The Circle… of Narcicissm?

The Circle is a new reality TV programme comprised of 8 people who are all put up in an apartment block.

The only interaction they have is with each other and via Social Media, there is no face to face contact.

The game promotes players doing whatever necessary to be the most popular including portraying themselves as someone they are not!

Currently, there is a gay guy pretending to be straight, a 40 year old woman pretending she is 34 and an oncologist when she isn’t, a guy pretending he is a girl and a girl who is pretending she isn’t a parent.

The rest, thus far, have opted to be themselves. The aim of the game is to be the most popular and you can win £50,000.

This may seem funny but what is it teaching us? It’s teaching us that popularity is more important than being ourselves, that insta followers and likes are ultimate representation of who we are!

How is that right?

In what planet is this normal?

It’s promoting cat fishing, lying, being fake, it’s sending all the wrong messages and encouraging an array of negative behaviours in an already narcissistic highly impressionable society.

Claire @ TEWP x

The vicious circle of compulsive skin picking.

Ever since I was very young, I’ve had a pretty nasty habit which I used to be deeply, deeply ashamed of. While I’m going through a long and tricky process of taking ownership of my life and of talking about my experiences in relation to my mental health, here it is!

I skin pick. Compulsively.

I first developed a problem when I was about 10/11, I had always been a nail biter but it changed from biting my nails to ripping off my cuticles and biting the skin around my nails and down my fingers until they were red raw. Too red raw to show to anyone or to do much with.

I remember when I first started high school, going along to guitar lessons and not being able to play because my finger tips were fleshy, raw and exposed and they’d be pierced and bleeding if I pushed on the guitar strings too hard. So I pretended I hadn’t practiced or didn’t know how to read that song. I’d be horrified if I was ever “found out”.

This extended into the classroom too. Id hide my hands with my school jumper because they were in so much pain but I was also embarrassed that I was “found out” or that anyone discovered my dirty secret of relief.

I remember it going on my whole life. The only time I was able to relieve some of the vicious circle was when I discovered acrylic nails. I could take my grossly bitten fingers to a shop and they’d attach nails which would last for a few weeks. The beauty was, I wasn’t able to bite at these so it provided a GREAT deal of relief.

I tried to keep the acrylic nails on when I could afford them but throughout my adult life, the cycle has sadly continued. It’s like I’m not even aware and just obsessively bite and pick for tiny moments of escapism and bliss which resulted in horrible torture and pain.

It’s strange because anyone who knows me knows that I really take pride in my appearance and am relatively well groomed. So it seems bizarre that I’d do this to myself. Literally mutating my hands by choice. It’s not my choice though, it’s an obsession and a compulsion.

I posted a comment from a troll on my Facebook page earlier today which mentioned my “wonky lips”… this hurt me so much more than you can imagine.

It hurt me because I know they’re wonky.

They’re wonky because I go through a similar cycle as with my nails / fingers and I always have done.

I anxiously pick my lips daily until they bleed and it’s like I don’t even know what I’ve done until I’m in pain.

It’s such a fleeting moment of satisfaction and calm to endure a lengthy period of suffering and pain. A couple of years ago, I discovered a similar cosmetic coping mechanism to the acrylic nails. I discovered that small volumes of lip fillers could even out some of the damage I’d done in terms of the shape of my lips. But now they’re even worse because I pick away even WITH the fillers in… they only offered a short time of prevention. And so we are left with another vicious circle that’s just impossible to escape.

It’s important to remember that although I use this blog and platform to share what I deal with, however unique, sharing and opening up about your life isn’t for everyone. But I hope that this blog and community continues to provide a reminder to others that you’re not alone.

I wohkd imagine that skin picking is probably a lot more common than we think and I’m so happy to finally be taking ownership of all the things I’m not happy about with myself and my life so that I can at least attempt to work on these things for a positive outcome eventually.

But I choose not to hide any of myself any more. The world might need those parts. Even the fleshy and raw bits.

Mandy @ TEWP x

Boy? Girl? Doctor? Student? Unemployed? Young? Old?

Sorry but what the hell does it matter?

I see humans.

I see individual and interesting people who all arrived unexpectedly into this world and who have the ability to talk, empathise, connect and understand.

Relatively speaking, we are here passing through for a tiny tiny amount of time. Are we really going to spend it scared to push ourselves out of our comfort zone? Or scared to do things which worry us?

There are a couple of well known quotes which have kept me going recently, these are:

“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”

and

“You can be the ripest and most juiciest peach but there’ll still be someone who just doesn’t like peaches”.

Both of these serve as reminders to NOT procrasinate but also to enjoy yourself and own yourself no matter who you’re around. There will always be someone who isn’t your people. But that’s just it, they’re not your people!

