To be or not to be…PC

We are living in a extreme world, going back 40/50 years it is as though we have executed an 360 degree circle.

In the 50’s, people who were different were made to feel ashamed, having to hide away their sexuality, their desire’s, their confusions for fear of being ridiculed, tormented or even locked up.  Today we live in a completely different world, some would go as far to say that being a certain gender, a stay at home mother, a man and women being married, girls wanting to play with dolls and boys wanting to play with trains, is frowned upon.

Gender neutral school uniforms, the ability for 11 year old children to go to a Dr and ask for gender reassignment surgery, books such as sleeping beauty being considered “dangerous” (as the prince did not give consent before kissing the princess) postmen and policemen not being called men anymore, the same applies for policewomen/ postwomen, who are now known as police person, or post person all point to a society that has done everything it can to move as far as possible away from the “norms” of the 1950’s.

We are afraid to say anything in fear of insulting someone. We have to stop and think before we call someone male/female girl/boy.  Government forms now give the option to add ” other” where it asks if a person is male or female.  All in all we are living in an extreme world, where one has to be careful every time they open their mouths.

So why, I asked myself when seeing the picture below on Facebook, is this ok.

psych ward pic

The idea is to fill out the answers with friends names, and then post it on their walls, in turn they will post others names and send on etc.

The picture above, which went around the Facebook galaxy at an alarming speed is so full of insults, hurtful words, and misconceptions. Lets look at another picture, one which I put together myself this morning, the only things I have changed are the ward and a couple of other details, take a minute and compare the two.

Cancer

Just writing the above made me shudder. Would any of us, ever share the above, inviting others as a joke to fill in the blanks with people’s names? If not, why then is it ok to share the first one, both are illness’s, both destroy lives, both bring destruction and heart break in its tidal wave.

There is an underlying attitude that it is ok to poke fun of mental health illness. Perhaps it is ok for those suffering themselves from a mental health issue to have a joke, as it is ok for example, me as a Jew to make a joke about Jews. But again there is a very thin line.

The underlying attitude that people who suffer from Mental Health illness’s are somehow “crazy” and different, people whom are to be feared stems in no small part from posts like the above on Facebook.

In a generation where we are so careful not to offend, perhaps we need to take a look at why ridiculing those with mental health issues is ok.

The tragedy of suicide

Death has been all around recently. Tragically many of these have been suicides, in the last few months I have heard of more people taking their lives then I have ever before.
This has impacted so many people on so many levels. For those whom have mental health issues, anxiety, OCD, depression, Bipolar and so many more the week has been a trigger, a huge, full blown, black, dark, pit of being triggered.

When I was a child, even as a teenager the word suicide was unheard, it was “committed” a word we use it in relation to crimes, it has a negative connotation and is usually used in relation to something we all would consider as wrong, “committed a murder” “committed a robbery” “committed a crime”.

Suicide was until 1961 a crime.

 

Attempting suicide would lead to either a fine or a spell in a jail cell, the stigma and depression for those whom found themselves, at their lowest points in their lives locked up in a jail instead of shown love and compassion must have been huge.
I recently attended a day of suicide prevention training at work. One of the first things we were told is that the word committed when talking about suicide is thankfully now not used.
A lot of what I have written below is based or taken from some of the information we received during our suicide training.
Most people who are contemplating suicide are not thinking rationally or clearly, their judgement clouded by pain, just wanting the hurt to stop. A suicidal crisis is between 5 minutes to 30 minutes, in that time a life can be saved, a suicide tragedy averted.
When a person takes their life, at least 15 people are emotionally inured. Of these 15 a staggering 60% will themselves experience some thoughts of suicide. Then there are those we would not think of, those who are not close friends, family members or colleagues ges of the person who has taken their lives, for example the postman who may have shared many a “good morning, with her, or the local shopkeeper who may have seen her at the same time every week for a long time.

Another aspect of suicide is the blame, when an event happens, we tend to seek to blame, for somewhere to plant our pain, a way to cope, self-blame when it comes to suicide is something we all do. When I tragically had to break the news to my friend letting her know about a friend of hers taking her life,she immediately blamed herself, asking “why didn’t I call her more, I should have known something was not right”. We can not do this to ourselves, if a person takes their life, no one is to blame, no one could have stopped them if they did not let anyone know or make anyone aware of their pain.
The numbers are shocking, in 2018 a number of 5821 people took their own lives, that is equivalent to 12 British airways flights crashing a year. There are also many suicide attempts, and suicides that go unreported.

