Poetry: Tuesday 7th July 2020

Swallows passing
in the morning.

Heart of
soft rain.

A street,
over the stile.

Butterfly spots,
large, grey clouds.

The afternoon
a long curve.

Blackberries poke,
dust and rain.

Two pale horses
in the shade.

03/07/20

~

The wind’s
racehorses.

A door
in the stream.

Wake
the poppies’
morning song.

Voices sail
with the birds.
Time waits
for his bill.

The long grass
has gone and come
in rain and scent.

A baby is here,
who wrestled with the night.

In the garden
flower, leaf
stirring breeze.

On one side of the river we walk
by thicket and stream.

On the other side,
the garden,
the buzzard,
the lake of geese.

Hold baby
who belongs to both,
the poppy sings.

In the old pines
where squirrels play
we will count
the pigeons,

In the library
we will remember
dreams at sea.

At the lake of geese,
we will watch,
children throwing seeds
at the setting sun.

Perhaps, we will see
a familiar face
as a break of light
after a storm.

Perhaps, they will smile and wave.

Old park walls
crossing paths,
forgotten doors,
take them home.

Moonlit swan,
the fountain sound.

These are the songs,
the poppies sang.

07/07/20
S.Ali

Poems during Lockdown

Sycamore seeds strewn
opening skies.

Fear walks openly
in different paths.

A second twilight
brings creatures and shadows.

A second moon
an eerie sleep.

On an island
a swan with her young.

3/5/20

~

Magpie paintbrush
Iridescent quill
the morning flowers
your resolute will.

Won’t you pause
fence-hopping,
treetop thicket
chk chk chking?

The fan of your tail
the gentle breeze
gloved fingers
brushing leaves.

Won’t you stop by
this window sill?

Lend me a feather
a touch of colour
just enough paint
for my finger nails.

April/May 2020

~~

Soft bells
jasmine flower.

On a branch,
a grapefruit.

Doorstep
of white flower

Around the corner
the sun sets.

22/06/20

~~~

In a vase
red, cream and pink roses.

Apples formed
on the little tree.

In the past,
the trees and fences are tall.

The grape vine,
the shade.

A pavement passes
with a voice.

In the garden,
Ma answers.

24/06/20

~~~~

Collecting the newspaper

Across the bridge
a park.

The train passes,
towards the south.

To the bench
and back.

Bindweed flowers
along the shade.

24/06/20

~~~~~

The night
made the child
the car.

The journey
made the child
words.

Carried to bed
he turned to sleep.

24/06/20

~~~~~~

Rain in the night.

Goldcrests played in the fir tree.

Fireflies that visited me.

Two steps ahead.

Floating.

The sun washed up the dishes.

A tree cut down,
still behind.

The shade,
a speck in the eye.

The archway blooms
to wither in the sun

with roses
and sparrows.

We wash up
to float a little, imperceptibly.

28/06/20

[Poems by S.Ali]
poetrymuseum(AT)protonmail(DOT)com

 

Writer’s Block and Anxiety

pandora_by_annvanes_d8tfg9w-fullview
Pandora by Anna Vanes (c)

The socially anxious or fearful  consciousness can become disassociated as a means of self-protection. Reality becomes detached from consciousness, so that you may have little awareness of the details of your environment, including, the people around you and your own emotions. For those who suffer social anxiety disorder, this disassociation can be a constant, perhaps, exacerbated by  accompanying illnesses, such as depression.

A second order of disassociation is lingering pain and shame. Even trying to recall events, however, fragmentary and incoherent, can in itself be difficult because it reminds of us of humiliation and suffering.

For playwright and blogger from Toronto, Rachel Ganz, such apparent paucity of life’s raw materials is not an obstacle to writing and storytelling. Her approach to writer’s block is to write like an idiot: “Idiots enjoy themselves. Idiots say Fuck You to obstacles. They don’t stop and think. Why would they do that? They don’t have the depth to care about consequence. In fact, they behave hazardously.”

She compares her approach to writer’s block to her adopted habit of cold showers: “Do as I do with my showers: set a timer, set a focus, set your intelligence aside.”

Ganz’s recent blog posts have addressed her experiences of interviewing for theatre schools whilst suffering severe anxiety. Most recently, she goes further back, to herself as an 18 year old, in 2008, moving to the US to start acting school in New York. As she reveals in what is part one of her account, she is to quit after six months.

The scenes she recalls in classroom, parties and with her staff adviser, are, no doubt, painful, humiliating and, even, perhaps, traumatising, for her. Yet, despite experiencing disassociation and taking drugs to sustain her outer confidence at the time, she remembers details: “My head starts yelling at me: You were never supposed to be here, you were never supposed to be here, I don’t measure up to American kids, they’re all so prepared, they’re all so confident, I want to take a shit and throw it out the window and then jump through a separate closed window and land in a pile of glass and shit. I don’t want to do this.”

Moreover, Ganz is determined to remember and, now, share these painful memories. In another post, she writes: “Picture your arm and hand (if you’re writing), or your voice (if you’re voice recording), as the air duct to your soul.”

