When I was younger, I used to love watching the Power Rangers on TV. Not only did I think I had special powers when I was wearing my superhero cape (trust me- old bed sheets make the best costumes), but I felt free.
But there was one thing that I couldn’t quite understand…
Why did I see them as ‘strong’ and inspirational figures?
It took me a long time to figure this out, but I realised the answer was simple…
Introducing the Power Pose.
Their power pose was something that was unique to them, it was what made them an individual. It was something that reflected their personality. It was something that they could show the world at anytime, anywhere. It was their own ‘stamp’ on life and the world in which they live.
Moving to the modern day; we see many influential figures that have their own ‘stamp’ on life and the world they live in. From A-List movie stars to red carpets, influential minds of the future and the averages joes like you and me: how you present yourself physically has a big impact on how you are perceived, and how you perceive yourself.
A few months ago I attended a talk by Claire Eastham, author of the amazing “We’re All Mad Here” (which I highly recommend you read!). Aside from discussing how she deals with her anxiety, she spoke about the importance of confidence in the face of adversity: how having a power pose helps her to face the world, achieve and prosper.
On the subject of power poses and body positivity; although controversial “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize” as Amy Cuddy mentions in her inspirational TED Talk (well worth a watch!), resonates with me.
For me personally, I’ve never really been confident in my body image and the way I look; but after coming out as non-binary last summer, I’ve been able to find my own power pose that’s unique and authentic to me- working on how I see myself everyday, one step at a time. One that defies stereotypical norms and stigmas. A pose that makes me feel confident, inquisitive creative and worth investing in.
I’m not perfect, and never will be. I’m constantly finding new power poses and ways of expressing myself and realising that I truly can face the world and any challenges that come my way.
Do you have a power pose? Time to stand up, speak up and believe in yourself. You have the power. Just believe it.
As of 2018, it’s estimated that approximately 16 million people in the UK are experiencing mental illness.
Thats about 25% of the population
Its a shocking statistic…
… And a number that keeps rising at exponential rates.
As a society we are growing more mentally unhealthy and our attitudes towards mental illness needs to change.
But what can be done?
Here, I share some of the ways I believe we, as a collective community of sufferers, survivors and supporters, can move towards creating a more mentally healthy society… for the better.
Stigma, Shaming & Stereotypes
The stigma around having a mental health condition can be difficult to deal with. Many people who have a mental illness are stereotyped.
Sadly though, stereotypical thinking goes hand-in-hand with shaming.
But as a society we need to realise that each individual who struggles with their mental health is not ‘just sad’ if they have a diagnosis of depression, or ‘just nervous’ if they have an anxiety disorder.
There is no single ‘face’ of Bi-Polar. There is no single voice of Schizophrenia. There is no single ‘weight’ of Eating Disorders.
There are so many ways to describe each individuals relationship to their mental health.
To begin with, I know first-hand that accepting you are struggling with keeping your mental health in check can be tough. Nobody likes to admit they are facing difficulties or going through rough times.
“Why is my brain like this?”…
“I’m too scared of admitting I need help”…
… These are phrases that were constantly in my vocabulary. They were the words that went through my head repeatedly during the hardest times of my journey with mental health issues.
I struggled for a long time to accept that I had poor mental health and didn’t understand or know how to reach out for help in constructive (and not destructive) ways. Because my thought process was so fragmented at the time wasn’t sure how to approach my friends, family or medical professionals when I needed support.
However, it was during the time I was sectioned in the psychiatric hospital that I found myself gaining a hint of acceptance of my difficulties.
I realised that “change starts from within”.
This helped me to see the various treatment methods (consisting of numerous types of therapy and medications) I was receiving at the time as ‘reconditioning’ of my mind instead of a ‘quick snap fix’. I was essentially accepting that I was learning how to train my brain into being healthy again.
I’m not saying that when you accept you are struggling you will change instantly from a struggler to being ‘cured’; but you may find yourself reacting to treatment that is provided in a more responsive way.
Secondly, we as a society need to accept that Mental Health issues exist. That statement may sound blunt, but we as a society need to step up and recognise that people are suffering and struggling mentally. Mental Illness is a silent killer. Just because it isn’t physical and visible, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
We each have our own battles to face. We all have ups and downs. We all struggle. We all have a Mental Health. Let’s not put those down who are struggling but be supportive towards them. No matter what you may or may not be facing, we need to stand together as one.
