The Black Dog

I have been um-ing and ah-ing about writing this blog since the tragic death of Robin Williams. If it was about any other health issue, I probably wouldn’t hesitate as much. Why? Because mental illness is still a huge taboo. Don’t even mention suicide; that’s swept under the carpet, spoken in whispers and cloaked in shame. It is this reason that has compelled me to write. We need to acknowledge that mental health is a huge deal. We need to speak out and take mental health seriously otherwise the consequences are all too tragic. Like Cancer, depression kills. I can’t even begin to explain to someone what it is like to feel so depressed that you can’t go on any longer.

I’m not talking about feelings of low mood, of sapping energy levels and feelings of frustration because you found mould on your last slice of bread. We all get that. I’m talking about clinical depression; the chemical imbalance in your brain that manifests itself into a psychological and physical illness that takes over your entire existence. Living with depression day to day is like having a bully on your shoulder constantly telling you that you’re not good enough, that you are a burden to your loved ones, that you are a failure and better off dead. Your body starts to listen to this bully; you have no energy, you’re anxious and tearful all the time, persistently low in mood for weeks/months/years on end, you lose interest in everything, you can’t deal with life. Weakness of character has nothing to do with it. And don’t even get me started on the ‘just pull yourself together and deal with it’ because that’s just stupid. You wouldn’t say that to a Cancer victim would you?

It takes a hell of a lot of strength to come through depression. It takes a hell of a lot of strength to fight everyday in hope that there is life on the other side of this terrible, debilitating illness. I can safely say, there is and it is worth fighting for. For those reading this that has struggled/is struggling with depression: keep going. Do whatever it takes to beat the black dog. If you can get through this, you are strong enough to get through anything. Life after depression is beautiful, and it is more beautiful with you in it xx


Wimbledon 2014

Well, today has to be the greatest day of the year.  It is the day that starts two weeks of angst, passion and a whole host of emotions.  Gladiators battling it out, showing mental and physical strength that, at times, defies belief.  It is the day that marks two weeks of physical prowess, and a fight to lift that all important Wimbledon trophy.  Last year Murray was the man that made history when he became the first British men’s single champion since Fred Perry.  77 years is a mighty long time to wait, but British fans everywhere wept tears of joy when those long years of waiting were a thing of the past.

Since the age of 6, I have been obsessed with the sport.  Tennis was the first great love of my life and always will be.  I remember the first time I held a racket.  It felt awesome.  What was more awesome was the feeling after you’ve hit a forehand winner.  Smashing the ball across court and producing a winning point is a ruddy good feeling.  Even to this day, I don’t think I’ve experienced anything quite like it.  That’s happiness right there.  The days of picking up a racket for me are more or less over, although I watch Wimbledon every year without fail.

 Why am I so obsessed with the sport? After all, it’s just people hitting a ball over a net, right?  Wrong.  Tennis is so much more than that.  For me, it’s inspirational.  It shows that with hard work, natural ability and talent, a strong will and self belief you can achieve the incredible.  When times are tough and life gets difficult to cope with; that mantra keeps me going.   When you have watched Wimbledon year and year from childhood, you observe players progress; the highs and gumption to win and be the best, to their crushing lows and defeats. On court, it doesn’t matter if you are two sets to love down.  What matters is how you deal with that situation and finding a way to win.  That’s what separates the players from the elite.  Kind of draws a few parallels with this funny situation called life, doesn’t it? xx   

Me, Myself and I: A Year of Online Dating

Since moving to Southampton I have had my fair share of dating disasters.  A whole year of them in fact, and I’m still single and ready to mingle (as the saying goes!)  Coincidently, or maybe not so, all my dating horrors have one thing in common: we ‘met’ online.  I remember when my twin joined a rather prominent dating site years ago, and I couldn’t suppress my smirk.  Oh how I gleefully mock, announcing I would never resort to online dating! Well, erm, fast forward a few years on and there I was right in the middle of this exciting new world!  The thing is with these sites, it’s wonderful at first.  You get lots of messages, and you revel in the attention….and then it sort of goes downhill from then onwards.

My first date was a wannabe Thespian.  Okay, ‘wannabe’ is a bit harsh as he actually acted in a few plays and he was quite intense about it.  But that was the thing.  Online he was witty, charming and funny. Oh, and 5 ft 7.  In person he was serious, intense and closer to 5’3.  My last date with Mr Thespian resulted in him leaving early because he was worried about a Shakespearian monologue he had to perform that week.  In fact, he spent the whole time talking about it.

Next was a guy that made me laugh on our first date by impersonating Nicolas Cage.  In fairness to him, that was a damn good impression if ever there was!  After a few weeks though it fizzled out.  And so it went on this way until I changed dating sites.  By now some friends had met their partners through a particular site and told me to check it out.  Even though I was a bit sick of this online dating lark, I thought I’d bite the bullet and put myself out there again, after all what harm can it do?  Cue Mr Artist and possibly the most socially awkward date in the history of dating.  His attempt at a compliment was to say that I looked and reminded him of Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory.  Now, Amy is awesome no doubt about it, but I’m not sure I would like to be compared to her.  But that was a minor wrinkle in the scheme of things. No biggie.  It was our conversation about family that was his undoing:

Mr Artist: What do your parent’s do?

Me: My Mum’s a carer.

Mr Artist *pauses expecting me to say something else for at least a minute*: And your Dad?

Me: Erm, he passed away.

Mr Artist: Oh *looks away briefly then turns to me*: When was this?

Me: Erm 2012

Mr Artist: What from?

Me: *Mumbling something*

Mr Artist: I guess it’s a touchy subject, isn’t it?

Me: *slowly slumping on my chair wishing the ground will swallow me up*

Mr Artist: I guess I should change the subject, shouldn’t I?

To be fair, when recounting this tale to friends, it is rather funny.  I do hope Mr Artist is happy wherever he is.  After Mr Artist came Mr Environmentalist.  Like most, he seemed lovely at first, however strangeness started creeping in.

After environmental dude I went on a couple of dates with Mr Football.  Mr Football was a genuinely nice guy, but we had nothing in common and there was no chemistry.  He also had a strange habit of avoiding eye contact, preferring to look in every direction but mine when talking to me.

The moral to this post? I don’t think dating sites are the way to go for me. What will be will be, and when it happens, I hope it happens naturally.  However, I am now quite the expert when it comes to first dates! Practice makes perfect!


Blurred Lines

Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes

Those who know me well will testify that I am quite the feminist! So when I heard about this documentary presented by Kirsty Wark exploring whether misogyny and sexism is more prolific than ever before given the rise of social media, sexually explicit music videos, bomb and rape threats to prominent female campaigners on twitter and other social media platforms, I HAD to watch.  Wark’s documentary is brilliant in so many ways.  And of course, no documentary exploring sexism and misogyny is complete without the appearance of Germaine  Greer!  Do we need to just ‘be a man’ about it and enjoy the gag when violent and sexually explicit jokes and comments are directed our way? Are we just being too sensitive when people joke about rape and ‘smashing our back doors’ in? For me, those questions are rhetorical.  Watch and enjoy folks!