There are many signs, that a person may give that they are thinking, or planning to take their own lives, these can be obvious signs such as posting on social media, or more subtle, not turning up to work, distancing themselves from people, saying things such as “I want it all to end” or they feel so alone, a burden, a failure, or may seem completely numb, elated or high.
Other signs, one may see is the person acting in certain unusual ways, displaying promiscuity, drinking more, self-medicating, withdrawing, putting their affairs in order neglecting themselves and more.
It is not usually an isolated occurrence that leads to self-harm suicide or suicidal thoughts, usually it is a combination of traumatic, hurtful and tragic events which lead up to suicide for younger people it could be an immense amount of peer pressure, a bereavement, abuse, change of medication, past history, Biological and psychological factors, current life events.
Interestingly, 75% of people who take their own lives have not been in contact with mental health services.
The more a person thinks about suicide the more likely they are to eventually attempt or carry out suicide.
A sadly common word used when discussing suicide is Selfish.
The word selfish, has no place in this discussion. It is not selfish, in fact it is the opposite, a person who takes her own life is not being selfish, tragically they believe the world would be better without them, they have nothing to give, are failures, they can’t do their jobs, be a friend, parent, spouse, daughter etc.

Talking about suicide is truly hard, but with suicide on the rise in our communities it is so important to realise that people are crying out for help. I once read an article by one of the minute amount of suicide survivors, that as soon as an action is taken, jumping from that bridge, swallowing those pills etc, there is instant regret, and sadly it is often too late.
We ALL have the ability to stop a suicide. Anyone can give suicide first aid, we may be afraid of the responsibility, but it does not have to fall solely on our shoulders, if we see a person collapse in the street, and give CPR we are not expected to then go on and give that person heart surgery, then monitor that person for the rest of their lives.
It’s always important to make links, who may be their supporters, their friends, family, community groups, there are more formal links, such as helplines, emergency care, and more. It is about at that moment keeping a person safe, taking it minute by minute.
So, what to do.
First is do not judge, do not lecture, do not tell them that what they are doing is wrong or stupid. Do not give advice (that’s a big one).
Tell someone your concerns, although it is so difficult and uncomfortable ask the question. “are you thinking of taking your life” or “do you have any plans to end your life”. if the answer is yes, let them know its ok that they told you. Ask yourself if both of you are safe right now, if yes then you can continue being with the person, if you or the person are unsafe get help.
Take time, ask gentle questions with empathy, listening and mirroring, acknowledge their pain, and recognise their suffering, give permission to tell. Now is not the time to give advice or solutions, rather help them understand that right this second the way they feel now may not be the best time to make such a major decision.
We can ask questions such as “did something in particular trigger this” try to normalise it. When a person is able to see they are distressed, they are more receptive to being asked more questions, and lead a conversation, for example, acknowledging their pain with a simple “ I am so glad you told me this, it sounds so painful, can you tell me more about what happened, or is happening” or “you sound so overwhelmed, let’s see what we can do to lower the anxiety this is causing”
People need to feel heard and understood, so before we reply, seek to understand first. Ask yourself “am I really listening, or am I just waiting for my turn to speak”.
It is traumatic to hear someone talking about taking their life but know that you are not alone.

“when you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen”
Acknowledging that yes, suicide is an option, but let’s just pause, see what other options there are, do they really need to make a life and death decision at this moment? Have they spoken to anyone else about this? Is right now a good time to make a major decision.

Then move on to practicalities, such as “maybe together we can start making a plan of action” “see what other options you have” then create a list or contract to help that person stay safe.
Finally. A list of possible scenarios and ways to safeguard:
Aloneness: Do they have support? Who is their network? “I’m here, you are not alone”
Pain/Desperation: Find ways to reduce emotional/physical pain, just be with them. Hold their hope.
Suicide Plan: How? When? How prepared are they? And how to disable the plan, simple ideas to deny access to materials that can be used.
Alcohol/drugs: How much is normal for that person, how much is safe

Mental health: what or who helps? What have they learnt in the past?

A personal safety plan can also be put in to place:
To stay safe from suicide what actions needs to take place now (24-hour contacts, GP number, other numbers)
Later, when the immediate danger has passed another list could be made which will include things such as:
If I notice these signs again: Who will I talk to, I will seek help from? I will calm and comfort myself by? I will distract myself by. I will go to these places to feel safe… I will remember these things and people who have helped me in the past,
The main thing is to let the person know that you need to know how to keep them safe right now, and if we are unable to press pause on the suicide plan right now emergency help needs to be sought.
My last message is this, NEVER brush someone off, never assume that just because they have threatened suicide for the past month every day that they will not carry out their plan. They are in deep pain. Pain which they may not be able to control, which may lead to self-harm which may lead to death.

What’s to gain?

Stopping smoking exactly one year ago was not a choice, after becoming ill I was physically unable to go and get cigarettes, for approximately a month I could not walk and thankfully no one would agree to get me some!