Acceptance is a process. It’s something I’m still working on every day.
When it comes to Mental Health, the word awareness is a word used so often.
But what does it actually mean?
To me, awareness means a combination of things.
Knowing, Accepting and Feeling.
You don’t have to be a genius to be aware…
… You need to be human.
I’m becoming more aware of Mental Health everyday- it’s so refreshing to gain knowledge and use it to help others too.
Heres some of the ways I find useful:
Podcasts / Books / Short Films / Blogs (I’ll be doing a blog post soon where I’ll be sharing some of my personal favourites and recommendations)
Attending Events, Talks and Conferences (Many also have Live Feeds online if you can’t attend)
Talking openly to those who have mental health difficulties. (Don’t be afraid to ask!)
To summarise; there is no one size fits all ‘cure’ when it comes to moving towards a more mentally healthy society. It’s a process that each individual respectively must take in their own time, at their own pace.
We need to drop the Stigma, Shaming and Stereotypes. We need to have Acceptance. We need to have more Awareness.
Schematics of the Depressed, Oppressed and the Suppressed.
The mental health system as we know it is struggling, and although staff are doing their best with the (rapidly) limiting resources they have at their disposal, many people are falling through the gaps.
The system is broken, and we are becoming well aware of the schematics that take place behind closed doors and the subsequent repercussions affecting support services for emotional wellbeing.
But to what extent does the crisis present itself…?
Just how badly is the broken system?
I describe it here, using just 3 words. Depressed. Oppressed. Suppressed.
And here’s why….
Approximately 1 in 4 people within the UK are suffering with their mental health, with 4 out of 10 having reported episodes of anxiety and/or depression at one point or another during their lives. These may seem like surprising statistics, but they are far from palpable as this data only represents what is reported and recorded. There are many more suffering in silence.
In fact, on average we are much more depressed as a nation than we were 50 years ago.
Although disputed; my opinion is that amongst other factors, technology has played an important role in our downfall to becoming more depressed as a nation than ever before. Since it hit the mass market at the beginning of the 21stCentury, media and technology as we know it has supported the cause for concern in paving the way for a closed off society. We are constantly stuck behind screens and, a lot of the time we feel more comfortable with sitting behind a computer or a smartphone to communicate and make connections with the world and others rather than meeting in person and experiencing life away from our devices. With media and the internet everything is at our fingertips within an instant, which has lead to our impatient personalities and unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. It’s a world where we misperceive reality as what we see on our devices is far from the society we truly reside within.
My Experience: Depression is something that I experience often and having the condition means that some days I am capable of filling my mind with positivity and facing the world with a smile on my face, whilst other times I get stuck in a negative spiral where it’s a struggle to keep my head up and carry on. I’d be lying if I said it isn’t difficult to get out of the spiral of depression as I call it because it affects my ability to function at a cope-able capacity. Depression is also silent which means that for me, it can spring up and occur at anytime, anywhere. This can sometimes make it difficult to speak out or recognise if I am heading into a downward spiral of unhelpful emotions. But overtime I’ve been proactive in learning about some of the more prominent triggers that cause my depression and try to avoid them as much as possible, as well as some coping mechanisms to get through the difficult patches.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve wanted to share something about your mental health, your struggles, your anxieties and you get told to “sit down and shut up”?
With many people feeling unable to share how they feel due to outside influences and social stigmas; it can be difficult to find a voice and speak up when suffering.
This is oppression at its core.
Oppression does not have a set source, but it largely stems from the ‘unwritten rules of society’.
Conformity is not just appreciated but is expected as a ‘rule of thumb’ in order to live in a progressive, ordered and organised world. Anyone who breaks this rule by vocalising their concerns and struggles are considered as ‘rebels’ of the system who seek to cause havoc outside of the social norms. There are a multitude of ‘conformity’ issues within our world that increase tension amongst communities and make talking about our struggles a taboo topic especially amongst (but not limited to) LGBT+, Mens and Post-Natal and Students mental health.
