Life After Suicide

Hello, hello!

Whoa there, another post about depression / suicide / dealing with these taboo topics…yup, I’m afraid so! I don’t know if any of you watched it but there was a brilliant programme on the BBC last week, called Life After Suicide and it really got me thinking so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you. (Incidentally, I caught the show on iPlayer and it’s there for another 22 days.)

The programme took us on a journey through the after effects of bereavement by suicide, through the eyes of Angela Samata whose own husband took his life 11 years ago. She talks about her own experience and also meets others who’ve been affected by loved ones taking their own lives.

It was interesting to me for obvious reasons and one such reason was talking about the stigma that is STILL attached to suicide. When my mum died, my grandmother, (dad’s mum) told me to lie about what had happened. Clearly she was ashamed of the situation but luckily my dad wasn’t and enforced an “honesty is the best policy” approach. I could blame it on the fact that past generations had a very stiff upper lip, but I know that many people in later generations also feel this way about suicide.

Outside of these obvious things though, the programme stimulated a lot of thoughts that had just never occurred to me. If you watch it, you’ll find one of the people Samata speaks to vocalising her anger at the fact that her husband has left her with all of the things he couldn’t deal with. Not only that, but she now also has to deal with his death and all of it on her own while continuing family life for her children. Well that just plain old never occurred to me; I never stopped to consider that my dad had to deal with so much more than I did, because there’s a whole heap of stuff that happened that he shielded me from. I never went to the open inquest; he did. I never identified the body; he did. And I most certainly didn’t have to arrange the funeral, but guess what? He did. 

Somehow, the amazing man that he is, he managed to do all of that with virtually no support from family or friends. He just stuck his head down and fixed our lives, all the while dealing with another huge worry which surfaced in this documentary: “What if my girls follow their mother’s footsteps?” Being one of the girls, I’ve never really thought about that either because I know I’m not about to take my own life, but watching all of the people in this documentary talk about exactly this fear really hammered home the fact that this is very real and many people carry the burden of this fear forever as a result of another’s actions. The most significant revelation that’s come from this is the beginnings of an understanding of why he and I feel so very differently about the events of the past.

There really is very little support for people who find themselves left behind after a suicide. As my dad has said to me, no social workers called, no nanny state took care of us, there was almost nowhere to turn. Luckily, there are some organisations which exist to help people affected and one such, which featured in the programme and also in my dad’s life, is SOBS. SOBS is a support group for normal people who find themselves in this situation and like any support group, they provide an open forum where people can express themselves but that’s the only one I know of and it was the only one featured in the programme. What else is there?

This remains something that annoys me on an almost daily basis. Once you have found the strength to tell people what’s happened, often you’ll find they know someone else who has been left behind in the same way. Depression is a real illness and suicide is a very real killer. Nearly 6,000 people committed suicide in the UK in 2012* so that’s thousands of people impacted and left behind in just that one year; yet when it happens to you, it’s surprisingly difficult to find support. The internet goes some way to combating this but it’s not enough. So here’s my plea to everyone reading this – please be open, please point people in the direction of others who’ve been through the same when they reach out and please, please don’t ask anyone to lie in order to save face. As in an situation when you’ve lost a loved one, people who are left behind following a suicide just need love, support and ideally someone to speak to who’s been through it and come out the other side.

Thank you.

Now go and watch the programme because I’ve barely scratched the surface of it! x

*Samaritans Statistics Report 2014

If you’re struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, here are some organisations which might be able to help:

Maytree Sanctuary
Mind
NHS
Depression Alliance

Is it just that some people aren’t good on their own?

Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, (Joe)’s just not good on his own”? I’ve heard it a number of times and it usually relates to men but what does it really mean?

I’m sure you’re familiar with the context; it usually comes up when talking about relationships and someone that flits from one serious relationship to another, but that doesn’t actually explain what we mean when we say it. Typically we assume that it’s not healthy to behave in this sort of way and I’ve lost count of how often I’ve heard people talking about friends who leave one relationship and land straight in the next. We all need to “learn to love ourselves”, “be comfortable just being you” and “embrace the freedom of single life”, yet some people slip through the net.

