Posted in Blog

“It’s Because of Their Mental Health Issues” – Labelling and Stigma

This might be a controversial post for some, however it’s a question I often ask myself when I look at the people around me, observing their behaviour and the way they interact with the world around them.

So the question is:

How far can somebody go with using their mental health issues as an excuse for being abusive towards others?

In other words, can you excuse somebody hurting you because they have mental health issues?

The reason I ask is because although I know and through volunteering have met some amazing people with various mental health illnesses and disorders (in fact, these are people who I have come to highly respect), on the other hand I’ve also met and witnessed people who treat others appallingly: Making racist remarks, being homophobic, being verbally abusive, physically assaulting people, committing sexual assault and even murder, and society tends to excuse the behaviour as mental instability.

Last month I was physically assaulted and it was racially motivated. The perpetrator is mentally ill and many people were divided because of that, some excusing the behaviour because of his mental health issues, while others felt that although he suffers from a mental illness there is no excuse for racism. My trauma was also minimised by some because as the perpetrator has schizophrenia he was seen by them as the victim.

What do you think?

Where I volunteer, there’s a member of our team who can be extremely abrupt and rude, even to the service users. At first, especially because I’m protective of the people we look after, my first reaction was to think of him as a dick, however I then wondered if he was perhaps on the spectrum: Because he struggles with communication and becomes very unsettled when there are interruptions to the daily schedule perhaps causing him difficulty in expressing his emotions. However, considering that the people we work with are vulnerable too, does that excuse his rude behaviour towards them?

I come to recognise (through the thankful help of therapy) that I tend to get ahead of myself in making assumptions about a person’s behaviour when actually I have not right to.

This can also be applied to us as a society.

We often excuse criminal behaviour for mental instability. Very often if a white man commits mass murder, society is very quick to label him and assume that he is mentally unstable and in need of help rather than judgement. However, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, many young black men who have suffered horrendous trauma might commit acts of violence, yet society very rarely shows any understanding or sympathy towards them.

Those of us in the UK remember the incident earlier this year, where a white man verbally abused a black woman whose seat had been allocated next to his and because he didn’t want her to sit next to him, he shouted offensive racially abusive things to her (including calling her a “monkey” and referring to her as “that“), just because he didn’t want a black woman sitting next to him. Many white people who read the story excused the man’s behaviour because he was old and “probably had mental health issues”, but clearly the guy was a dick with no respect for women as well as being obviously racist.

I personally feel that there is a thin line between mental illness and hurting people. I’m not perfect and although my mental illnesses may not as severe as the people I come across while volunteering, I have definitely had moments of spontaneous emotion where I’m not thinking clearly about my actions and hurt people in the process. My personality issues make me extremely impulsive where I act before I’ve even had time to process the thoughts behind it. However, I am extremely remorseful afterwards, sometimes immediately, sometimes a little bit later on, sometimes longer. But I do show remorse which is very much genuine and very much off my own back.

This is important to note.

Last week while volunteering I had a conversation with one of the service users, who while in a fit of rage made some homophobic comments. He had been accused of hitting someone and in the process of saying he wouldn’t hurt anyone, he then said “it’s not like I’m going around beating up f****s“. I told him he couldn’t say what he was saying because it was offensive. He walked away but then a few minutes later came back with his head hung low and apologised; he explained that he was upset and struggling to express his feelings and sometimes when that happens he says things he doesn’t mean, however he had not meant to say what he had and was deeply ashamed. He also has schizophrenia and can struggle to sort through his own thoughts and beliefs. Being a queer woman, I had every right to be upset with him but to me, that was a blip for him; in my opinion he showed genuine remorse and he’s proven himself to be a kind soul. That conversation was actually our first real encounter and it could’ve had a negative impact on how I saw him, but he very quickly proved himself to be a kind-hearted and genuine person.

Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.

I think we really have to be mindful of how we’re using the term mental ill-health, because excusing bad behaviour as a symptom of mental illness only intensifies the stigma surrounding it, penalising the many people who are struggling to be seen as real people as opposed to monsters.

And these are my final thoughts for 2018! I’m going on the short mini-break to Vienna and I’ll be back on 2nd January, so when I’m back I’ll post about my trip as well as my highlights for 2018. Happy New Year to all of my readers and subscribers 💋 your support has been a lifeline for me! See you in 2019!

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

It’s the Most Wonderfully Difficult Time of the Year

Christmas has been extremely difficult for me.

Filled with sadness, anger, violence, disappointment, and desperation.