Targeted support means that sometimes minorities seeking mental health support feel oppressed because there are not enough support services that offer tailored support to individuals who fit into these psychographics/demographics. This is largely due to stigmas, stereotypes and taboos.
My Experience: Oppression is something I have experienced a lot due to the complexity of my mental health diagnosis’. Fitting in has always been a challenge as my personality and style is not always accepted, and I have often found myself as an outcast, as one of societies rejects. I defy the stereotypical boundaries and outside appearances of what someone with ‘Depression’, ‘OCD’, ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Autism’ should behave like (Read my 10 things you should know about my Autism blog to gain more info into my disability). For a long time, I lived up to expectations of what conditions I had instead of accepting them for what they are and learning to shape my own story. By haulting my attempts to fit in, I’ve learnt to create my own piece of the puzzle of ‘life’ and by sharing my struggles and not feeling oppressed to conform to one way of thinking, I can be the person who I truly am.
Suppression manifests in mental health more than you might think. Some of the people who desperately need the support are suppressing their struggles. Many people supress because they’ve either been turned away from services for not being ill enough or are waiting so long for support that becomes ‘easier’ to push the emotions down and bury them under a ‘fake smile’ and ‘positive’ mentality.
Suppressing only leads to much greater difficulties and struggles in the future and with a lack of funding and
My Experience: I’ve supressed a lot in the past for a number of reasons, butI’ve learnt to take matters into my own hands and discovered a number of coping mechanisms that help to ease my emotions.
Here’s some of the ways I’ve found are useful…
The Outdoors: Appreciating your surroundings
Exercise: Eases stress and anger out physically
Regular Chats: With your support network (friends, family, colleagues etc.)
Creativity: Express yourself through artistic ventures (Painting, Drawing, Writing, Photography)
Do something that challenges you every day: Moving through the anxiety one step at a time
Share out loud: Get your side of the story out there (Blogging, Speaking at Events, Networking)
There needs to be a drastic shift in how Mental Health is treated and discussed. It needs to happen fast. Something needs to change for the better.
I love to discover new places and go on adventures, and having Aspergers’ Syndrome (a type of High-Functioning Autism) means that sometimes despite enjoying exploring my new surroundings, I find it can be difficult to support myself. This can occur in a variety of settings and situations when I am travelling around whether this be in my local area, venturing into unknown places, or just spontaneous adventures.
With Autism and learning disabilities becoming more acknowledged within society; a lot has been done to provide those on the spectrum with tools, systems and strategies to fight stigmas and allow the individual to have independence whilst travelling.
So, to the purpose of this blog…
To help those on the spectrum or those looking to support someone with Autism, here’s my guide to (English Based) transport services including Buses, Trains and the London Underground that may help to make travelling easier and more enjoyable!
Buses are an important method of transport for many people living in both crammed inner-city and more rural, countryside locations. Conveniently located bus stops and regular services (usually, anyway) make it simple to travel to where you need to get to.
We all know that Off-Peak Bus Passes are given to the elderly and the physically disabled; but did you know that if you have an Autism Condition you could qualify to receive one too?
Local County Councils (some may vary, so check if you qualify) have been issuing bus passes to those who meet the criteria of:
You qualify for a bus pass in England if you have “a learning disability, that is, a state of arrested or incomplete development of mind which includes significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning”(From: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/38/section/146)
If you meet this criteria (if you have a diagnosis of Autism by a GP, Psychologist or SEN worker) you will receive a bus pass that can be used at Anytime in your home county, and Off Peak (After 9.30am) in any other country across England.
My experience with Buses:
I cannot drive as I would find it too difficult to focus due to my sensory processing difficulties, so using the bus is a good option for me when getting around. My Bus Pass is really useful as I am able to travel independently and learn how to read maps, check-timetables and plan routes to get to destinations. It gives me the freedom to do my own thing and see new places.
If you travel long distances, or need to get somewhere fast, trains are a convenient option. Many Autistic people find the motion of the train a lot smoother to buses (as buses can be bumpy and loud), so travelling by rail is sometimes the best way for someone on the spectrum to get around.
Alternative to a Bus Pass, if you qualify, you can choose opt for a Disabled Train Travel pass which entitles you to 1/3rdoff selected tickets.
