Posted in Blog

Happy New Year! Happy New Gigging!

First post of the year!

Sincerest apologies for the lack of blogging.

Since the new year chimed in I’ve been incredibly poorly and trying really hard to get better, whilst battling seizures and juggling assignments and volunteering. Have I mentioned how much I hate winter? Like seriously, I feel like every winter I age another ten years. Earlier this week during my therapy session, we used dolls for play therapy and when I had to choose a doll that represent me, I picked the oldest lady in the bunch, because that’s how I feel!

So I will blog about Vienna soon, but firstly I want to talk about my first gig of the year, which was Ben Howard at the O2 Brixton Academy. Brixton Academy used to be one of my fave venues until last year when I went to see Feeder, since which it’s unfortunately been a venue that makes me incredibly anxious. However, one of my new year’s resolutions is to have “Big Dick Energy” LOL. It’s a term we use a lot on “Black Twitter” for having insane amounts of confidence and while walking around Vienna, I realised that I was no longer walking using long strides and had my head down a lot, probably projecting to passersby that I’m not only not very confident, but also a target for pushing around. In a city like London, you cannot show any weakness, especially when walking through the streets and Underground stations, otherwise you get picked off by the fittest.

So, since I’ve been back, I’ve been experimenting with my hypothesis and I think I’ve proven it true! People tend to not push you out of the way if you’re walking down the streets with long strides and a fixed stare facing your front.

Anyhoo, I digress; since the Feeder gig I’ve been too anxious to go to gigs on my own and have felt extremely vulnerable, exposed to the elements of victimisation. (In December I went to see Razorlight on my own and not only did I ensure to arrive late so that I wouldn’t have to stay long, I also stayed at the back to ensure that I was around as few people as possible.) However, having booked the ticket to see Ben Howard a while back, I’ve had ample time to prepare myself mentally and was very much able to protect myself. Going to a gig is very much like a battle: you must stand firm and protect your territory and people become almost fearful of disrupting you! For the first time in ages, I had people apologising for bumping into me, and asking permission to pass me by, basically treating me like a fucking human being. For the first time in ages, I also felt safe in a crowd again. Giving off “Big Dick Energy” I guess also gives off the impression that you belong in that space, just as much as everybody else.

The last time I saw Ben Howard was at Citadel Festival in 2015. I barely remember his performance to be honest, because by then I was absolutely wasted, but I do remember it being beautiful (he was headlining so it was night time) but being extremely annoyed by the people around me screaming out the lyrics to his “hits” and then talking loudly during the songs they didn’t know the words to. It just kinda ruined the atmosphere for me (I’m a snob get over it). His last album Noonday Dream is incredibly atmospheric, so I was glad to read that during his first night at Brixton, he played it in its entirety. Many critics and “fans” however took this as him snubbing his true fans who wanted to hear him sing his classics from his debut album. So, I Forget Where We Were came out almost five years ago, this is his current album tour, so is there not a clue somewhere that he might be promoting his latest album as opposed to first hits? In 2008, I went to see Radiohead in Victoria Park for their In Rainbows tour and was not disappointed that the majority of the set contained songs from that album! It wasn’t a greatest hits tour! I knew what I was getting myself into!

So many critics accused Ben Howard of refusing to play his hits and “getting too big for his boots, forgetting his roots and the people who put him there”. When did musicians become such public property?

Ben Howard review – serious music sabotaged by a charisma vacuum

I know that Ben Howard has struggled with his fame and growing up in the public eye, which has had negative effects to his mental health. The public tend to struggle with the concept that people do grow as artists, hence their art grows too; some people perceive artists as Peter Pans who never age and I’m sure that this has a lot to do with our connections to certain songs, for instance Ben Howard’s “Keep Your Head Up” played a significant part in my mental health journey while I was still living at home when I was 27. However, just like musicians, I’ve grown too; I’m not the same person I was when that song came out and I love when artists grow with you. It almost feels like they continue to be a part of your life because you’re both changing and moving forwards, sometimes in similar directions both mentally and psychologically.

