Monthly Archives: April 2015

Revolt / Revote

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Imagine being told by everyone you know that you’re not as popular as your sibling. That your sibling is better looking, cooler, more enigmatic and confident than you. Well of course they are – you’re uglier, slower, never got the girls or guys, never quite as witty or smart or fun. Nobody likes you as much.

Imagine how that might affect your relationship with your sibling. You love them, but you’re competing with them for the affection and attention of friends and family. You don’t entirely know why. Isn’t there enough love and friendship to go around?
Sure.
But there has to be a favourite.
And then imagine that you finally had a chance to show how great you are. To show how you’re just as good as your sibling, maybe even better. You have merits of your own. You are smart and you are compassionate and you are pretty great. You can be successful in your own right.
And then imagine that when you finally did it, you got there, when you won damn it, everyone said that it should have been him. Imagine all that competition but it’s not just your friends and family, it’s your entire nation.
Wouldn’t you work as hard as humanly possible to make people stop saying that? Wouldn’t you work to be the best of the best of the best every day to show how excellent you are?
That is one of the reasons I’m voting Labour in the general election.
Ed Miliband is a person. Now, disclaimer, I’ve speculated to the point of fiction about him not being the favourite in his family and among friends – for all I know Ed Miliband had an idyllic childhood and was everyone’s favourite. But when it came to him running against his brother for party leader…well there are still people who say we got the wrong Miliband.
But I actually disagree. I think we got exactly the right Miliband. We got the one who is far more likely to work to make a difference, to prove his worth to us and show voters and non-voters alike how much we have misjudged him, how far we’ve underestimated him.
We got the Miliband who has taken time to build up and learn and to me, seems to have come into his own when it really matters.
No one is perfect. No country, no government, no person is perfect. Democracy by its very nature leaves an unhappy minority. And if people continue to show such apathy by refusing to vote, it leaves an unfairly represented majority. Whether we blame them for not using the power they have or the politicians for not inspiring them enough to do so…well that’s potentially a whole other blog post.
Rightly or wrongly, we often vote for the best person we can see. Personally I think we need to look at the party as a whole, at the core values, where the heart of the party is and what it is doing. But if we have to look at the person, this is what I think; to my mind, Ed Miliband leading the Labour Party has experience with a strong party, a good relationship with unions, a solid balance between economy and genuinely helping the people who need it and the drive to really make a difference to the people who need it the most. It is a given that he will make mistakes. It is a given that he will not please everyone. It is a given that people will moan and eventually, he will not be good enough. But that is true of any leader, of any government.
I want to live in a country where we look after the people who are so frequently marginalised. I want to live in a country that can be proud of its government, of the values that are leading us all to be a bit better at helping each other and creating a society where it isn’t every man for himself. I want to feel patriotic and I want to have really good reasons to!
The Conservative (coalition) government has systematically chipped away at the things that could make this country a really good place in which to live. Libraries closing, half destroying the NHS, budget cuts to benefits so that people who simply cannot work are being forced to, supposedly just to target a tiny number of system abusers?? (Hey guys remember when Starbucks supposedly didn’t make a penny in the UK AND HAD NOT PAID ANY TAX BASICALLY EVER?? WHAT ABOUT THAT SYSTEM ABUSE?!!) These are the things at the heart of our country. These are the things that people value and need and they’ve been taken away from us by a Conservative government.
(Oh it’s ok, they gave £10 million donation as a gesture of goodwill. Like paying taxes is just an optional act of charity. Can you just donate to taxes? I don’t think you can…no wait. I don’t think *we* can. But if you’re a multi billion pound corporation, you can do what you want.)
What about the local councils whose budgets have been slashed by 40%? What about the housing crisis? The Conservative government attitude feels a lot like “well, don’t worry guys because as long as the landlords / property owners keep making money, we don’t really care. But tell you what, we’ll do one of those goodwill gesture things that Starbucks did!” – you know, that first time buyer thing that made people think they could buy a place to live but actually they couldn’t because the deposit has to be really high or you have to have such a high projected income that you’re already likely to be rich enough that you don’t need it in the first place?
That false hope is exactly what the Conservative government trades in on time and time again. And I don’t want it for the next 5 years.
I want to feel really hopeful. I want to believe that our country can be good. That we can look around and operate businesses fairly and with realistic wages because our government says we have to and bloody means it.
Labour made mistakes – but doesn’t everyone? The whole world has been in an economic crisis – that wasn’t all Labour’s fault. I think we need to give them a chance to learn from their mistakes. I don’t believe another 5 years of a Conservative government is going to make things better. I think they’ll continue to screw over anyone who isn’t wealthy enough to warrant their attention. That’s us guys. You and me.
And yes, I know there are other parties…the Green Party is this election’s Lib Dems. It’s all fresh and new and sounds great but in reality…they won’t win. I know, I know, not with that attitude but I’m being realistic. Not everyone will rally for them and then we’ll be back where we were 5 years ago with a race to a coalition where very few people are happy.
Although I think the SNP wouldn’t be so bad for a coalition. It would certainly make good on that promise for a more inclusive relationship with Scottish government.
And UKIP are an abhorrent horror on our political landscape. Their leader is basically a pompous, blustering cartoon character. I think he’s modelled himself a bit of Boris Johnson’s persona…but he has none of the conniving shrewdness that underpins Boris’s carefully crafted buffoon. Their policies are insulting, haphazard and frequently morally reprehensible.
The Liberal Democrats had their time. They fucked it. They’re not real contenders now.
It’s too late to register to vote if you haven’t already done so. So I *really* hope you have. But I’m voting for Labour because between the party experience of running the country, learning from mistakes, party values and a genuinely determined, hard working leader, I think they have the best chance of winning and making a difference to the social and economic situation we’re in and I reckon they’ll boost the morale of the average person. The idea of a Labour government makes me feel hopeful, especially compared to the smug, Conservative government we’ve had for the last 5 years.
So let’s stop saying the wrong brother won. Let’s stop whinging about the past and let’s vote out the party that demonstrates how they only care about themselves – the rich. Let’s take our country back.
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Surprise! Some Passover Self-Reflection