My experience with trains:
Despite delays, changes to services and cancellations, I often use trains as they are a lot faster than buses when I need to get somewhere.I use trains frequently to travel home from University or to see friends who live further away.
If you live or travel around or into London frequently, you will be aware of how cramped the tube can get (even during off-peak times). For someone on the Autism Spectrum, it can be really difficult to process the world around them, and using the tube can trigger meltdowns, breakdowns or sensory-processing overloads. To combat this and to help those with Autism or who stay find it difficult to navigate their journey; London Underground offer ‘Please Offer Me A Seat” badges to anyone who has a disability or medical condition, is pregnant, is elderly, or are less capable of standing.
When travelling on the underground I wear my badge either on my person or on my bag, so it is visible to other passengers. Often people notice the badge and offer me a seat so I can feel comfortable as I get shaky or panicky when in busy crowds and find it hard to stand-up. Although the badge doesn’t guarantee I get a seat, most people when I ask are than willing to give up their seat.
I often have experiences though that can be really difficult for me to handle, where people have mocked me or looked at me with disapproval because I physically look able to stand. This is hard for me to process and I often have to explain to commuters that I have a hidden disability. Just because on the outside I look capable, doesn’t mean that I don’t have a disability that affects me on a daily basis.
General Tips for travelling if you are on the Autistic Spectrum
Here’s some of the things I personally find useful when travelling…
Have a plan of your route memorised or written down: This can help you stay focussed during your journey and can make it easier to communicate with people if you are lost.
Have a back up plan or alternative route: If something goes wrong, you have a back up plan in place (I always try to have some cash on me, or have a friend or family member on stand-but when can give me a lift to my destination or pick me up).
Always bring water with you. Sometimes it can get busy, cramped and temperatures can rise, so stay hydrated!
If you have an iPhone, use Medical ID on your home screen: This is a really great feature that Apple have developed for their smartphones. It allows you to manually enter medical information such as Blood Type, Medical Conditions and Emergency Contact Details that are easily accessible for anyone who picks up your phone. Emergency Services are aware of this feature so if you are ever in a crisis and find it difficult to communicate. You can provide them with your information so they can support you in the most convenient way.
Find a distraction. Whether listening to music, reading a book, having a moment of mindfulness… it’s good to have something to keep yourself occupied or a task to focus on whilst on your journey. This can reduce anxiety and helps with building concentration skills.
Most importantly… Have Fun!
So go out there and be proud of travelling and seeking new adventures, creating new memories and having amazing life experiences!
(Note: All information gathered is correct at time of blog publishing.)
10 things you should know about my Autism Spectrum Disorder.
There are so many stigmas and stereotypes surrounding disability and mental health knocking around within society today, especially Autism.
I got my official diagnosis after dealing with many mental health difficulties and a stay in a psychiatric hospital. I received the diagnosis of having a High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder condition, formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome…
…And I’ve found a really captivating way of describing my Asperger’s’ is using what the National Autistic Society say, and they say that: “People with Asperger syndrome see, hear and feel the world differently to other people”.
So, on that note; and in response to Autism Awareness Week 2019; here’s just 10 of the things that I’d like to clear up about my specific disorder.
(Just for a bit of background, a little while back; I conducted a survey where I asked the general public about some of the things that first come to their mind when they think of the word Autism- and this has formed the basis for some of the points I’ll be making in this blog.)
(1) It’s not a disorder, it’s just a reordering of my life
My Autism means that I process things in a diferrent way, and we all have our own individual ways of doing things. My order of doing things means that sometimes it can be really difficult to adapt to new environments and situations if I already have a routine or a process thought out in my head, and this can be a challenge, but it also makes each day exciting and diferrent to the last.
(2) Just because I am verbal, doesn’t mean I am not Autistic.
There has been a lot in the media with portrayals of those on the Autism Spectrum as being non-verbal and using hand gestures or vocal ticks to communicate. Although there are many people on the spectrum who are not verbal, I see myself as extremely lucky to be able to communicate through words. It can be difficult at times to find the words to express myself and communicate, but I find using an online thesaurus or a word chart of which there’s some amazing ones out there can really help me to pinpoint how I am feeling and make it easier for me to say what I need to say.
(3) I don’t have a special talent, but that doesn’t mean I am not Autistic.
