Tag Archives: Mental Health

Goodbye

There is something you need know. And yes, it is about her. She doesn’t want this relationship anymore. She wants to break up with you. The drugs changed her mind. Nothing in her life has improved, but the drugs made her believe something has. Continue reading Goodbye

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POEM: The Second Closest Place To A Home

“Entering in it

Feels like ascending into heaven

You sense the calmness

And lose yourself in the silence

 

In a faraway hidden corner

Your next favourite adventures

Await to be unravelled and discovered

Full of characters that will shape

Who you are and how you will change

 

When you walk between shelves

Beautiful covers compete for your attention

But the unspoken bewitching words

Written on the back of those pieces of art

Are the ones who really scream your name

While captivating your brain

And without doubt, the most relatable words

Always win the game

 

The place is like a school

Where distant authors are the best teachers,

The best dreamers, the best preachers

They build a bridge

Between the untold and the willingness to know

They even spark creativity in learners

Who then decide to become in charge

Of new anecdotes to share and write

 

Yet, the best thing about

These wonderful spaces

Is that they tend to be open

To underprivileged faces

Offering free wisdom to those who are shamed

For using services that are important

To educate, empower and don’t remain unnamed

 

The underprivileged may not keep the book forever

But they retain the essence of what they learned

The warm words that touched their hearts

Remain in their minds till the end of their days

 

Hours go by

Yet you keep cancelling a goodbye

Outside a storm looms

Outside there aren’t angels

That keep the devil away from your life

You want to stay inside forever

Where you can think of a world

Without misery and with more hope

 

But then you remember

Everything books taught you

About how to embrace yourself

How to be brave and survive

How to be optimistic while living a lie

How to smile even when you want to cry

 

Defiant, you stand up and pick your new friend

You ask for permission to take it away

Promising it will be returned

Once it has done its temporary mission

Of making you grow

And of making you feel less alone”

 

-Written in honour of World Book Day, highlighting the important role of libraries in promoting reading, well-being and helping to create writers like myself,

 

By Emilie H. Featherington

All Rights Reserved © 2016

Song Lyrics: Isolated (By Myself)

“(VERSE 1)

Living now is hard

People don’t understand

Why I don’t fit in

I don’t even wanna be here

I’m not the type

That socialises down the pub

Clubbing isn’t for me

And I despise drunkenness, please

The party lifestyle

Has spread way too much

I have nothing against it

I’m just not part of it

(PRE-CHORUS)

I can’t help feeling lonely

There is no one to blame but me

I wish I was a different person

With an interesting character and good looks

I don’t even have energy to fake

I don’t even have motivation to lie

This isn’t for me

And I want to stop pretending that it is

(CHORUS)

Oh someone save me

Someone help me

Someone stay with me please

I hate feeling isolated, isolated

Even if it is by myself

(VERSE 2)

I know it is my fault

I shouldn’t have left depression win

But I can no longer fight myself

And no one knows how it feels

When darkness

Wins over light

When you never turned

Into a beautiful butterfly

My past betrayed my future

A feeling of guilt conquered me

Faking confidence drained my being

I can’t control my emotions, sorry

(PRE-CHORUS)

My intentions get lost

Between empty words

Every time I open my mouth

Shame makes me shut it down

Sometimes I have so much to say

Yet I just can’t express myself

While other times I just don’t want to talk

And people don’t get why, oh

(CHORUS)

Oh someone save me

Someone help me

Someone stay with me, please

Oh someone save me

Someone help me

Someone stay with me, please

I hate feeling isolated, isolated

Even if it is by myself

I hate feeling isolated, isolated

Even if it is by myself”

 

By Emilie H. Featherington

All Rights Reserved © 2016

 

My First Term At University: Independence, Studying, Socialising & Wellbeing

The 12 of September of 2015 a new era in my life began: I moved to Brighton to study BA International Development in the University of Sussex. My family drove me to the campus, and after visiting the city together, they left. Then, my new life as an independent young adult began. To be honest, living on my own isn’t something I was scared about, nor is something I can’t handle. I’m fine cooking, washing up, cleaning, doing the laundry… I’m used to doing house chores. And in fact, now I only have to do house chores for myself, not for others, so everything is much better.

