a gig of music or comedy or whatever, you’re already sharing a common interest with everyone there. You’re a significant part of something, you’re contributing an energy to the room and if you weren’t there not only would you have missed out, but the room would have been different too.

Plus it’s not like you can’t meet people there aswell. Whether they’re there with others or alone too, you already have a mutual talking point to kick-start conversation.

It’s worth trying out and embracing the events that you actually want to enjoy. Exploring places alone means you can follow your gut and just go with it, getting to know yourself better along the way and strengthening interests while you’re at it.

For me, it’s built up my own inner security. It’s provided another option that allows me to go to whatever I want and enjoy things I would have missed out on otherwise.

It has opened the door to me discovering what’s out there and grabbing it with both hands.

Why not try it?



Saturday, 10 January 2015

LET yourself have fun.

It seemed too simple.

The complexities of the dark feelings made it seem pointless, even stupid.
But Fun - and the capital 'F' is justified, I think - was essential to pulling me out of the black hole in which I dwelt and helping me to grow enough courage to explore why it might be worth giving life a try. Fun brings relief like a breath of fresh air and shakes up thinking in a way that can have many different results. I am never the same after having a bit of fun.
I would not let myself enjoy anything, for what felt like the longest of time. I stayed in my room when my family had company. I stuck my head in a book instead of conversing with my siblings or parents, never staying in a room longer than was absolutely necessary. I replied in the negative to invitations to go out. Anywhere. I never bought new clothes or went for walks on sunny days or read what columnists had to say about the latest television phenomenon. If I was obliged to attend something like a birthday party, I dreaded it like a trip into an operating theatre. I endured, instead of enjoying...but, to be fair, I simply did not know how to replace endurance with enjoyment.
For the life of me, I could not now list exactly how I filled my days, before I let fun in. I had obligations and college-/work-related deadlines, yes. But, to be frank, the remainder of my hours were spent stuck in spiraling negativity, planning more than necessary for future work and generating pointless preoccupations, making up excuses not to participate in life, worrying about the present and dwelling on the past.
And hating myself - that took time and energy.

I spent a lot of time crying.

The thing is, enjoyable diversions are in ample supply. Most people actively look for or come up with ways of having fun. So, inevitably, I began to participate, in spite of my efforts to deprive myself of enjoyment and laughs. The wonderful thing about fun is it has neither a fixed definition nor any boundaries. A person can explore until they find out what they enjoy, and then explore some more. The list is endless. Collecting pens can be fun. Reading can be fun. Singing along to the radio can be fun.
Once I got a taste of fun, I began to understand why people had always seemed so hell-bent on creating it. I learned to laugh again. Now I laugh a lot. I laugh in the supermarket when I overhear a child ask an innocent question. I laugh when I'm on my own and I do something silly. I laugh at my own relief that no one saw me!
I dance, even though I have neither training nor experience. I learned that it is far more fun to TRY and dance badly. My niece's embarrassment at my dancing proves I am doing a great job of this. I like some comedians and dislike the humour of others, so I try to go and see a comedian I like at least once during the year. (Tickets make great presents.) I love walking, in all weather. I talk to my siblings all the time. I don't like watching television much so I don't own one. I love youtube and DVDs though. I am grateful for my laptop:)

When I feel lonely - which I sometimes do - I call someone and chat for a while. It doesn't change my entire life but no one act will. However, I always feel better after I've communicated with someone I know.

I could choose not to do any of the above but I now let fun in. It is that simple. 'Not too simple - THAT simple. I made the choice to allow myself enjoy places, people and activities sometimes.
I don't enjoy everything. I know no one who does. But if other people can laugh and dress up and talk to each other about nonsense, why can't I?
I'd recommend giving it a try. A simple start is television or film. I love panel shows. I watch them on youtube all the time. Here is an example of something I'd NEVER have allowed myself to watch before I learned how to have fun. It might make you laugh. If it doesn't, I urge you to actively search for something that does.
You deserve to smile.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYprC8iPJfo#t=231