Monday, 30 May 2016

The Kardashians Are an Inspiration: Discuss

I can say, hand on heart, that I would be proud if my daughters turned out like the Kardashians. Okay, maybe give or take a little, but I have no concerns saying I would feel like I’d done a good job as a parent if they happened to be similar to Kourtney, Kim or Khloe. Let's get one thing straight first, sure they've done things they probably shouldn't have, but above all else they are HUMAN BEINGS, they are mothers, wives, sisters and daughters just like us and they sure as hell don't deserve to be treated half as badly as they are. In researching this I spent time reading the comments posted on their Instagram photos and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been brought to tears at least once. The things people feel they have the right to say to these women are awful, and the comments are often even directed at their children, which is utterly heart breaking.

First things first, that sex tape. Let's clear this up once and for all. How would you feel being judged mercilessly for something you did a year ago? 5 years ago? How about 10 years ago? The tape was released almost 10 years ago. Not only was it years ago but it was between two consenting adults in a loving and committed relationship, and I continue to be on the side that believes it was released without consent. What makes what happened between Kim and Ray J any different to your average couple? We know none of us are flawless so let's stop tearing down other humans for the same things. Kim is the only one of the pair who ever received any backlash for it, and that's whole other sexism issue I won't go into now.

As for Kim’s “provocative” body image, which to be honest is only provocative if you choose to sexualise it, has a much deeper story to it. As a very young teen Kim would pray before bed or during church that her curves would stop developing. She was bullied at school and was very insecure about her body, despite never being fat or overweight at all. She began developing at an early age and hated the way she looked, she wasn't as slimline as the other girls, and never quite felt comfortable. This is why I see the way she dresses and the pictures she posts as a good thing. She's overcome her insecurities enough to feel proud of her curves, even if it does mean stripping down somewhat publicly. It's a level of pride  I wish more women would have in their bodies, maybe not the semi-naked photos part, especially under 18, but to at least have the same self confidence would be so valuable. As for the body image part in general, there is no denying all three promote a healthy body image. I refuse to back down on that. They have curves, boobs and bums. They are also very open about their exercise routines, they don't promote crazy dieting, in fact they're always eating on tv. They instil the idea of gaining the body they want from being healthy, as well as accepting that their curves are a part of who they are.

We should also definitely talk about the fact that they “don't do anything” or “haven't earned their money”. First of all, they were all told that at 18 they would have to make their own way, their family money would no longer be an option, and that's exactly what happened. Kourtney, the oldest of the group, has a degree from Arizona state university. Following university Kourtney set up her own very successful business, as did the rest of them, finally culminating in the establishment of D.A.S.H stores, a highly successful chain of fashion stores which began long before they became officially famous. They all have a strong input on the business, they certainly don't leave it to others to organise their own company. Before starting this business, they all worked any job they could find that would get them where they wanted to go. Kim found her feet as a personal shopper while Kourtney took up work as a production assistant. Khloe, as the youngest of the group, began home schooling when her sisters graduated and gained her GED (American high school diploma) a year early.

As for not doing anything good for the world, here's a well kept secret. Kim donated all the gifts given to her at her baby showers to a maternity ward at a hospital in an impoverished neighbourhood in Chicago, close to where Kanye grew up. She did this without paparazzi attention or noting it on her social media. Also without any media attention, Kim also spends a lot of time at a children's hospital in Los Angeles. She often visits to give gifts or donations, spend time with the children and especially doing “girly” things with the younger girls like nail painting and makeup. The Kardashians have done a lot for drawing attention to the Arminian people’s suffering and the genocide that took place there, which is very rarely talked of. The Arminian Premier welcomed Kim with open arms, grateful for what she has done for their image. Finally, Kim was also the initiator and executive producer on a documentary called #RedFlag, which aimed to draw more attention to the plight of the mentally ill.

The Kardashians are also an excellent family image. They are a strong family unit, even if they do experience more drama than the usual. Through all their drama they’ve supported each other endlessly, in some cases they've even allowed their siblings to live with them. When Lamar, Khloe’s estranged husband, fell ill the entire family rallied around him, despite their separation being on uncivil terms. Khloe withdrew their divorce proceedings until he was well again. Their compassion for a man who was once part of the family is inspiring, and something we all could learn from. Similarly, after the end of Scott Disick’s relationship with Kourtney the entire family still kept him close, supporting him through his troubles and putting the needs of his 3 children first. We’ve all seen Jeremy Kyle, it's clear that this could have worked out so much worse, but the truth is they're just good people. As a unit, the women show a supportive group, a very important image in a world where men are determined to pit females against each other.

I hope that some of it, preferably all of it, has had an impact on the way you see these women. That's what they are first and foremost, they are women, genuine human beings and they deserve to be treated this way even if their life looks different to yours. 