Many people online also commented that although he’s very much a studio performer, he should alter his performance to accommodate for bigger venues by interacting with the crowd more. However, interacting with the crowd is asking him to change his personality and why should he be forced to do that just because he’s famous? Secondly, to me he’s a poet who also sings (in fact, he took a break from music to focus on poetry and came back with the STUNNING Noonday Dream), so I would expect his performance to focus on lyrics as opposed to stage presence.

Finally, he did adapt his performance for a bigger venue by having two drummers and an orchestra for sound, and lighting and imagery for production! And even if he did apparently did “take 40 minutes to say hello to the crowd” (he didn’t), at least he didn’t call us a bunch of c*nts like he apparently did a few years ago!

Taken just before the encore

For me, last night’s gig was beautiful: Atmospheric, mesmerising, heartwrenching – everything I needed and expected the gig to be.

Taken during the encore – in fact, the gig was so beautiful, this was the only picture I took the entire night!

It’s just a shame that so many others failed to appreciate that. There was A LOT of talking within the crowd – which I always find incredibly rude anyway (who the fuck comes to a gig to talk?? That’s what bars and social media is for!) but it was clear from the talking on and off social media that people found the set boring.

I, on the other hand, did not.

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. 

Posted in Poetry

Lost Your Mind

You call me angry

When I am actually inconsolable

Broken, inside my heart is crying,

Crying out for love.

You call me aggressive,

When I am actually desperate,

Begging to be heard.

You call me loud,

But you don’t hear my cries of pain,

The agony of my mind breaking into two.

You call me unpredictable,

While others have the luxury

Of bad days and good.

How can I possibly predict

What each day will bring?

You call me fine

And capable of life without support.

Yet, inside I’m already dead,

Because what is living

When you have lost your mind?

© Cece Noel, 2018
Posted in Poetry

Lanes & Races

 

You say that you expect more from me,

Implicitly saying

That black women like me are expected to work

10 times harder.

Normal status quo standards do not suffice

When it’s my efforts as the subject line –

The progress bar slows to a crawl.

You expect me to pedal faster

To gain the same distance as my peers on the same track,

Because it’s the same track but a different race –

Same ground covered but different lanes;

Lanes with potholes,

Continuous uphill terrain,

Unrelenting, steadfast obstacles,

And character assassinations.

My eyes are now open.

My skin is now raw to the touch.

My joints and limbs ache

With age beyond my years,

Yet I won’t stop running. I refuse to stop running.

My open eyes can look around

But I also keep looking forward,

To prove that your head would be spinning

If you were to run in my lane.

So I keep looking forward,

Because that is what I expect from myself.

 

© Cece Noel, 2018
Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Like A Phoenix

On 1st September 2018, I got my fifth tattoo.

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 18.45.25

Like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes.

2018 has been an incredible year of ups, downs, struggles, celebrations, births and deaths.

Like owls, phoenixes have been a symbolic bird to me because of their ability to rebirth; they burst into flames after living for centuries and then from the ashes, they rebirth into renewed youth, to live for another cycle of life.

I feel like in 2017, I finally succumbed to  everything that had aged me and died a metaphorical death. Then in 2018, I used those ashes to recreate a new me, more youthful, wiser and with renewed energy, to begin life anew.

I’m laughing more, I’m dancing more, I’m flying and soaring. And when things have weighed me down such as family, relationship problems, falling under the pressures of academia and battling with the DWP, I’ve carried on fighting. Hence the tattoo.

Each time I look at it, I feel like a mother gazing down at her new baby (LOL); I forget all of the pain I’ve gone through, because now all I see whenever I look at this tattoo is beauty and love.

2018 has also been a symbolic year for me, because I’ve been published (again)!! This time in an anthology raising awareness for Black and minority mental health in the UK. The anthology is called “The Colour of Madness” featuring artwork, poetry and short stories, including mine called “Matriarchal Dreams“, a story birthed from my mental breakdown last year and recurring nightmares about my mother and the member of staff who tormented me during my teacher training year. It’s now available to buy on Amazon so make sure you grab a copy ASAP!!!

