Yes I have a cashflow problem!

After taking a look through some of the debate videos Facebook had to offer us the other day, I came across an incredibly interesting comment made by Dominic Raab.

He suggested that people who used Food Banks might have a ‘cashflow’ problem.

Obviously, there was a lot of outrage, and I could have gone on about it on my Facebook page but I decided that seeing as I’m fortunate enough to live with a friend who charges me far less rent than she should do I am not one of those people living on the poverty line.

I DID just want to take a minute to point out that Yes. Yes we DO have a cashflow problem. You want to see the maths? Okay.

Trying to work out the costings for an ‘average’ person isn’t easy, but for arguments sake I’ve gone to Right Move, found the cheapest currently available ROOM in a house share.

So we’re looking at £217 per month. Great! Well, that’s cheap! It’s bills included too, so there’s no need to worry about that. Will the council pay that much? Let’s see. £217 for twelve months divided by 52. That’s £50 a week, and thankfully, the local government are definitely going to give you that much to cover it.

So, that’s it right?

Ah, not quite. Let’s take another look at the fees listed here…

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Hold on, hold on. What am I reading here?

Single occupancy from £85 per week

So actually you’re going to charge me £85 because I don’t have someone to share with? Here’s the sad news, guys. Suddenly we’re going to have an issue with the housing benefit, aren’t we?

What’s the Local Housing Allowance in Lincoln anyway?

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Oh.

Well, I suppose – when you include the fact that the bills are all included I suppose I probably would have to use some of the benefits I get from Job Seeker’s Allowance toward the rent!

Job Seekers get £79.10 a week, so I now have £53 to live on for the week.

I mean, that is of course assuming that I already LIVE in this house share, because if I don’t, I really don’t fancy those fees. Well. Recurring fees. Renewal of tenancy? Is this a 6 month or a 12 month contract? Does it roll? Let’s say for the sake of this post that I have a 12 month contract – I need to keep back £5 a week to be able to afford the £60 Renewal Fee.

So now I have £48 a week to live on.

Okay, but I also have a pet. Why do I have a pet? Well, to be honest I sometimes feel like I need him. There are plenty of studies that suggest that pets are great for people with mental health related problems and I know he’s been amazing for me so I’m factoring this in too.

Figaro is insured. Of course he is! What kind of irresponsible pet owner would I be if I didn’t ensure that I had something to fall back on in case he got really sick? He’s not just my pet – he’s a member of my family. It’s me & Fig now. Anyway, okay – how much are you paying for that, Ollie dearest? £10.39 a month? Well, it’s only £2.39 a week.

Yeah, but he’s also got Pet Plan. You know. I can’t really afford the cost of vaccinations and medications and health checks. That’s £14.50 a month. It’s only £3.34 a week. No big deal!!

Okay, but what does he eat? Well, he is rather partial to wet food – so I try, when I can, to but Felix when it’s on offer. Usually… I can get 44 packs for about £10. He has one pack a day, which is 22p, times by 7 is £1.54 but he also has dry food! Which is a little more expensive because the little bugger is a rescue he likes Royal Canin, but I can get it pretty cheap online and it lasts 130. So, I’ll buy a bag of 10kg which is £44.19 and it lasts 130 days which averages out at about 33p a day. Another £2.31 a week.

The cat costs me just under a tenner a week. £9.58 if we’re going to be picky.

Which means that I now have £38.42 left.

At the moment, I’m volunteering three times a week at a local community centre. Generally, I get a lift into town once a week, but other than that I get the bus twice a week. A single into town is £2.30, which means I spend £4.60 on bus fares. No, I don’t get the bus back I WALK. Miracle of miracles.

£33.82

I also pay £10 a month to the peer support group I go to.

£31.50

Yeah, I could probably live on that much. As long as I never eat take away, never want new clothes, shoes, books, dvds, or general entertainment. As long as my friends don’t mind me not buying them cards or presents for any occasion – at least I have an excuse if I forget!

