Peace.

‘Hi mam, awful news about Chris Cornell, such a shame x’

I hit backspace on my iPhone and deleted the text. Both of my mothers siblings died due to suicide. As much as I want to talk about another inspiration dying from suicide, I fear it is something that is still too painful to talk about. I genuinely waited for my mother to text me about the breaking news, as I felt if she wanted to talk about it, she would.

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It has been on the news that the lead singer of the band Soundgarden had killed himself by hanging today. With every suicide by a well known artist, more awareness, more understanding. At least I hope this is the case. Too many people condemn suicide. I hate the fact that people have to resort to such measures for a cease in the pain, I could not imagine being a person that condemns the individual. Whether that person had a mental illness so horrific we cannot imagine or their feet were practically melting against steel in September 2001, who are we, in a completely different frame of mind, to judge how and why individuals go to the lengths they do to escape the pain.

It angers me, truly. I don’t mind admitting that things anger me, this is healthy and if I can open up about certain feelings, I will. According to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-29 globally. We need to stop pretending we know how much pain people go through and that death is never the answer. Sometimes it is the answer for that person. We tell sufferers to ‘man up’. We weep at their funeral, crying to the church ceiling asking why they didn’t speak up about such problems. We create this vicious circle and we need to find alternative ways around addressing such problems without labeling suffers as weak or that they undervalue life.

Life isn’t a gift that we need to force upon people that want nothing but and end to their own consciousness. We need to make life that gift, by understanding how horrific mental illness can be and preventing such illnesses from manifesting. This won’t work by telling them how good life is because yours is more tolerable. Sadly, death provides the wings to leave this world for too many people, lets stop pretending that this world isn’t worth leaving.

Rejection.

A cross and statue of Virgin Mary (out of view) overlooking a town in Maragogi, Brazil.

It is interesting that we mourn those that are no longer with us despite suffering only being inflicted upon the ones that are still breathing.


It took me a couple of years to get over an existential crisis, one that had me struggling to cope with the fact that I was forced into existence 27 years ago and one day will be forced out of it. It isn’t the mentality I choose to adopt, it morphed into this uncomfortable perception around mild episode of mental illness. A passenger on a roller-coaster with no control over the destination, the ups and downs of life coming and going, riding the wave with no control over where the wave is taking me. It was the worst feeling in the world.
I can cope with reality today, some days more than others. One thing I cannot cope with is the idea that we are born, need to believe or fully commit to a religion or face an eternal punishment for failing to do so. The kind of person that has the nerve to utter such words is person I have no respect for. They say hate is a strong word and for those that can honestly say they don’t dislike anyone enough to hate, I feel they aren’t being honest with themselves.

‘If you’re struggling to find God, you aren’t looking in the right places.’

‘Lose yourself in scripture or find a place of worship, maybe then you will find God.’

‘You aren’t praying or praying hard enough.’

‘You need another outlook on life, you are seeking truth in the wrong way.’

How about stop telling me what I should be doing to meet your ideals? If a vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, I don’t tell them ways to find meat. They don’t want it and it is a pointless conversation. If I don’t want to put effort into finding God, don’t give me tips to find him. That isn’t what I am looking for. I am looking to meet people in my life that come to me as often as I see them and if I have to put effort into finding God, he isn’t worth my time. I’ve got shit to do.

Existential crisis #1

This week I learned that tomato consumption can cause anaphylaxis. Of all the foods that I worry about in restaurants, a tomato isn’t on the watch list. It wasn’t me that suffered (and thankfully recovered), despite never saying grace before a meal.

*Puts down peanut butter on toast*

I also learned that when someone orders a gluten-free afternoon tea, they are still at risk of getting a gluten-filled afternoon tea. That customer may also be lovely about this, much nicer than the ignoramus complaining that their food arrived five minutes late and served to the wrong person. People watching can be so exhausting.

