An open letter to my sister before she gets her ALevel results.

Dear herbivore (she’s a vegan, I know right…what an idiot)

The day is almost here, you’ll find out what you got in your ALevels and thus what you’ll be doing for the forseeable future. But; before the big day comes I want to remind you of a few other big milestones, memories and acheivements:
I can vividly remember the phonecall Mum made to Dad to tell him about your first bottle. You must have been at least 1! I had bottles pretty much from the get go; although admittedly it was because I was a biter!
I think you were about 7 years old when you swam your first 25 metres. When I was 7 I swam a mile. Just saying.
I still get frustrated when I think about you freaking out about me pulling you on the tandem bike at Centre Parcs. You were about five and was totally terrified that I would somehow crash and kill us both. I wouldn’t have because I had been proficiently riding my bike, on my own since I was four!
You cycled the wrong way round a one way system and a few years later you failed your driving test: I passed mine first time!
But I also remember jumping out at your violin teacher; I was about 11 and so you were about six, he came every week and you practiced too. You also learnt the piano and went on to learn the flute. I gave up recorder after reception when Ms Driver caught me just pretending to blow, before finally finding choir when I went to uni!
You have been able to do the splits (don’t know if you still can) since you were about 3…I haven’t touched my toes since I was 18 months old but I’m nearly there (kind of)!
You rowed with dedication and with real effort for many years growing up; I didn’t find my sport, let alone commit to it, until I was 19!

You see, the thing is you little vegan weirdo, what happens tomorrow isn’t really that important. Because at the end of the day whether you go to the best university or the worst or you go next month, next year or next century; or if you even go at all…you will eventually get to where you where you want to be, in your own time, at your own pace, doing the things you’re good at and loving the things you love. The only thing you have to have acheived when you open that packet up tomorrow, is the knowledge that you are who are right now, and that is ALL you need to be!

So don’t worry about the grades, about what happens next; whatever the outcome and whatever the next move is, you will be okay as long as you are always unapologetically you! Live life Moo, and live it however you want (as long as it’s not as some racist nazi thug and if you could re-evaluate the vegan thing that would be quite good too!) it’s waaaay to short to do it any other way! And no matter what…I’m proud of you; of who you are, of what you’ve done and I am going to be here every step of the way as you go on to do so many other great things!

 

 

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My reasons why 13 Reasons Why is so bloody important 

This weekend I finished watching (for the second time in as many weeks) the new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and, to use a phrase I have now coined my favourite: that wasn’t just a roller coaster ride, that was like riding the whole theme park…with a season pass. 

As the end credits of the last episode rolled, I was left with a monstrous amount of thoughts and feelings; some of which are totally conflicting of one another, but more importantly I’ve been left with the monumental compulsion to publicly reflect on the main things that this touchingly-important and eerily familiar story made abundantly clear and yet no one seems to be recognising. 

So here they are. 

My reasons why 13 Reasons Why is so bloody important. 

I have seen a tremendous amount of social media talk about this incredible series in the 16 days that it had been watchable. I don’t know a great deal of people who haven’t watched it, I know fewer people who won’t and I don’t think I know very many people at all who haven’t at least heard of it. 

The incredible traction that this series has gained in its short existence is a phenomenal sentiment to it’s vitality on such a widely used platform. Regardless of what side of the marmite-divide watchers are on; everyone has an opinion about it that they want to share. 

This – above anything else – is the most important thing about this show. 

This show has got people thinking.

More importantly than just thinking, this show has got people feeling.

But most importantly, this show has got people talking about those thinkings and feelings. 

Regardless of whether or not you liked the show; regardless of whether or not you agreed with its principles; regardless of whether you thought Hannah’s story was inspiring or an irresponsible dramatisation of teenage suicide: this show had people talking, and to me that is reason enough for this show to be hugely important. 

So there is reason number 1 (don’t worry, there aren’t 13) and to me it’s the most important. 

Reason number two is a direct and beautiful descendent of the above: this masterpiece has caused so many opinions that the facts remain, mental health is not something to be toyed with, underestimated or taken for granted. 

No one is at liberty to ever say what does and doesn’t count as a “problem”. 

No one ever knows what the person next to them is truly going through nor does anyone ever know how the things their neighbour is going through is effecting them. 

The fact that so many people have come forward commending the series for its accurate portrayal of life and the struggles depression can cause, while so many others have spoken out about their disappointment over its inaccuracy of mental health triggers and the way “depression works”, proves that actually none of us really KNOW. 