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(My room)

I don’t live completely alone: I share flat with another eleven students. Without doubt, that was the only worrying aspect of moving out from home, since I’m not good at socialising. However, I was quite lucky: my flatmates are nice, many of them outgoing, so interacting with them is easy. When comes to living together, even though sometimes it gets chaotic and messy (we only have one kitchen, our eating/cooking hours can be similar, and some of the cooks and ovens don’t work), we haven’t had any major problem. Just minor issues like a microwave that disappeared over night, someone who smashed one of our windows, and squirrels that enter the kitchen every day and try to steal our food!

Living in a flat differs greatly from living in my aunt’s house, but I prefer it since I don’t share room with anyone. My residence is the cheapest one on campus, hence it isn’t exactly a Hilton Hotel, yet it is comfortable enough to study, eat and sleep. I can’t ask for much more. Furthermore, it is near to the majority of buildings I visit every day. That’s one of the reasons why I love living on campus. Everything is close. And I barely need to go outside of it, since on site there are shops, bars, restaurants, sports centres with gyms, and other useful facilities. Nevertheless, buses run regularly and the train station is close, so getting to the city centre isn’t hard at all. I haven’t had many opportunities to explore Brighton, but I’m hoping to do so the next term.

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(Some pictures of my campus)

When comes to the most important part of my undergraduate student life, my course, I couldn’t be happier. I would be lying if I said my studies aren’t being the highlight of my time in university. I’m loving my degree. International Development is a very interesting subject and every day I learn something new (if you don’t know what International Development is, I invite you to check this blog post, which explains the concept quite clearly: https://findingmyselfinsideme.com/2015/10/04/defining-development-aid-sustainable-development-goals-colonisation-well-being-participation/).

I had four modules this term: Colonialism and After, Education for Development, Ideas and Actors, and Concepts for Development. My favourite one was Colonialism and After. I learnt a lot about historical events I knew little about. Most of the lectures were about the British Empire, but during seminars we talked about other European colonisers such as Germany, and in the last weeks of the term we went through the basics of USA’s foreign policy (linked to American imperialism) and issues in contemporary Australia (in relation to aboriginal communities).

I must admit that sometimes I hated being in the Colonialism and After lectures. Some of the topics were hard to digest. Examples include the transatlantic slave trade, systematic genocides in Africa and the rise of racial privilege/ white supremacy in Europe. My biggest issue is not learning about the events themselves, but the denial and ignorance that surround them. There are individuals who still believe the slave trade wasn’t “that bad”, European colonialism was “good” for Africa, and white supremacy isn’t “real”. They ignore all the facts and believe in their assumptions. And this is very irritating for someone who is black African and has seen (sees) and has lived (lives) the devastating effects of imperialism and racism in her diaspora and continent of origin.

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(My main books and notebooks for the year)

The rest of the modules were fine, but I didn’t enjoy them as much. When comes to assessments for the term, I had to do two concept notes (1000 words each), complete two portfolios (1500 words each) and write one essay (2500 words). I’m good with coursework and I prefer it to exams, but academic writing at a university standard is complicated. Completing the work during Christmas was stressful. However, last week I received my results, and I learnt I passed the four modules! The grades were fine: 70, 70, 59 and 64 (all out of 100). My average is currently 65.75 and I’m hoping to get at least a 70 at the end of the year (it is equivalent to a first class, the highest degree classification in UK, even though the first year doesn’t count towards the final grade). I know it sounds ambitious, but I just want to do the best possible. This was my first term in university ever, so I have room for improvement. And I know I can do better.

Lastly, I should talk about another significant aspect of my first term in university: my social life. As I have already mentioned, socialising isn’t my strength. At all. I was very scared of coming to university, not making friends and being alone. Yet, Fresher’s week silenced my fears. I met many people with whom I hanged out every day. Some of them were my flatmates, others people I randomly met in the street or in parties. We went out to nightclubs and to events organised by the university and by the student’s union. It was great. Then, when my lectures began, I met a few nice girls that do the same course as I do, with whom I attend many of my lectures and seminars. Overall, I could say that I made friends and I always have someone with whom hang out with if I want. This makes me feel very well, taking into account how bad college was and how I didn’t make any friends there during three years.