Joe, (or Mr. Bloggs as you might know him) gets away with this behaviour because he has been deemed beyond help. Despite being an intelligent human being, Joe couldn’t possibly be expected to look after himself physically or emotionally and he needs someone by his side at all times to help him out. Is this what Joe says or is this what we say? Why isn’t Joe being told to buck up and love himself / love the freedom to get down and dirty with anyone he chooses? Is it because Joe told everyone else to sod off and let him be or is it because poor old Joe really is entirely helpless? Maybe his mum did too much for him when he was a kid, maybe he cries at Bambi which is clearly a sign of a man on the edge or maybe, just maybe we’re not comfortable with people who behave differently to us so we’ve created a box and shoved Joe into it.

This really is one of those questions that I don’t know the answer to. It might be that some people really are better when they have a companion. Maybe it’s the age-old introvert vs extrovert problem of the different personality types not understanding each other. Whatever it is, I’m not sure it should matter to anyone other than Joe and I damn well hope that nobody ever says about me that I’m not good on my own. x

Going Hormone Free

Ok, I’ll say it right upfront…this is probably not a post for the guys, but hopefully you figured that out from the title.

I don’t usually like to speak too much about feminine issues because quite frankly, I’m a bit prudish when it comes to that sort of thing. While I’m happy talking about sex all day, if someone even mentions to me that they’re on their “P”, I get all squeamish and wish the ground would swallow me up. Well, actually I wish it would swallow them up because they were the one to make me feel all disgusting and weird.

Anyway, I digress. What I was heading towards before I ran off track, was that I wanted to talk about hormonal birth control, or rather a lack of.

Before I start, I want to preface everything that follows by saying that I absolutely believe that hormonal birth control has a place in this world. I was on it from the age of 15 until I was almost 29 and if I hadn’t used it during those years, I think I’d be one of those tired-looking, broke young mums with at least 6 kids by now. From when I was 15 until when I was 22 I used one pill consistently, never once forgot to take it and had no problems at all.

At that time though, my body decided it’d had enough and so I changed my pill. Then I changed again, and again, and again. There were a few more changes and eventually I ended up back on the original one.

Here’s my first important point: Sometimes people tell you things about your body that you know aren’t true. One of those pills made me depressed. I mean seriously, woke up crying, wanted to cry all day, went to bed crying, depressed. I got no help from the doctor but miraculously, once I’d figured out the likely problem, I changed my pill and was no longer depressed within a week.

I’ve also had pills which have made me feel really ill. I’ve been tired, achy, miserable, bloated, dizzy, etc, etc. The list really does go on. So, if you are trying out hormonal contraception, I urge you not to accept any of this and to keep going until you find the balance that’s right for you because not all pills are created equal.

Anyhow, that’s what happened around that time. Then, when I was 24, my doctor suggested I try the Mirena coil, which is essentially a hormone filled coil that works similarly to the implant you can have in your arm. You can have this in for 5 years and never need to worry about a thing.

It was no better than the pill was for me but once it was in, I figured I’d stick with it. I stuck with it for nearly 4 years. Oh yes, I stuck with it through the appearance of tiny lumps all over my chin / cheeks; rough, dry skin; spots; constant aches in the gut region; depressed episodes; tiredness; unpredictable monthlies…the lot.

I thought it was my best option and I still maintain that for me, for most of that time, hormonal contraception was the best option.

I spent about 2 years umm-ing and aah-ing about what to do and whether or not to have that thing removed and go hormone free but I was scared. Really, really scared. I’d heard so many horror stories about epic breakouts of spots, boobs shrinking, weight loss, weight gain, awful monthlies, mood swings, lethargy, etc, etc.

Finally though, I bit the bullet because I was feeling so rough anyway and curiosity really got the better of me, so I had it removed.

What a revelation!

Here I am about 3 months later and I feel better than I have in years. My skin is calming down, lots of the bumps have gone and the dryness definitely has. I get fewer spots, I ache less, I sleep less, my monthlies are predictable and pain free, my moods have levelled out. It’s gone so well that I wonder why I was ever scared!

So here’s my real message in all of this…

Different things work for different people. Before my coil, I read horror stories about the procedure to have it inserted. In reality, it was mildly uncomfortable and I ached for a day. Before I came off the hormones, I thought I was going to turn into an acne-riddled monster. In reality, I’m still exactly the same but feeling more alive and looking a little better. Don’t pay attention to the noise of the horror stories because nobody really writes about things when they’re easy or go exactly to plan so you all you hear is the bad stuff.

If you want to try hormones, go for it. If you think they’re not working for you, here I am as a real person saying that even after almost 14 solid years of flooding my body with hormones, it adjusted quickly and I feel better than I did for the majority of that time.