I adore having events with the project because they always bring so many unique humans with unique experiences together but to talk about issues which don’t discriminate. Issues we can all relate to and share experiences of.

Mandy the human @ TEWP x

 

 

 

Gwynie’s story.

Suicide seems like such a forbidden word…

Where do I even begin?

The thought of putting the past year into words seems impossible and frightening. If it wasn’t for The Empowered Woman Project, it would never have crossed my mind! But I am ready, ready to tell me story. I am still learning day by day that these conditions do not define me but it is overwhelming. How can I not let something so toxic, damaging and controlling define me? I look in the mirror and I see someone who no one else sees yet I so strongly believe that someone is me.

How dare people tell me otherwise?

I am not at a stage yet where I love myself but I am slowly getting to a stag where I feel proud. Proud of how far I’ve come. Proud that I am managing day by day. I am starting to accept my scars as symbols of how far I have come.

Maybe I am not so broken anymore after all?

There will be days my BPD and Anorexia will try and take over but the hardest part is done. I got back up when I never thought I would. I nearly left this world, my body was ready to give up. But the people that lovely so deeply held on to me as tightly as possible. They saved me.

I am getting better, I am starting to love again. I am starting to see the world again from a different perspective.

TEWP x

Why the F*CK is ‘Slut Shaming’ a thing?

As the single one of Team TEWP, I regularly get to share weird, wonderful and downright gross dating stories with the loved up Mandy. I left an abusive relationship in 2016 and while I’ve dated people since then, there’s never really been anyone who has stuck around but I’m very open to meeting people and seeing what sticks. I’ve met some truly AMAZING people over the past few years, some have become close friends, some I dated, some were never going to be more than a fling, and one, well one didn’t even last 35 minutes.

Last night, one of these Tinder dates messaged me asking to come over. Now I had just been on a date the night before with a funny, smart, Louis Theroux look-a-like and since it had gone so well, I declined the invitation. Before I could navigate away from the message, I received the following:

“Damn. That’s some slutty behaviour”

EXCUSE ME???

The messages kept coming. If I act in a way that isn’t ‘accepted’ then I ‘deserve’ to be called a slut? That by going on a nice date equates to me ‘sleeping with the whole Glasgow area code’? That by being more open to meeting new people and going on dates means I ‘earned the title’ of being called a slut?

Does this person realise what he is saying is so unacceptable?

Sadly yes. He knew exactly what he was saying and even went to the trouble of trying to back up his claim. In a weird twist of fate, years of enduring an abusive boyfriend has left me with reasonably thick skin and meant his comments didn’t upset me in the slightest.

But you, you wonderful fearsome warriors, it upset you.

Many of you who follow my instgram (amy_keast) messaged me, joining my incredulousness! Some of you messaged the culprit and gave him a piece of your mind!

It got me thinking, how can ‘slut shaming’ still be in thing in 2018? And where are have all the decent men gone (asking for a friend)?

If you don’t know what slut shaming is (lucky you), it is described as ‘the practice of criticising people, especially women and girls, who are perceived to violate expectations of behaviour and appearance regarding issues related to sexuality’.

Labour MP Emma Husar recently opened up about her decision to leave federal parliament after ‘slut shaming’ articles were published about her.

California council member Rachel Hundley has been in the news after posting a video standing up to a group trying to ‘slut shame’ her by posting ‘racy pictures’ of her. She described these pictures as her ‘celebrating my body at an internationally renowned festival’.

Journalist Areva Martin received ‘slut shaming’ emails about what she wore while appearing on CNN.

The more I read about instances like this, the angrier I become. Who wrote the rules on these perceived expectations? Why can’t we all wear what we want, enjoy ourselves at festivals, and date who we want? Why must we be judged and made to feel worthless for allowing ourselves to express our individualities?

Why can’t we enjoy safe sex and maybe instead of knocking each other down, we celebrate these differences?

Why does it matter how many dates I’ve been on? How many people I’ve has sex with? Why is it not enough that I’m safe and happy and not breaking any laws? Why am I suddenly not allowed to express my sexuality in the way I SEE FIT?

Have you had any experiences of casual slut shaming? Why do you think it is still so acceptable and common? What can we do as a community to protect ourselves from such negativity?

And where are all the nice men?!?!?

Amy @ TEWP x

Girlhood Gang 2018: Young women and girls in Contemporary Scotland and Beyond conference.