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(On top: an event for international students. Below: pals and I in a pub during Freshers’ week.)

However, my social life wasn’t every active after September ended. I barely went out. I think I only went out once during the following three months and it was in New Year’s Eve (the term had already ended, so does it really count?!). I suppose this sounds bizarre, taking into account I had people with whom going out and I was even invited to parties/ nights out (my own flatmates host a lot of parties in our flat!). My general excuse to avoid going out is that I don’t enjoy clubbing or partying a lot which isn’t a lie but it isn’t accurate. Another excuse I have used a lot is “I don’t feel very well”, which again, it isn’t false but it isn’t precise. The real and main reason why my social life has been so inactive during the past months can be found in my mood and state of mind. Even though last term was great in terms of learning and making friends, it was awful for my emotional wellbeing and mental health. I spent most of the days either frustrated or sad, I constantly felt uninterested in everything going on, and feelings of hopelessness invaded me every night.

I always thought that moving to university would guarantee me happiness. After all, my family was behind 90% of my distress back at home. Of course, I was wrong. Very wrong. My family issues followed me to university and due to a series of events too complicated to explain, things got definitely worse than ever. They still are worse than ever. As always, I had no control or power over any of the problems, but certain people involved me on them and before I could realise I saw myself in the middle of an ongoing storm. My family has always been problematic, I can’t remember a time in which things were peaceful. However, when I was younger, I didn’t realise because I was a naïve kid. Now I’m 19 and I can understand situations better. And understanding situations betters means they affect me more. I don’t want to dwell on this topic much more right now, but I’m planning to write a post specifically about this in the (very near) future, keep an eye on the blog if you want to know more.

On conclusion: my first term in university was better than I expected, but harder that I thought it would be. I’m so grateful about making friends and having people I can talk to everyday and even hang out with. After college, I never thought it would be possible. I was convinced my personality was too boring for anyone other than myself. It probably is, but I’m glad some people have given me a chance to show them more about who I am, instead of relying on first impressions.

On the other hand, my emotional and mental health problems have blocked my willingness to get involved in social events and do anything outside my comfort zone (which is basically me being in my room writing or reading). In addition, my self-esteem and self-confidence have been severely compromised by these issues, and not feeling irritated, anxious or sad has been quite hard. All this has affected my mood and behaviour, making me crave loneliness. Nevertheless, despite of my negative persona, I always have a bit of hope hidden somewhere in my brain. I also have good friends that always support me, even if they live miles away. And I finally made a huge decision in order to be emotionally and mentally better next term. Hopefully it works out.

Sharing my experiences,

Emilie 🙂

(PS: If you want to have a look at more pictures of my time at university, check this link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/134519211@N08/albums/72157662839553059)

A Complex Relationship: Family, Nurture and Personality

When we are children we are taught that family is everything. Blood is very important. Honour your parents. Respect your adult relatives. Make all of them proud. Follow their advice. They want the best for you. Now, all this can be true most times. But in others, it isn’t. The concept of family as a loving institution is one I struggle with a lot because my family is deeply dysfunctional. I grew up thinking I was part of a small minority of children in the world who didn’t have normal Christmas celebrations, who didn’t experience happy family holidays, who disliked Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, who preferred going out with friends than staying at home with family, who barely depended on relatives for anything…

However, as I time went by, I realised people like me aren’t part of a minority. We are part of an invisible large group in society, a group that hides their stories and issues, while pretending everything is fine to keep going and to fit in. As members of the group, we know that if we voice our experiences and thoughts, we will be most likely misunderstood and thought of as “whiny, spoiled and uneducated kids that hate their relatives without a reason”.

