Time for men to talk.

Let’s admit it, fellow men. We’re not exactly great talkers, are we? I mean, we are at football, chatting about the people we like in the bar, and how work gets us down, but when it comes to talking about our feelings, well, we don’t do so well at that, now do we?

In the spirit of International Men’s Health Week, it’s time I broke this convention and showed you all why:

  • Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the United Kingdom. 76% of suicides in the UK are not only male, but men under 45. Just let that sink in.
  • Men are four times more likely to kill themselves, six times more likely to self-harm themselves, and nine times more likely to let their mental health issues get the better of them.

It’s time this changed. To do this, we have to look at the cause- it’s not just that men get more embarrassed or that men just don’t go to the doctors out of a sense of pride, it’s that we genuinely don’t have a space to talk through how we feel.

What we need, (this part is primarily aimed at women) is listeners. We don’t need to be told what makes a “real man” or what is more masculine or feminine to you. We don’t need to be constantly bombarded with how women feel and then when we want to talk, get silenced with laughter and the repeated use of the term “male privilege”. We need a family courts system where the scales are radically redressed, so that neither the father nor the mother has an advantage because of gender. But far more than that, we need people to Listen.

Do you remember listening? What that’s like? You know, waiting patiently for your turn to speak, quietly taking on board the salient points of speech and responding to them? For men, this is probably the biggest help imaginable for us in regards to helping us when our mental health isn’t so brilliant. We need people to listen and respond and care. Actually care, not just pretend you do and then carry on. When a man suggests some form of suicide, take him seriously. Otherwise, let’s carry on attending more funerals for male suicide victims.

We don’t need to and certainly shouldn’t have to belt up, keep quiet or “man up” anymore. #DontFilterFeelings

Yours,

Davey

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10 Things I have learned over the last 6 months

Crikey, the first half of 2017 has been a real rollercoaster. Moving house, falsely accused and then absolved, extreme sports, getting accepted to college, finally getting some help with my mental health, and a failed relationship, and that’s just my personal life.

Brexit was finally triggered in February, Trump pulls the US out of climate negotiations, housing benefit was cut in the UK for people under 22, there’s been plenty of things in the news that have made a lot of people sad, so here are some positive things I’ve learned:

  1. Whilst not everyone agrees with you, you can still have amazing friends who may not be on the same page.
    Despite my Asperger’s Syndrome meaning that my brain works by logic mainly, I’m throwing my political weight behind the Labour Party for the June 8th General Election. This isn’t exactly what one of my best friends thinks is a smart move. His name is Joey, and although he’s from Ulverston in the Lake District (basically all of Cumbria and a bit of Lancashire), he’s voting for the Conservatives. Whilst I may not approve, we’ve had plenty of fun times playing and fixing old video games consoles.
  2. The biggest enemy of happiness and ultimately, recovery, is worry.
    When I worry, the niggles in the back of my mind, ranging from when I next get paid to the downright ridiculous, such as heavy rain in Lancaster making me charge everything electronic and portable. These niggles over the last few months have made me rather ill and caused a few big changes in my life. I’m back to not touching Alcohol, and I’m quite happy about that. The one thing I’ve learned is that worrying leads me to stupidity.
  3. Sharing resources, such as food or wealth when possible, is better than being selfish.
    Anyone who knew me before 2017 will quite happily tell you that I share nearly everything, except food or my first cigarette. In 2017, I’ve cut my smoking habit down to the point where it is now very nearly non-existent. I also get to know my housemates and new friends using the medium of food, which is often cooked and funded by me.
  4. Don’t stick in unhappy relationships.
    Another close friend, who wishes not to have her name used, recently escaped a relationship that was to be frank, toxic. I’m going to use a pseudonym for her to help explain. Sally was constantly being the perfect housewife, cooking and cleaning for her girlfriend, and being manipulated whilst doing it, as her missus was nearly always under the influence. She’s left the girlfriend now, moved away, and is living a much better life somewhere else. She’s much happier, and personally, it’s like Sally has finally come back to life. She was missed.
  5. Being impulsive is not a bad thing, what you do with it is what matters.
    I have Asperger’s, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. One of the things that this does is make me far more likely to be impulsive. To help combat my addictions, I’ve changed the way I respond. When an impulsive gnat in my brain starts to bite, I’ve decided to change the way I do things. I’ve swapped pints of beer with blogging, cleaning and running. Whatever I can to get the same adrenaline buzz, but without setting off the runaway train that tells me to drink.
  6. Don’t fight fire with fire.
    I’ve been accused by the police of doing something horrific and put on bail, but last month, was released without charge, as there was empirically not a shred of evidence. I had to move as a result of this, my mental health took a swan dive, and I’m attending weekly counselling sessions. What I learned was that despite my fury at this move, there was nothing I could have done during my time answering police bail apart from just wait. There was no point in being angry, as you can’t exactly go and pick a fight with the police for doing their job. There was no point in letting my anger control me.
  7. You don’t need antidepressants alone to fight depression.
    I’ve not had the best of mental health recently, as I explain in point six, but because of this, the doctors have had me on antidepressants to stop me doing something daft. However, they can dose you up enough to make you as dopey as a Labrador, but without your own effort, it’s useless taking them, no matter the dosages or strength of the pills. I used exercise and making conscious efforts to see things I found beautiful in order to beat my depression. Admittedly, isn’t worked all the time, but in the immortal words of Meatloaf, two out of three ain’t bad.
  8. Life is about learning and doing, as opposed to where you end up.
    In December 2016, I was looking at doing a social work related degree to get back to university and fulfil a promise I made to one of the biggest role models in my life on his deathbed. Now in June 2017, I’m looking at getting more Level 3 qualifications before going back to university, and doing a film production course at Kendal College in the UK in September. I’m really looking forwards to it, too. What this has taught me is that whilst getting the endgame is still the same, what matters more in life is how I do it. There’s no point in going back to my studies if I’m just going to flunk everything again.
  9. You are going to make mistakes, learn from them.
    I’ve made a few mistakes in my life- from pushing those closest to me away, to fudging up everything in my life and ending up homeless. Even now, although I live somewhere better, and am quite happily in a loving relationship, I make mistakes. Be it financial miscalculations or silly nights out that have proved unnecessary, I have made the mistakes. I’ve also learned to try to budget better, and avoid getting into conversations that lead to nights out. The only nights that are late for me these days involves musicals, movies or popcorn.
  10. Make time for yourself
    We’re all guilty of ignoring ourselves for a while, but what matters mostly is taking time to stop and think. Rash decisions often lead to bad consequences, and I’ve learned to be far more careful. Whether that’s shopping around for cheaper food or making sure certain people get higher priority than others (they know who they are), taking time out to make sure I’m doing the right thing is having a much better impact on my life.

What have you learned this year? Comment on my Facebook post, or just on here, as I’d love to hear from you.

Yours,

Davey

Let’s talk about Cultural Appropriation (working title was “Come at me, 3rd wavers”)

Considering the controversial comments Lena Dunham has made recently, I think it’s time I took my stand. For too long, I’ve been taking comments about cultural appropriation simply because I like foreign food (particularly food from China, Japan and south-east Asia). Let’s explore that statement for a minute.

First and foremost, what the actual hell is “cultural appropriation”? According to http:www.racerelations.about.com/, Cultural Appropriation is “The most simple definition of cultural appropriation is that it occurs when members of a dominant culture borrow from the cultures of minority groups without their input”. This means when I use anything from another culture, even in the way that the original culture uses it in respect, I am guilty and therefore racist.

I am NOT racist. Not in the slightest. I’m not going to use the “I have friends of colour” argument because frankly, that smacks of 19th Century British Imperialism and I despise the argument anyway. So let me put this simply for you. I have the same point of view as Fred Rogers. For me, there is no difference between man, woman, gay, straight, Jew, Gentile, White or people of colour. We all bleed the same blood, drink the same water, and frankly, it’s a damn shame we don’t see more people of colour in British media (be that TV, Radio or otherwise).

I use a Japanese nod when paying respect, whether meeting new people, attending a memorial service or simply meeting with my friends. It’s used in the traditional Japanese way, with a slight bow and a nod to the head (think Jeremy Corbyn on Remembrance Sunday last year). I speak fluent Japanese, love their culture (well, apart from the inherent racism in some aspects) and eat a lot of their food, which inevitably puts money into their economy.

I eat a lot of Chinese food, too. Fu Jung and Pak Choi are some of my favourite foods, their products are worldwide, and if you don’t believe me on this one, I have a challenge. Look around your house and find something not made in China. According to Lena’s argument, this makes us all a bunch of racists.

