THE TRUTH

Mindfulness, Relationships

sssh_by_publiccenzor-d4aziuaI’ve travelled the world. I worship Madonna. I hate you.

There you go, I lied three times and I’ve written three sentences.

There are jobs out there that are designed to figure out the truth: doctors, judges and scientists, to name a few. But outside of the work place, how much truth can we really handle? And given the choice, do we want to know the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, all of the time?

Our biggest secret as human beings is that we even have secrets. We like to pretend that we are honest, up front about everything and have never told a lie. We aspire to be deemed, “really genuine” by everyone we meet and it’s our own job to persuade the world that we’re legitimate – a bit like a second hand car dealer selling a motor he knows is flawed – because if we don’t sell ourselves as the real deal, then who will want us? Trying to be the perfect human being is impossible, because we’re impossibly flawed. But we’re triers, us humans. And that is why we lie.

We try to fool our friends into thinking we’ve ditched the guy that’s bad for us, we hide things from our lovers for fear of losing them and we persuade children that there’s a tiny person who trades their molars for hard-earned fairy cash. But who do we think we’re actually kidding? As humans, we know a lie when we hear one, but we choose to ignore it most of the time because it’s easier, because it’s not worth the hassle, or because we knew it was a lie all along (and being British, we’ll do anything to avoid an awkward exchange).

So, armed with the knowledge that everybody does it, why does it hurt so bad when we find out that we have been deceived by someone we love? Before thinking about their good intentions and whether you really wanted to know or not, you feel disappointed, hurt and then a little bit silly. Then, if it’s really bad, you feel like you’ve acquired a brutal stab wound, a gun shot and a slap to the face all at the same time.

It’s not until you take a step back and think about similar lies that you have told that you realise that they might actually have been trying to protect you from pain as opposed to inflicting it. But the cliches we so often use – Ignorance is bliss. Curiosity killed the cat. Things better left unsaid –  all tell us to stop searching for truth, because knowing itall might actually lead to our downfall. I am in no way condoning the actions of a liar but am merely drawing attention to the fact that it’s as common as a roast on a Sunday.

Do I believe that it’s right to be honest? Of course I do. Have I shared all of my secrets? Hell no. There are some things that I’ll take to my grave. So how many cats should we let out of the bag? The truth is, I don’t know.

All you ever hear when talking about the perfect relationship is trust, trust and more trust. But can we actually really rely on anyone?

A friend of mine said you could only really count on your mum.

And even she told me Father Christmas was real…

Just use your instincts as best as possible I guess. Good luck!

THE FEMALE

Feminism

Emma WatsonMy most memorable International Women’s Day to date was the year I saw Florence + The Machine at Ally Pally. Granted, I didn’t buy the tickets in celebration of womankind, but it was a nice coincidence all the same.

I went there with a secret hope that she would acknowledge the day, and Florence being Florence, she did. In the best way ever.

After howling her way through hundreds of hits, she asked the men in the audience to lift the women nearest to them onto their shoulders. My brother is 6ft2 and frequents the gym daily, but I assumed he’d still tell me and my thunder thighs to jog on. Much to my surprise however, I felt myself being lifted into the air, along with hundreds of other women, desperately clinging onto my pint of wine and high-fiving everyone within reach.

I felt like a rock star.

And that’s how I think women should be made to feel every day.

Forget the princess crap – although a tiara would be nice – we would instead simply love to live on the edge with you, to be believed in like you, to be as bold and brave as you’ve been allowed to be, to run across stages barefoot; screaming and howling like Florence herself because it makes us feel good. Chuck us in the air, challenge us, swear at us (we’ll swear back) and let us be wild and free and live like the creatures we were made to be. We’re resilient you know, all it takes is for you to give us a chance to be.

Asking the men to lift women onto their shoulders in celebration was so symbolic of our fight for equal rights, because without men lending us a helping hand, we’re fighting a losing battle. You, dear gentleman, are crucial. Despite this, there are still so many who will do anything to avoid being deemed a feminist, mainly because they’re unsure of what the word even means. So if Emma (Goddess) Watson wasn’t clear enough, then I’ll try to be: a feminist is someone who wants equal rights and opportunities for both men and women. That’s it. No frills, no fancies, no shouting, no screaming; just a world where you, your mum, your niece and your brother, all have the same chance to be the best human they can be.

So although we are a long way from our end goal, I think it’s important to acknowledge the advances that we have made so far because, well, glass half full and all that. We now live in a time where The Oscars are less about manicures and more about Lopez, Streep and Arquette coming together in raptures for equal pay. A place where Amal Alamuddin is no longer referred to as George Clooney’s wife. And a world where being called a slut on the street is being challenged (finally).