This year I spent it with my girlfriend, just the two of us in our flat.

My fourth Xmas without my mother and sister. I tried really hard to get into the spirit of it all, wrapping presents, spending more than I could afford on food to cook a great (vegan) Xmas dinner, decorating the tree, obsessively buying more and more “little things” to make the flat more Xmas-sy. 

This year, I’ve also been volunteering with the recovery centre of a local mental health charity. I started a couple of months ago and it’s been an amazing experience. However, talking to the service users about their feelings towards Xmas is difficult.

A couple of weeks ago, a tweet by Sonaska a writer and designer fell into my timeline, retweeted by someone I follow:

You can also follow her on Instagram.

It was retweeted in relation to mental health at Xmas.

It’s tough being without family, watching everybody else excited to spend the holidays with family, eagerly buying loads of presents for everybody. It’s also tough when people send you messages hoping you have a great xmas with your family, unintentionally sending you back into that black hole of loneliness. 

Considering Xmas with my family was always so unbearable, if you think about it really, I’ve had a lucky escape. There’s no pressure for me to be anything other than myself, I’m spending it with somebody who genuinely cares about me and I don’t have to anticipate having a breakdown.

I also have to consider that I am blessed to have at least somebody to spend it with. Although the charity will be hosting a Xmas dinner at the day centre for the service users (and also arranging transport to the centre and back home), so that they won’t have to spend the day alone, it is still a reminder that there is no alternative for them (other than spending it alone), which is heartbreaking.

Therefore, although I spent most of Xmas eve sobbing into my pillow with multiple glasses of Bailey’s (yes I know you shouldn’t drink while on medication!), I worked to be thankful for what I do have: A home, a partner, friends, a career-plan and my sense of self. 


If you are still finding it difficult to cope, please reach out. The Samaritans are great listeners. With 1 in 3 people contacting them on Xmas Day alone you’ll be in good hands.

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Friendships: Scared to Get Close

Hiiiiiiii!

I’m extremely happy; yesterday I met up with a friend for coffee and each time we see each other, it’s just fun and chilled and time just flies. I can be myself; I can struggle to get out of bed because I haven’t had a good night’s sleep, or my joints and muscles are aching, I’m feeling lethargic from the side-effects of my medication, but it feels worth the struggle; I don’t have to pretend that I’m feeling superb but still have a great time because I with a friend I can open up to.

We’ve known each other for about six or seven years now and up until this year we would only see each other when I went to one of his gigs (he’s the lead singer in a band. It wasn’t until summer of this year I realised that not only was he now my oldest friend, but we hadn’t really hung out 1:1. So since then, we’ve been meeting up to have coffee and a catch up regularly and I feel like I’m ending the year on a positive.

I may not have any family, but I have an amazing girlfriend who I’m madly in love with and a friend that I can rely on and be myself with.

It is petrifying though…

Each time I get close to somebody, they hurt me.

They want me to be somebody I’m not, they want to be able to forget my blackness so that they can say shitty things about black people and people of colour, they want to forget about my disability, they want me to give my life and everything I am to accommodate them to the detriment of myself.

In the past four years I’ve lost an entire family (both immediate and extended), best friends from school and early adulthood, and people I formed intense bonds with only to realise that our friendship had been built on sand (I still know my bible references!).

So, I am frightened of getting close to people. I’ve been rejected by both of my parents, of course I have abandonment issues!

It’s only natural right?

I’m also incredibly impulsive which leads me to make intense relationships with people I realise I hardly even know (which is actually a symptom of personality disorders). For instance: My BFF from Bumble, I had no idea where she even lived yet I truly believed I’d made a best friend for life! And I told this gal eeeeeeverything like we’d known each other for years. Which she then used against me because that was the kind of person she was and I’d failed to see it.

I guess I wear my heart on my sleeve.

So I’m scared.

But at the same time, I’m not one for standing still. I’m one for trying to pick myself up and move forwards. Therapy has taught me that not everybody is going to hurt and abandon me. Human beings are not a monolith. I’m also becoming really good at checking my judgments with others, particularly my girlfriend, just to check that I’m reading situations right and not being too impulsive with my relationships with other people. Sometimes it’s just good to check in with people you trust to protect your heart and mental health.

Posted in Blog

Razorlight Gig: Reliving My Youth

Last Friday I went to see Razorlight at the O2 Kentish Town Forum.