You know, a lot of stigmas have been circulating around those with Autism as having an acute ability or special talent but for a lot of those with Autism, including me; we don’t have a hidden talent. We are just like you, and want to feel that way.
(4) I don’t have a sixth sense, but that doesn’t mean I’m not Autistic.
At times I would love to be able to see through walls or have super accurate hearing, I don’t, and I never will. I have the same amount of senses as the regular person. My senses just work differently. Some people on the Autism Spectrum also have a condition called Synaesthesia, and for me this means that I see sound visually as pictures, colours and shapes. With so much stimulus in the fast paced and bustling world, especially living in a big city where its constantly go-go-go 24/7; it can be tricky to cope at times. One way I’ve learnt to manage this is by conducting my brain to block and filter out what’s not important by prioritising and focussing my attention on what I need to do.
(5) I don’t want any special treatment because I have Autism.
We all need support no matter if you have Autism or not, and it can sometimes be quite tricky to work out how much support each individual requires. My support I think comes in the form of sharing my story and being open about the difficulties I face. Also, for me, I tend to focus on what I can achieve as oppose to what I maybe cannot or will never be able to achieve. I don’t want to feel like a sob-story that people feel sorry for me, or see me any differently, and many people with Autism also feel like this. People say a lot of the time all over the world that those with learning disabilities should be integrated into society and accepted. I believe one of the best ways of doing this is to treat those with Autism such as myself just like anyone else you come into contact with, as an average human being.
(6) I do feel emotions, and I do have Autism
People with Autism express their feelings in diferrent ways, and for me personally; it can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s so important I believe for people to remember that those with Autism do have feelings- we just need to be given the time to find methods of exploring our emotions that work for us. For some people with Autism they let their emotions out through creative methods such as music, art and movement; and for others they do so by talking. For me, I use a mixture of blogging, podcasting, multimedia design and public speaking. But every person is diferrent, and no way is wrong.
(7) I can’t be cured of my Autism
Autism is an example of a neurodivergent disability, and it cannot be cured no matter what experts say. However, it can be managed. I can condition my thinking and massage my brain into surviving in society, but it won’t magically disappear overnight. For some people medication can help to soothe the situation many with Autism face, and for others a mixture of therapy and intervention from support workers can help to aid their reconditioning. For me currently, after having a mixture of these in the past, I currently find that what helps me is sharing my story with others and inspiring the world to embrace Autism as oppose to disregarding those who have the disability.
(8) I can live an independent and fulfilling life if I am Autistic
This is something I actually hear quite a lot of the time, and i think it stems back to what is portrayed through various media platforms; where everybody with Autism either needs round the clock care or may be uncapable of living independently. Whilst a large number of those who do have an Autism Spectrum Condition do need this kind of support and are dependent on others to live and thrive; to put it bluntly, this simply isn’t the case for everybody. I see myself as an example of how a person who has Autism can thrive and live independently, I go to University, I cook and clean for myself, travel all over the place by myself, and you know, the list can go on and on and on. And a lot of people are very similar to me. I think it’s really important to remember that even though I am able to live independently and cope as well as I can; everybody with or without Autism needs a support system in place for if and when they may struggle.
(9) If I am Autistic, I must be an introvert and a loner
For the most part, I am an introvert and like spending time by myself; but so do a lot of people who maybe have or don’t have Autism too. I love being surrounded by people and have friends I can chill and meet up with, and I love getting out into the world sitting in coffee shops doing work. You know getting out into nature taking photos, going swimming and cycling and creating art in remote locations. Getting involved and networking with some amazing Motivational Speakers and Mental Health Advocates is also really important for me, and it helps me to get out into the world and make an attempt to thrive in my surroundings.
(10) If I am Autistic, I just cause problems
Honestly when I hear this, and I hear it a lot more often than you might expect, it really doesn’t surprise me anymore, because I believe that those who think like this and who have this mentality are the real problem, not those us with Autism. One of the causes of their thinking I believe is a lack of awareness and understanding. And maybe one of the ways we can break the stigmas surrounding Autism could mean having direct conversations with those who have these opinions; is to give them the opportunity to ask the questions and for them to receive open and honest and direct answers from those the condition affects. There will always be people who feel like this though; but maybe by stepping up more and doing this; people will think twice and feel more comfortable with understanding and accepting Autism, for what it is, and not what it is not. I think that this goes for any kind of issue in society today you know, Mental Health, Disability, Race, Religion, Gender and Identity, and it’s important to create these open spaces whether virtual within the media or face to face places to show that it’s okay to talk and share.