Sometimes the most severest of painful memories or trauma cannot be put into words and it is difficult for the individual to confront and talk of events. However, Judith Lewis Herman, in her celebrated book, ‘Trauma and Recovery,’ considers the trauma victim’s telling of their story an essential aspect of recovery, “so that it can be integrated into the survivor’s life story.”

Repressed memories, Rachel Ganz, suggests, like traumatic memories, need to be integrated into consciousness. She proposes the writer to not only be an ‘idiot’ but, also, courageous and self-compassionate to face reality.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

 

Coronavirus-related xenophobia overlooks the full story

satoshi_x_daisuke_by_annvanes_deviantart
Satoshi x Daisuke by Anna Vanes (c)

Speculation that the coronavirus, COVID-19, was genetically engineered by China, or anyone else, has been challenged by scientific research which “firmly” suggested that the virus evolved naturally from an existing virus. Bats are thought to be the original hosts of the virus (though this is as yet unproven) and, as bat-human virus transmission is rare, scientists favour the theory that an intermediary host existed between bats and humans.

Possible candidate for the host species is the pangolin, sold in the Wuhan wet market, despite a national ban, which is the location strongly linked with the outbreak. The civet cat, also sold at times in such markets, is thought to have been the intermediary host of the earlier SARS-COVID 1, which was detected in 2002, in Guangdong, southern China. However, the earliest known case of the current coronavirus, SARS-COVID 2, was found, on November 17 2019, in someone who had no contact with the Wuhan wet market and has lead some to consider whether coronavirus transmission passed through livestock, such as pigs, before reaching workers at the wet market.

The intensification of farming in China has not only created industrial farming reliant on high concentrations of livestock but driven smallholding farmers out of the livestock industry and towards “wild” species to make a living. They have also physically been pushed out to uncultivated zones, such as forest, where contact with bats becomes more likely. This encroachment of human farming into these ecosystems have lead to other zoonoses – human to animal transmissions – including Ebola and HIV.

Nonetheless, it should come as little surprise that the fear and suspicion naturally engendered by the SARS-COVID 2 or the coronavirus, as it is popularly known, is engendering xenophobic feeling and being exploited by demagogues. They create narratives, long preceding the coronavirus, which use selective marshaling of facts to depict others as threats and inferior.

Chinese tech companies have been treated with suspicion about their possible role in espionage on behalf of the authoritarian Chinese government. Whilst such suspicion may have grounds, that Britain and its allies routinely work with tech firms for surveillance purposes, including, demanding that “backdoors” be created in encrypted software to provide them access to user information is less widely discussed. Britain has promoted tech firms, , including Chinese firms, whose surveillance products are sold and utilised by human rights abusing regimes and, itself, has licensed the sale of such products to regimes directly such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The selective avoidance of aspects Britain and its allies’ records also applies to treatment of animals in the food production process. Whilst contact between wild animals and humans is better regulated, conditions for livestock in Britain’s US-style mega-farms have been described by NGO, Compassion in World Farming, as “often barren, overcrowded and frequently filthy.” The RSPCA says of British farming generally: “The law alone is not always strong or detailed enough to ensure that they all have a good quality of life, and are transported and slaughtered humanely.” In a 2012 report, the government’s independent advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee, found that: “The prevalence of many endemic diseases in farm animals is too high and shows little sign of reduction over time.” Past reports suggest that there are thousands of major violations of animal welfare laws in British abattoirs every year.

Britain has experienced serious outbreaks of the deadly brain disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease, which can be transmitted to humans through consumption of contaminated meat, and the foot and mouth disease, notably in 2001, both suspected to be linked to infected meat and bone feed given to cattle and pigs respectively. It is thought that the infected feed was imported from abroad, though the origins are not known. Cattle are now required to be fed vegan meals only, though BSE still occurs sporadically, with a recent case in 2018, in Scotland. The foot and mouth outbreak of 2001, which lead to the culling of some 6.5 million livestock, exposed cruelty and poor hygiene at the Northumberland pig fattening farm where the outbreak was traced to. The farmer was found guilty of unnecessary harm to pigs, not disposing of animal by-products and suspected by the district judge, though not charged, of feeding pigs untreated waste.

A wider examination of Britain’s role in damaging the environment could include its role, currently and historically, in fossil fuel consumption, carbon emissions and climate destruction, in its large scale export of hazardous electronic waste to less developed nations, most of which ends up in landfill, its role in development of military weapons which are either used directly or sold on the international market. A spike in cancers, including child cancers, and congenital birth defects in the Iraq have been linked by researchers with the use of certain munitions by US and UK forces, including toxic chemicals such as depleted uranium and white phosphate, but experts suggest further research is required to establish the cause.

The origins of the coronavirus pandemic are still being investigated and, as the detailed blog post by Varun Vasunarayanan, linked below, discusses, China did seek to obstruct public disclosure of the outbreak in Wuhan initially. Grave errors by Chinese officials also included the enabling of a 5 million person exodus from Wuhan, enabling the spread throughout the country, downplaying infection figures and early contradictory information about the possibility of person-to-person transmission.