I actually bought the ticket while drunk in an Uber months ago (lol) and when I saw it coming up in the calendar, I was like hmmmm this might have been a mistake…

This year has been a big year of musical reminiscence. There are many bands I’ve loved since my adolescence but could never afford to see them live at their peak. That and also my mother wasn’t big on my music tastes (she thought that rock music was devil music and hip hop was violently demonic).

Since turning 30, I guess I’ve been on a journey of rebellion which has included finally seeing the bands/artists I craved to see as a teenager! Now two years later, I have five tattoos, three piercings (excluding my ears) and quite a few ticket stubs stuck to my wardrobe door (that’s where I keep them as my memory box is too chockablock).

Razorlight were a huge part of my early adulthood. Being from London and moving away for university I was constantly homesick – not for my family but for my city. I loved London but I felt like I had to leave to escape the clutches of my home. Many of Razorlight’s songs tell stories about the city which really spoke to me. I didn’t even care that the lead singer Johnny Borrell was a bit of a douchebag (Andy Burrows, one of the original band members actually came to my uni to do a DJ set, got really drunk and bitched to me and one of my friends about how awful being in a band with Johnny was LOL. He left the band quite soon afterwards).

So on Friday, I dragged myself to the gig after downing a coffee and got caught up in the memories of my long distant youth.

The greatest thing about it was that although I hadn’t listened to them in god knows how long, I still remembered quite a lot of the lyrics to their songs! My epilepsy affects my memory and this is something that has been pretty heartbreaking for me; I’ve always loved singing and I used to pore over the lyrics of my favourite songs, committing them to memory (I used to buy Smash Hits for the lyrics cards). But since starting medication almost five years ago, I’ve been struggling to remember a lot of the lyrics I could once sing in my sleep.

Going on my own also was a huge step for me, as my anxiety has been preventing me from doing that. But one of the best parts of a gig is the vibe from the audience, as you’ll see in this video!

So, last gig of the year was a huuuuuuuuge success and I’m looking forward to loads more live events next year!

Posted in Blog

Constantly Ill and Constantly Sick

Howdy! 

I’m sick again, twice now in as many months. Last time it was the flu and now it’s (thankfully just) a cold. 

When I was younger, I used to love winter; I’m a homebody who loves curling up on the sofa with a blanket to watch as many films as I can in one night. I also preferred the winter season to summer because it was a relief from the hayfever I’m tormented by in summer. However, it’s only in hindsight that I realise how little energy I’ve always had in winter, how my joints and muscles have always ached, how I’ve had constant migraines causing “weird episodes”. I’ve always had consecutive colds throughout the winter, but we (my family and I) just shrugged it off as my almost non-existent immune system failing as per usual. 

Since being diagnosed with epilepsy four and a half years ago and realising that the migraines and weird episodes were seizures, I’ve come to realise how difficult winter in particularly is for me. For example, when I say I’ve had two colds in two months, I’m not just talking about sniffles and sneezing for a few days and then back to normal health until the second one hit. The first bout was the flu which of course knocked me out completely but also negatively impacted my epilepsy; I had so many seizures I couldn’t leave my bed for two days. It takes me weeks to recover from episodes like this, so when I’m hit with another cold, I feel like I’m returning to war after a way too short respite.

Thankfully, with this second cold I haven’t had any seizures, which hopefully means that the increased dosage of Lacosamide from 100mg BD to 150mg BD must be working and I’ve also increased my anti-depressants because as well as seizures being seasonal, mental illness is too. With all of these drugs in my system however, I often wonder if standard cold remedies ever stand a chance to take affect? Because they hardly seem to work! So, this time, I’ve indulged in some herbal remedies from Holland and Barrett. On Tuesday, feeling sick of being sick, I visited the branch on Holloway Road on my way out of therapy; I spent a fortune, however two days later I’m feeling more human than I was two days ago, so clearly it’s working!

I bought some propolis and zinc syrup with manuka honey elixir (makes it sound like a potion doesn’t it! But it’s literally just a bit of flavouring), to take 2-4 times a day: This benefits your immune system and is great to take throughout the winter; “Pukka Vitalise” powder, containing a blend of nutrients including beetroot, bilberries and ginseng; and manuka honey 525+ MGO (which was half price as part of the special offer!). Manuka honey has antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.  It contains an extraordinary enzyme called methylglyoxal (MGO) and the higher the number, the more effective it is. This higher the MGO the higher the price tag too, which is why it was great that H&B were doing this deal! 

My little life savers! 