Interestingly I do not recall having the same, all consuming, body and soul intense need for a cigarette at that time, perhaps being so ill distracted me, my whole focus was on recovery, to regain the ability to walk, talk, and function on a basic level.

I have had during the year urges which have pushed me almost to mania, times where I have literally thrown a plate in my anger, where I have screamed and shouted at anyone who dared to look at me, all due to those little cancer sticks, their power, their command over a person is unparalleled, they haunt you, they beckon you, they whisper in your ear telling you that you need them. Being a smoker is akin to being in an abusive, controlling relationship, one which you know in the long term will harm you in a perhaps fatal way, yet you are so under their control that you stay with them, through fear of leaving, through addiction to them, to being dependant on them, even when they will take all of your money, even when you have times where to satisfy your need you will go through the dustbin searching for one, turn your home upside down, seek out pennies in order to give them what they want… power.

If you are thinking about stopping smoking, I know how difficult, how immense the withdrawal symptoms are. It is one of the hardest things I have had to do, and a year on I am still dependant on the Nicorette lozenges, but I believe it is the placebo affect which keeps me hooked on those.

So I am not going to tell you to stop now, a person needs to have a true and strong desire, a reason, a reason that will not go away.  Having a reason for stopping smoking such as a wedding, becoming pregnant, holidays and more are usually not strong enough, because as soon as the reason has ended ( you have had the child, are married etc) you need to find another reason.

Instead I would like to tell you what you will gain:

Better skin

increased power to breath

You will be less stressed

You will not stink ( don’t kid yourself… you do stink, even if you cant smell it on yourself)

Your clothes will not stink

You wont need to stand outside in the rain, cold, hail or snow

There is no “hiding”

The feeling of constantly being on edge before going anywhere ( a flight, restaurant, party etc ) will disappear.

You and everyone around you ( once you stop the snarling) will be happier.

YOU WILL SAVE LOADS OF MONEY

smoking 1

There are so many more reasons. I think I have listed the main ones.

Its a true battle, but think back to when and where you were when you first became an addict, I can be pretty certain that it was not a good, healthy, happy time in your life.

An older person may have started at a time where “everyone” smoked, where the cowboy on the horse with a cigarette advert, promised that if you would smoke you to would become this sexual, strong, cowboy type of person, but for anyone who has started in the past 23/30 years this would not be the case.

Smoking is no longer “cool”. sadly hard drugs have now taken the place of the cool factor of cigarette’s, but I do believe on the whole most children and teenagers now know that smoking is not ok.

Before you stop, sit down, picture yourself as I was, so sure that you would never become ill, it will never happen to me… paint that picture in your mind, now change the picture, an ambulance, racing through the street, your almost unconscious, you can not move, you can not talk, your mouth is open but no words are formed, you need to move your leg but try as you may no movement happens.  You may be blessed and recover, but the next time ( and there will be a next time) you may not. Do you really want to live your life in a wheelchair, with lung cancer, with illness.

We are all going to die eventually ( hopefully at a good old age of 120), but why hasten your end?

Sounds brutal? its the reality.

Lots of love

Sara

UP SYNDROME

Frank Stone, a name you may not have heard, a name I had never heard of till a couple of days ago, when I received a video of him speaking at the US Congress on the matter of abortion of fetuses with Down Syndrome, where he argued it is immoral.  He said the following:

” Richard Dawkins, expressed the opinon that it is immoral to have a child with Down Synrome, he said he believed that our lives bring more suffering in to the world than happiness, I just don’t know what rock he has been under for the last 50 years.  We no longer lead the short, unhappy lives in instituations that he seems to imagine. I really am the Actor, Author and advocate that is described on my business card.  I speak to over 50 audiences a year , with a motivational message of hope, I have just returned from a promotional tour of the United Kingdom with my co-star from Touched by Grace. I have been to the white house twice ” ……

He ends with this statement ” I teach people all the time not to underestimate others, just because of how they look, God didn’t put me here to increase suffering.  He put me here to incease accepetance.  My life is worth living.”

Frank has been a public spokesman for those with Downs Syndrome for many years.

Denmark, since 2004 have offered all pregnant women a nuchal scan, this has increased the number of abortions involving children with Downs Syndrome dramatically. last year a staggering 98% of pregnant women who were shown to be carrying a baby with Downs Syndrome (DS) choose to have an abortion.

A baby is usually born with 46 chromosomes, but a DS baby will have an extra copy of chromosome 21, this results in both physical and mental issues, which can range from mild to severe, high functioning or low. It is not hereditary  and there is no known cause.

My brother, Eli, is one of those lucky ones to be born to parents who truly cherished him, even with all those many many challenges, even when the Dr’s were surprised that my parents choose to “keep” the baby they had given birth to, even when speech therapy, occupational therapy was a huge cost, even when they had to beg all the schools to accept their little boy, never once did they give up, or show any sadness, bitterness or regret.