Did I mention that this is as long as I’m already living in that shared house? Otherwise I have to find £400 from somewhere.

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Friends.

I am not good at friends.

I have friends, and then they stop being friends and they float away. I never know what to say, and I never know what to do. I’m not good at small talk, I’d much rather learn my friend’s opinions on whatever topic it is that means a lot to them – or that one thing we have in common that ‘keeps us together’.

Those brief comments over Facebook make me yearn to be back in a place where we were talking day in, day out – but it never comes again because we all move on.

Now, it seems that the only friends I really ‘see’ as friends are the ones right in front of me. Whether we see each other once a week or once a month.

It hurts that I feel like I don’t belong to people anymore. I want to be a part of my friend’s lives, and I hate that I cannot manage the balance between here and there. Here is obviously right now, in the forefront, constantly aware of everything that’s going on in their lives, and there is something distant and obscure when you stop being a part of their every day world.

Logically, it’s easy to understand that there simply aren’t enough days in a week to maintain a close relationship as you once had – and that actually, even though you’re apart from one another that bond is still strong.

I want to believe that the friends I haven’t seen for weeks, months, or years still think of me the way that I think of them. I love a lot of people, for all kinds of reasons and in varying amounts but they all have a piece of my heart whether I really want them to have it or not.

I think about you, more often than I’d like to admit.

When is a Vegan not a Vegan?

Whilst working in a hostel in Melbourne, I had the pleasure to meet someone who opened my eyes and changed my life forever. He helped educate me about the environmental impacts of the mass-production of meat, and eventually I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t ‘do it’ anymore.

I didn’t eat another animal product until I left Australia.

The main thing that I personally take away from being a vegan, and claiming to be vegan is that I intend to do the least harm possible. I don’t just avoid eating animal products, but I check out the things that I use and buy and do to make sure that what I am doing is in the best interests of everybody involved in the making and production of it.

I envision a world where people are paid fairly, live well, and are happy. I try to buy fair trade products where I can, and shop in charity stores, I try to buy local, I consider the impacts of my decisions. It’s not easy, but I find a sense of victory in knowing that even if I am only one person – my actions over a length of time will do *something* to impact on the bigger picture.

Since changing my views, I’ve started following others who think the same way. There are Facebook groups and blogs of plenty of people with plenty of ideas but very often there are very clear, polar opposite opinions between them.

Understanding the strong feelings of the vegan who is strict enough in their beliefs that they refuse to eat somewhere that sells animal products is to me, just as important as the vegan who says that they ‘are vegan except for cheese’. I’m pretty sure that publicly these two people come across very different, but the main point is that they are both trying in some way to make a difference.

In this day and age when there is so much hate that it feels like pouring water on the fire of it will only make it burn stronger we really need to take a step back and think about why we let our differences separate us so much.

In the case of the vegan who eats cheese – I can only think that a backlash of hate from others telling them that they cannot claim to be ‘vegan’ whilst they consciously choose to eat cheese is only going to be detrimental to their overall choice. I know I personally cannot afford to buy ‘vegan certified’ trainers, and I certainly don’t know whether the ones I have been wearing the last six months contain animal glue or not – but I personally feel it doesn’t make me any less vegan.

It’s about doing the least harm possible. Causing the least damage to our world by supporting a belief that many people hold.

Personally, I know a few people who have lived on, or grown up on farms where the animals they care for are well-treated and looked after – and ultimately live a long life. Unfortunately, whether it be the explosion of our population or the huge demand for animal products, we live in a world where to sustain ‘our’ habits as a populous that there’s a need for factory farming and other practices that make me want to *cry*.

There are of course extreme ends of all scales.

Here in the UK, I have the freedom to choose from a huge array of shops that offer a range of products to fulfil all my dietary needs. Whilst I was living with my Mum & Step Dad on the peninsula of Alaska I didn’t really have much choice about what I was going to eat – so to be able to go out fishing and catch my dinner was actually a pretty rewarding feeling.