None of us know what will make another person happier than happy and by the same brush none of us know what will make another person sadder than just sad. Mental health is not made up of cookie-cutter diagnoses and even the label of depression is absent of a blanket description. 

The conversations that have started due to this show are so very important because they are leading to better understandings of what it means to be depressed; what it feels like to be trapped; what people think about the effects of bullying; the chicken and the egg of mental health problems and above all what everyone can do to help. 

The show didn’t directly talk about mental-health – in fact the word depression isn’t memorably mentioned throughout the series – but isn’t that the point? 

No one talks about it. 

No one knows.

And the show means that we are talking about it so that hopefully, one day, we’ll all know just a little bit more. 

So there you go: reason number two…this wonderful, very easy-to-follow story that has resulted in totally torn opinions – as a bi-product of the masses of opinions – created a platform for mental health to be heard and understood as the totally non-understandable thing that it is. 

The third reason I think that this series is extremely important is of course because of the blindingly obvious stance it takes on cruelty, with specific references to bullying, assault and the effects of the pressures that teenagers can face. It scathingly highlighted the reality of being a teenager in an age where sex; social media; drugs & alcohol and above all the opinions of others are gargantuan players in the game of growing up. 

The show accentuates the very real epidemic of cruelty that exists within schools: it shames the bullies, depicting them as monstrous idiots who’s disgusting behaviour and cowardice has very real consequences. And it goes one step further to create a space to explore the confusingly very real confusion that many seem to have over the concept of consent. The rape scenes were horrifically difficult to watch – for obvious reasons I didn’t – and yet they showed things that need to be talked about in ways that made it clear what needs to be said. 

It got people thinking about real issues and what they would do if they were in that position. I felt humbled, humiliated, angered and moved to action all at once knowing I was the same species as every character on the show, and I’m sure that I’m not alone in those feelings. 

But, and possibly the most vital part of this penultimate reason, while seemingly focussing on a character who felt that she had no one: this series beautifully showed that despite all the horrendous baddies, this world is so full of wonderful goodies and in encouraging us all to think and talk, I think everyone wants to be a bit more like them (Tony, Clay, Skye). 

We all want to be a bit more of a goody.

We all want to be a bit more of a hero.

Not necessarily to save a life.

But we all want to stop one from ending.

Which leads me to my fourth and final reason as to why 13 Reasons Why is so bloody important.

For me, the main character, the one who spoke to me the most, who’s story empowered me, who will stay with me always: was not Hannah Baker. 

Nor was it Clay Jenson. 

For me, the main character of 13 Reasons Why was Jessica. 

Jessica’s story was told alongside Hannah’s; we saw both their pain and turmoil; both of their angst; their confusion; their battles with who they were; their struggles over who they could trust and their terror over what had happened to them. 

We saw them both become victims. 

We saw them both fight. 

But when the show was ending, with the final credits rolling, we were still seeing Jessica live. 

It would be mortifyingly wrong for me to say that one girl’s experiences trumps the other’s: no one can judge the impact of such life changing events on a person and I honestly hold no opinion or thoughts on that matter. 

But what I KNOW is that while on the surface the series showed us the effects that bullying, bad friends and peer-pressure can have on a young person, the horrific mental turmoil that an assault can leave a person with and the impact that the lack of support can have on someone’s desire to keep on fighting – thus giving us a real insight into the darkness of life: the simple act of Jessica choosing to fight that little bit longer, her finding the right person to tell (her dad) showed us that despite the darkness, light still exsists. 

So that’s that: my final reason why this show is so fucking important…because it shows us that there is more than one way out…we can always go through!!

 Let’s all just remember that when all the thinking has been thought and all the talking has been talked we are left with ourselves so let’s build each other up; remind each other of that light and give each other something to look for at the end of even the longest and darkest of tunnels. 

#TimeToListen

I have a chip on my jaw from where she punched me. If you press hard enough in the right direction you can feel the small groove that her knuckles indented in my face. A forever scar.

I have a white slither next to my eye from where I walked into an airborne bottle. In the right light and with the right imagination I could claim to be Hatti Potter. It’s a small scar but I’ll have it forever.

When I was small I fell off my bike and after the wounds healed I was left with squiggly doodle like scars on my knees and elbows. I used to tell people that they were maps. They’re really just scars that will probably be there forever.