So… there’s my 10.
To wrap up this blog; I think it’s really important to remember that when it comes to Autism, each person has their own relationship with their condition, and the support they require will inherently vary.
For more information on Autism, there are some great websites out there such as
People always ask me; why do you spend so much time in coffee shops?and How do you manage to do so much sat behind a desk?
The reason why…
It’s all a form of inspiration.
Rocking up at any cafe, bar or bistro at whatever time of day (there are some great ones in both Central London and Brighton that are open right up until 10pm), I see all kinds of people, all kinds of cultures, and all kinds of life. It gives me inspiration to invest in myself, to become the person I want to be, the person I deserve to be.
Even though I may look like bit of a mug (pun intended) sat in a coffee shop for 6 hours…
I get shit done.
Maintaining an ‘everything in moderation’ mentality, and getting the balance right.
So… Its 10 am and I’m sat in a coffee shop somewhere in Central London…
Laptop. Coffee Mug. Notebook. (Check.)
Shit to do?: Yes.
Ready to do work?: Nah.
When I’ve got a long list of things to do; I find myself procrastinating, telling myself “I’ll get that done later”. But…
Prioritising is paramount to heighten your performance.
What helps me to stop procrastinating and to perform better (whether it be in my work, my studying, or in my personal life); is to prioritise. And; there are many ways to do this.
Prioritising can be as simple as writing a list with the most important at the top, and the stuff that can wait for a bit at the bottom.
Prioritising can be setting yourself aside 20 minutes every few hours of intense work to take rest breaks.
Prioritising can be setting your phone to silent every now and again to allow yourself time to connect with yourself instead of through posting, liking and taking selfies.
Prioritising can be scheduling down-time for a catch up call or coffee with a friend.
So remember, wherever or whenever you decide to get shit done, go at your own pace. You deserve it.
Valentines Day 2019:Being Asexual, relationships and doing what YOU love.
I’m asexual, and so is about 1% of the population of not only the UK but the whole world. So yes. We do exist. We aren’t a myth. But let’s clarify one thing about the term asexual…
For me, I see myself as an Asexual individual who doesn’t want any relationship with a significant partner, either sexual or purely platonic; no dates, no romance.
“But you’ll change your mind!”
“Maybe you just haven’t met the right person yet!”
“How do you know if you’ve never ‘tried’?”
To this I say…
Thank-you for telling me what I already know; yes I don’t want a relationship. No I am not looking. I am comfortable in turning people down; ironically- it’s something I’ve had to do a few times.
“So, do you love at all?”
Besides coffee (as I sit here writing this with an espresso in hand); the answer is yes. I do love. I love that little 4 letter word…
The possibilities. The adventure. The thrill of waking up in the morning and not knowing what will happen. The suspense where I find myself at the brink of exploration and new discoveries, excited who or what I’m going to share my creativity with and to learn from. Taking a leap forward into life. Leaning into life and learning from life as I live. Just living.
I’ve changed a lot.
It hasn’t always been like this… 5 years ago I really didn’t love life (as I talked about in Episode 1 of the Spectrum Series Podcast).
To think back and ponder on that state of mind I was in at that time, I didn’t love anything but the detrimental distractions stopping me from seeing anything but loss. Losing my mind, losing everything I’d ever done, and ultimately, losing my life. I felt like my relationship with the world was so distant.
I realised that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to enjoy things that others may not. It’s okay to be you.
If I can love what I do; I’ll live loving life and have a relationship with the world that I can share the positivity through in a kind of platonic partnership with everyone in society. As a game-changer, as an adventure seeker, and as a worthwhile individual amongst society.
I’ve got to love myself for anything to change. For the world to change surrounding stigmas. For everybody to have a voice.
You can only be you.
Because you can’t change other people; you may be able to massage and make tender certain emotions, or situations, but at the end of it all; it’s up to the individual to shape their own journey.
Really, love is what you make of it. It’s you, knowing you, and accepting yourself for who you are.