Nonetheless, as well as halting the rise of the virus in its own country (with authoritarian powers of force and surveillance used) it has, as the Vasunarayanan discusses in his blog, taken steps to assist the world in understanding and defending against the virus: “The virus was identified by January 3; a week later, China shared the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus with WHO. It is because China released the DNA that immediate scientific work took place across the planet to find a vaccine; there are now 43 vaccine candidates, four in very early testing.”

A selective narrative of the story of the pandemic enables xenophobia and fear, strengthening the support for those who present themselves as national guardians against outsider threat. As the coronavirus outbreak epicentre has moved to the West, Westerners risk becoming the target of xenophobic rhetoric abroad.

A singular focus on the behaviour of some American consumers in, for example, Wisconsin, where staying at home to reduce transmission of the virus is advised through a “safer at home” order, might appear to confirm their responsibility for the rapid spread of the disease in the US. A food store worker in Wisconsin, writes on her blog, despairingly: “Yes, people need groceries and essential supplies and that’s why my store with all its groceries and essential supplies is considered an “essential business” that needs to stay open. What people don’t need is to bring extra people with them to shop during a pandemic as an excuse to get out of the house and temporarily cure themselves of boredom…You probably shouldn’t be bringing in a fresh newborn baby to the big box retail store at any time let alone a viral outbreak. What part of “stay at home” don’t these people get?”

Such complacency should not detract from the culpability of US leaders. The failures are extreme, from Donald Trump dismissing the virus as not being a great threat, despite warnings from US intelligence agencies, the US State Department shipping much needed coronavirus medical supplies to China in February – to the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, reflecting on ‘game changer’ information, on 1 April, that the virus can be spread by asymptomatic individuals – when this had been discussed since January by public health experts. A ‘shelter in place’ order in Georgia was finally issued on 1 April. Some of the biggest failings are common to both Republicans and Corporate Democrats, such as the incoherent and disastrous privatised health system and the staunch opposition to single-payer healthcare, which presumptive Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, also opposes.

Whilst keeping an open mind, given that the precise origins of the coronavirus disease are still not fully understood and, in fact, its method of transmission is still being debated amongst experts, a narrow and selective approach to the facts will be misleading – precisely why it is being promoted by some.

Image created by Anna Vanes (c)

To read the blog post by Varun Vasunarayanan, ‘Growing Xenophobia Against China in the Midst of Corona Shock,” click below.

The Reader's Digest Guide to Intimate Relations

On March 25, the foreign ministers of the G7 states failed to release a statement. The United States—the president of the G7 at this time—had the responsibility for drafting the statement, which was seen to be unacceptable by several other members. In the draft, the United States used the phrase “Wuhan Virus” and asserted that the global pandemic was the responsibility of the Chinese government. Earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump had used the phrase “Chinese Virus” (which he said he would stop using) and a member of his staff was reportedly heard using the slur “Kung Flu.” On Fox News, anchor Jesse Watters explained in his unfiltered racist way “why [the virus] started in China. Because they have these markets where they eat raw bats and snakes.” Violent attacks against Asians in the United States has spiked as a consequence of the stigma driven by the Trump administration.

Quite correctly…

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The Coronavirus Lockdown – Opportunity & Anxiety

Akashi Seijuro_AnnaVanes
Akashi Seijuro by Anna Vanes (c)

As many are noting, including the blogger, Laury Jenneret, who writes with thoughtfulness about the experience in Britain, there have been some positive, potentially, transformational, aspects to the partial societal and economic lockdown in the UK. For those fortunate to have basic needs met, from food to health care – and to not be stuck with an abuser – and with Internet access available, the pause in lives and unfolding of tragedy has also enabled personal reflection and, often with the help of technology, re-connection with people and communities. Laury Jenneret writes, “…I have had so many more conversations, both with friends and people I don’t actually know, that it has made me wonder if social distancing wasn’t what we were all doing before the coronavirus.”

Many individuals, such as those experiencing social anxiety symptoms, may feel excluded from this silver lining in the tragedy – personal renewal and deeper connection – with their greater isolation potentially reinforcing damaging behaviours, as psychologist, Karin Klassen, warns: “Interacting with other people is one of the things that makes us get dressed in the morning, put our face on . . . Without that interaction we might stop doing some of those things that are basic self-respect things. Then because our behaviour changes we start to feel in a way that supports that negative behaviour. We start to feel icky.”

Technology is being put to meaningful use by some at this time, historian, Robin Reich, writes on her blog, expressing hope that the will for communication persists beyond lockdowns. Writer, Catherine Hume, cites the example of Chinese residents who used their lockdown to develop foreign language and other skills, to recommend individuals struggling in their workplaces to investigate online courses to “retrain into a job you can turn into a business. Be self employed. Be a success and be a success without any hassle from co workers.”

Remote interaction does not, however, enable the physical contact, movement and full range of social cues that can make real interaction so fulfilling. Whilst practically beneficial, therapists have expressed concern about some of the challenges that come with remote interaction with clients, including a concern about the emotional detachment it might enable.

Content on the Internet is so diverse and vast, varying in credibility and accessibility, that its sheer volume and range of options can be a challenge for individuals to navigate without a clear idea of their purpose in its use. This can equally apply to online educational and job opportunities as it can for entertainment.