Through my brother we have become acquainted  with many boys/girls/men and women who have special needs, currently my brother lives in an assisted living flat, there are carers on site around the clock, but each person living in the block has a flat with their own kitchen and utilities, they can choose to eat together downstairs or in their own flat.

I could choose now to write about the daily challenges my brother has ( making himself understood on the phone due to difficulty speaking clearly for example), but instead I would like to focus on the positives, because, to be honest, that’s what my brother does, he focuses on the good in his life.

So, here is a list of  positive attributes I have learnt from him, these lessons I have learnt are not through Eli preaching, lecturing or telling, they are lessons I have learnt through being his sister , and I think our entire family has learnt from him.

  1. Happiness with life: I have rarely, in all the 30+ years I have known my brother, seen Eli truly unhappy, there have been times that tragedy ( for example the death of my father) has caused him heartbreak and trauma, but, his life on the whole, has been led with true happiness, it is not unusual to see my brother walking down the street, headphones in his ears, singing loudly to whatever song is playing. He has so many obstacles, yet he lives with such genuine happiness.
  2. Friendship: The majority of the community knows my brother, he is often in the local  newspaper ( in fact he considers it a travesty the weeks he is not in) and he can not walk down the street without someone calling out to him, or giving him a hug, often, he will have a nice chat with someone, or will call out to someone, the conversation that usually follows is this:   Me: “Eli, who was that”, Eli “My best friend” Me “that’s nice, what’s his name” Eli “I don’t know”….. So, it doesn’t matter that Eli does not actually know his “best Friends” name, what matters to him is that someone out there took the time to be his friend, to smile at him, to say hallo, and that is what a friend is. Eli has a best friend who is also his flatmate, his friend’s speech is a lot more unclear then Eli’s but they have a true bond, Eli often being his friend’s translator etc.
  3.  Never to Judge: However hard we try, most of us ( excluding you of course) are somewhat judgmental, we look at how a person dresses, car they drive, job they do, house they live in, and make baseline judgements about the person.  Eli does not do this, he doesn’t care what house a person lives in, or what car they drive, what he cares about is kindness, and to him, people who are sincere, genuine and kind are the ones who matter.
  4. Listening: uhh, writing the word listening, when it comes to Eli makes me smile, I come from a large family, there are 7 of us, all married except for Eli, all with children, my mum’s house is the central meeting point for all of us, a typical family event will include, a lot of shouting to be heard, followed by a lot more shouting to be heard. Eli though, can sit, silently throughout a meal, which is something I don’t think anyone in my family will ever achieve ( sorry guys) .  He is truly a man that enjoys his food, so that  could be the reason he is so quiet ( so that my mum does not notice how much he is eating!) but I believe that the main reason is, he is just happy to “be” and to listen, when we ask him questions or try to include him in the conversation he does not seem overly concerned about answering at length, but, make no mistake, whilst we are all yelling at each other trying to get our points across, Eli is listening, taking it all in and noticing everything that is going on.  Last week, for example, someone started to talk quietly about Eli at the table, Eli was sitting on the sofa happily engrossed in something, but as soon as they started talking about him, a smug smile settled on his face… yup he is all seeing, all hearing, so watch what you say!
  5.  Have good self esteem: this one does not need much explaining, Eli has many many challenges, but he likes himself, is secure in himself and knows he is a good person, loved by many, and has what to give to this world.
  6. Showing love: When Eli was younger the hugs and kisses were abundant, as he has grown the way he shows love has become different, he will call his siblings a few times a day and the conversation will always be the same “How are you, How’s your day, Hows (name of persons children), ok, your busy I’m going, bye” sometimes we may groan when our caller ID shows Eli’s number for the 10th time in a day, but he knows we love his calls. He is always loved and always welcome,  he actually knows the code of the front door of my sisters house, and will often let himself in calling out “only me” as he does, he knows how much he is loved, and how much we love him.

Make no mistake, just because Eli has downs syndrome it does not make him any less smart than you and me, in fact, he is so on the ball, he knows if someone is happy or sad, he is funny, hysterically funny sometimes.

Our lives have been blessed by Eli.

 

Lots of love

sara

The abuse ….

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Deep breath …

Am I actually going to press “publish”

Will I do it …

I have to ….

Here we go…

Sexual abuse is never forgotten

The pain, the memories, the guilt the questions may come and go but it is always there .

Therapy may help to alleviate the raw pain the most traumatic of memories, but until the perpetrator has acknowledged and paid the price for what they have done it is impossible for a victim to move on completely.

Some weeks, some months may go by where he or she sits quietly smugly tormenting you at the back of your brain but than as sure as summer turns to autumn and autumn turns into a cold, dark winter the abuser will come back and haunt you.