I also learned that cardiac arrest can kill someone one year older than myself. I’m 27. That person died four days ago on the street in which I work. It isn’t being treated as suspicious, just tragic. Being in the city center, this person inhaled his last breath and didn’t take another step. He received CPR, all to no avail. His body was taken away swiftly, the street once again empty at 10pm other than the drinkers walking up to the cash point at that very spot, totally unaware that a human life just expired as they plan their next drinking spot.

After a very long day at work, I have sat down at home, a little exhausted. I can feel the onset of anxiety slowly creeping up on me, tics are becoming more prevalent and breaths a little deeper. Conveniently, the following video emerged in my recommended YouTube feed.

An attractive woman will always distract me for a brief moment, no wonder the video has 34.7 million views. I decided to look past the click-bait thumbnail and give it a shot. 27 minutes and 53 seconds in, it is keeping it’s promise. I am relaxing. I sometimes forget it is in the background, it will be interesting to see if I make the 3 hour mark. It is as fascinating as it is scary coming to the realisation that I need something external to keep my own body and mind in order. It doesn’t sound like much, however putting conscious effort into considering this reality really makes me feel almost separated from myself. My mind need servicing every now and then just like my car does. Sometimes, I need someone else to help me with this, whether it is therapy or therapeutic music. I don’t hold such power.

To throw a spanner into the works, relaxing also has its downfalls. I do not always feel in control, as baffling as I am sure that sounds. I am used to tics as a result of Tourette’s, overthinking as a result of OCD and constant movement as a result of ADHD. In the rare moments that the symptoms subside, I feel an incredible amount calm, even if my symptoms are not as severe as other sufferers experience. This calm makes me uneasy, I had mentioned this to my therapist last year when I was seeking techniques to alleviate the associated conditions. I feel I am going into a state of paralysis, or losing control of my movements. It’s a weird feeling to feel like I am losing control when I should feel I am gaining it. Maybe this has something to do with claustrophobia or the desire to be in open space. I need to be somewhere in which I can move, and regular movement reassures me that I am.

So there we have it, I feel overwhelmed at times and when I try to relax it feels weird. I need to find the right balance, if I have such a thing. It’s like I am not a single person, but a person trying to break a wild horse, with no end in sight.

Yee-haw.

I went on a date, she laughed at a mental illness she didn’t know I had

I am very fortunate that my symptoms are mild. This is why I am able to fool colleagues into thinking I am much more focused than I am, living with this condition relatively undetected by anyone other than family and close friends. Intensity comes in waves, usually at times of stress or around people that I don’t want to know of the condition. The irony.

Surprisingly, I was stress free during the date at the local restaurant. This was helped by chugging a beer before I jumped into the taxi, taking the edge off things. This was also the second date, the first was a brief coffee chat and although caffeine can send me off the rails, it was a brief encounter was short enough to suppress any urges. I have been on dates and catch ups with friends in the past when in a much more depressed state of mind. It is perfectly possible to be in a bar full of people, having an intimate chat with someone and feel like I am here.

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Tourette’s is a very strange condition. It is also highly misunderstood. Thanks to television and stereotypes the first question I get asked when someone learns I have the condition is ‘so why don’t you swear?’. Only a portion of sufferers have verbal tics and only a portion of those let out obscenities, roughly 10%. More responses to such myths can be viewed over at Tourettes Hero. For this reason, I have had conversations with people that poke fun at the condition, failing to realise that I have the illness that they are joking about, right in my face. Despite being able to suppress tics, they build up every few seconds or so on a bad day. A good day, maybe every few minutes. Some create enough pressure for me to have to let them out, usually in a minor head movement, blink or vocal grunt disguised as a cough.