Here’s my counter-argument. Calling us racists only serves to divide our world up even more and create even more disparity between international relations. Sure, blackface and yellowface are wrong, by anyone’s standards, but using a blues rhythm behind a piece of music would determine every modern pop song racist. In fact, nearly every aspect of western society has some cultural appropriation. Should we have to stick to the foods from the countries of our birth? In that case, I am royally screwed, as a) I don’t actually know where I was born and b) Britain’s food, whilst inventive at times, is quite bland to my tastebuds.

More to the point, looking at the world of business and economy, CA is everywhere. The top three businesses in the USA are Japanese, Samsung are one of the biggest companies in the world, and British companies do just as well abroad. Take Coca Cola for example, who’s head offices are in the USA. I challenge you to go somewhere where Coca Cola (replace with Pepsi or McDonald’s, it doesn’t make a shite of difference) isn’t.

So eat your sushi, enjoy your McDonald’s, celebrate different cultures and embrace the diversity of cultures on our tiny little planet respectfully. Tell all the third-wavers on Tumblr and left-wing media to fuck off, you’re not being racist.

Your illness is NOT your fault.

So, as frequent readers know about this already, to you I apologise. For new readers, I have a mild form of Cerebral Palsy and a moderate to severe form of Asperger’s Syndrome, which sits on the umbrella scale of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The reason I bring this up is that over the course of this week, my muscles surrounding my lower ribcage spasmed whilst I slept, leaving me quite weak and less mobile as a result. What I’ve found from this is that people always feel the need to offer you advice when this sort of thing happens. Seriously people are all like: “Well, if you ate less dairy/protein/gluten/meat, this sort of thing wouldnt happen”.

Let’s unpack that paraphrase. Firstly, I eat a perfectly healthy diet thank you very much. Plenty of protein, lots of dairy, lots of carbohydrates, fibre and Vitamin C. Secondly, there’s an implication that my illness, which is both serious and lifelong, is inherently my fault. Simply put: It isn’t and hasn’t been my fault. You cannot be the reason why something like this happens to you, save for you doing something incredibly stupid.

I don’t buy into the healthy food fad diets either: They’re good if you want to lose weight, don’t get me wrong, and I have a lot of friends who’ve lost considerable amounts of weight in short spaces of time using things like “weight watchers” and “slimming world” diets. Bully for them, but when a 6-feet-tall bloke who weighs just over 9 stones is having issues with his muscles not getting the right amount of nutrients, food and dietary issues may not be the problem here.

More to the point- I get that you’re just being sympathetic and trying to help, but this really doesn’t help. Offering to do something normal that I might find a bit tricky at the time helps. Listening to how I feel about what’s happened to me helps. Telling me that I’m living my life the wrong way doesn’t.

Rant over, normal service will resume tomorrow.

Alcohol and Me

So, this is me being completely honest with everyone who reads this. I am an acloholic.

There’s a lot to unpack there: Firstly, what is alcoholism? Simply put, it’s a disease/disorder of the brain where the subject/sufferer/addict cannot stop taking alcohol once they’ve inbibed or consumed it. This can cause emotional, psychological, situational and financial harm. I cannot count the amount of money I have spent on the stuff since I started drinking, all I know is that one is too much and a thousand is never enough. Once I start drinking, I cannot stop drinking at all, unless I end up in the back of an ambulance or worse.

Secondly, how did I become an alcoholic? Well, I’m sure everyone has a similar but slightly different story on how they became the way they are, but personally, I think I was born with an impulsive nature. This manifested itself as a child when I bought comic books with my pocket money instead of saving the money up and buying lavish items, like my siblings to me. This however, was an indication of a larger psychological problem: I read to escape. My world and my brain is so different to others that I simply cannot bear being with neurotypical people half of the time. My brain runs much quicker to that of normal people, that when people talk about normal stuff (what’s the latest celebrity sex scandal/ soap opera storyline etc) it drives me bananas. Seriously, it pisses me off no end. That’s why I drank. Under the influence of alcohol, which numbed everything around me, I could stand being around people for extended periods of time.

So, what have I done about it? I’ve gone sober. Completely. I wish alcohol will never pass my mouth again. Ever. To this end, I attend both Alcholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups in Lancaster and Morecambe. Tonight was my first AA meeting, and I’ve been blown away by the people there. I realised tonight that I am not alone in this: there are others with Asperger’s who drank to be around people, who drank to be sociable, but through the twelve step recovery programs, have managed to be sober. All I pray for now is that I become someone like them, who have stayed sober for years.