The necessity of the abuser paying for what they have done is unparalleled. Until they are punished until they know the damage, the havoc they have set in to motion the victims will suffer.

The tears will flow and then just as you will think they have stopped that image comes back in to your head, the same image, of his hands, his words, the room you were in, replayed over and over and over and once again the tears will flow.

Every other kind of trauma is understandable, illness, disease,hunger, death can be spoken about and will be understood, empathy and love will be shown, people will understand why you cry, why you are in pain but sexual abuse is a secret, a secret that even close members of a family probably don’t know about, and why??

Because, the one big fear anyone who has been abused will have is “ will they believe me”. And so we don’t tell, we hold it, we keep it close to our heart until it trickles out, bleeding and spreading until we can no longer keep it in, until we need to face our abuser and show them , with our eyes and hearts just what they have done .

There are some perpetrators who will never pay, where people are afraid to testify, where memories are sketchy, where the community will hound them, where it’s His word against yours and for us who have been the toy of that abuser closure is almost impossible.

So, we cry, we sob we time and time again make plans to somehow obtain the closure we need but we are pulled back, “it’s not the right time” we are told, “what will you gain from confronting him” we are advised, “ it was so long ago there is no evidence “ they tell us, “ do you really want family/ friends/ community knowing about this” and yet again we retreat, because we know that if we take action our lives will unravel, people will stop speaking to us, our families will suffer, our mental and physical health will suffer, and so we continue to cry and we continue to hurt.

Today I have cried so many tears and yet they won’t stop I need and want closure but it does not come

Addendum:

I wrote the above a few months ago, I decided then not to publish this, at the time my pain was still raw, my heart still bleeding, now I can take a step back, it still hurts, hurts real bad, but I need to publish this.

Some people have told me not to, that I won’t gain anything from publishing this, I will become “ that person” I say to them, I have been “that person” since I was abused, since I was divorced, since my first massive psychotic episode, since my baby died… I have always been that person.

What will I gain from letting this be read by the public? Who knows, maybe, someone like me who suffered abuse at the hands of the same man will feel they are not alone.

The anger I held towards him still resides somewhere in me but I try to still it, not to focus on it and prove to myself over and over that the life he set in motion for me, the Bipolar, the anxiety and so much more , has not beaten me, I have continued, become stronger and he, he means nothing

 

 

 

Bi Polar and Anxiety

Anxiety is on the rise, we all suffer with it at some point, whether before an job interview, or long journey, we can understand some anxieties, they are considered the “normal” ones, but what happens when anxiety follows you around like an annoying shadow, which no matter how we try to weave, and prance our way around it, it sticks to us wherever we go, whatever we are doing.

It is almost as though there is a little part of the sufferer’s brain especially made called the anxiety pouch, it is there, always there, no matter how busy we are, our minds could be filled with a million other things, yet  the anxiety will still be there.

Carolyn M. Drazinic, MD, PhD, assistant professor in psychiatry, genetics and developmental biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington says, “It is very common to see an anxiety disorder coexisting with bipolar disorder”

Experts say that it is not always easy to separate an anxiety disorder diagnosis from a bipolar disorder diagnosis but below are some symptoms which are indicative of both disorders co-occurring.

  • Panic attacks, severe anxiety.
  • Avoiding activities that cause anxiety, while displaying mania, hypomania or depression.
  • Having difficulties sleeping because of anxiety.
  • Showing ongoing anxiety even when not in a manic or hyper manic state.
  • Taking a longer than normal time to find the correct medication dosing and combination for their bipolar.

A panic disorder is an anxiety disorder marked by repeated panic attacks.

Thankfully, my panic attacks have calmed a lot in the recent months, but my health anxieties are at an all time high.

Having long lasting stomach issues, being seen by a number of Dr’s ( who are not overly concerned) and awaiting tests have led me down a path of tremendous anxiety, my “go to” thought process that something is terribly wrong, and the Dr’s have missed it is at the forefront of my mind.

Those of us whom have anxieties will ask for constant, repeated reassurance. Those around us may believe we are being hypochondriac’s, will not understand whey we cant just ” think positive” and will wonder why we need to over dramatize everything.

Having bipolar, combined with anxiety is a daily struggle, from the minute one gets up till they fall in to a usually highly charged/ disturbing dreaming sleep, all that is on your mind is your current health anxiety.

The difference between a person who does not have bipolar and anxiety is huge.  2 people with the same symptoms ( in my case long lasting, 24/7 stomach pain ) will have completely different conversations with themselves.