Peace and love.

XOXO

XOXO

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

What Do I Want, Like, Really REALLY Want?

Even though my sister and I haven’t spoken for just over four years, not a day goes by where I don’t think about her; sometimes it’s a song or film that reminds me of her and all of the memories connected to that come flooding back, overwhelming me with grief. For example, over the weekend I was making my girlfriend watch the “Twilight” film: for her it was the first time; for me it was the God knows what-teenth time. The Twilight saga literally took over me and my sister’s lives! We were both obsessed with Edward Cullen, while my best friend at the time was infatuated with Jacob Black, so my sister and I would cackle at how anybody could choose a smelly werewolf over an oppressively loving vampire (of course I realise now that Edward’s behaviour was borderline sociopathic, and he and Bella deffo had an unhealthy relationship…) and we would obsessively watch the films over and over again. There’s a particular song at the end of Twilight by Iron & Wine which my sister absolutely loved and hearing it on Saturday absolutely broke me.

 

Probably also because I’m forever reminded of her in my dreams, which could be why hearing this song affected me so. Sometimes I dream that I’m apologising to my sister for abandoning her; my mother in these dreams is crazy to the point of feral, while my sister is so stressed she’s become severely underweight. In most of my dreams I’m chasing her for her forgiveness while she ignores me, until recently actually: last week I dreamt that she wanted to come to my birthday party (my birthday was recently) and I told her no, because I only wanted true family there (my friends). This was the first time I’d shown any authority towards her subconsciously, which is symbolic because showing authority and standing up for myself against her in reality was one of the reasons why she stopped talking to me.

 

Considering I’m a Psychology student, I should probably through some Freudian theory into this: most psychologists believe that dreams are just random brain activity while sleeping, but Freud’s psychoanalysis on dreams argues that our dreams are symbolic of hidden impulses we desire to enact and while asleep, thoughts from the id (subconscious) slip into our ego (consciousness).

 

Growing up, my sister and I were extremely close however, we did fight a lot, mostly over banal things such as each other’s toys, but also because of jealousy – I saw my sister as my father’s fave and she saw me as my mother’s fave – while being played off against one another by our parents. But I always promised myself that we would never end up like our mother and her sister (our aunt) – who no longer speak to each other and haven’t for years – so even when I knew my sister was in the wrong, the majority of the time I would be the one to make up with her, desperate to keep our relationship in tact.

 

As close as we were and as hard as the separation is for me, (according to my mother – when we were speaking – my sister was also struggling with our separation, but where I’ve made many attempts to reach out to her, she has slammed the door in my face and hasn’t made any attempts to reach out to me either) I need to come to grips with the fact that we may never speak again. On the other hand, it has only been four years which in the grand scheme of life is not really that long, so there is still time to reconcile.

 

But do I really want to?

 

On Saturday as I was crying to my girlfriend and sobbing that I couldn’t take not speaking to her any longer, my girlfriend thinking that it was coming from a good place advised me to try one more time to reach out to her. So I did plan to give it one more go on Sunday (yesterday) by calling the house to speak to her while my mother would be out of the house at church, but then on Sunday morning I had two seizures and couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day and forgot about our plan until later on in the evening. The strange thing was, I didn’t seem to distraught about having forgotten about it.

 

I also religiously listen to Kelechi Okafor’s podcast called “Say Your Mind” and this week, during her tarot reading section, she talked about self-worth and knowing who should and shouldn’t be “on the [life] journey with you”. She advised that sometimes people leave your life for a reason and if they cannot see your self worth, then they shouldn’t be on this journey with you and this led me to reconsider my actions regarding my sister.

 

My sister doesn’t see my self-worth; she doesn’t consider my feelings; she only loves me when I’m being a “yes man” – remember she made the decision to stop talking to me after I moved out of the family home and growing tired of her shit and lies I finally stood up to her.