Family isn’t everything for me. And I personally know other young people, with different backgrounds, yet in the same situation: no relatives to trust or cherish completely. I have read so many stories of LGBT+ teens that were kicked out of their homes for being who they are. I have read so many stories of teens with verbally and physically abusive parents, who can’t get help due to lack of social protection and/or access to welfare services. I have read so many stories of girls without freedom of choice and forced into marriage by their own mothers. I have read so many stories of boys whose depression is unseen and ignored due their fathers’ pressure on their masculinity. I have just read too many stories. And none of them were fiction.

Telling children that parents always want the best for them is dangerous. Telling children that family will always be there for them is dangerous. Telling children that love from relatives is unconditional is dangerous. All this isn’t true for many and it leads to delusions and false hopes while children try to please others at the expense of losing their identity and developing mental health issues. Psychological abuse is real and not only adults experience it. Many children and teenagers are trapped in abusive relationships, but their feelings and behaviour are ignored or misinterpreted till it is too late. The main problem with psychological abuse, mental health problems, and emotional issue is that they can’t be seen, so for many, they don’t exist.

Constantly insulting someone to the point in which they have no self-esteem and self-confidence isn’t discipline: it is verbal abuse. Constantly punishing someone physically because you are angry and think you have power isn’t discipline: it is physical abuse. I have experienced both things and at least 75% of the times, I did nothing wrong other than being near a really moody relative. Sometimes, the people who hurt me ended up realising they were wrong, yet they rarely said sorry. They normally ignored it and acted sweet minutes after, or they tried to put the blame on me with irrelevant accusations and mind games. You may think this isn’t a big deal, that complaining about it is being weak, and that it is something easy to accept and live with. However, it isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe adults should be respected, not because they are adults, but because they are humans and humans should be respected. Then again, there is a difference between respect and abuse of power. A difference that some don’t understand. Just because your son or daughter doesn’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean they are disrespecting you. Plus, respect should be mutual. Children should respect their parents and parents should respect their children. I’m not saying children should run their houses: I’m saying that children ought not to be insulted, maltreated and under-appreciated. And less without a reason other than their age or/and gender. The consequences of this can be negative and the impact it can have on a child’s future can be harmful.

Nurture (the environment and upbringing of someone) plays a key role in the development of a child’s personality and identity. It is said to affect incredibly a person’s social, emotional and intellectual skills, and I believe this. I know that my behaviour and attitude are extremely influenced by my childhood experiences. To explain how is this possible, I will use a psychological theory: the psychodynamic approach. The psychodynamic approach is based on the belief that human behaviour is caused and can be explained by the different conflicts in mind caused by consciousness and unconsciousness. One of the main psychologists who supported this perspective was Erik Erikson, who identified 5 stages of development:

  1. Trust vs Mistrust (0-1 years): Babies need adults to satisfy their emotional and physical needs. If these needs are satisfied, they will develop trust in their surroundings. If these needs aren’t satisfied, they will develop mistrust of their surroundings. For example, if babies are neglected in their house during their first year of life (e.g. they aren’t fed; their nappy isn’t changed), they will mistrust their carers, as they will realise they can’t rely on them to satisfy their needs.
  2. Autonomy vs Shame (1-3 years): Toddlers try to do things by themselves, without relying on their carers; they will try to be independent. If their carers shout at them every time they make mistakes, they will develop a feeling of shame, fear and self-doubt. In contrast, if their carers encourage their independence, they will develop a sense of autonomy. For example, when a toddler tries to eat on his own and gets messy, if the parents shout at him, he will stop trying, in order to not be shouted at and to not feel embarrassed. If the parents praise his attempt and help him the next time, he will feel more self-assured and will keep trying.
  3. Initiative vs Guilt (3-6 years): Children develop curiosity and try to learn through questions to adults in their environment. If their curiosity is satisfied (adults answer their questions), they will continue asking and grow up to be more ingenious. If their curiosity is not satisfied, or they are called silly, they will stop asking and grow up to be more fearful. For example, when a child asks his father if the sun is hot, if the father says “yes” and explains briefly why, the child’s knowledge will grow and he will develop a sense of initiative. If the father doesn’t answer the question or calls him silly for asking it, the child will feel ashamed and will end up thinking he is silly.
  4. Industry vs Inferiority (6-12 years): Children ask themselves how their environment is made and how it works. Industry will develop if children are encouraged to carry out projects and/or if they are helped with those projects. In contrary, inferiority will develop if children are not encouraged nor helped with their projects, hence they will fail and they will feel inferior to others who are successful. A good way of illustrating this is using school homework as an example. If parents motivate their children to do their work for school and help them when they need it, the kids will be more likely to be responsible about their studies. Conversely, if parents pay little attention to their children’s homework and don’t help or encourage them, their kids will be more likely to fail and care less about their studies.
  5. Identity vs Role confusion (12-18 year): During this period, distress is common amongst teenagers, since they are trying to find out who they are. In most cases, identity is developed from friendships. If a person doesn’t have a strong network of friendships, they will have trouble to understand the values and morals of a relationship. An individual develops an identity when they have a clear and consistent view of who they are, and when they find a point of understanding between their opinion and the opinion of others. If someone doesn’t form their identity, they will have difficulties to determine who they are and which their place within society is: this is known as role confusion. For example, children and teens who are bullied and don’t have friends will struggle to develop trust in future relationships, and will have difficulties to find who they are and where they belong to within society.