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This is not the blog post I thought I was going to write tonight. I sat down at my computer and had every intention of writing about Passover. I wanted to write about how easy it is to complain about things when we are stripped of our usual comforts, and how I was thinking that actually we should use this week to think about how lucky we are the other 51 weeks of the year, and not about how this week we’re slightly less satisfied.

But instead I sat down and wrote a post about how I’ve been feeling over the last few months. It must be the right time for me to have done this, because it just happened, without warning.

It was unplanned and is unedited and if self reflection isn’t your thing, then feel free to stop reading now and go and look at something about cats instead.

This may come as a surprise to some of you who may see me as a positive person, who see me as someone who laughs a lot and likes to make others laugh, who can be good natured and as someone who is full of energy. But the last few months have been very hard. I’ve found the winter we just had to be particularly challenging in a lot of ways. I found I wasn’t entirely able to get a grip on my emotions, and try as I might I simply could not pull myself up from where I felt I was – an incredibly low point.

I don’t exactly know what it was that I went through. I haven’t been diagnosed with depression and I don’t know if I’m feeling better now because I’ve come through a rough patch or because I’m in an up phase of mental well being and it’s just a cycle that works in peaks and troughs.  I don’t know if I’ll sink again in a few weeks or if I’ll be fine for the next few months or years.

Here is what I do know:

I felt exhausted and miserable and lonely. I felt like I couldn’t tell people that I was really struggling. I felt like I was lost and no one would find me. I felt like I wanted desperately to ask for help but genuinely didn’t know how. I didn’t know what to ask for. I didn’t want to go out – I couldn’t, I didn’t have the energy – but I didn’t want to be alone. Nothing made me feel better. I kept crying and couldn’t remember what happy felt like. I felt paralysed by anxiety and fear and sadness but with no rational clue about what was making me feel any of these things. The energy that went into faking being OK was utterly draining and left me exhausted. I haven’t written a blog post for ages. This is probably why. I couldn’t sit down and do it. I didn’t have the brain power. It was taking every ounce of everything I had simply to get through work every day. I was going to bed at 8pm some nights and if I’d made arrangements that I actually kept to, it was a relief if they were cancelled and it was mostly too hard for me to stay very long at anything.