I’ve also been taking echinacea extract in its purest form; when your immune system is particularly at its lowest, this is great to take to give it the boost it needs. During the winter, I’m also prone to abscesses which you can take antibiotics for, but mine during the winter are recurring so I’m trying to find alternative remedies to take instead. Then after three days, you can switch back to drinking it in tea form. I also find that turmeric tea helps. 

I regularly take vitamin supplements for my muscles and joints too as well as to help with lethargy: Potassium, VitB12, VitC, VitD, and cod liver oil, and although I can see or feel the effects within myself in comparison to how I was before, unfortunately during the winter I find it extremely difficult to notice the benefits. I feel way older than my years physically during the winter, which of course impacts my mental health and well-being. 

The reason why I’m posting this, is not so that people will call me brave and feel sorry for me; it’s to raise awareness for adults like me who are in their “prime years” silently struggling through the winter because of chronic illness.

We are regularly forgotten.

Society often remembers how the cold affects babies and the elderly, but for people like me in our “prime years”, with a chronic illness, society takes for granted that the cold affects us too. We can’t jump out of bed in the mornings; sometimes we cannot go out too far because the longer into the day it gets, the colder it gets; we can’t go out as often as our peers because our bodies just won’t allow it and we’re not cancelling to be difficult or just because we don’t feel like it because it’s too cold. It’s that we cannot go out because it’s too cold for our bodies to cope; our bodies will just not allow it and sometimes it’s safer for us to stay in the warm instead. 

So please keep that in mind. 

Posted in Blog

Book Review: My Recommendations [TW]

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains discussions on marital abuse.

I’ve been reading A LOT lately, seeing as I’ve been on holiday plus having a break in between modules, giving me the head space I need for that time away from reality. I’ve actually been reading a lot of fiction lately too, which is unusual for me as I’ve always been a lover of nonfiction, but over the last year and a half I’ve been reading more black nonfiction. I’m passionate about my culture and learning more about my history especially witnessing the rise of racism and fascism seeing history repeat itself.

At the beginning of the month, I finally got to read Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo”. by Zora Neale Hurston. Now, I say finally because it’s been on my bookshelf since it was released earlier this year and I genuinely haven’t had a chance to read it until now (I’m like a magpie; I buy books and then see others that distract me from my initial list of books to read or earlier purchases). This book is everything I wanted it to be: real, beautiful and heart-wrenching. This story took such a long time to be published not only because of the subject matter, but also because Hurston has written much of the story in Southern African-American dialect, as spoken by Cudjo. The story is a firsthand account of slavery and the formation of a new life in America post-slavery, therefore the dialect in my opinion is extremely relevant and effective to the storytelling element of the book. I can sympathise with the critics to extent though, as in the past, I used to find stories written in dialect extremely difficult to read (I still haven’t finished Trainspotting and started reading that while I was a teenager!) however, the more I read stories like this, the easier it becomes for me. It also felt like Cudjo was speaking to me, as opposed to me reading it, which is an incredible achievement by Hurston. I definitely recommend! 

I’ve read some amazing fiction books this year…

At the end of last month, I finished reading Everything Here Is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee, a story about a relationship between two sisters: Lucia, who suffers from a mental health condition and her older sister Miranda, who struggles to take care of Lucia and ensure that her sister is taking care of herself. The problem is Lucia finds it difficult to accept her condition and often prefers herself off medication; she also begins to resent her older sister who she perceives as restraining. The story ends tragically and is one that continues to live with you long after you’ve finished reading.

While on holiday last month, I read Halsey Street by Naima Costa, which is a beautiful novel about the relationship between mothers and daughters and what happens to a child when the mother leaves. The narrative mainly focuses on the effect of her mother walking out on the family has left on the protagonist, Penelope, who is a young black woman. Her mother’s absence shapes her character and the way she responds to life, by running away. The narrative of Marella, her mother very much reminds me of my own mother, who I often think resented being a mother and being the one who wasn’t able to walk out first, hence reading this left me with a lot of emotions and thoughts to deal with, which gave me some amazing material to work through in therapy! Seriously though, it was like a spiritual journey, working through the emotions both from a disengaged perspective through Penelope, whilst working through my own. 

Earlier in the season of Autumn, I read When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of The Writer as a Young Wife by Mena Kandasamy, a tragic tale of a woman who falls into the perils of an abusive marriage after suffering from heartbreak inflicted by a former lover. Her husband physically abuses her and crushes her soul by taking away her connections from the outside world, which she relies on for her piece of mind and writing career; the more isolated she becomes, the more she tries to become the wife he desires, but she never seems to be able to achieve this. She also frequently blames herself for the abuse, which is something victims often do and reading about her pathetic husband and the ridiculous things he punishes her for, you as the reader are consumed by a desire to just jump into the book and save her. This feeling of being a saviour is heightened even more as you read about her parents, who trapped in culture struggle with coming to terms with the extent of the abuse and for a while, the protagonist is left alone to struggle. 