The current transformational opportunity – and, perhaps, imperative – for job-seekers and job-changers is clearly evident and can place a great pressure on individuals, especially, the most marginalised, burdened and isolated. Without public pressure, it is unlikely that government and their agencies, post-coronavirus, will dramatically change their underfunded service support for disabled and/or jobless groups, despite what should be better awareness of the challenges of being housebound.

There is no general answer to how to improve, train and prepare oneself for the uncertain future – on top of caring for one’s health and dealing with the threat of the virus and its societal and economic consequences.  A psychotherapist, Annie Wright, writing especially for trauma sufferers dealing with the pandemic crisis says, in what feels like a universal truism for people currently dealing with serious health difficulties: “(b)ut for now, our only job – your only job – is to take care of yourself as best you can, to weather this storm, to live with your ghosts but to not let them overwhelm you.” For parents and carers and others, an addition must be made for dependents but self-care and attention will be a necessary starting point for all. Social and professional support may be needed by many.

Image designed by Anna Vanes (c)

To read the full blog-post, ‘Gradually, then suddenly,’ by Laury Jenneret, click the link below.

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, “Two ways,” Mike said, “Gradually and then suddenly.” I’ve thought about that a lot over the past week, as I, like the rest of the world, have looked on in stunned silence as society as we knew it has ground to a halt. We first heard about COVID-19 at the end of last year, and to be honest it just rumbled in the background on our news agenda. We all broadly knew what it was, that it was a virus believed to have originated from a wet-market in Wuhan, some people had heard that it might have something to do with bats, but everyone was pretty vague on the details, because it felt abstract. It felt like it didn’t have anything to do with us. Not really.

When I took my daughter to…

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‘Ring Ring: telephone work at the end of the world’ – The Challenges of Distance Therapy

Noiz-Vr1_AnnaVanes
Image designed by Anna Vanes (c)

Deprived of social interactions as a form of comfort and as treatment for their illness, individuals with social anxiety disorder symptoms will rely more than ever on therapy and counselling during the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Whilst the NHS in Britain has been providing talking therapies using a variety of delivery methods for some time now, the virus pandemic and government health measures have meant a sudden, greater shift towards electronic delivery, sometimes, without full training for staff.

The necessity of treatment at this time is outlined well in a recent article by a Canada-based psychologist: “Anxiety and trauma is cumulative. The thing that tips the jar of anxiety over causes a whole bunch of issues to spill out. It can bring up other things in a person’s past that they haven’t dealt with before like a sexual assault, a trauma, an affair, a divorce. It can bring out things that remained buried for a long time. So, people have to be aware of that.”

Both patients and therapists will benefit from reading the blog-post linked below in which an anonymous NHS ‘Low Intensity Therapist/Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner’ (LIT/PWP) writes about challenges and recommendations for electronic delivery for therapists/practitioners. Patients too can benefit from understanding some of the challenges faced.

The blogger writes mainly of Low Intensity Therapy, that is therapy which is, according to the British Psychological Society, “delivered in such a way as to reduce the need for extended one-on-one time with a qualified psychotherapist. It typically incorporates self-help books and internet exercises, usually completed under the guidance of a “well-being practitioner” or coach who is trained to follow a highly structured programme rather than having any formal psychotherapy training.”

Being based on skills training, rather than relationship building, and rigid principles and structure, the blogger suggests that Low Intensity Therapy is highly suitable for distance treatment: “I’ve suggested to trainee LITS/PWPs that working on the phone uses the same skills as working with someone who has a visual impairment; plenty of non verbal signals don’t rely on sight: pace, tone, choice of words, reflection, summary and verbal empathy, the use of silence.”

Therapists and other practitioners may experience their own anxiety or uncertainty using what may be a new delivery method: “I used to have quite severe anxiety symptoms when I got phone calls or had to make calls; that subsided after the first few weeks of doing regular telephone assessments! But seriously, if you’re anxious about phone calls generally then use supervision and be gentle on yourself, but don’t let the anxiety stop you.”

The blogger describes feedback from colleagues expressing a concern about emotional detachment: “What was difficult was a feeling that if we took our physical presence away the patient would lose something vital to their recovery. There’s also a sense that we, the PWPs (and I would imagine therapists in other modalities) would lose something about the work that helped and refreshed us too.” The blogger’s own view seems quite clear: “…we thought that we were the magic ingredient, and we wanted to keep that sense of connection for ourselves.”

There are other potential practical shortcomings, such as difficulty conveying visual formulations which are integral to, for example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and the patient data collection required to measure progress. One suggestion is that this information is provided via digital format before a telephone session.

Face-to-face interaction is particularly suitable for therapies dependent on a therapist-patient relationship and for treatment of specific conditions, such as social anxiety disorder. It provides for more complete human interaction, including physical cues and expressions. However, alternate delivery formats can supplement this through greater focus on, for example, vocal (telephone) and facial communication (video). With more therapy being conducted through electronic means, therapist and patients must consider how to ensure effectiveness – as well, as considering the longer-term place for such formats.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

To read the full blog-post by ‘Not A Guru,’ click the link below:

Not a Low Intensity Guru

First, you might want to play this song while you read. Thanks Patricia for the mood music!