I don’t feel like that any more.

As I said, I don’t exactly know what made me start to feel better. I hit a very low point a few weeks ago and considered asking the doctor for antidepressants. After consulting with a therapist that I currently see on a weekly basis, it actually didn’t seem like the right decision after all. But I did consider it very seriously and would consider it again if it turns out that I’m heading in that downward direction again. I don’t want to feel like that again. If medication is going to help me retain a grip on things then I will happily take it.

I’m writing about this because I think a lot of people feel scared to tell others that they’re not OK. It’s not a stigma thing for me. It’s the fact that I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I almost wished I could tell someone I had something concrete, a label, a name of an illness to give. I didn’t know what to even call it. I just felt awful all the time. And the voice in my head that does me nothing but damage told me that no one wants me around when I’m no fun. No one wants to talk to me when I’m sad. No one wants to hear the negativity that’s raging in my head. Why would anyone want that?  “Your friends only want the positive, happy, energetic version of you that makes them smile,” it said. “No one wants you as you are.”

This is absolute bullshit. This is an unhealthy thing that gets into my head when I’m too scared to show vulnerability. This is an isolating thought process, built entirely on an image that I think other people have of me. It wasn’t for me, but it can be very dangerous to think like that.  I’m not writing about this to have a pity party (though I’m sure some will read this and say “Ugh, that Abi – she is so self indulgent and she is such a massive over sharer” and those people are entitled to their opinions but respectfully, those people can also fuck right off).

I’m writing about this because I know that if I felt this way and felt so entirely alone during that time, maybe there’s someone else who feels like that too. Maybe there’s someone who also feels like they can’t talk to anyone about how they’re really feeling, who can feel the weight on their chest growing and the panic in their stomach rising and the sheer overwhelming size of everything pushing them down. Maybe there’s someone who just wants to know that they are not the only person who ever felt like that. I’m writing this to let them know that it is OK to talk about how they feel and that it is not as scary as you think it’s going to be once you start.

I’m very hard on myself. I don’t think I realised how hard I am on myself until the last few months. If something goes wrong, whether it’s within my control or not, I feel like it’s my failure. Once that happens, that damn little voice in my head tells me that means I am a failure. I’m an intelligent person and academically, I know that’s not true. I know that even though I have a bunch of “you should have…” sentences in my head, even though society’s bizarre levels of acceptable life progression dictates that I should have achieved certain things by the age of 26, these are not necessary truths of life. But that’s not how it feels in that moment.

I read a really good article recently that advised we shouldn’t compare our inside lives to other people’s outside lives. In other words, what we show on social media or tell our friends is not always true to what is going on inside our heads. So why assume that’s what everyone else is doing?

I thought about it and realised that I frequently look at my friends and think how together they have it, how happy they must be, how happy I would be if I had something like what they have.

I’m 26, I’m single, I don’t have a set career going, I have 2 degrees that seem to be predominantly useless when it comes to getting a job, I’m always broke because I live from payday to payday and although I know I want to be a writer, I don’t know exactly how I want to be a writer and I don’t push myself to put my work out there. At times that feels pretty pathetic and for the last few months I’ve felt ashamed of my life choices, of who I think I am.

But.

I’m 26. That’s young.

I’m single – that means I’m free and unattached and only one step away from meeting someone that might be excellent. I’m always in a position to make new friends without complications and I can basically up sticks and travel whenever I want because I have no one else to think about in that regard. That’s not sad, that’s liberating.

I don’t have a set career going, but that’s because I’m pursuing my dream and that takes time. I want to be a writer and I haven’t sent loads of work out to people…yet. I still can. There’s nothing stopping me but me. I don’t push myself, but I can and will because I’ve realised that now. All I have to do is sit down and do it. It’s OK if I don’t immediately succeed. I highly respect those who have worked hard for their success and I would be honoured to one day be counted among their ranks.

