Posted in Blog

Time To Own Our Label: Invisible Disability

Quick rant.

So for context: I’ve been causing quite a stir within the Epilepsy community for a piece I wrote for HuffpostUK, about Epilepsy being a disability (‘Is Disability a “Dirty” Word?). When I say a stir, I mean mostly positively, however also negatively.

When I was diagnosed back in 2014, I wasn’t even aware that my life was changing in more ways than one, because:

You are likely to be classed as disabled by the Equality Act if:

  • You have epilepsy that has a substantial effect on your day-to-day activities or
  • Your epilepsy would have a substantial effect if you were not taking your epilepsy medicine or
  • You have a type of epilepsy that is not currently causing any problems or needs epilepsy medicine, but could come back or
  • Your epilepsy has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least 12 months

https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/info/equality/equality-act

 

My article was given the nod of approval by Epilepsy Research UK and Epilepsy Action, yet a few people got so up in arms about it!

I even happened to stumble upon a blogger I follow, who had come across the piece and had vented about it on her blog. The blogger had said that they definitely were NOT disabled and were furious that I was insisting it so, even though they have frequent seizures, but dismissed them because they only last about thirty seconds or so, but then they had applied for a Disabled Person’s Railcard. Why would you apply for a Disabled Person’s Railcard, if you’re not disabled?

They also said that any time they had disclosed their condition to prospective interviewers, they’d been refused the job they were applying for 😫 regardless of being more than qualified for the job, and admitted that they tried not to disclose their condition whenever possible. I know that this has happened to a lot of people with Epilepsy, which is Disability Discrimination. This is awful!

They said that they had carried out their own Facebook poll amongst people with Epilepsy, where 50% said that they definitely were not disabled, 25% said that they were, and 25% said that they were unsure. My partner thought that those numbers were a bit suspect, but I’m not here to throw shade…

 

Well, I’m sorry but you can’t argue with the law.
Furthermore, most of us don’t even know how to access the correct information about our condition.

Some clinicians are still very unsure.

Puzzled male shrugging wearing lab coat

(Image source)

Somebody on my Facebook support group was diagnosed with Epilepsy almost five years ago, but had only just found out that we’re entitled to free prescriptions with an NHS Medical Exemption Card. I was so angry for her, I wanted to sue every single medical professional she had ever come into contact with on her behalf! That was one the first things I was told when I was diagnosed!

Some don’t know that they’re entitled to free travel (because we’re not allowed to drive) – I didn’t find that out until I met my Nurse Specialist (who I nickname my “Fairy godmother” 💜). When it became evident that I was going to lose my job, it was her who also advised me on what benefits I would be entitled to.

Within our Facebook group we share a lot of information we hear through the grapevine: there are people in there who are media volunteers for Epilepsy Action, and are therefore very educated in terms of the latest on what is going on with Epilepsy; there are people like me, who have very strong relationships with key medical staff and union members who therefore know Employment law, which is also how I came to know that Epilepsy is a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

 

Epilepsy is isolating, and as warriors we should be standing together, not dragging out. That’s the reason I, as well as so many others share our experiences. The point of my Huffpost article wasn’t to offend anybody either, it was to educate, because the more we know the stronger we are as individuals as well as a community.

Like I said in my HuffPost article, there’s no shame in being disabled. I embrace it, and I’ll campaign until it kills me, until it’s no longer a dirty word. Because to me, and loads of us walking around with invisible disabilities, it isn’t.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

When Will It End?

Sometimes, I don’t know who I am anymore.

Some days I wake up, work on MSc, do some blogging, etc etc. Yes, I’ve got it together!

T1bfikb

But then, some nights, my anxiety is through the roof and I cannot shut my brain off, while some days it’s completely silently dead and I cannot move, so I stay in bed all day – on days like today, where I slept my life away.

I’ve gained weight because I’m no longer as active as I used to be, and I’m not vocal about it bothering me, but it does bother me, especially when I used to be bulimic. I fantasise about making myself sick, but I can’t because I have to cling to to those stupid pills that stop the seizures. So I just watch the weight gain every morning in the mirror instead.

