To You

I don’t fit in and I am proud!

Mr C attended the annual breakfast run by The Reach Foundation today.  For those of you that don’t know Reach is an amazing organisation that works with youth to help them get the most out of life, to feel less like a fish out of water and more like they have a valuable contribution to make.  They do amazing work.

Mr C phoned me after the breakfast, as he does every year, to enthusiastically let me know what it was like.  Our son has benefitted from this organisation’s work, so it very much has a place in our heart.

This year, they spoke about how children are put into boxes, and once they are put into those boxes, how these children are expected to act according to that labelled box.  An example given was of trangender – children who are born as one sex, but actually desperately align themselves with the other sex.  Mr C told me that there were two transgendered youth that spoke today – both of whom were born females, but are transitioning to males.  They spoke of how the largest barrier for them, was the inability of their families, driven by society, to accept where they fit into the world with some devastating consequences.

40% of children who identify as homosexual or end up self harming.  A whopping 40%!!  It is suspected that this figure is even higher for transgendered youth.

This morning, I read this amazing post by Carly Findlay.  In it she speaks of how people offer her unsolicited advice about her condition, how people will walk up to her and say that they couldn’t live with what she has, how they make comments about her appearance without even thinking.  Then, when she points out the insensitivity of these people, she is accused of asking for it because she is a blogger, and that because she looks differently she should just accept that people will make comments.

I, myself, am bald.  I have female pattern balding, otherwise known as Androgenetic Alopecia.  This means that I don’t have a completely bald head, but that I lose my hair in the same way a man usually loses his hair (on the top and around the sides).  It got so bad that I chose to shave what little hair I have in order to wear a vacuum wig.  Part of the reason to take this route was because of the constant stares and unsolicited advice that I kept getting.  People would stop me in the street to tell me about a hair loss remedy they “knew for a fact works”.  I even once had the owner of a nail salon, whilst getting my nails done by one of her employees, walk up behind me, run her fingers through the thinnest part of my hair, shake her head and say “What an awful thing to have happen to you.  How do you live with it?”

Androgenentic Alopecia
This is me just before I got my new wig.
Completely bald, yep, that's me with no hair.  I shave my head every two days to keep it smooth so the wig can suction on and I feel secure.
Completely bald, yep, that’s me with no hair. I shave my head every two days to keep it smooth so the wig can suction on and I feel secure.
This is me with my wig.  I love it.  But I love it more when I can take it off at the end of the day, kind of like removing your bra - that same feeling of relief.
This is me with my wig. I love it. But I love it more when I can take it off at the end of the day, kind of like removing your bra – that same feeling of relief.
This is me with an 'up do"
This is me with an ‘up do”

I have even had one person, who has Alopecia Universalis (total balding all over the body), tell me that I shouldn’t complain because “at least I have some hair.”  Because balding is a competitive sport apparently.

There is something gravely wrong with our culture.

Increasingly we seem to think it is okay to blurt out or do whatever comes into our head.  There is this narcissistic thread that runs through society that says that we are special little people entitled to our opinions, dammit, and as such we can say and do whatever we like without thinking about the consequences of our actions.

Well, actually, no.

There are 7 billion (and increasing every day) on this planet.  We are ALL DIFFERENT.  Not one single one of us is the same as someone else.

The media have sold us a lie.  And if you think for one second you are not influenced by the images you see on a daily basis you are deluded.

At the breakfast that Mr C attended, they showed a small clip of popular culture that our youth are subjected to numerous times a day, in particular music videos and adverts that pop up online all the time (think you tube videos and the like).  In all of them, women were portrayed as sex objects wearing skimpy clothing exposing their crotches and bum cheeks gyrating as suggestively as possible, not looking productive or intelligent at all, and men were portrayed as ripped, bad boys who were in total control.  Is it hardly a wonder we have a burgeoning domestic violence issue?  Is it hardly a wonder some freak thought it would be a good idea to start a school on how to pick up women and use them for nothing other than as sex objects, and that men pay thousands of dollars to attend said school?

But I digress.

This is about difference, and embracing it, rather than shunning it.  We all like to think we are different, yet we rush to let someone else know that they just don’t fit in.

I don’t fit in.  I am overweight, I have balding hair and I have an accent that means I don’t have a home country either.  I am an outcast in my own existence.

Why is this?  Why is it that the youth of today are being pressured to fit in, to be and act a certain way?  Why is it that middle aged men and women, rather than embracing their mature-aged wisdom, are clinging to some image of what they might have been had they only been prettier, thinner, more fit, more career minded?  Why is it that the mental health issue across the world is bursting at the seams?

Because it sells.  Marketers have discovered our propensity for patterns and tribes and have created a culture in which we fight to fit in for fear of missing out.  There’s even an acronym for it – FOMO.  Everything, no matter what, is up for sale.  Even families on TV who do nothing other than appear before the camera in a tell-all scenario are held up to us like some beacon of what we should aspire to be.

The fall out from that is that those of us that don’t fit the mould are cast out, and those that do fit the mould are sure to let us know about it.