Lastly, When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Poppola, was one of the first books I read set in London, making it extremely easy to escape into the narrative. Poppola tells a story about two young men, Karl and Abu, who in 2011 are growing up in the harsh realities of our capital city. These two boys are dealing with coming of age during the explosion of racial tensions in our capital city, family and rejection, displacement, and girls, whilst trying to keep their friendship intact. Again, this is a tale that lives on in you long after reading it. It’s full of familiarity, tension and tragedy. In fact, I think once I finished I just laid in bed for ages trying to process everything. So incredible. 

That’s it! I am now currently reading The Book of the Night Women by Marlon James, centred around the story of Lillith, born into slavery. So far I’m enjoying it and finding it gripping. It’s actually better than the only other novel by James that I’ve tried, A Brief History of Seven Killings (unfortunately I never finished it). I’ll update you all with a full review once I’ve finished!

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my first book review! I’d love to know your thoughts on any of the books I’ve mentioned and also if you have any great books you can recommend!

Happy reading!

XOXO

Posted in Blog

“Bad Nerves”

I’ve been talking A LOT about my mother during my last couple of therapy sessions. It’s not something that I enjoy doing – I’m trying to move on and stop thinking about her – but the only way to move on is to address the many issues we had and how these affected my childhood as well as me as a person now. 

My therapist is extremely good at encouraging me to address the issues my mother clearly had over the years, one of them being anxiety. My mother lived in a constant state of anxiety and fear,  and truly believed that if she only prayed harder, her anxiety would decrease… or even disappear; she would mentally punish herself for not praying enough or not saying the right prayers that would get rid of her constant state of fear. The Bible says that the only thing you should fear is God, so if she feared any other thing then she wasn’t being a “proper Christian”… in her eyes. 

I came across this earlier this week on Twitter: 

Firstly, this year as I’ve been learning more and more about my culture, it’s been liberating to realise that there are people like me who witnessed the unique things that I did as a child, for instance parents struggling with anxiety while refusing to seek medical help or correlating help with shame, and families becoming fragmented caused by generations of trauma never addressed. 

My mother would put her “bad nerves” down to having not slept properly, the causation of which could be for a number of unrelatable reasons: drinking coffee (which she very rarely drank), eating too late (which she rarely ever did), not having enough pillows on her bed causing her to be too uncomfortable to sleep, wearing too many layers in bed causing her to be too hot to sleep… I could go on. 

She also refused to take medication as she “didn’t believe” in it. In her eyes, no doctor was bigger than God. 

I also believe that she was too afraid to sleep because of the nightmares that would afflict her. She would have the most frightening nightmares, triggered by her PTSD, but she would refuse to seek help. My sister and I would beg her to reconsider her stance, but she refused, believing that one day God would finally release her from her prison of anxiety. 

As of yet, that day hasn’t come. 

In my culture, my generation and those after me have taken action to tackle our mental health issues, breaking what we call the “generational curse” handed to us by our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and so on, however what of our older generations? Who should the burden fall to, for encouraging healthier mental health well-being? Many of them continue to stubbornly suffer in blind faith. I used to live in endless guilt, beating myself up for leaving my mother when I eventually moved out of the family home at the age of 28, but I had to for my own mental health… plus it was long overdue! Other than moving out for university, I’d waited to quite an old age to finally move out and as much as I hate comparing myself to peers, I was the last one out of my friendship circles to move out. 

I did also hope that moving out would mend my familial relationships and encourage my mother to follow in my footsteps in seeking therapeutic help instead of having me constantly on at her face-to-face, but unfortunately it completely destroyed our relationship, because my mother was still unwilling to admit that she needed medical help, perhaps even psychiatric. 

There are places for black women to go to, however they are few and far between. For instance, there was a a tweet recently advertising a black women’s support group at The Maya Centre, which apparently is the only psychotherapy support group for black women is the country. The only place where black women can go to talk about trauma as a black woman, is in London. Funding authorities do not believe that these services are needed either, which is also part of the problem: black women do not believe that they are deserving or entitled to these services and authorities do not believe that they are needed or necessary. 

It’s a catch-22.