So, back to the date. We were sitting, a few bites into our main course when we got onto the topic of interesting television documentaries, those with Louis Theroux in particular. If you haven’t watched any of his, I recommend them. His cool and calm persona whilst in some of the weirdest situations with the wackiest people is hilarious. She then told me of a documentary that she watched, consisting of Tourette’s sufferers swearing and saying the most offensive of things in the most inappropriate of places. I understand why the stereotype holds up. I would be boring on such a television programme. Who doesn’t want to hear people shouting that they have a bomb whilst in an airport? Or shouting the ‘N’ word in a largely black community? This is what you get when being educated on TS on TV.

‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry! It is so awkward to watch!’ At least she is willing to empathise with those burdened with the symptoms it seemed. She wasn’t being patronising or condescending either, making the chat a little more bearable. It lasted a couple of minutes before moving on to the next topic, however hearing the condition I have had for a lifetime being condensed into a two minute bunch of laughs will always stay with me a little longer, whenever this may be. What I have to remember is that I do the exact same thing. I don’t know when or with what person. Which is why it is impossible to not offend no matter how hard we all try. I will make a joke about something that will no doubt have a big impact on someone, whether it be a myth that I haven’t been corrected on or a condition that I know nothing about.

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For that reason, it’s cool. I won’t get wound up about it. As long as that person isn’t doing so intentionally to offend me or being misled by, lets say ‘alternative facts’ that we are hearing so much about. I am just about to get ready before heading to a gig later with the same girl. I am looking forward to it. Maybe I will do something that gives away the condition, maybe I will tell her that I have it. Maybe she will tell me that she has a condition that I embarrassingly mocked during our last date. What I do know is that she isn’t going to intentionally insult me. It is important to know the difference between those that offend intentionally and those that do so out of ignorance. The latter should be held in a higher regard as we all do it, every single one of us. If you don’t think so, you are wrong. Those that are hurt by our statements are probably used to hiding it very well, it is our duty to understand that as best we can.

 

Hello, 2017

I am confident most people will call 2016 a disaster. Whether it was a celebrity death or Brexit/Trump, millions will be happy to welcome in 2017. For those that voted Brexit or Trump, 2016 was probably seen in a completely different light. A success. 

I try not to determine how the year has gone by a general consensus. It takes the focus away from personal goals and a achievements, which are much more vital for success. For me, 2016 had been pretty damn good. I’ve tried to think of five examples of such, in 365 days it is easy to forget the good times amongst the more memorable and overwhelming bad days.

So here it goes.

1. I went to see Muse for the fourth time. 

It could have been the hundredth time and I would have been just as excited. I’m pretty sure these guys boost my quality of life by at least 25%, so I thank them for that.

2. I made the most of my sister living in a different city.

Edinburgh, or incrEdinburgh as it has been promoted as lately, is a nearby city that I rarely visited. Now, it’s nice to have a break from the norm and meet my sister for a coffee, beer maybe even a battered Mars Bar. Yum.

3. Bagpipe rock.

It’s a thing, and it is an amazing thing. The Scottish half of me from my mother and my love of rock music from my dad meant this was a winning combination. Search The Red Hot Chilli Pipers, you won’t regret it.

4. I visited Brazil.


Although it would be impossible to experience everything this amazing country has to offer, I gave it a damn good try. 


In a month I went to a wedding in São Paulo, the 2016 Opening Ceremony in Rio, experienced Iguazu Falls on both sides of the Brazil/Argentina border, stayed in every kind of accommodation possible and consumed as much food and drink as I could possibly handle. 

I have also made friends for life and although not fluent in Portuguese, I said enough to impress an air stewardess. 

Life goals.

5. I attended therapy to help understand how my mind works.


Which was fascinating. There is nothing more sobering than trying to figure out the incredible machine that drives us to think about consiousness in the first place and the problems that come along with it. I’ve learned techniques and a much better understanding of my conditions which will help in the long run.

2017

Trying to make 2017 as eventful will be a hard task. This in turn makes me try harder. So this year, I have three goals.