Contents

Unfortunately I can’t do hyperlinks within a post in this version of WordPress so I’m sorry for difficulty navigating. There is unlimited room to add to this. If counsellors would like to include any specific learning from their experience please let me know – I can only get my hands on CBT folks at short notice! Roughly the post is organised into:

  • Introduction
  • Setting up an appointment
  • General skills during an appointment
  • PWP/IAPT specific notes
  • High Intensity CBT specific notes
  • Links to online resources
  • References

Introduction

Welcome to the first NaG post written from the self isolation couch. I promise that the cough wont transmit through the keyboard. Please be kind and…

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‘There is Only One Reality’ – Opportunities for Self-Connection

Yuzuki Yukari_AnnaVanes
Yuzuki Yukari by Anna Vanes (c)

The various forms of self-quarantining being imposed or encouraged by authorities across the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean that individuals with social anxiety symptoms will, along with others, experience prolonged isolation over the coming weeks. Whilst presenting a potentially challenging disruption to treatment, support and exposure, this period may present an opportunity for connecting with oneself.

Disassociation is a medically recognised response to overwhelming stress. It leads to disconnection from oneself and/or one’s environment and can last for a short or long period. In a recent blog-post, writer, Rachel Ganz, recalls her anxiety and fear-provoked disassociation during her childhood: “I learned very young to displace myself with imaginative distancing. I cannot panic about reality because I don’t keep up with it, I can’t. Most of us live a version of that. Most of us participate only as we want, only as we can.”

Blogger, Zachary Terry, wrote recently of mental distancing in the form of regret and hope. His mother passed away unexpectedly and he writes of the loss triggering deep regret. “I lamented my choices throughout the previous years, wishing I was better, kinder, more loving, more affectionate… I wished I’d been a son who took better care of his mother.”

He came to see spending time purely on regretting as a denial of the present – and reality: “I saw how useless my regrets were unless they caused me to make different choices in the real world – in the present. I began making commitments to myself, my mom, and to God. I started showing more love to the important relationships in my life.”

Likewise, he sees spending time in the future with hopes, whether taking vague or detailed form, as being wasteful unless connected to the present: “…I’ve begun letting go of any dream of mine if I’m not prepared to begin working towards it today. I ensure to draw a clear line from the present towards the future I desire.” He adds, “…prove your dreams aren’t simply fantasies about an alternate future universe that will never exist.”

Individuals suffering social anxiety disorder symptoms, often accompanied by depression, can find themselves displaced or disconnected from the reality of the present or, simply, numbed through disassociation, distraction or, even, medication. As well as leading to difficulties functioning, with the most extreme cases being difficulties with self-care, such as washing or clothing oneself, it can lead to loss of a sense of an identity or sense of being.

Rachel Ganz recommends recording and replaying ones daily life – whether in written, audio or video form – as a means of self-connecting: “Sit and listen. What did you do today? How did you react to the things around you? Was everything ok? Were some things not ok? Who was there? How did those people make you feel?” For sixty minutes, she suggests, “Untangle your experiences. Allow the memory of those experiences to effect you. Trust your soul and let it breathe.”

The listening to oneself forms part of both the recording and the replaying process: “We have been through a lot and we will continue to get through a lot, believe me. OR, don’t believe, and look through OLD texts for inspiration, find the artifacts. Whatever moves you, art, cooking, history, physics…” Even the process of tidying and sorting personal belongings presents an opportunity to connect one’s past and present selves.

Zachary Terry’s form of connecting is to remind himself of the present: “When I fall into discontented moods I try and close my eyes and remind myself that nothing else exists. Here I am, just riding the rise and fall of life’s cruel turns and wondrous pleasures. Here I am on the only mortal adventure I’ll ever know. There is nothing else at all friends.”

Global self-quarantining measures may offer a time for self-connection efforts. However, it may also pose new challenges by isolating individuals from opportunity and support and/or placing them into unsupportive environments. Nonetheless, during this uncertain period, when many are undergoing hardship, self-awareness and self-connection may prove beneficial commitments.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

To read Zachary Terry’s full blog-post, ‘There is Only One Reality,’ click below:

Walking Forward

Let’s Do a Fun One

I’m taking a break from writing solely about my trials this week. Let’s do something fun and philosophical. Some weeks ago I mentioned I’ve experienced a great psychological awakening. It was a series of sequential attitude shifts that paved the way for transformative change. I want to share one of the concepts that helped me. I learned to live here in the present, in thereal world. I learned to loosen my focus away from the three false realities I used to fantasize about.

The Real World

We human beings live here and now. Our brains constantly experience a slightly delayed continuous present moment. This is all that there is. What happened five seconds ago isn’t real. What’s going to happen in five seconds from nowdefinitelyisn’t real. Right here, in thispersistentpresent,is the only universe where cause and effect flow…

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‘My View on the Mental Health System’ – Invisible Illnesses and Waiting for Crisis

Lost in the Echo
Lost In the Echo by Anna Vanes (c)

Those suffering seriously with illness but able to, apparently, from the outside, function relatively well, may need a health crisis before they find their care needs being met. The assumption for such individuals (often internalised by the person themselves) can be that as long as they are able to perform the basic tasks in their daily lives, they do not need or deserve resources or attention.