I’ve spent an entire week arguing with my employer, trying to arrange an afternoon to collect my belongings from my old desk. I have nothing that belongs to them, because when they escorted me from the premises like a criminal for standing up to racism and disability discrimination, I was instructed not to take anything with me, so they have everything of mine and I have nothing of their’s. With the dire state in which the education system is in, I had to buy my students stationery to use in my lessons, so I spent a fortune on supplies which I had to leave, and which have been sitting at my old desk since May. My employer have spent a week at first trying to convince me that I had already collected the supplies (I haven’t), and then refusing to set a date. This was supposed to be the job of my Union Representative, who was far too lazy to do his job. At four in the morning on Wednesday, I finally emailed him and told him to do his job, and now I’ll be going in on Monday to collect my things.

These people are sick. 

Oh, and my Union Representative also sent me a copy of the Settlement Agreement I was forced to sign, (legally binding me to keep schtum about the name of my employer, as well as stopping me from suing their asses) with a coffee stain on it. When I pointed this out to him, he apologised, claiming that he hadn’t noticed before he posted it to me.

The coffee stain to me, was a visual gesture of what these people think of me, of how poorly they value me as a person.

Which is fine, because I feel exactly the same.

However, I still have to live with the damage. I’ve now moved to an area in London where my two nearest tube stations have no step free access, so if I have to travel during my postictal state (post-seizure), I’m screwed. Last week, I went to The Pink Floyd Exhibition at The V&A Museum, (aaaaamazballs by the way. I cried at it’s celestial-ness!), however I had to change at Green Park station. For anybody who lives in London, and has regularly done the interchange at that station, or even encountered it a few times, you’ll know it’s a lengthy process. Even at my fittest, I’d avoid it just to save time! Last week it killed me. I had to do this journey postictal (the tickets were pre-booked and non-refundable) and I’m currently at my unfittest. It was worth it for the exhibition, however I massively paid for it, both mentally and physically for days afterwards.

I’m trying to get over the mental damage, however knowing that there may have been a different outcome if I had been white, is a bigger pill to swallow than any of my anti-depressants or AEDS.

Self-care is so important. Yesterday, while lying in bed and feeling rubbish about doing so instead of research for my latest assignment, I stumbled upon thread about self-care on Twitter. Such simple steps: 

  • Getting out of bed (always a good start!) 
  • Drinking water – it is so important to keep hydrated, not just when you have epilepsy and you’re on AEDs, but also when your mood is low
  • Doing something other than what you HAVE you do – so we’ve just moved, and I’ve been putting off unpacking for ages, because of my MSc. Yesterday I decided to just put some music on and unpack. A flat full of boxes is so unhealthy for your mental health anyway. It’s like living out of a suitcase but worse! 
  • Take a shower. So after all of that unpacking, I was pretty sweaty anyway. Again, I put some music on really loud, had the bathroom door open as I was home alone and took the longest shower I’d EVER taken. It was glorious! Back in the day, before I was ever in a relationship, I would go days in bed, without showering, never changing my underwear, festering in my darkest thoughts. Not good. If you’re too weak to stand, treat yourself to a bath – you fucking deserve it you beautiful biatch ❤️
  • Read a good book. The best thing about not being an English teacher anymore, is that I get to read whatever I want, because I’m no longer constrained to the curriculum! Glorious! At the moment I’m reading Assata Shakur’s autobiography “Assata: An Autobiography” which I highly recommend. One thing I’m also trying to do, is getting into a routine of reading in bed, in order to calm my brain down. 

Anyway, these are just my suggestions, mixed with some I’ve come across. Life is tough, but we can’t give up right? 

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Conceptual and Historical Paradigms in Psychology: A Critical Analysis

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is concerned with a variety of internal processes such as attention, perception, memory, learning, problem solving, language, thinking and reasoning. Obviously, these processes are not directly observable. Cognitive psychologists aim to understand them by observing the performance of people in various tasks – by observing their behaviour.