1. Improve considerably on the guitar

2. Keep blogging frequently and have my book complete and published by June

3. Visit Australia

I’m hoping by doing as little as possible to save for such a trip, the first two goals will have much more time devoted to them. Sometimes, one goal is an opportunity to achieve others.

Have a happy 2017 and set yourself an awesome goal along the way!!!

The link between mental health, religion and why I am an atheist

Obsessive thoughts and tics have proved to be a hindrance within the past 72 hours, to the extend that I have been reviewing OCD and Tourettes on dedicated websites. My therapy ended a couple months back and although I have techniques to ride the waves, there are always ones that come crashing over me.

These include constantly regretting past mistakes, being over critical of previous decisions and worrying about potential events that haven’t taken place. They don’t come and go, they stay from morning to night. It is easy for me to understand that it is abnormal and that I shouldn’t overthink but this is ineffective. I guess it would be like someone knowing they will have a bad trip on LSD and still freaking out in the process.


I am on the website OCD UK, and it is interesting to read they have a portion of the page dedicated to religious beliefs and/or constantly needing answers for the universe. This has me written all over it.

Here is the information provided:

‘Rumination’ is a term often used to describe all obsessional intrusive thoughts, but this is misleading. In the context of OCD a rumination is actually a train of prolonged thinking about a question or theme that is undirected and unproductive. Unlike obsessional thoughts, ruminations are not objectionable and are indulged rather than resisted. Many ruminations dwell on religious, philosophical, or metaphysical topics, such as the origins of the universe, life after death, the nature of morality, and so on.

It also states further down that:

OCD often fixates on areas of great importance and sensitivity and religion and matters of religious practice are prime candidates for OCD obsessions. Sometimes referred to as scrupulosity, religious intrusive thoughts include:

-Sins committed will never be forgiven by God and one will go to hell.
-One will have bad thoughts in a religious building.

-One will scream blasphemous words loudly in a religious location.

-Prayers have been omitted or recited incorrectly.

-Certain prayers must be said over and over again.

-Religious objects need to be touched or kissed repeatedly.

-One is always doing something sinful.

-Repetitive blasphemous thoughts.

-That the person has lost touch with God or their beliefs in some way.

-Intrusive sexual thoughts about God, saints or, religious figures.

-That the person has broken religious laws concerning speech, or dress or modesty.

-Intrusive bad thoughts that occur during prayer will contaminate and ruin or cancel out the value of these activities.

The constant analysing and questioning of a person’s faith places immense strain on their beliefs and prevents the person deriving peace from their religion. As a result they will often avoid church and all religious practice out of fear of their thoughts.

I have suffered both aspects to a degree. The first aspect has really developed my open mindedness. I can no longer believe what I want to for comfort, as my comfort is not brought on what I want to be true. It is brought on by what evidence points to. The second aspect fuels it further, as I should not feel guilty for thoughts, especially as I cannot help them. 

Everyday I question reality, constantly analysing how we behave as a society. Mental illness certainly has its perks, at least that’s what my crazy mind has me believe.

The one thing that makes travelling hard

The world begs to be roamed. The place you call home is a place someone considers a dream destination. If only the citizens of North Korea could see just how many people would visit if they had the chance. Travel doesn’t have to lead to sunshine and seawater. It is about experience. With borders and visas and customs and security, some people opt not to travel at all. There is one thing I envy about these people. 


Sometimes, the joys experienced are too much to give up. The friends gained, the relationships built, all turned to memories ever distant on that everlong flight home. I’ve felt overwhelming joy turn quickly into regret, depression and demotivation once I return, one that seems very selfish considering how lucky I have been to travel at all. Not that I can honestly help it, to experience such happiness in a short space of time, only for it to vanish again as quickly as it emerged, is a tough ride.

There are people I know that have never travelled. Never had to say goodbye to someone they met so briefly, never had to get back to ‘normality’. The one thing that I fear when experiencing new places is the reality that it won’t last. 

They say you shouldn’t regret but to be happy it happened at all, if only my mind was so considerate.