Saturday, 21 May 2016

The Eye of the Storm

"I will get better, maybe not today, but someday" says the current motivational quote set as my phone background. Some days I think maybe today is that day, some days I think it's just out to mock me. Today is definitely the latter. You see, sometimes I think this day could really be the day I start to get better, but sometimes I lose track of how I'm ever going to lead a normal life. How am I supposed to get a job, move out or hold down a real relationship all while being as dysfunctional as I am now? On the good days I can see that I'm going to get better and that I'll have all the normality I want, but on the bad days I wholeheartedly believe I'll never get better. 

Yesterday was definitely a bad day. Let me walk you through it. My mum and I had organised to go into town and I was unexpectedly excited for it, that is until the day arrived, as is the case with most of my life. I woke up terrified and continued to be for the next few hours until we arrived there. We made a beeline directly to a cafe to supply my mother with caffeine and cake (both an essential food group in our household) before we took to shopping, and that's when it started. Almost immediately as we crossed the threshold into the cafe, my body began to reject the outing. Heart racing, hands shaking, vision blurred, breathing stopped. I hide the way I feel, silenced by fear and communicating with head nods or shakes only, my mum is always well aware when it's happening, so she leaves me to it. We take a seat and I continue to get worse, my skin begins to burn, there's feeling hot and then there's this. It's not internal, it's my skin only. The best part of it all is the dissociation, your body disconnects you from the space you're in and honestly it's my saving grace, forgetting where I am and feeling unreal protects me from flying off the handle. Feeling like I'm not really there means I stop worrying if I'll live or die, and as mad as it sounds it's the only way to bring yourself back down to feeling calm enough to stop the panic attack. Finally as I begin to come down I start to notice just how sweaty I am, I mean I'm not the exercise type but I know for sure no one sweats this much when they exercise. If it weren't for my tight jeans and absorbent flannel shirt I'm certain I would have been sitting in a puddle deep enough to drown a toddler. Sorry, gross. Anyway, once it passed I felt calmer than I had all week, it's a bitter sweet relief, and proceeded to enjoy my morning as if I hadn't just feared for my life. It isn't long ago that I wouldn't have been able to ride it out as well as I did, and I certainly wouldn't have been able to enjoy such a trip after a panic attack like that, so of course I was extremely proud of myself. 

However, the pride only lasted until we got back home. I have an issue with retrospect, I look back on good events and I see them through grey tinted glasses. I spent most of my afternoon moping, and occasionally crying because I'd hit this wall of sadness and anger that my body betrayed me yet again, after a long phase of handling myself well. That's the unspoken truth about anxiety, and especially panic disorder, there doesn't have to be a reason, there doesn't have to be signs that it's coming. Recovery isn't linear. It's a messy journey of huge highs and deep lows. Those who have never been through a mental illness often expect a cause, a reason, a specific traumatic event that set you off in the beginning and a reason it would repeatedly come back to you over the course of your recovery. I'm sorry, I wish with all my heart that there was a cause for how I am and a reason I'm triggered but the truth is that it's erratic and unpredictable and leads to a total loss of faith in my own body sometimes. 

Now is one of those times. One tiny incident that wouldn't even be considered "that bad" in the mind of the neuro-typical has set me back in my recovery, again. Honestly I try to avoid writing when I'm in a negative space, I don't like solidifying how I feel, I don't like keeping a reference for future use, but it was time to be brave for once. So here's my point, yesterday was hard, today is hard, but I am stronger now than I've been in years. So this time I'm not going to allow one panic attack to hold me back, sure I'm starting again from the bottom, but at least I'm starting. I will get better, definitely not today, but some day.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Is Love Real?

Love is confusing. The concept of love is something that's always fascinated me, scientifically speaking. Falling in love is just a series of chemicals and hormones being released into your blood stream, so why it is so much more complicated than that in practice? The truth is, it shouldn't be. People say "love hurts" so nonchalantly you start to believe it, but it sure as hell should never hurt, if your love hurts, something isn't right. This got me thinking though, if everyone has such different perceptions of what it means to be in love, from different countries and cultures to every individual, is "love" as we know it, real?

In Verona, Italy, thousands flock to the 14th century house thought to be the site of Juliet's balcony. Under the balcony, squeezed between the old bricks, are love letters written by romantics filled with prayers that love will come their way. Similarly, bridges all over Europe are weighted down by padlocks left there by couples with the idea that, as long as the padlock stays locked, their love will last forever. So why, if love is so scientific, do so many put their faith in these traditions? An age old Welsh tradition is that a man will give a large crafted wooden spoon to the woman he loves, and she'll wear it around her neck on a chain for a number of days. I don't think this happens anymore, and it doesn't really have anything to do with what I'm saying, but I like it so much I had to share.