The most common analogy to describe early cognitive psychologists’ views was the comparison of the human mind with a computer. Both have a hardware – a series of permanent structures where information is processed or transformed – and a software, or the instructions that guide the functioning of the hardware. Basically, when a stimulus is presented to the system, it causes certain internal cognitive processes to occur, until the system produces the desired response or output. This view, known as the information processing approach, was very popular in the 1970s.

It was argued that the process was fundamentally affected by the stimulus input in what is often described as bottom-up processing, and that only one process could occur at any given moment in time – this is known as serial processing. But soon it was evident that task processing often involves top-down processing: the way our mind operates in the presence of a stimulus is strongly influenced by our knowledge and expectations. Read what it says on the screen: you will have no difficulty to identify the word, even when some ‘E’s have been replaced by 3s. Also, it soon became evident that, at least in some circumstances like when we perform a highly practiced task, our internal processes do not operate serially or one at a time, but in parallel. If you have a driving license, you may remember how at the beginning you had to think carefully one step after the other, whereas after a time you find yourself pressing the clutch, changing the gear and observing the mirror at the same time.

The accumulation of theories and research findings, but also the enormous technological and medical advances in past decades, have had an impact on cognitive psychology. Nowadays, we can differentiate at least four main approaches to human cognition:

  •       Cognitive psychology can now be defined in a more restrictive manner as the scientific approach to the understanding of human cognition by the use of behavioural science.
  •       Cognitive neuroscience involves using evidence from behaviour, but also of the human brain, to understand our cognition.
  •       Cognitive neuropsychology involves studying brain-damaged patients to gain an understanding of normal human cognition.
  • Computational cognitive science focuses on the development of computational models of our behaviour and mental functioning to improve our understanding of human cognition.

But just like psychoanalytic therapy derived from psychoanalysis, and behaviourist principles were applied to behavioural therapy, cognitive therapies are the therapeutic correlates of cognitive psychology – although rather loosely.

Cognitive therapy is an active approach where the therapist adopts a very directive role through a small number of strongly structured sessions.

Cognitive therapies focus on cognition – beliefs, attributions, expectancies – and on the mediating role that cognitions play between the events in our life and our reactions to them. Their therapeutic approach is based on the principle that, as erroneous or inadequate cognitions are at the base of psychological distress, behavioural change can be achieved by modifying the underlying cognitions.

There are several different cognitive therapies, however two of the most popular approaches are: Albert Ellis’ rational emotive behavior therapy, and Beck’s cognitive behavioural therapy.

Albert Ellis developed rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) in 1955.

Albert Ellis

REBT is based on the premise that our reactions to the events taking place in our lives are mediated by the beliefs that we hold. To illustrate this, Ellis replaced the behaviourist SR (stimulus-response) format by an ABC format in which:

A. Something happens.

B. You have a belief about the situation.

C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

For example:

A. Your discussion question does not receive any follow-on post from your classmates

B. You believe they don’t reply because ‘I am not good at expressing things, and that is not going to change’.

C. You feel depressed.

The goal of REBT is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. This is achieved by the therapist challenging the client’s irrational beliefs with questions such as:

Do you think you are the only one who is not good at expressing things?

Is not having follow-on posts such a terrible thing?

Just because you want something, why must you have it?

Where with different beliefs, your emotional response might be different:

A.  Your discussion question does not receive any follow-on post from your classmates.

B.  You believe they don’t reply because the topic of your post was ‘not interesting’.

C.   You feel motivated to do better next time.

Also, on the premise that emotionally healthy human beings develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is highly unpleasant, REBT therapists help their clients develop unconditional self-acceptance, other- acceptance and life-acceptance.

The third big name in cognitive therapy, Aaron Beck presented his approach to the treatment of depression in 1967, and in the following decades he and his followers extended their approach to other emotional disorders.