Due to my own nature, and my perception of how vegans I know would react to this – it’s not usually something I talk about. When people ask me ‘How long have you been vegan?’ I actually struggle with the answer. For three months of my life was I not vegan? Did I just work out how many months it had been since I first went vegan and take three away? Do I add up the days and take away that day when I was nearly sick from hunger and ate a cheese sandwich to make sure I didn’t faint?

I still believed in my cause. I feel incredibly difficult emotions over it, and thanks to ‘the way my brain likes to work’ I could even let myself feel so upset about my decisions in those moments that I could abandon all hope of ever being the person I ‘want’ to be and take an extremely different path to the future.

Saying yes, I have been vegan for almost two years is far from a lie as far as I’m concerned. During the entirety of those two years I will have always consciously thought about the things I buy, and because I am human like everyone else who will read this – it’s safe to say that occasionally mistakes will be made. It’s just important not to feel overwhelmed when you do, consciously or subconsciously.

 

Love in 2016

I know that I’m not alone in the belief that 2016 has been an incredibly tough year. The media has been filled with news stories that have rocked us to the core, and some huge decisions have literally divided both the UK and America.

At this time, it feels like we’re clinging to hope – and it breaks my heart to read comments, often from people I’ve never met and do not know, expressing their loss of hope, and quite often their hatred of other people.

It feels very much like there is no ‘answer’ to all that seems to be going wrong in the world. So many people have forgotten how to have compassion, and many seem to find it hard to focus what compassion they have on anyone beyond their immediate field of vision.

In amongst all of this though, there are good stories. People doing good things for one another, positive movements gaining traction. I’ve seen a lot of pictures and videos of people doing good things, and it is heartbreaking that these acts of kindness are riddled with negativity. I don’t believe that a good deed should be recorded for the sake of personal gain, but to have done something good for someone else and to make a record of it to show to the rest of the world that people are doing good things is important.

It’s important at this time, for all of us to know that despite the way the world seems to be headed, people are still fundamentally good. We are kind, caring, compassionate creatures. Every single one of us, no matter what we have done only want for one thing – and that is to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind that can be achieved through so many means, but when you sit down and think about it, even if only for a minute it’s clear – at least to me, that happiness can be found in the smallest of gestures.

Please, please try to find kind words. We all have bad days, and bad moods and difficulties ahead of us. We all have complicated emotions and feelings but we don’t have to give in to them.

I met someone recently, completely by chance. It was chucking it down with rain, and thankfully the local bus stop has a shelter and so immediately we struck up conversation. The topic was obvious, and from it – in no time at all we were making all kinds of connections.

When it came to part ways, my new friend turned to me and told me that she had been in an awful mood, and had prepared herself to feel the same way for the rest of the day – but after our conversation her mood had changed. Just hearing that was enough to make me smile, I was already in good spirits, despite the awful weather and it reinforced this idea that happiness begets happiness.

I’m pretty sure that the change in frame of mind wasn’t down to ‘me’ fundamentally. I went out of my way to talk to someone, and in doing so made a connection that otherwise would have come and gone and left us.

Yes, there are a lot of difficult decisions and changes ahead of us that we will not be in control of. It’s okay to be afraid of how our world will change, and whether it really will be for the better – right now we know absolutely nothing about what is going to happen, and there is a lot of unrest and upset in the media over the outcome of these things.

Giving love, being kind and having compassion will not only help you as an individual through these times but it will also help to show others that they can do the same. It can be difficult to have compassion for someone else, but it is far better than to judge them and for both people to feel the effects of that negativity.

The Importance of Recording

One of the most useful things that I do now, is to keep a record of my daily ‘accomplishments’.