The Girlhood Gang are a group of feminist social scientists who are here to shake up the Scottish feminist scene and yesterday they hosted their first conference in the wonderful Glasgow Women’s Library! Made up of Hannah Walters, Amanda Ptolomey and Donna MacLellan, the Girlhood Gang are a feminist collective interested in exploring the experiences, identities and perspectives of young women and girls. Their overall aim is to understand and ultimately celebrate girlhood through inclusive events, research and projects. All three are working on their own unique areas of research and what brings them together is their hunger for creating inclusive spaces to explore, learn and grow.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? This imposter thing we, as humans, struggle with sometimes. Prior to attending yesterday’s annual conference with the Girlhood Gang, I would’ve felt like I wasn’t ‘qualified enough’ to exist in that space or to have a valid voice in that space or that others would maybe think I was a fraud for attending.

Truth is, it was all in my head and this ‘imposter syndrome’ and the feeling that we are underqualified to have a valid voice in certain spaces is something which lives within all of us at some point along the way. A good example of this from yesterday’s event is when opening keynote speaker Dr Susan Batchelor who is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow and has been involved in some insanely impressive projects and work (general super fancy pants in the eyes of someone like me!) said she wasn’t super confident about public speaking. It just goes to show that irrespective of where we come from or what experience we have, we all have uncertainties about our ability to share these experiences with others in a public space.

I felt it important though to share my experience from the day. I really learnt a lot and I’m glad I decided to put my sassy pants on and go along! I left feeling full of ideas, in awe of the people I’d met and full of fresh ambition to do more and be more. My voice IS important and valid in ALL spaces.

The day started with an opening keynote speech from the lovely Dr Susan Batchelor who I mentioned before. Susan explained that she had introduced the Girlhood Gang members to each other. Her experience is broad but something which I noted down as she spoke was this: “Policies and practices aren’t being informed by contemporary women in Scotland but by old research data.” She thinks a more holistic approach to gather information is required. It was refreshing to hear from Susan that she has been into prisons and spoken with women directly about their experiences growing up and noticing the direct correlation between the destructive path they end up on and the violence they experienced or witnessed in the family home when growing up.

After this, we heard from a panel who were asked to consider what successful integration of theory and practice look like. The panel’s experience, knowledge and backgrounds were very different. The panel featured Dr Victoria Cann, Dr Phillippa Wiseman, Dr Dawn Murray and Julia Zauner. Chaired by the lovely Girhood Gang member Amanda, the panel questioned whether we should be engaging with individuals in more emotional ways. For me, I feel like we should be taking the dialogues about policy making into more accessible spaces. I think that lack of accessibility to these conversations is a major barrier. By accessible, I don’t mean a library or educational spaces but literally on the streets or into the communities who are most affected by the changes required.

I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this!

After this interesting chat, we then heard from Julia individually who set up The Empower Project. The EP seeks to explore sexual identity in a safe space. They look at image-based abuse, gender hate speech via technology and tech abuse in general. They hold workshops to talk about these issues and also ask questions about what’s in a healthy body image which I found super interesting. There’s just so much in it.

After Julia’s talk, we headed to the nearby Olympia building where we heard from someone I majorly fangirled all day… the lovely Jenn Glinski. Jenn has a very unique heritage. Part German and part American, she now calls Glasgow home. For now. Jenn is also a PHD academic and her research is around economic abuse and the cost of leaving. She revealed some pretty shocking statistics. As someone who has ran events which address financial abuse in relationships and domestic abuse in general, I couldn’t believe the societal inequalities which still exist between men and women with regards to the gender pay gap but also the language we are exposed to when describing how men and women handle money.

Firstly, to touch on some of Jenn’s stats, it is reported that 90% of domestic abuse survivors say they’ve experienced economic abuse.

This can include:

  • Refusing access to bank accounts
  • Preventing her from employment / education
  • Controlling all finances

With regards to our societal issue which still exists in the form of the gender pay gap, I can’t believe there’s still so much work to do. In 2018, women in Scotland earn, on average, £182.90 less per week than men. The age group of 16-24 experience the largest pay gap and returning back to work after maternity leave can be tricky for new mum’s as more often than not, they are put in a more junior role than they left.

It was also new for me to consider the differing language which is used in magazines and in the media to describe men with money and women with money. Adjectives such as investment, power, spend and growth are used to describe men’s money habits and words such as vouchers, bargains, discounts and savings are used to describe women and money which sends repetitive messages to us about the difference in financial abilities based on gender. It horrified me once I considered how much I’ve been exposed to it! Had you noticed this before? Or now that it’s been pointed out, are you more aware?

I guess the last thing to mention about the day is the last discussion I made it along to and that was a panel discussion around young women, girls and the media. This opened up topics around the fact that we all ‘live in public’… do you think that’s true? So much of our lives are documented on social media that we really do play out our lives via our screens. It got me wondering how we keen ourselves safe and authentic online while also becoming our own personal brand.