These are things that you can see, you can feel some of them. They tell a story without words and are the illustrations of my falls and hurts. It is accepted that these marks will always be with me; they may fade, shrink and lighten but they will always be there. They’re places where my body healed as best as it could but will never really be as good as new.

No-one would ever expect me to wipe these visible scars away; aware of the extreme (likely painful) effort that doing such a thing would take. No-one looks at my scars, bumps or bruises and tells me that I am weak because of them. It is an unspoken acknowledgement that they make me no less beautiful and that with them I am certainly no less of a person than I was without.

But: I don’t just have a chip on my jaw, I have one on my shoulder.

Following my very own series of unfortunate events I flinch every time a hand is raised and my eyes prick with tears at the hint of anger in someone’s voice. These are wounds.

After some “colourful” experiences I am afraid of many things that a girl my age really shouldn’t be. These fears are wounds.

Every day – as consequence for repeated emotional abuse and manipulation – I convince myself I am not enough and yet am too much all at once. Anxiety over people leaving my life (by choice) riddles my brain and leaves my chest tighter than an African drum. These aren’t mere insecurities…these are wounds.

But these wounds are not ones you can see like a mark on my shin from that time I shaved half my skin off and they can’t be felt like the fractures in my nose. They do tell a story though: it’s just the side that no-one is comfortable accepting exists. These wounds are not always accepted. They are expected to heal, fade, shrink and disappear. My brain is supposed to fix itself better than it already has: erasing any wounds as though they were never there in the first place.

People hear my insecurities, watch me flinch and become aware of my fears and they think of me as weak. It is a loud stigma that I am a lesser person because of these deep seated bruises. I am more than aware that I have days where I am as annoying as that Crazy Frog song: I ask questions, relentlessly seek reassurance and panic more than a cat that has seen a cucumber about simply not being enough.

But I cannot help these things.

Some days I cannot believe what I tell myself: no matter how loud I scream it at the mirror.

Don’t you think if I could just stop then I would?

Why is it that the scar on my back is viewed as a symbol of my toughness while the scars etched on my brain are seen as flaws of my mental strength?

Wake. The. Fuck. Up.

I fell off my bike because I was being a massive idiot and trying to steer with my feet and as a result I am stuck with a scar on my arm that the world deems as perfectly acceptable. BUT a monster crept into my life; destroyed every ounce of self-esteem, self-respect and self-belief that I had ever had and I’m expected to just be okay??

No.

There’s nothing badass about falling off a bike because you were being a massive fool. You know what does make me a badass? A mofo badass?? The fact that every day “I kept on living” despite the demons that repeatedly told me that there was no point.

I am brave. I am strong. I am a warrior and the biggest testament to that is the fact that my insecurities do not stop me from owning the shit out of life.

I AM STILL HERE.

Every day I do a damn good job of being ALL here.

That is more badass than any scar that you can see.

So here’s the problem: everyday people with emotional scars – however they got them – are deciding to stop living because they feel as though they cannot (and should not) live with them.

Unfortunately, everyday people are made to feel as though their scars are blemishes rather than beauty marks and that. Is. Not. Okay!

Now I need to take a moment to recognize and appreciate the changes that the world is currently experiencing: not everyone is ignorant anymore – in fact most aren’t – and patience is a virtue that our species is learning to have with one another. The understanding (or attempt to understand) surrounding mental health is better than it has ever been before and the support that people are now receiving both close and far from home is often amazing.

To those of you wonderful, blessed earth angels that are pioneering the movement of acceptance I express my utmost gratitude. Thank you for allowing me to have moments of weakness and thank you for shining a light on the bravery that I’ve had in me all along! It is because of you that my wounds are becoming scars; silver slithers of a past that I am proud to have beaten.

I am so lucky to have people who know and accept my crazy while never making me feel like I’m a nut job. I know I am loved and every day these people make me love myself that little bit more.

Every day these people remind me that my scars are not blemishes: they are beauty marks that make me the aforementioned mofo badass that I am!

We all need to be those people!

We should not be making people feel bad for feeling bad.

We should be as tolerant to people’s emotional scars as we are to their physical ones.

So be patient when people ask for reassurance.

Listen when people need to talk.

Be kind even when you do not understand.

Be the bravery that they need when they have none of their own.

Because you never know when you might end up with these scars too.

Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay and we’re going to #ListenToMakeChange