Right back in the beginning it was something that I attempted, but found that it was demotivating when all I did – day in, day out was sit and watch Netflix or play video games. Since then I’ve been able to learn to forgive myself, be kind to myself and show the same patience I’m capable of offering complete strangers.

Now, it feels like my most valuable tool.

For a long time I focused on working through a Bullet Journal to record and motivate myself on a day-to-day basis, and although I absolutely adore the concept and the work and fun that goes into keeping a journal like this, I found that a very different approach was important to help me to put together the foundations for my recovery.

A Bullet Journal actually created a wall between myself and my goals. When I would start a day with a beautifully thought out spread and only one goal to mark off I found it difficult to be attached to it, and equally difficult to go through the process of writing that same, single task over and over for days on end.

Giving up just wasn’t an option, so I chose instead to re-think my approach to keeping a daily account of my life.

My therapist was the first person to suggest that I keep a log of my daily activities. On a simple A4 gridded sheet of paper, with two boxes for morning, afternoon and evening I vaguely accounted for the ‘major’ things that I did every day. At first, they were incredibly basic. I ate food, I watched TV, I played video games. I met with a friend, I went for a walk.

It was the first time I’d recorded my day-to-day life as retroactively, and there were a few days when I completely forgot to write about what I’d done and therefore entire days were forgotten. I’m pretty sure that usually there was nothing significant about the things that I’d done, until I walked back into therapy and re-counted my week. Little things that seemed important when I’d done them, and then insignificant when I came to write down the last few days of activity were forgotten.

That important phone call that I’d been putting off for months to the bank, that form I filled out, the brief discussion I’d had with a friend or family member. Each and every single one of these things were important to my overall recovery from a very dark place that I’d managed to put myself in.

I kept these diaries for four weeks until I decided that enough was enough. My Bullet Journal had fallen to the way-side and turned into something like a book of lists (Books I owned and wanted to read, Holiday Destinations for the future, DVDs I owned, movies I’d watched) and I knew that whilst I was using those relatively small A4 sheets to log my weekly comings and goings it wasn’t going to satisfy me.

As a lover of notebooks and stationery, it wasn’t difficult to rifle through my ’empty notebooks’ drawer and find something to use to start logging my days, and even better that I’d found the perfect use for a notebook. (One of the reasons I have so many is that they’re all in there waiting for the perfect purpose. Sorry, notebooks.)

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So it began.

Almost 2 weeks later, I’m still swearing by it. Claiming that this act, and this act alone is the one reason that I’ve managed to pull myself up out of the funk I’d fallen into is a huge stretch of any imagination, but I feel very strongly that it has contributed to my continued improving mental health and will keep doing so much!

I write the time my alarm went off, and the time I actually got out of bed. Writing it down makes it a fact, and gives you a solid thing to refer back to. I find that when I am struggling the most I lose all sense of time and feeling and life. It’s easy for me to forget how I felt only a few hours ago, when I’m so preoccupied with the current moment, and the thoughts that are in my head at that time and in that place. So I feel it’s very important (for me) to be able to refer back to previous days, not to make negative comparisons or to judge the ‘value’ of the things I’ve done in the present day but to be able to look back and see, from hard factual evidence that ‘things’ over all are better now than they’ve ever been.

Thinking too hard about the shape of my life exactly a year ago would only promote a desire to reach out and take ownership of how I felt back then, in a time when my recovery was in it’s very early stages, and I feel very strongly that it would be detrimental to my health, but if I’d kept the same log I have now I might be able to recognise instantly the stark contrast in my mental health. Of course, it’s arguable – that if I’d kept a log back then, like I do now that perhaps my life would be very different but I also believe very strongly that it’s taken all of these incredibly small steps over the span of a year to get here at all and without them it just wouldn’t be possible.

We can’t fast forward progress, and we can’t force it. There are clear steps in any recovery that have to happen before you can continue on your way. That’s why we call them steps. It’s quite easy to visualise for example, the steps that might lead up to the second floor of your home and to accept the reality of the fact that before you can get to the tenth step, you have to make it up all the ones before that first.

running away

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder only 2 days ago.