I hope that if you’re thinking about what to do, this has helped you realise that usually what your gut tells you will be right for you, is the thing that really will be right. Take a gamble, try it out and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised! x

Friday Lust

It’s that time of the week again, the time when our minds turn to shopping and the damage we’ll do to our credit cards this weekend!

This week’s Friday lust is a bit forward thinking as it’s really more of a summer thing but it’s a summer thing I’m coveting nonetheless.

Here it is:

Pretty Ballerinas Charlize, 199 Euros

Pretty Ballerinas Charlize, 199 Euros

Observe the sleek lines, the beautiful shade of nude, the shiny patent and the gorgeous pink sole. What a shoe! I LOVE IT! I may well order some of these when we get a bit nearer to the warm weather and I’ll totally be able to justify it by telling myself that they’re practical because they’re flat :-)

Happy shopping, everyone x

Istanbul

Hello!

One thing I have been massively lax about this year is sharing my travel experiences so I’m going to start the catchup process now with a quick note about my most recent trip which was to Istanbul. Sadly my camera gave up the ghost part-way through the trip so I don’t have as many photos as I would have liked and a good chunk of them have been taken on my phone but hopefully you’ll find something useful here.

We stayed in the old part of the city, very near to the Blue Mosque in a hotel called the World Heritage Hotel. It’s a small, boutique type hotel which I cannot recommend highly enough. The hospitality was like nothing else, we were offered the receptionist’s iPhone charger to take home with us when we thought we’d lost one and we also bumped into one of the staff of an evening who stopped just to check that we knew where we were going. AMAZING!

 

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Before I went to Istanbul, I imagined it might be a bit like Marrakech in that we’d be constantly harassed as 3 females travelling alone. It wasn’t like that at all. There’s a huge police presence in the most touristy areas and as soon as you say your first no to the traders, they back off. That was really refreshing. What was also nice was that almost all tourists respected the culture of the city and dressed conservatively, in longer sleeves and trousers.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower

Food-wise I was underwhelmed. The main courses were “ok” from what I experienced; I mean they were great value for money but nothing I’d rush back for. The baklava and the Turkish delight were fabulous though! I don’t usually eat Turkish delight but it revealed its true colours here and the pistachio flavour with the bits of nut in is just the best!

Baklava

Baklava

What’s interesting is that you might think that the Asian side of the city would be the more conservative but actually it’s the more modern side. We took a boat trip across there one day and it was great. Approaching it from the boat, it looked run down, cheap and not at all like the sort of place you’d want to go. Walk a couple of streets down from the docking station though and you’ll enter a maze of shopping streets, bars and restaurants and find the most western part of the city.

You’ll also find some awesome street art so be sure to wander slightly off the beaten track. Check out the example below, there’s so much going on in one picture, it’s brilliant! For travellers in their 20s, I’d suggest staying on this side of the river and taking the boat across for the sight seeing rather than doing it the way we did. The boat’s only about 4 Euros per trip so it’s virtually free.

Street Art

Street Art

 

New Mosque

New Mosque

 

There are only two things we encountered which I would suggest avoiding. The first is the cafe / restaurant in the Topkapi Palace grounds and that’s purely because it’s insanely expensive. We had some delicious chocolate cake in there but it was at least 3x the price of everywhere else and seemed to be on a par with English tourist attraction prices. It was a bit of a nasty shock.

The second is the hammam. We went to Cemberlitas Hammam and while it was ok, I really didn’t enjoy the experience very much. The place was heaving like a cattle market, the women were rude and there weren’t even any signs to say where to go so we were wandering like lost lambs when we first arrived. If you fancy a Hammam experience, I’ve had much better in Marrakech so I suggest saving your pennies towards another holiday.

Overall, Istanbul is a hustling, bustling city and there’s certainly a strong presence of religion there but it also feels really safe and it’s not especially huge so you can easily walk around it. My favourite part of the whole trip was when we went to Gulhane Park. It’s big, it’s well laid out and it’s beautiful. On a warm day in the summer, I could easily imagine lazing around here for hours, not least because there are loads of friendly stray dogs around! The dogs are tagged and one gentle giant followed us around for about half of our walk :-)

Definitely visit if you get the chance but for my money, Budapest is still the winner if I had to suggest one city for you to visit x

Friday Lust!