Beck’s cognitive therapy also argues that sustained erroneous thoughts are at the root of many psychological disorders, but he proposes a different methodological approach to these erroneous thought and to their change.

According to Beck, we all possess a variety of beliefs about the world, others and ourselves, often learned through interactions with the world and with others during our childhood. Those beliefs may be central (such as ‘I am less intelligent than the others‘) or intermediate, in the form of attitudes and assumptions (such as ‘being less intelligent than the others is terrible‘).

People tend to selectively focus on the information that confirms their beliefs, rejecting or not considering information that contradicts them. Beliefs are therefore maintained even when they are inexact and dysfunctional. They can be activated by different life events in the form of automatic irrational thoughts, which affect the person’s emotions and behaviour.

Depressed Man

Beck summarises irrational thoughts in a number of categories or inferences, including amongst others:

  • Dichotomous or ‘all or nothing’ thought: ‘Either I am perfect or I am horrendous’.
  • Magnification of the negative and minimisation of the positive:

‘I didn’t get the mark that I expected, therefore I will never be able to succeed in this subject’ or ‘I got a distinction, but only because the assignment was very easy’.

  • Overgeneralisations: I didn’t feel comfortable in the meeting, which means that I am not good at making friends’.
  • Personalisation, or tendency to think that everything others say or think is related to you: The teacher didn’t smile to me this morning, I must have done something wrong’.
  • Mind reading, or believing that you know what the others are thinking: ‘He is thinking that I cannot complete the task’.

The first step in Beck’s cognitive therapy is to identify the client’s automatic beliefs and to dispute them with questions such as:

What is the evidence for and against this idea?

What is the worst scenario here?

Could you resist it?

What is the most probable and realistic outcome?

Once the client is conscious that their thoughts are irrational, they are invited to replace them with alternative rational thoughts, through guided exercises complemented with behavioural experiments and other cognitive and behavioural techniques. These may include training in social skills, problem-solving, relaxation, systematic desensitisation, psychodrama or role playing, amongst others.

 

Copyright—Laureate Online Education © All rights reserved, 2000-2016. The Module, in all its parts—syllabus, guidelines, technical notes, images and any additional material—is copyrighted by Laureate Online Education B. V. Last update: 20 December 2016
Image: ‘Noam Chomsky’ by John Soares, uploaded to Commons by Stevertigo, then modified by Verdy p. (This version was initially uploaded by Stevertigo.) [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons
Image: ‘Albert Ellis’ Permission granted by the Albert Ellis Institute
Posted in Blog

Born Equal

This short film here, explains how all men and women were not born equal – especially if you are a person of colour. 

This was filmed in the borough of Southwark, in London, very close to where I grew up as a teenager. What Siana describes has been happening for years and will continue to happen until all people of colour are exterminated from London. 

Because that is what gentrification is. 

A posh term for extermination. 

Denim, by Siana Bangura. 

You can also read an article about the short here:
https://blackballad.co.uk/views-voices/black-women-surviving-gentrification-in-london?listIds=590867cea8c0bab2039c3ac5&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=timeline

Posted in Blog

Dear White People, stop quoting Martin Luther King Jnr at me please!

Dear White People,

Did you know that Martin Luther King Jnr wasn’t the only Black activist?

Shock

Every time I get into a debate about racism with a white person, they throw a King quote at me, so I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce white people to some other Black activists and some other quotes, which you might like to use in a debate with me, should you choose to:

quote-you-re-either-part-of-the-solution-or-you-re-part-of-the-problem-eldridge-cleaver-5-79-54

Leroy Eldridge Cleaver (August 31, 1935 – May 1, 1998)

Black Panther Party Leader. 

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Nina Simone February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003)

American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the Civil Rights Movement

 

Angela Davis

Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944)

American political activist, academic, and author.

quote-the-basic-tenet-of-black-consciousness-is-that-the-black-man-must-reject-all-value-systems-that-steve-biko-211099

Bantu Stephen Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977)

South African anti-apartheid activist.