If different cultures have their own interpretations, how different can individual people be? If I'm honest, I'm not so sure I understand love myself, maybe I'm just a cynic but I don't have much faith in the concept. My curiosity about what love means to different people lead me to bother the people in my own life, because why do the hard work myself. On a quest to work it out the lazy way, I gave six people close to my heart, of different ages, genders and relationship statuses, one simple question: "what does being in love mean to you?"
(.... I then proceeded to wait more than 48 hours after writing this for them all to get back to me because apparently they have more important things to do like "jobs" and "academics" and other “adult responsibilities” rather than answer my burning questions.)
The responses I was given both surprised me and made me feel so much more for these people, so thank you for baring your souls for me guys. Here’s what I was told:
 The hardest bit about being in love at our age for me, is actually being able to know you're in love, I would say I've been in love properly once, but I only realised after the relationship was over, and that's what hurt the most because it was too late to appreciate it, and that's where I think the naivety of age comes into it, I was about 16, so I didn't really know much about relationships etc, so I'd like to think when you're older, love can become something so much more special. At the time, I thought they were just this amazing person, who made me really happy that I got along really well with, but as I said, it was only after I realised it was love.
“It means to share that part of your life with someone, they consciously or not affect your decisions and make you see the world from a whole new viewpoint”
“I mean, love is one of those things where there are two types, the kind that’s reciprocated, and the kind where you chase after them hopelessly for weeks on end only to give up when you realise you know more about their Facebook profile than your own. There’s that weird feeling you get where you get all excited (not like that) around them and you can’t take your eyes off them, even though you endlessly tell yourself to and you feel warm and fuzzy just being around them, and safe. For me, security is a huge part of any relationship, when I feel secure someone’s company I can relax and open up, even though I’m usually pretty open anyway. It’s often quite hard for me to be ‘me’ around people. I feel that the love I feel when I have a crush on someone isn’t really what love is. I say to myself that I’d buy them flowers everyday and make them breakfast in bed, I’d be better than their current partner (sometimes I would be I think). But the other stuff is bullshit; I’m the laziest person I know. Whenever I’ve had an offer of a relationship, I never said yes, I got scared, I ran away…love’s a bitch”
“To me, being in love isn’t one big thing, it’s a lot of little things. I think it gets confused a lot and you don’t necessarily know at the time that you're in love. I think being in love is about them being your best friend and your inspiration. Being in love is about holding their hand and not wanting to let go, wanting to spend as much time as possible with them. Being in love is loving everything about them; so instead of loving their imperfections, they're not imperfections anymore because they're perfect to you. I think being in love is about not being able to stop thinking about them and doing anything you can to help them, make them happy, and just generally being selfless.”
“What does love mean to me? As someone who, personally hasn’t ever been in love it’s a hard question to answer. I’ve literally put off writing this because, if I’m honest, I have no clue what love means to me. I know the love I feel for my family and friends and subway cookies and puppies are real and pure and the best thing in the world. But for romantic love, I don’t know. I have ideas and expectations but no real experience to draw from. One thing I do believe in is that; everything happens for a reason. Whether the experience you face will make you stronger and teach you a lesson or because, in the long run, you were better off without that experience (or person). My closest and dearest friends often come to me for relationship advice and one thing I’ve seen and learnt through their various ups and down in relationships is that if you are not being treated like a prince or princess and in return also treating them the same (that’s important) then it won’t last. From that, I guess I could say that love to me is the feeling like when you’re stomach is about to fall out your butt, a weird scary feeling but it’s something that you never want to let go of or end. Though there may be variations of it depending on the person and type of relationship you’re in, it should be filled with unconditional love, patience, loyalty, trust and passion and lots and lots of the stomach falling out your butt feeling.”
“Love is beautiful and is the warmest feeling in the world. Being in love means to have found someone that is able to make you feel completely happy and who you completely trust. I think that being in love can easily be fooled for lust or loving the attention from another person, however you know when it's real if that person’s name alone can make you smile from ear to ear”
Through hearing what my loved ones felt about being in love, I’d hoped I would be able to piece together an opinion of my own but the truth is I’m still as lost as I was when I started. However, what I have learnt feels so much more valuable. I can understand now why “love hurts”. I still stand by my belief that love should not ever make you feel genuinely hurt, but I can understand now that being in love is worth fighting for and sometimes that can be tough because luck isn’t always on your side, but if you really want it, if you cant picture your life without them then you would do what it takes, even if it hurt. The most common pattern I found while forcing these people to search their souls, was that it can be hard to tell when you’re in love, and maybe that’s what makes me feel so sceptical about the whole idea, I’m the kind of person that would appreciate a definitive test. Seeing couples fall “in love” and end a few months later makes me wonder if it’s ever really there.

I think the one thing I can conclude is that every single person definitely does have their own opinion on what to expect from being in love, and what they expect from a relationship in turn. So maybe that’s why love really can hurt you sometimes. When you find yourself trying to form a relationship with someone who’s idea of being in love doesn’t match yours, you’ll never be treated the way you deserve. The truth is, no matter how hard it seems at the time, unless you feel happy, safe and warm (apparently?), you should be getting the heck out of there because life is way too short for love that doesn’t start a fire inside you.