Before that, I’d spent the last 13 years believing that I was ‘just depressed’. That the things I was feeling and doing and saying and thinking were just part and parcel of having depression.

I wish I could fully express how glad I am to finally have the right diagnosis because I believe it so strongly now, and I understand so much about the things I’ve done in the past. The abuser I was in a relationship with what should have been the best thing to have ever happened to me. I miss you to this day, and I wish I wish I wish I could go to where you are and that you’d have me back and I could make everything better because I have a diagnosis now. I know that it wasn’t just me, it was me and the disorder.

I understand why I so desperately needed to leave. What was so important about travelling. It breaks my heart to understand that I had to get away because being functional, managing my days, my weeks, my hours, my minutes was hard. So fucking hard, and I can’t even begin to explain how and why. It’s easier to be out of touch with people than to have to explain yourself, to regulate your feelings and go through the agony of wondering whether they are your friend or not.

I understand now, why the slightest word, comment or joke felt like it was pushing me off a cliff and I wasn’t sure if it was a cliff that had rocks at the bottom and I was being told in not such a direct way that those people hated me… or whether there was going to be a huge warm bath of water at the bottom and somehow I’d been wrong all along.

I know now why I could never believe that people would be in my life forever. The constant fear that it would only take one thing for people to turn their backs on me, and I would lose everything about that person that I loved. That fear is so real, and now that I’ve been hunting around online I realise I’m not alone. That wasn’t just depression and paranoia but the BPD. I’d feel so guilty and untrusting of people who I knew in one breath would do anything for me, and in the next would ditch me like a banana peel.

Living away from that has been so liberating and yet so exhausting. My life has dissolved completely in front of me. I’ve gone from keeping a full-time job, managing the bills in the household, living every day like it was my last and enjoying the company of friends I knew and loved for this. I work in a hostel for my accommodation, and I can’t go to work because I’m so fucking anxious about which school I will be going to, never mind which teacher I’ll be working with. What type of person will they be? Will they have a sense of humour? What if they make a joke and I don’t understand it? What if their expectations of me are different? and what about the children? What if I can’t remember their names. People will think I’m dumb if I call out the wrong name to a child, and I’ve done it! I’ve been that person calling out to a child and using the wrong name. I’ve felt that sinking realisation that I am that person. I got it wrong and everyone is thinking about how stupid I am. That’s not that child’s name how dumb can you get? How stupid ARE you? What kind of teaching assistant are you?

It took me MONTHS to feel comfortable in a situation that I should have felt safe in. Three other adults, and four children I knew relatively well. I thought things were fine, and I know now why I was so freaked out. This disorder forces me to think the worst in every situation. It’s no wonder that every time someone wanted to talk to me that I thought the ground was going to collapse under me and everything I’d ever done would be for nothing. That all the years I dedicated to a school I loved would be erased, that all the friendships I thought I’d made there would be meaningless.

I wonder maybe if I left the UK for so long to test my theory. You know, if someone is gone for long enough will people forget?

I’m so consumed by this, and I never realised it until now. I never thought that I was suffering for a reason, I truly thought that I was naturally delusional and dysfunctional.  That the depression was just an added bonus.

I want so desperately to leave here. I want to be somewhere safe, but I’m so scared that I don’t know where that is. I want to be with my Mum. I want to be somewhere that I can pull the covers over my head and know that I’m safe. That it’s going to be okay even if I mess up a little.

I want to believe my friends when they offer to come round, when they say they miss me, I want so, so much that my head is hurting so hard right now, to believe. I don’t want to hate myself, I don’t want to have this self-loathing anymore, I don’t want to love the people I love, and then feel like I hate them the next minute. I want to be stable, I want to be normal, I want to live my life and laugh and be happy.

I want that so much