James Baldwin

James Arthur “Jimmy” Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987)

American writer and social critic (and my FAVE) 

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assata-shakur-686929

Assata Olugbala Shakur (born JoAnne Deborah Byron; July 16, 1947, often referred to by her married surname Chesimard), is a former member of the Black Liberation Army, a black nationalist urban guerrilla group, who was WRONGFULLY convicted in 1977 of the first-degree murder, under New Jersey’s “aiding and abetting” statute, of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973. She escaped from prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba, where she was granted political asylum.

Malcolm X

Malcolm X (1925–1965)

African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist.

As you can see, ALL of these quotes advocate peace, therefore you now have no excuse to only know King’s name as the only “Black Peacemaker”. I also know that there are two sides to every coin – as in, some of these people have quoted non-peaceful words. However, you stalked, beat, jailed and assassinated the one black peacemaker you white people keep throwing in our face. So….. what’s your point?

Feel free to steal some of these quotes for a debate. I’d personally love to hear some of them myself.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Charlottesville: White Christian Ignorance

Quick rant.

I just stumbled upon a blog post by a person who used the analogy of their eating disorder to compare the compelling evil of Satan to the evil we witnessed in Charlottesville over the weekend. According to the blogger, the power of Satan is compelling people to lie and commit acts of evil. The blogger used the example of their eating disorder as an example.

To say that I am speechless is an understatement.

The person who wrote this, follows my blog and is therefore going to see this for which I am not going to apologise. (Before I proceed however, I’ve had a severe eating disorder myself and I’m not denying its evil hold, so I can empathise with the struggle.)

My mother used to always say that we give the devil too much credit, and for once I am going to agree with her. What we witnessed over the weekend was terrorism:

the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

So this is how the events on Saturday unfolded…

According to an article in the Guardian, Virginia has one of the most relaxed sets of laws in the US. Alt Right groups came from different states, having chosen their territory, like a sniper marks its target. These terrorists came with guns, pepper spray, eggs, clubs, vehicles.

They came to kill. 

Speakers, such as the white nationalist Richard Spencer, had planned to address the Unite the Right crowds descending on a public park to defend a statue honoring the Confederate general Robert Lee, which is set to be removed by the Charlottesville authorities. It was the largest event in recent times organized by emboldened far-right racist extremists.

But the police had to cancel the event, due to the tension between the two opposing sides, which then erupted into violence, when the alt-right attacked the other side with a vehicle and then with the rest of their weapons.

That’s not satanic possession. That’s terrorism.

People on social media are saying that Antifa and BALM (Black Lives Matter) were just as much to blame for the violence. Firstly: 

Secondly, if I came at you with a club or a knife, what the fuck would you do? Would you just stand there? The left were protesting against the celebration of monuments of slavery, to which the right responded with violent opposition. This was war. The violence came from the alt-right. 

Furthermore, to dismiss these acts as “signs of the end times” (which is also what the blogger referred to the attacks as), is a dismissal of hundreds of years of black suffering, and therefore displaying hundreds of years of white ignorance, which is why this was allowed to happen. White supremacists want to bring America back to a time before colour touched your soils, however America is built upon racism – the blood, sweat and tears of people of colour. Your rivers run with the outpouring of that suffering.

When are you white people going to get it?

Does blaming demons for you past console your white guilt?

Medieval Supremacy

If you would like to read more on the history of White Supremacy in Charlottesville, then I highly recommend this article: Racism, Medievalism, and the White Supremacists of Charlottesville,  (2017) by Josephine Livingstone.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

The ❤️ of Strangers 

I am so overwhelmed by the love of strangers right now. I’m part of this amazing Epilepsy support group on Facebook, and one of the moderators came up with the awesome idea to do a box swap. Anybody who signed up, would receive some details about one person in the group, and would have to make up a box of “goodies” to cheer that person up. 

I received mine today:


I was so overwhelmed by the love of this stranger that I burst into tears!

It’s breathtaking what the kindness of strangers can do ❤️