While all this is just a theory that doesn’t take into account genetic / biological factors and it may not apply to everyone, I can see how it translates to my life. I was in care (living in a children’s home, under local authorities protection) since I was 7 years old till I was 15 years old. Without doubt, my rough childhood and my confusing pre-teen years affected negatively my personal development, mainly the emotional and social aspects of it. I’m an extremely independent and autonomous person, my self-esteem is irregular, I have no self-confidence, I’m horrible socialising, I constantly fear being humiliated, I regularly get paranoid about my few friends hating me and I have trouble maintaining significant relationships. On top of all, lack of interest, frustration, flashbacks of traumatic events, sadness and feelings of hopelessness are things I have to deal with every day. And I know that great part of this is due to my upbringing.

Recently, I have been reflecting about my experiences and about who I am quite a lot.  If my childhood had been different, would I be a different person? Would I be more confident? Would I have self-esteem? Would I be able to socialise better? Would I still have mental health problems? I’m aware that great part of my personality is determined by genetics and that people react different to different events. At the same time, I know that I can’t change certain aspects of who I am, even if I try every day. Consequently, I can’t blame others 100% for who I am and for how I respond to events in my life. I assume my responsibility to cope with my problems, to not be arrogant and stubborn to avoid confrontations, and to understand and/or forgive people who may have hurt me, as well as say sorry to the people I have hurt.

On conclusion: the relationship between family, nurture and personality is complex. Biological factors determine various aspects about ourselves while social and environmental factors also shape who we are. To be honest, I’m not completely sure about what I expect people to take away from this blog post. I have struggled to categorise it as a personal one, a thoughtful one, or an inspirational one (I ended up choosing the three categories!). All I know is that I don’t want sympathy or pity. My problems are my problems. I used my life to illustrate certain points I was trying to make, as I always do. I like sharing my personal stories with others because I hope people can get something out from them. I have learnt so much about how to improve my life and behaviour by reflecting on the experiences of others, it would be great if my readers did the same.

I merely wish people (parents in particular) were more aware of how their actions and attitudes towards others (children specifically) can affect and impact them. And more if these are repeated and regular. I also wish people would realise that everyone is dissimilar and we all react differently to events. There is a limit to what a person can change about themselves: making people feel “weak” for being sensible and for not coping with problems as you wish is not good, it is actually selfish and patronising.

Furthermore, I wish people would use love and motivation, rather than hatred and shame, to correct children’s mistakes. This doesn’t mean you can’t punish kids or you can’t tell them off: it means you need to balance the negativity with positivity. And lastly, I wish people understood that not everyone has loving families and those who don’t shouldn’t to be forced to feel grateful for things they shouldn’t. The abusive or/and neglectful behaviour of parents can be analysed, but it should not be excused. Never. Because if it is, children will find others to blame for the detrimental events they experience. And most times, those others are just themselves.