It has been FOREVER since I last did a Friday lust and since we’re now back in the comfort zone of having money to burn post Christmas and New Year slump, I thought I’d catch up and put something out there that’s on my radar of potential items to own in the near future!

This week I’ve gone for a double whammy, with the simpler, more affordable (and more likely) version of something I love and the super bling-ed up version that I’ll probably only ever dream of. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Sam Edelman Hobo bag…

Sam Edelman Fringe Hobo, £278.94, http://www.samedelman.com/en-US/Product/EC0202213-3013742/Sam+Edelman/Black/Fringe+Hobo.aspx

Sam Edelman Fringe Hobo, £278.94

Sam Edelman Studded Hobo, £419.82

Sam Edelman Studded Hobo, £419.82

I love both of these bags so much it’s unreal. By the time I’ve added on shipping and taxes to bring them in from the UK, the price is just crazy so I think they’ll remain pipedreams!

If anyone’s seen any equally gorgeous hobo bags, I’d love to know as I really want one but not just any old bag, I’m looking for one that stands out from the crowd like these do but perhaps at a slight more purse friendly tariff :-)

Happy shopping, everyone! x

Jawbone UP MOVE – Fitness Tracking for the Unfit

Jawbone UP MOVE

My prediction is that sales of fitness trackers are up massively year on year for the month of January. This time last year, this wearable tech was still quite niche with most of us thinking this would be a very short-lived fad. We were thinking it could be the Tamagotchi of the twenty-tens…for adults. Something people would play with for 5 minutes and then throw onto the discard pile along with their resolutions to make this the year they’d finally shift those extra pounds.

So far though, it seems to be more of a mobile phone; something that’s spawned a whole load of new brands trying to beat the ever popular Nokia 3210 (Fitbit). Everyone wants one and often they’re not really sure what they even do. Think about those 3210s for a minute; did you want one because you urgently needed to make calls on the move, or did you want to be able to play Snake and thrust your cool new tech in your friends’ faces? This is what’s happening with fitness trackers.

It’s January, we’ve all decided we’ll be happier, healthier, better people this year and since it’s now 2015, we can’t possibly contemplate doing this without a new gadget of some description. In comes the fitness tracker! (Cue round of applause)

Oh wait, what?

Fitness tracker. But that would mean I’d have to, like, get fit or something. My resolution was public declaration to show the world that I know I’m fat, it wasn’t an intention to fix it! Maybe I should get one anyway…

And so my journey began.

I did quite a lot of research into the various fitness trackers out there because most of them are pricey enough to make me think twice before impulse buying. In the end, I settled on the Jawbone UP MOVE because it has an accessible price point of £39 and it seems to have all of the functionality I need.

I haven’t turned into an athlete just because I purchased a device to track my movement and consequently, I don’t need a sophisticated tracker to tell me that. What I wanted was something to make me aware of just how sedentary my life is and how varied my sleep patterns can be. It’s working.

Every day my steps are monitored so I now know that on an average day working in my local office, I do a fraction of the exercise I assumed I was doing whereas on an average day working in London, I manage far more exercise than I had realised. This is great because I have a starting point and a real indication of how much more I need to move on those local days in order not to turn into a sloth.

I can also track what I eat with this little gadget which is useful for those who are calorie counting. I was already a fan of MyFitnessPal for that though and guess what, the two integrate! 

Basically, what I have is a little gadget I clip on to my tights or trousers in the morning to track my steps and then I press 1 button at night so it tracks my sleep instead. It’s so easy! There’s not even any charging. By charging, I mean that moment you have to separate yourself from the device for a few hours for the first time and then you never go back to it. I’ve been wearing this little Jawbone pal for about 7 days now, which is pretty much the longest I’ve ever played with any toy.

In the meantime, my friend who invested in a Fitbit is sat there staring at her wrist telling me she has no idea what the flashing lights do or how it works. She tried to track her sleep but it didn’t work and she can’t find any proper instructions. She’s 23 and works for a forward thinking software company, surely she’s meant to be able to figure it out!?!

If you’ve read this far, thank you for putting up with my waffle. I hope you can understand that what I’m trying to say is this; if you think you want a fitness tracker but you rarely do anything to warrant one, why not start with the reasonably priced Jawbone UP MOVE and see how you get on. By the time it’s battery dies in 4-6 months’ time, you’ll know whether you’re ready for the big boys or not. It really is the fitness tracker for the chronically unfit and I love it :-)