Person 1:

” This pain is so annoying, it disturbs me every day, I just cant wait for the scan and other tests so I can deal with it, I am a little worried because its so often, but the Dr’s have checked me over and over, they have sent me for tests, if they were overly concerned they would have ordered urgent tests, I will just have to wait and see”

Person 2:

” OMG, I am so sure that the Dr’s have missed something, I am sure when I have the scan they are going to find this huge mass of cancer, so scared, its just not normal to have stomach pain all day every day. What about that story I read on line?? the Dr’s missed something that women had, and so many Dr’s checked her and they all missed her cancer and now she is dying. My friend had a pain in her stomach and its pancreatic cancer, maybe I have that”. I am just terrified, should I go to A&E tonight?? I need to tell people about this so that they can reassure me, ill just text hubby to tell him my stomach is hurting again, and does he think it is something serious? Shall I call an ambulance? No I cant, come-on you know its nothing serious right? No I don’t know that, I am sure they have missed something”.

Ill leave you to work out which conversation is one a person with low anxiety and which is the self conversation a person with high anxiety will have.

Anxiety together with bipolar can cause so much unhappiness and exhaustion, coupled with the obsessive thinking that most people with bipolar tend to have, its overwhelming.

So what to do with our anxiety? how to calm it? Trying to be rational and calm just does not work.  I do not know how to overcome this.

 

A WEIGHTY ISSUE

“Are you body beach ready”

“Shake yourself skinny”

“Spray away your fat”

“Lose weight, feel great”

Just a few of the millions of ad campaigns when I look at adverts for diet/ looking good/ health etc.

Recently I felt very unwell, had pins and needles and left arm pain, a man whom we know who is a paramedic came over to check me out, he took my pulse, checked my heart rate and then pronounced, ” You know why you are getting these pains?” “It’s because you are fat”, he then continued “Don’t you want to be one of those women who walk in to a room and all heads turn to check you out”.  I was embarrased, and stunned.

I do love a wee browse in the shops on my day off, and today I ventured in to a shop I had never been to, it was not a particularly upmarket shop, nor was  it exclusively advertised for smaller women, walking around the shop I realised that in the hundreds of rails, all different designers and makes, there were no clothes higher than a size 16.

Setting myself a little challenge, and having a little extra time, I decided to look at every rail, check out all the clothes, I searched high and low, sweat began to form, my heart beat fast as I desperately sought just one outfit, just one skirt, one pair of trousers, shirt, jumper, cardigan, t-shirt, underwear ..anything to prove to myself that this huge shop catered to more than a size 14/16. Eventually beaten and saddened I admitted defeat.

It is a well-known fact that the average British women is a size 16. looking around the café I am currently in I spot within seconds 2 women who are clearly larger than a size 16.  In fact if I pause, look out the window for a few minutes I am certain that I will see rather a lot of women who are not the “average” size.

Weight has annoyingly been an issue to me for many  years, many years ago, I was skinny, but desperately unhappy, now I am large, extra-large in fact, but I am in a good place, obviously one does not automatically cancel out the other, one can be very slim and be happy or miserable, one can be large ( or obese) and be in a great place, or again, unhappy.

I am aware that weight is dependant on many factors, for me a lot of my weight gain is due to the medication I take, the fact that it often makes me lethargic and to be brutally honest my eating habits were, until 3 weeks ago, terrible.

The question I ask myself is, why do we want to lose our weight, why do we torture ourselves endlessly about being overweight in a society where we all know that eating disorders are at an all time high, I see my young nieces, no more than 12/13, who are just perfect the way they are worrying about their weight, trying unsuccessfully to pinch the non existent fat on their stomachs, bemoaning their fate. these are girls who are not on social media, who do not read celebrity magazines, and do not watch tv, so where does it come from ? This endless lust for being skinny, the subconscious idea that if a person is a certain size they are somehow “better people”.

Society at large, is skin deep, we aspire to be better people, we try to lead good lives, but we live in a culture of looks. I have a friend who recently told me that following her huge weight loss, people who never spoke to her before, suddenly started to speak to her, that for a while it was an amazing feeling to be able to pick out an outfit without climbing in to the rail, puffing and panting, trying to reach the depths to see if they stocked her size, the frustration and the self loathing she felt when being out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs, the avoidance of being fully naked, the sadness when looking in the mirror, but eventually she realised that whilst her self-esteem had of course increased being slim in today’s world was rarely about health, but more about looks.

Whilst waiting weekly for my daughter to finish her dance class, another class finishes, a zumba class for adults, regularly I overhear ladies discussing their weight as they emerge breathless and sweating from the class, the ladies are on average a size 10, standing there, wearing my size …. I feel obese, ugly, and ashamed, but then, when my mind is clear, I understand that my weight may not be healthy, but nor is their body image, they do not love themselves even though they are skinny ( not slim, skinny).

Teenagers starving themselves, going in to the school toilets at lunch breaks to throw up that piece of lettuce they have just eaten, constantly exercising, is this about health or is it due to living in a society where “fat girls” are not popular, scorned and teased and made to feel a lesser person for not being the perfect weight?