I have 2 degrees because I love learning. I learned about books and theatre and those are things that make me happy and fulfilled my thirst for that knowledge. I then learned how to be a better writer and that might not immediately serve me well as a career move but it’s a step towards making me better at a craft that I not only love, but need. I would do another degree in something equally career-useless if it made me happy and if it was what I wanted to learn about.

I’m always broke…well let’s not run before we can walk. Maybe one day I’ll get better with money. But I might never be rich and that’s OK. Money isn’t what makes me happy. That’s not a bad thing. I fricking hate money! I don’t really want to be one of those people who is only motivated by money.

I still think a lot of my friends have an awful lot and are lucky. There is a part of me that envies my friends who are able to go to a stable, office job every day. My brain just doesn’t work like that and I’ve tried, but I can’t do it. But I don’t envy them their jobs.  And I try very hard not to envy the happiness they have with a partner. It’s hard, because I want that and might not have it for years and there’s nothing more lonely than being the only single one in your group of friends, surrounded by the romantic happiness or contentment of others. But that’s OK. I’m slowly making my peace with that. Don’t get me wrong, feeling lonely is really shit. And sometimes it will get the better of me. But that’s OK too. Because I hope that I’ll win the majority of those little voice in my head battles.

It’s OK that I am not yet where I think I want to be. It’s OK that I’m not sure what I want or how to go and get it. It’s OK that I’m not sure what or who I want to commit to. It’s OK that I’m still building up the confidence to take risks and allow myself to be vulnerable in different areas of my life. All of these things that might feel like negatives are actually fine. I don’t need to keep justifying myself to the expectations of others. And neither do you. Conventions aren’t necessarily good things.

There may well be entire months in the future, like the last 3 months, where I am unable to see anything positive, where I sink and feel like I’m drowning, not because I don’t want to swim but because I can’t remember how. But right now I know that I am very lucky because my friends and family were incredibly patient with me. No one shouted at me for cancelling on them even at the last minute. No one abandoned me because I was sad. Even in moments where I was terrible company, the people that I love and trust stuck around. I don’t know why I think they won’t. I would do the same for them.

And that’s something that’s really important to remember – these are people that you love and trust, that in some cases you’ve loved and trusted for years. These are people who turn to you when they’re in crisis. If you are able to tell them that you’re in crisis, you absolutely should. I can’t guarantee it, because I don’t know your people, but I would bet all the money I have and triple the amount that I’m in debt (that is so much money guys, you don’t even know)  that however you imagine them reacting, that’s not how it’s going to go down.

I received more love and compassion and kindness than I ever would have imagined and I am exceptionally grateful for that. The friends and family that allowed me to work through the last few months in my own time, with all the stumbling blocks and tears and difficulties…those are the people I want to keep around. Those are the people who make me feel very, very lucky.

So maybe this isn’t so far away from the post I wanted to write after all.  OK, for this week of Passover I have to think about every stupid morsel that goes into my mouth (insert rude joke here) and I may feel full but I will feel entirely dissatisfied after almost every meal. Breakfast has to be some kind of magic trick every day and the toothpaste is weird so my teeth never feel properly clean and my God if you ever need to combat diarrhoea eat a couple of matzahs and you’ll be sorted for at least 3 days. Seriously, it’s like swallowing a cork. This week, what I don’t have is the food I like and I’m used to or the freedom to eat said food, even though this whole stupid festival is about having freedom in the first place.

But I do have a huge amount of other things and for those I am extremely grateful.

I hope that this wasn’t too preachy and that it encourages people to talk about things to someone if they feel as unbearably low as I did until about 2-3 weeks ago. If you can’t talk to a friend or family member there are lots of wonderful organisations that have freephone numbers and take calls at any hour of the day or night.

Chag kasher v’sameach (happy Passover) and happy Easter to all. If you don’t celebrate either of these, enjoy the days off work.