Anyway, I’d like to thank the girls of the Girlhood Gang and the wider feminist community of Scotland for facilitating such a thought provoking and inspiring event. What a pleasure to be surrounded from such big plans and goals.

Until the next time!

Mandy @ TEWP x

 

 

 

OCD is…

OCD came into my life 16 years ago. It has been an impossible enemy, safety net, confusion and often paralysing entity at various levels, ever since.

OCD has at times crippled my body and mind, it’s left me unable to speak for months, and unable to have free will to undertake activities, visit places I love, or hug people I hold most dear.

My OCD has been known to create a personal dystopian universe of paranoia, danger and threat – where my mind is engaged in a maze of ever-searching, yet never reaching, a destination of relief.

I have so often found it impossible to fully describe – especially to those stuck in the stereotypic view that OCD is just ‘all about cleaning’, or when receiving a blank stare upon attempting to explain the reality [yet irrationality] of the thoughts, but most of all when navigating those who flippantly quip ‘Oh yeah, I’m a bit OCD too.’

How do you communicate the magnitude and intensity of the force – that renders you incapable of normal function, yet propels you to exert incomprehensible energy towards tasks that no other person understands?

One way I have found relief, some resolve, and been able to articulate my mental health challenges – is through poetry.

So I share a poem I wrote about OCD here:

I went through the scrubbing and washing of hands on repeat,
Despite routine precisions, the need was never complete.
And so painful, cracked and bleeding I covered in bleach,
My red-raw fragile skin in an attempt to feel clean.

But people would notice the behaviours and signs,
Taps tightened, bathrooms locked in no time,
So the rituals had to be hidden inside and not out,
A practical action, but in mind carried out.

So enacting the rules became more covert by trade,
And in turn the thoughts overtly screamed a tirade,
I could control the compulsions by scenarios played out in my head,
But this transition gave no peace, just more torment instead.

It’s an impossible task to put the feeling away,
To get all boxes checked at the end of the day
To have each thought finished, completed and right,
Done and sorted, perfect, organised, out of mind, out of sight.

The problem is that nothing ever feels done,
With each run of 3’s, sets of 5, 9, 10 or 21s,
The repetitions almost make me feel worse,
mounting anxiety, a cycle of patterns perverse.

It’s an infinity, continuum, with no limit or end,
And yet my mind chases that coveted silence pretend,
A mind field of fear – irrational wins over logical thought,
Finding no pause, no break, no halting or stop.

It’s a doubt, that’s been magnified, squared, 1000-fold times,
A parasite feeding on safety, peace, comfort and kind,
The ill trust of self, the omnipotent dread,
Without checking or tapping my family could all be dead.

It’s the ‘what ifs’, the ‘buts’, the ‘if onlys’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’,
That torment my brain cells and dictate what I do.
It’s a stringently controlled paralysis of action,
No will, person, or feeling a greater force of attraction.

It’s debilitating, upsetting, overwhelming, unjust,
To live with an illness that yourself cannot trust,
It takes over, and over, and over,
And over, and over, and over,
And over, and over, and over again.
A messed up internal monologue,
on a loop,
with no end.

I have experienced OCD at various intensities over the years.

Undergone treatment, developed coping mechanisms, and employed means to challenge the insidious thoughts, impossible compulsions and destructive behaviours it has driven me to engage in.

Sometimes it’s better, other times worse – but still [for now] ever-present – like a tattoo etched upon my brain. At times of coveted quiet, I wonder what my life would be like without it? Whether I could function now, if I were to wake up tomorrow free from its invisible, yet suffocating restraints?

I still aim for that freedom – every minute and every day – despite the unknown that accompanies it.

I am aware I can only speak of my own individual journey and do not wish to, nor believe I can, speak for anyone else.

These are my symptoms, resolutions, highs and lows. My thoughts will undoubtedly resonate – yet also equally [i’m sure] – markedly differ from others.

Overall, i’m grateful for the good days and the moments of free, unrestricted thought.

For surviving.
For life.
With or without OCD.

I believe in speaking out, to reclaim power over OCD or any other mental health challenge. Illness so often serves to silence and shame – so providing a voice – and turning the mess into a message, can only ever be positive.

I’m thankful for the growing awareness and understanding of mental health in our communities – but most of all – grateful for any opportunity to share my experiences in the off chance, they may provide identification, hope and empowerment for others to speak out, reach out and be heard.
Sara x

FB: https://www.facebook.com/sara.preston.125
IG: @sa_rapreston
Twitter: @Sa_raPreston

TEWP x