Recently I started slimming world, I am also on a WatsApp group for slimming world, it is truly inspirational, slimming world makes sense, I can eat meat, pasta, potatoes etc.  I have changed my eating habits drastically. Below, just because I am in the mood of completely embarrassing myself is a typical days eating before,

Breakfast: 

(Large) Chocolate Bar, Latte.

Snack

(Large) packet of crisps, diet coke, more coffee.

Lunch: 

On my days off work, a take out, or large bowl of pasta etc. Diet Coke

Afternoon snack:

Chocolate, crisps etc.

Supper:

Pasta with tuna and mayo, toast with chocolate spread, meat, chips ( you get the idea)

Evening snacks:

Chocolate, toast, crisps ……

Listing my before diet I am horrified at the life style I was leading, I do not know what tipped me over the edge and convinced me to seriously starting to lose weight, I think whilst I was a smoker, the nicotine and chemicals that filled my body brought my whole mood down, made me sluggish and tired, I have felt better since stopping smoking and know that if I can conquer the poison of cigarettes I know I can be a healthy weight.

Sadly, the comment that paramedic made, telling me that I am having aches and pains due to being “fat” was the one that encouraged me to start loosing.

My 9 year old is a dancer, her entire being is made up of dance enzymes, she will dance any time she can, loves her dance classes, and often begs us to send her to more classes, on the other hand, she is her mother`s daughter and enjoys her food (a lot!).  some weeks ago, I made a comment, as I said it, as my mouth opened and the words formed I knew that I should not be saying it, as the words came out my mouth I willed them back. “You know you’re getting a bit of a belly, you need to be careful what you eat”….. WORST WORDS…..EVER!!!!!  That evening, whilst she was meant to be getting on her pyjamas, she appeared in to my room in full dance wear, she switched on the music and began dancing as if her life depended on it, when I asked her what in heavens she was doing she replied ” you said I am getting a belly, I need to lose weight, so need to exercise”. the experience taught me so much, Our children are growing up in a skinny is super” world, school mates can be cruel, looks are everything, if I can do anything to ensure my daughter,  grows feeling that it does not matter if she has a belly, that as long as she is healthy that is all that matters, as long as she is happy within herself, loves and respects her body I will feel I have done the best I can.

Do I want to lose weight so that “all eyes will be on me when I walk in to a room”. you know what, maybe for a little while that would be wonderful, to feel when I walk in the room that I am not the biggest lady in there, to feel confident in my skin, to be able to look at myself in a mirror and not feel disgust is a goal, but my main goal?

My main purpose in loosing weight is self-love, and love of my family, it is not that the people around me will admire me, treat me as if my looks are me, but it is for my happiness, my health and most important, so that I can dance with my daughter, always, and without being out of breath.

Love yourself, your body does not define you, be healthy for your sake, not for those around you.

Lots of love.

Sara

 

 

The light within us

Tonight is the fourth night of Chanukah. Each night as another candle is lit, we sing, we have a little dance we play with the Driedel, the fun continues, presents, latkes, oh so many doughnuts ( of course the game ” who can eat a whole doughnut without licking their lips” must be played… it’s an impossibility!) parties are had.

The feeling of happiness and togetherness as you wonder out in to the street, and see a snapshot through countless windows of families coming together, of parents dancing the same dance, singing the same song nourishes the soul.

The story of Chanukah has the same theme as most other Jewish holidays, to quote Jackie Mason “They tried to kill us, we won, lets eat”. The role that light plays throughout Chanukah can teach us so many lessons.

Miracles can happen, bringing light to the darkest times. A few can outnumber many when they have a strong belief in God. Throughout the darkest of times we can prevail, all it needs is one tiny spark, a weak light, a flame flickering in the night, when we feel only darkness around us can suddenly catch, its flames gathering strength, the light at the very end of the tunnel which seemed so distant can draw nearer.

I have always been fascinated by the story of Chana.  We have been told the story since childhood. ( Without the gory details). As children the story is one of hope and faith.

Chana lived under the tyranny of king Antiochus, a king whose sole ambition was to try to do what so many others have tried and failed, to wipe out Judaism. he forbade observance of all religious laws, anyone found practicing the jewish faith would be executed with no trial.

Chana had been blessed with 7 sons, she had raised them to be religious, God-fearing Jews. After being arrested and bound together with her 7 sons, the youngest only 7 years old they were presented to the king.

Antiochus, sat with each child and tried  to convince them to bow to him. He threatened torture and death, torture so severe death would have been welcome. As each child stood before him he was sure they would eventually prevail and do as he had commanded. Yet each child refused him. Saying ” Why do you bother with your long speeches, we are ready to welcome death for the sake of our holy Torah”.