In the last 40 years a culture of us and them has been created.  A culture of narcissism has also been created which dictates that if I want to say something, then I get to say it, regardless of the consequences.

Except it is all a lie.  Because we are all different.  Every.  Single.  One.

You don’t get to tell someone who has Ichthyosis how they should manage their own condition, you don’t get to tell a transgender person that they shouldn’t want to be a member of the opposite sex, you don’t get to tell a woman who is losing her hair that she has no right to be upset and you certainly don’t get to tell all of these different people that they don’t belong because of some image that you have bought into sold to you by a society-crushing ravaging media.  You just don’t.

So I challenge you today.  I challenge you when you see someone that is strange or different, or acts in a way that you wouldn’t, or is just simply not a member of your tribe, I challenge you to embrace them, to get to know them, the person. Resist the urge to enquire about their condition, about their appearance, about their choices.  That is all just wrapping.  Get to know them.  It may just make your day.

Go on, I dare you.

Much love,

SHW Signature

Mental Illness To You

An ode to the rainbow and the uniqueness of its colours

I’m going to struggle to find the words.  I know I am.  The words to describe the warmth I feel right now.  The words to describe that despite still feeling dark in places, the light is beginning to find its way through.  The words to describe what it feels like to find a group of women who have enveloped me, hugged me so hard that indeed it seems my broken bits are being mended back together.  The words to describe having hope, and the strength to work toward, a future full of life, love and living.

But I am going to try.

After 8 or so years of being clinically depressed and having gone through a number of psychologists, I had given up hope of ever finding light with any regularity in my life.  I had simply resigned myself to a life of existence.  No living.

My sister, God bless her, suggested I try an art therapist.  I baulked at the idea.  I am no artist.  But she encouraged me, saying it wasn’t about the art, it was about being creative and the toxicity that gets released through that creative process.  I took her advice.

After a few sessions it became evident that I love, well live, to write but fear with a capital F had stopped me from ever letting anyone see my work, bar a couple of blogs that I never told anyone about.

She suggested a blogging course, where I would be ‘published’ through a guided, supportive environment, with very little risk to my self esteem.  I chose the Blog with Pip course at her suggestion.

I enrolled on this course with trepidation.  I had no niche, no craft, no particular skill.  Immediately I didn’t feel like I fit in.  But I persevered.  I started off with this blog, realised it didn’t fit me and so started Sarah’s Heart Writes.  Without realising it at the time, I just kept showing up.  I re-evaluated and adjusted, and I just kept going.

However, my lack of belonging dogged me.  I wanted to belong so much, to be part of a tribe.  All across cyberland, you will find tribes.  It is the beauty of it.  No matter what you are into there will be someone out there who is into the same thing too.  And no doubt a few others too.

You know that here I write about my life mostly battling depression, recovering from alcoholism, being bald, being a grandmother, parenting a child on the autistic spectrum.  I couldn’t narrow it down.  I am a whole person and so I write about the whole of me {and please, dear friend, you do the same}.  My tribe seemed impossible to find.

But without realising it, I was looking in the wrong places.  Without realising it, I didn’t need to look at all.  Without realising it, I needed to be found.

You see, I met a group of women who just seem to get me.  They accept me for who I am.  They don’t care that I am melancholic, prone to more bad days than good, am extremely overweight, live a pretty boring existence, struggle to see my own value in a world that seems to have no place for me.  What they care about is that I show up as their friend as much as they are mine.  This is because they value what I have to offer and they remind me constantly what it is that I do have to offer.  This is such an incredible gift.

A gift that is in itself a lesson.

I was looking for someone just like me.  Someone whom I could hold up to the light to say “Look, they are just like me and they made it, so can I.”  What I didn’t consider is my uniqueness.  By virtue of everything about me – my upbringing, my life experiences, my genetic make up – I am unique.  As are you.  I had never really come to grips with that.  My uniqueness felt so isolating somehow.  I needed a tribe.

But then I found this group of women, and they found me, and together, we expect nothing more of each other than to show up with our uniqueness.  We celebrate our uniqueness with zest and love.  We champion it like knights on steeds carrying banners for all the world to see.  We are each individual colours of a rainbow, coming together to encourage each other to shine.  Yes, I have found my tribe, but it is based on something completely different than I ever imagined my tribe would be.  It is based on acceptance and love.  Nothing more, nothing less.  They don’t expect me to be something different.  They expect me to be, well, me.

We need more of this in the world.  We need more women championing each other, not tearing each other down. We need more women encouraging the uniqueness of others, celebrating them for it, not trying to pigeonhole them into something they are not.  Mass media makes its living out of trying to get us to do just that, and we conform, doing their job for them, tearing others down.

Albert Einstein apparently once famously said that if you try to get a fish to climb a tree, it will always feel stupid.

Don’t be a tree climbing fish.  Be a unique colour of the rainbow.  Own your truth and I promise you, your tribe will find you.  I will find you.

Much love,

SHW Signature