He was a good man

This is also the same sister who even though grew up in the same household of tyranny with my father, claims to not believe that I was sexually abused by this man because according to her warped memories, “he was a good man”. Her memories are extremely selective though, because she does appear to remember him beating us and shouting, yet I guess because he bought us nice things (while getting us into debt) he was a great father.

 

This post has been extremely cathartic for me actually, because now that it’s all written down, I can see our relationship for how fucked up it really was and I do deserve better. I was saying to my girlfriend today that I would never chase an ex, so why am I chasing after my sister? I have too much dignity and self-worth for that.

 

So bringing this back to Freud (I’m not even a Freudian by the way, however I do find his theory on dreams quite interesting) what could my dreams mean?

  1. Do they mean that I do desperately want to reconcile with my sister?
  2. Do I just want to speak to her so that I can tell that I deserve to be treated with respect, how she’s rejected me is below par and that I deserve more?
  3. Or is it just a whole load of random thoughts?

 

I’ll probably still grieve, because it’s a massive loss regardless of how fucked up the relationship was, and as much as I wish the whole science from the film: “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” existed, it doesn’t. Therefore things are going to trigger memories, which I have to accept and learn to cope with.

 

As for my dreams, I am seriously considering hypnotism to get this bitch out of my subconscious, because it’s driving me INSANE!

 

On a serious note, as of tomorrow, I’ll be seeing my old therapist again. My lovely girlfriend has agreed to help me out with the fees and I’m putting my pride aside to put my mental health first. So this will definitely be something to focus on. Clearly there’s something deeper psychologically to this which needs to be worked on.

Perhaps I need to realise that me living my best live and focusing on that instead of being able to say this to my sister’s face is actually the best therapeutic fuck you. My therapist is amazing at what she does, so I’m positive that I’ll be able to move on from this loss, both consciously as well as unconsciously.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Mental Health Services Are Letting Black People Down BIG TIME

I’m so angry and distraught.

After being rejected by the Islington Personality Disorder Service (London) for treatment last year, I was referred to The Spiral Centre in Islington for low-cost therapy. I applied in December 2017 and was added to their waiting list. I finally had an assessment in May 2018, after which I was told that I would be notified about which therapist I had been allocated to within a matter of weeks.

It is now July and I have still not been allocated to a therapist. When I contacted Spiral, this was their response:

We are very sorry that you have been waiting so long and we haven’t been in touch with you since May. You’re right that our usual waiting time is around three months but this has unexpectedly increased recently because more people are contacting us. We definitely have you on the waiting list and have been looking out for an appropriate vacancy for you. Partly the delay has been that we think that you need to have a more experienced therapist from what you said in the assessment, and we have a smaller number of experienced therapists on the low cost scheme. We will be in touch as soon as are able to offer you a space with a therapist but unfortunately we are not able to predict when that will be, you are near the top of the waiting list.
Please do contact us again with any questions.
All good wishes

The reason why I have highlighted part of the response in red, is because I didn’t tell them anything new in the assessment that I hadn’t told them in my original application. In fact, I was extremely upfront in my application about my mental health having deteriorated due to racial trauma.

While on Spiral’s waiting list, I was seeing a Private Therapist, which my girlfriend was paying for due to my low income, however I stopped seeing this therapist partly because I no longer wanted to rely upon my girlfriend for money – she’s my partner, not my mother or the guardian of my mental health – but also because after the assessment, Spiral had assured me that I wouldn’t have to wait long for my sessions to start. Hence, from that, I began to wind down my sessions with the Private Therapist before coming to a complete end, under the assumption that I would be picked up by Spiral.

Now I’ve been left with nothing.

I’m furious with Spiral, because although I sympathise that they are a small organisation, they do still have a duty of care to people like me who are on their waiting list and have been fed empty promises. When I brought this up with them in my response to their’s above, they admitted that they had fucked up, however I just had to wait.

Great.

The fact that I am currently studying Mental Health and Psychology also seems to be a double edged sword, because although I’m learning about the mind and educating myself for my future, I’m also seen as a high-functioning patient because of the subject I am studying, which is ridiculous. Even qualified therapists are required to have their own therapeutic support. Furthermore, many people in therapy make the assumption that I know more than trainee therapists, which is untrue; I’m not yet training to be a therapist, I’m still in the very early stages of my career, hence I am nowhere near as qualified as a trainee therapist.