Their mother, stood, watching as each son was presented with the option, bow or die, a slow painful death.

Picture the scene, a mother stands, seeing her children, one by one being tortured, her children’s agonized screams, as Antiochus forces her to watch their painful death.

6 Children lie at her feet, one child remains, a 7 year old boy. His mother whispers to him “My son, I carried you in my body for nine months, I nursed you for 2 years, and I have fed you until today. I have taught you to fear God and uphold his Torah. See the heaven and earth the sea, land, fire and water, know that they were all created with the words of God. He created man to serve Him, and He will reward man for his deeds. The king, he knows he has been condemned before God. He thinks that if convinces you, God will have mercy on him. God controls your life’s breath, and can take your soul whenever He desires. If only I could se the greatness of your glorious place where we would be illuminated with God’s light and rejoice and exult together”

Her son, the last child Chana would ever hold and kiss, refused to bow, suffering torture worse than his brothers.

As her last child lay at her feet, the distraught, desperate mother climbed to a roof and threw herself down, laying to rest amongst her children.

A horrific story, a story which can generate so many questions about faith, what would God have really wanted and so many more, but a few things stand out for me.

A mother, so willing to serve God in any way she was able, the millions of other Jewish mothers throughout the centuries whom have given their lives, whose families have been torn from them by those who wish to destroy everything we as Jews hold dear. Sometimes in life the real meaning of what it means to be a believer, to have a faith in God gets swept up in the shallowness of the world we all live in, what we wear, cars we drive, houses we live in become of utmost importance to us, imagine a world where religion was about true faith and none of the those things really matter, where we do not judge people on outside appearance.

The big picture is the second one. I know a couple of people who are tragically severely ill.  The words the big picture have been on my mind recently, talking to people who do not know, as Chana did not what tomorrow may hold has taught me a tough life lesson. Recently I had words with someone I hold very dear to me, it was a silly little thing that grew in to a frosty silence.  Looking at the situation it occurred to me, does it really matter? Is the big picture being lost here? We have so much to live and love for, do the silly little petty arguments we hold on to, we let grow, let the bitterness come alive, really matter? I know that I value her friendship and with that thought I will move on and hold on to the big picture, in which I can see friendship, help and support when we both need.

The final, and the biggestone is gratitude, we live in a generation where our lives as Jews are not under direct threat, ( we never know if another Holocaust is around the corner though) we can walk in the street, shop in any store, send to Jewish schools and live an openly religious life. How grateful we need to be to be born in to this generation. Tonight I am holding a Chanukah street party in my home, in our lovely little street resides, Hindu’s Christians, Jews and I am sure some atheists live dotted around. We will all come together tonight, in unity, in friendship to celebrate what Chana did not have, freedom, appreciation and joy.  I am comfortable in the knowledge that none of my neighbours want to cut my throat for being a Jew ( well I hope not anyway… that wouldn’t make for a party atmosphere) and tonight we will celebrate that unity, and who knows maybe learn to respect each other a little more.

Wishing you warmth from the light, hope from the flames that grow each night and love from the family and friends you will be with.

Sara xx

 

 

An Ode to my baby

Today I was reading through some old e mails and came across this poem.

Its not often that I focus on the loss I experienced, his memory passes through my head on a daily basis, but usually its a subconscious thought, a thought which passes quickly.

I wanted to share this poem for all of you whom have suffered the trauma and the never ending grieving process of loosing a baby so very young.

I never got to feed you,

To cradle you in my arm

I never got to hear you

To soothe you till you calmed 

I never got to dress you 

In the outfits oh so small 

 

I never got to answer 

When ” mummy” did you call

I never got to wipe the tear 

On the first day of school

I never got comfort you 

When kids were being cruel 

 

I never got to kiss you 

As I tiptoed out your room

Because the only bed you ever had 

Was the one within my womb

I never saw the pictures 

That you painted just for me

I never saw you thinking 

Oh so much I did not see

 

I never saw you crying 

When you tripped and hurt your knee 

Or  heard you laughing hysterically 

About something on tv 

 

I never got to bake with you 

So you could lick the bowl

I never got to dig on the beach with you 

A great big huge hole 

 

I never got to bless you 

My hands upon your head 

Instead 

Tears I still do shed

 

I never got to walk you 

To meet your future wife 

My heart yearning 

That you have a happy life 

 

I never got to know 

The children you may have had 

I’m sure I would have been 

So very very glad 

 

I will never stop loving you 

Through the rest of my years 

And so all I can do now 

Is cry  my silent tears.

 

I know that G-d is holding you 

So very tight 

I know you are surrounded 

By His eternal light 

 

I know that He showers  you with love so very pure

I know that He is keeping you 

Till I can be with you once more 

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