Believe it or not people, times, although slowly, are a-changing. And I’m excited.

So lift up the women in your life, high onto your shoulders and celebrate them this Sunday. I don’t need to list the reasons why you should.

Have a good one.

A IS FOR ANXIETY – A GUEST POST

Health

largeLast October, I fell in love. With a woman. The relationship lasted six hours long and was entirely sexless. However, the lasting effect it had on me was far from forsaken or frustrated. It did what all good relationships do- it taught me about who I am. More specifically, it created a safe and supportive environment for me to learn more about my mental health.

In my mid-teens I experienced bouts of clinical depression that have left me with the delightful legacy of an anxiety disorder. This disorder has been the bane of my admittedly sheltered life.

The woman I fell in love with was my NHS appointed psychologist and I hold her solely responsible for my calmer, braver and ultimately happier 2.0 self. My therapist tryst turned my angst-ridden stress story into a real life rom-com, if you will.

A lot is made in the press of the need to remove the stigma from mental health problems and the 1 in 4 of us in Britain who are affected by one over the course of the year. Undoubtedly, as with countless other issues, understanding how crucial it is for society to ditch discrimination is key to progression. But I have an alternate message.

What many people don’t realise is that mental health disorders can have a detrimental effect on surprising aspects of a sufferer’s life, such as their capacity to complete routine tasks or even sit still for 15 minutes. Personally, I knew it was time to check myself in for a mental once-over when I became so riddled with paranoia, self-doubt and a futile habit of taking every circumstance to worst-case scenario in my head, that I could not sleep. I couldn’t actually do anything. I couldn’t work (leading to relentless aspersions about my laziness), I couldn’t relax (even when plied with my favourite gin), and I couldn’t keep on top of my bills (the council get seriously ratty when you don’t pay tax on time). I also could not stem the bizarre Virginia Woolf style stream of overwrought consciousness my friends were becoming so frequently privy to. I was frenzied and unfocused. It had to stop.

All it took was talking to someone. A professional who could give me some perspective and clear a path toward self-acceptance. An entire specialised gardening and landscaping unit, armed to the teeth with pruning shears and when occasion called for it, chainsaws, was dispatched for that task. No mean feat.

My own issues aside, over the past couple of years I have seen several friends suppress symptoms and signs of an underlying mental health issue. These range from short attention span and lethargy to finding escapism in drink or drugs. As with physical symptoms, left untreated, these only lead to something worse. On the other side, in more extreme circumstances, I’ve witnessed the consequences of not taking prescribed medications for a diagnosed case of bipolar disorder in a bid to be ‘normal’- not for the faint hearted. This is where acceptance must come in. Acceptance coupled with awareness.

So what I’m saying is, absolutely try to be less afraid and uneasy of mental health disorders, definitely wade in to rid society of the archaic notion of freakiness it attaches to mental health problems, which subvert the origins of said problems. Because in this way, we are free to be aware of and undaunted by the state of our own – and our loved ones – mental health.

I’m not trying to scaremonger here. I’m not telling you you’re all as mad as a box of frogs but if you notice that someone close to you is not themselves and might be suffering, or if you recognise something in yourself, do something. We owe it to ourselves to check up on our minds as well as those pesky STIs, even if just to get the all clear.

In the meantime, my top tips for sanity balm would be as follows:

1 – Leave that obsession with the social media platform that so torments you to just once a week. No, checking 73 times a day if he has updated his Facebook to ‘in a relationship’ with the girl in all of his photos won’t stop it from happening. Get on with your own stuff. Oh, and if you’re wondering, all those city slickers who are posting photos at pricey watering holes with unlimited champagne and statuses about bonuses? They won’t be able to afford a mortgage before you because they’re spending all that cash on extortionate booze and questionable ties.

2 – Meditate. Sitting in an upright position and clearing your mind, counting 1 as you breathe in and 2 as you breathe out for a whole minute does not make you a tired, old hippy. It keeps you grounded; away from the sheer drop over the ledge into Frantic Panic Valley, a terrible place rife with insomnia and unappealing sweating. Nobody needs that.

3 – Take charge. Remember that everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end. Don’t be afraid of yourself.

And check out Mind.org’s mental health selfies to learn more from real people.

Written by the gorgeous (and ever surprising) Joanna Mackay

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My most recent guest blogger and newest recruit in the quest to understand – and help out – humankind. Find her on Twitter here.