Delaying or denying treatment to such individuals until a breakdown or peak of crisis can mean greater personal harm for the individual and more costly and extensive treatment needed for the individual. From all perspectives, a more attentive and early intervention approach is sorely needed from the healthcare system.

Individuals must, in the absence of a well-funded and effective healthcare system, be advocates for themselves. This means, overcoming internalised stigma of seeking help and overcoming barriers to access placed in their way, whether from commitments such as employment or by resource-starved healthcare systems. For individuals experiencing social anxiety or depression symptoms, this need to be assertive and an effective communicator can be an unassailable barrier to receiving necessary attention and care.

“i end up feeling guilty for needing that appointment,” a blogger writing about their mental health journey shares. “i am always aware at how stretched the GPs are and dont want to feel that i am wasting their time.”

Work and other commitments can make attending an appointment difficult. As a fast food worker explained, she is given her shift times from week to week, meaning that it is “almost impossible” to schedule a doctor appointment in advance.

In the UK’s NHS, patients are typically entitled to 10 minutes to see their doctor and with internalised self-doubt and busy waiting rooms, patients may feel pressurised to accept less than this. For individuals with mental health issues, such as anxiety, communicating with a doctor effectively under this pressure can be difficult. This is exacerbated in cases of multi-morbidity, where multiple illnesses are present and interact, making understanding, diagnosing and treating more complex.

GPs (General Practitioners) in the UK report being overwhelmed by patients to the extent of their judgment being affected by fatigue and irritability. One in 10 reported seeing some 60 patients in one day, double what they consider to be safe. Medics surveyed were working an average 11-hour day, including three hours of administration. One Hertfordshire GP said: “There is a point where I feel cognitively drained; after about 20 patients, there is not an iota of empathy left.”

Social anxiety disorder is typically treated on the NHS with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Having completed a self-report questionnaire on anxiety and depression, an individual who passes a certain threshold is referred to therapy. As the mental health journey blogger writes: “you are restricted to how many appointments you are allowed to have and the waiting list is huge. For some people Therapy needs to be longer term, but that isn’t always available to the people who APPEAR to be functioning well. Going private is so expensive and out of my price range, so it isn’t really an option for me.”

Increasingly, mental health sufferers in UK who have not reached peak crisis point, must turn to private treatment whether in the form of counselling or therapy.  The cost of private treatment and the challenge of identifying suitable and legitimate treatments from the vast array available can be barriers. Without intervention or treatment, individuals may struggle with their illness medically untreated, doing long-term and, potentially severe harm to themselves – until a crisis or breakdown makes them visible to the healthcare system and to themselves.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

To read the full blog-post ‘My View on the Mental Health System‘ written by a blogger recording their mental health journey, click below:

‘Changing the habitat…’ – The Anxiety & Guilt of Being a Migrant of Colour

Dance with the devil_AnnVanes
Dance With The Devil by Anna Vanes (c)

Migrants, particularly from the global south, face increased threats as a result of the worldwide rise in far-right nationalism and racism represented in such governments as that of Brazil, India, Hungary and, even, the UK, whose ongoing ‘hostile environment’ policy resulted in the deportations of Black Caribbean British citizens. Anxiety in vulnerable migrants causes them to give up aspects of their identity to placate anger and reduce their exposure. Whilst not necessarily medically categorised as social anxiety, such fears replicate the pattern of vulnerability, fear and maladaptation which characterises social anxiety symptoms.

Blogger, Saurav, reflects on his own anxiety as a Nepalese migrant of four years in Finland. He recognises the benefits he has reaped in his new country in education, music and culture but has witnessed racism in Finland, whether firsthand or otherwise, including, he says, Neo-Nazism: “I never go to bars in the night just to hangout. I used to do that a lot back in Nepal. I just don’t go. Partly, because I don’t drink. But the underlying reason is, people are drunk, they feel medieval when they are drunk and starts treating you in a certain way just because of your skin color. I’ve experienced it so many times and it’s dark.”

He contrasts the positive changes he has made in his new life, including, leading a healthier lifestyle, with the perception of disapproval and, even, threat, in Finland, posed against his ethnicity and migrant status, which has made him alter his behaviour: “I started growing this feeling of immense amount of responsibilities on this new society that I started putting people’s opinions or views higher than mine in each and every thing that I did. The society’s opinions started canceling mine. I would always think on the other person’s point of view and cancel my own point of views on things. I was trying to be polite all the time even though at times, it was not me.”

He had internalised the racism and anti-migrant feeling he has experienced in Finland, he says, more frequent amongst older people. He was going beyond being polite in his new country to distorting his own sense of self and well-being to erase his own identity. He was, he realised, feeling guilty about his own existence.

Another blogger, Annie, from Australia, writes in a recent blog-post of her childhood experiences of being undermined by others, sometimes, she suggests, out of racist feeling: “At my high school, there were white students who didn’t want me to succeed and be better than them at English, the subject. For some reason, they resented some girl, perhaps even an Asian girl, topping them in class.”