In the meantime, I’ve contacted The Gestalt Centre in Kings Cross, London. However, I’ve now been told that some applicants wait up to a year or more to be allocated to a therapist. I’m now currently on their waiting list too.

Both Spiral, and The Gestalt Centre have given me a list of organisations to contact in the meantime, however out of the list the latter sent to me, the majority don’t even apply to me (!!!!!!) and the list from Spiral is the same exhausted list I was sent by the Islington Personality Service last year.

So, a year after my mental health breakdown, I am still in the same place as I was – rejected by the NHS for help and struggling with my mental health. I have an assignment due this week and I cannot even bring myself to get out of bed to do any work. I am mentally exhausted.

What is most exhausting is the discrimination when it comes to therapy and counselling: the Personality Service rejected me because they bought into the stereotypes of me being a Black woman who is strong enough to find her own resources; my girlfriend and I applied to Tavistock for couples therapy, last month and I was told that not only would it be offensive to talk about racism to a white therapist and that my requesting a black therapist to counteract this would be offensive to white therapists, I was also told that my girlfriend’s “trans issues” are of a higher importance than my trauma caused by historical and daily racism.

As a Black woman in Britain, struggling with her mental health, there is nothing for me. One of the reasons why I’m doing this MSc and planning on then training to be a Black Therapist in the UK, is because WE NEED MORE BLACK THERAPISTS IN THE UK. There are thousands of Black British people like me who are struggling with generational, historical, as well as current racism on a daily basis. The problem with white therapists is although they are bound by ethics, their white fragility is still triggered by talking about the Black experience. I was once told by a white therapist that I was offending her, just for talking about how I was being treated at work for the colour of my skin. Furthermore, white people just cannot understand or empathise with the Black experience (and the majority even seem to be incapable of simple sympathy), partly because they are so blinded by white privilege: how many times are we as Black people told that “historical racism is not an issue because it’s in the past” and therefore we should “get over it and stop living with a chip on our shoulder”? How many times are we as Black Britons told that our experience is nowhere near as traumatic as that of the Black American experience, therefore we should be grateful? How many times are we told that we are “just looking for racism that doesn’t even exist”? How many times are we told that just by talking about racism or mentioning it, we are “playing the race card”?

How many of you know how fucking traumatic all of this is to us as Black people?

You tend to conveniently forget that we are fucking human beings.

On top of apparent BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), I’m also still struggling with body dysphoria and bulimia (I fight every day to not make myself sick after meals, because of my meds, but sometimes it’s hard to control, especially when you grew up doing it), as well as the depression that comes with having to live with a chronic condition. All while struggling with the psychological impacts of racism.

So, in regards to the mental health, I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do. My student loan barely even covers my tuition fees, let alone basic living; same with the benefits I am currently on for my Epilepsy. I’m sure I’ll figure something out… Black people always do, right?

Hopefully my mental health won’t consume me in the meantime.

XOXO

P.S. If you are Black and struggling with your mental health, AND can afford Private Therapy, please do contact a therapist via The Black, African and Asian Therapy Network. Some also offer reduced rates, depending on your level of income.
P.P.S. So I’ve just finished reading Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou and wanted to share this quote as it relates to well to what I was saying about seeing a white therapist:
I used up my Kleenex and took more from my purse. No, I couldn’t tell him [the white psychiatrist] about living inside a skin that was hated or feared by the majority of one’s fellow citizens or about the sensation of getting on a bus on a lovely morning, felling happy and suddenly seeing the passengers curl their lips in distaste or avert their eyes in revulsion. No, I had nothing to say to the doctor. I stood up. 
Here’s another quote from the play Leave Taking, by Winsome Pinnock:
Enid: What doctor know about our illness? Just give you a few pills to sick your stomach and a doctor certificate. What they know about a black woman soul.