At the time, she experienced social anxiety symptoms: “My teenage life was a misery. I should have stood up for myself. I should have voiced my opinions, my thoughts. Instead, conditioned by my father that to stay silent is the best way to protect yourself, I did not. I smiled, agreed, simpered, succumbed and capitulated. I was my own traitor.”

Annie writes that she has restored her self-esteem and is able to assert herself. Saurav, a new migrant in Finland, seems to still be on that journey. He writes: “But the strong ones rode & sailed around the world and set the rules about how much of this world is accessible for certain group of people. Created borders. Created races. Created nationality. Created currency value. Created walls in our life that how much we want and are willing to, it’s super difficult to connect with people from different culture. Its important to know we can exist in any part of the world without feeling guilty of being here.”

In the face of organised and threatening racist policies from governments and intimidation from groups or gangs, overcoming fear to assert one’s own identity cannot be easy. It is likely, with such feeling on the rise globally, migrants will have to continue to balance fear and self-protection against a need to express their true selves. As ever, the best protection from fear will be organisation, education and solidarity.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

To read the full blog-post by Sauvar Tamrakar, “Changing the habitat, belongingness, responsibilities, politeness & self-sabotage” click below:

My Dark Cave

As we move to new places in this world, we start developing a feeling of immense amount of responsibility to adapt/integrate towards the new society in such a way that we cancel so many things about ourselves.

Finland
I moved to Finland back in 2016, it has been 4 years. I’ve learned many great things in my life in this period of time and have also learned many things that disgusts me. I am here to tell you my story transparently and I suggest anyone reading this should read it as a human-being rather than reading it as the given identity of yours, whoever you might be.
Territorial things are anchored in our brains from the history of our ancestors. We feel comfortable in certain territory, feel the belongingness and struggle to find the same feelings in new places. Whoever opposes to this should try moving to new culture/places for at…

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Sunshine Blogger Award – Interview and Nominees

sunshine-blogger-award

Thank you, Laura Cyrena of Lotus Laura for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! I have recently started writing about mental health issues, particularly, social anxiety and isolation. It is great to know that I can be part of a supportive blogger community.

A note to my nominees there is no obligation to reply to this nomination because, I appreciate, you may be busy or it might not fit your blogging schedule or subject matter.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

“Once nominated for the award, in order to accept you need to write a post where you:

  • Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog”

QUESTIONS…

  1. What is your morning routine?

If I wake early enough, I like to listen to a comedy podcast to ease negative feelings. I then wash, change and have breakfast, if I have time, and then take the train to work. On the train, I like to read a free newspaper. On weekends, I normally lie in.

     2. What is your favorite thing to write about?

One of my favourite blog-posts I have published so far is an interview with a young Polish woman, Anna, who experiences social anxiety symptoms. She talked to me about moving to England with her partner and the difficulties she experienced, from, initially, working on farms in some dire work conditions, to finally finding herself a job in a fast food outlet.

She writes of her her current job: “It is a very stressful environment, when managers are telling you to speed up every time and be as quick as possible. But I’m not letting it to get to me, because I have to think how to survive my whole 8 hours shift, not to finish one burger 5 seconds faster. Since I became a team trainer, it’s a little better for me, because managers know that they can count on me and give me more responsible jobs (like checking quality of food or managing stocks). And it’s been a few months since I started working only evening and nights shifts and it’s why better. On overnights we have less customers, we don’t really have to focus on the speed, and we basically clean the store and all equipment.”

      3. What is your favorite fruit?

Probably, mango.

     4. Do you believe in destiny?

I don’t think so – but I haven’t thought about it much.

     5. What pets would you have — if money/space/time was not a concern?

I find looking after and playing with (calm) cats very therapeutic. I have always wanted a tortoise and recently, been thinking about rabbits. So, I think any of those!

I also enjoy watching wild animals and have been inspired by Ian Young’s blog. He experiences dyspraxia, anxiety and depression symptoms and writes about his experiences of bird-watching.

He writes in a recent blog-post that bird-watching can be both comforting and difficult, as the lives of wild animals, though fascinating and inspiring, can be harsh. Bird-watching has also been a way for him to experience the outdoors and make connections with people: “The other week I had a more positive experience in identifying birds. I was in St James’s Park looking idly at the lake when a woman approached me and politely asked me what she described as a random question: could I identify that bird? Well, I could. It was a Moorhen…We had a lovely discussion about the similarities and differences between these two related birds. She said that, for the first time, she had come into the park to watch nature. I hope I helped make her visit more enjoyable.”

6. If you had to live in another country, where would you go?

I would find it very difficult if I couldn’t speak the language and didn’t have any acquaintances to support me. That said, another part of me dreams of adventure. I will say, New York or Berlin.

7. Have you ever seen someone’s doppelgänger?

I don’t think so.

8. Have you ever had a spooky moment where it felt like there was a ghost?

I am easily frightened but I think it’s just me. Sometimes I feel like the ghost!

9. What’s a song you could put on repeat and never get sick of?

I get bored of songs after I repeat them too often. Recently, I have been listening to Brazilian folk music.

10. Do you prefer to be alone, with someone, or in a group?

I like all of these. Due to my anxiety symptoms, being in groups can be frightening and stressful but there are occasions that it can be enjoyable.

11. What’s your favorite tea?

I like Chamomile.

NOMINEES…

A note to my nominees – there is no obligation to reply to this nomination because, I appreciate, you may be busy or it might not fit your blogging schedule or subject matter.

  1. Timelapse – Thoughtful observations from the streets of London, in particular, Tim Free, ‘micro-blogs’ through Twitter @Timelapse95 and writes about the Timelapse team’s public art projects, including the upcoming Berlin art exhibition, “Postcards from Berlin” presenting Berlin through the eyes of migrants and visitors. (Disclosure, Tim Free is a personal friend of mine).

timtweet

2. Being Edie’s Mum – Written by a new mother and nurse in training, Chloe Lawrence,  discusses the challenges, achievements and rewards she experiences raising her baby daughter, whilst dealing with social anxiety symptoms, in a town in the UK. She writes in a recent post: “I might still lack confidence but I am getting there with the help of my family, friends and my daughter who has made me grow up hugely in the past few months. I now have to push myself to be that outgoing person, I have to speak to people, go to appointments, speak on the telephone because who else is going to do that for my daughter?”

3. A Craichead in Dublin – American student, Ellie McCarthy, writes about her experiences having recently started a course at Trinity College Dublin. Her posts are full of exploration, insight, character, scenery and information.

4. Tearing at the Fabric – A blog about the writer’s struggles and victories against trauma, dealing with the end of a thirty-year or so relationship and betrayal, being a mother and commencing a new life with a new partner. The writer is very open about her difficulties: “That three decades, an entire adulthood, meant nothing. That you were always entirely disposable. Always on borrowed time.”

5. VanillaLingLing –  This new blogger writes openly and thoughtfully about raising her two young children whilst managing her social anxiety symptoms: “Very recently I made the decision that I was going to start taking my 2.5 year old son to fun kid groups so that he could start learning how to interact with children his own age. Yesterday we went to our first Story Time at the library and he did have so much fun and was the last kid to leave, I am sure that will become our default. But for me, I had a very difficult time socializing with the other adults. In the moment I can keep it together okay, sometimes I can’t find something to say and blurt out something I would deem weird, but it probably doesn’t come off as THAT weird, I’m hoping.”

6. Anxious Birding – Ian Young writes of and photographs wild birds in Britain as a hobby and an antidote to the pressures of worklife and his anxiety, dyspraxia and depression symptoms.

7. Alqamar Alwardi – The diary and thoughts of a young woman living in Denmark chronicling her life as she enters her new Islamic faith. Recently, the writer has discussed her conflict with family members and the anxiety she experiences, at times, wearing the hijab: “So as it turns out, my granddad doesn’t know anything yet about me converting, which probably is for the best. Not because of Islam, but because of religion. He doesn’t like them, and to give an example, when my grandma died he was very, very upset that there would be crosses on almost all the coffins we could choose from.”

8. Catherine Hume – Writer and social care worker, Catherine is a disability rights advocate and has recently written about the need for a disability rights movement to campaign for protection of civil rights of people experiencing disability: “For every disabled person, from a wheelchair using child to a grandmother with dementia, to get the care and support they need billions more pounds must be poured into the social care budget. Carers are generally good people who do their best and genuinely do care. Most go the extra mile, staying long after the allotted times given to care for their clients. Yet they are paid the minimum wage or less for what can be an extremely demanding job in which knowledge of several laws and regulations is mandatory as well as specialised training on medical conditions and the administration of medications.”

9. Limitless Stimulus – Writer and poet who covers issues of personal life, depression and anxiety. I was particularly moved by their recent post, “If you love someone, let them nap.”

10. Anniversaries and Grief –  An informative blog full of links and personal accounts, written by two sisters dealing with grief and questions of medical negligence following the death of their father.

11. Tamra K. Garcia – Tamra writes about living with multi-morbidity, that is, a number of concurrent illnesses, including diabetes, social anxiety, depression and agorophobia. She has also experienced bereavement and a number of major surgeries. She writes with a great deal of perspective and insight: “I write this blog and live as an open book because I want to let others who struggle with chronic illnesses understand they are not alone. There are many, many of us out here and we understand what you are going through and we want to be there for you. You are not alone!”

MY QUESTIONS…

  1. What caused you to start your blog/artistic project?
  2. Where do you see your blog or writing in two years time?
  3. Do you have any upcoming projects, blog ideas or events that you are particularly hopeful about?
  4. Is there a book you have read recently which you particularly enjoyed or found useful?
  5. Is there a website, not necessarily a blog, which you have found particularly useful or interesting?
  6. What challenges do you face with writing/blogging?
  7. Is there anything that has surprised you about writing/blogging that you had not anticipated?
  8. What do you do when you have writers’ block?
  9. What helps you relax?
  10. What makes you laugh?
  11. What makes you cry?

Again, thanks so much for the nomination! Keep bloggin’ on!