Grandma, Neil Sedaka, Thatcher and the assisted suicide debate.

Yesterday I went to help my Uncle Nick look after my Grandma whilst my Grandfather was out. She has Alzhiemer’s disease, which began about 10 years ago.

For those that don’t know, Alzhiemer’s is a pretty unpleasant condition, which means that your memory deteriorates slowly, until you baisically don’t even recognise your own loved ones.

The disease has been pretty hard on her, and for all of us. Those that knew my Grandmother will know her as the sharp tongued spitfire of a woman, who was incredibly athletic, and lived for designer clothes. We have interesting memories of her telling us that if we didn’t know how to knit, we would never have boyfriends, or that of we didn’t have children soon, we would “grow over”. I myself have find memories of her taking us down to Sutton Park and talking us for walks through the woods (and getting us very lost resulting in search parties), or pointing to random men and asking me rather loudly if I thought that they were “ho-mo-seks-soo-aaals”.

So you can understand why it might be quite painful to see the same lady, who was once a force of nature, now confined to a corner of the room, barely recognising who we are.

Of course, it’s nothing new, we’ve lived with the disease for 10 years now, but it’s still a hard hitting shock whenever we see my Grandmother get that small bit worse.

Before, she would just confuse me with my cousin, Judith, and thought I was married with a child, but now it’s hard to tell if she really recognises me. She requires around the clock care from a various number of carers and relatives, or she will forget to eat, drink and do basic parts of human survival.

Perhaps that is why I got so angry with people rejoicing in the death of Thatcher. She had a similar disease, and I know the amount of heart ache that is attached to such a disease. In a way, I was slightly glad she had died, but in a way that her suffering was at an end, and that her family could be at peace. I thought about her death, her disease, and my Grandmother, and wondered if assisted suicide should be legalised, especially as the disease is hereditary, and there is a strong chance I could end up the same way.

However, I went to help my uncle look after her yesterday, and I think my mind has been changed.

We went over, as expected, my Grandmother was slumped in the corner of the room, with Neil Sedaka (who happens to be one of my favourite singers) playing on TV in the background. My grandfather gave us instructions on what to feed her, and we proceeded to join her.

Suddenly, a song “Breaking up is hard to do”, came on, which seemed to strike some sort of cord with her, and happens to be one of my favourite songs too, and before we knew it, she lit up, and we both started singing along with a lot of gusto, and for a moment, it was as if everything was normal. It was as if my grandmother wasn’t slowly deteriorating, and we had something in common.

I discovered that while I cannot have a conversation with her anymore, we still had something we could bond over, music! So we sang all the songs we knew with enough effort to probably make the neighbours think that someone was being tortured next door! We smiled at each other and did little dance moves sat in our chairs.

Later we watched a film, and showed my Grandma some family photos, explaining who everyone was and when the photos were taken etc, and whilst she didn’t seem to remember, she seemed to enjoy the company.

And so I thought to myself, “is it really so bad?”. Of course, she has gone from the lady that played golf, boules , tennis and bridge and that would insist on teaching me to waltz “in order to help me get a boyfriend”, or giving me “posture lessons”, to someone that is unable to look after herself, and that is hard to see, but at the same time, she is someone that I enjoy spending time with, even if she doesn’t quite remember who I am, she she seems happy to have my company, and I hers.

So then I wondered, is assisted suicide really the answer? Whilst to me, her quality of life isn’t great, she seems happy, and doesn’t seem to be suffering, and isn’t any pain. Besides, she’s 96, which is an extremely good age to reach!

So whilst I still think assisted suicide should be available to consenting adults, I also think that rather than worrying about if it could have been the answer in my situation, I should enjoy and cherish the time I have with her.

Although the last memories of my Grandma will be bitter sweet, they will still be memories all the same.

Pride?

For those of you who don’t know, I like men and women. I am bisexual. I’m not a closeted lesbian or a straight experimenter, I am a bisexual woman. I am not proud of it.

But I am not ashamed either.

I find the concept of LGBT pride an odd one. Pride, I find, comes with something you have worked hard to achieve. It takes effort and skill. Working out that I liked both chicks and dudes took neither. It’s something I was born with, I think at least anyway.

So I apply that theory to other parts of me. I am a Bi product of mixed race parenting, am I proud of it? No. It wasn’t something I did to achieve, it was down to my parents. I have a beauty spot on the side of my face that I’ve had since birth. Am I going to go marching through the streets declaring how proud I am of myself for having it? No. That would be bloody stupid.

So why then, should I be proud of who I find attractive? I am not ashamed of it, in fact, I don’t hide it, my newsfeed is constantly filled with links about how much stigma bisexuals have to deal with, and I am fairly open about my crush on Nigella Lawson and many other women. But I am not going to tell you I am proud to be bisexual, because I’m not. I’m indifferent to it. I am honest with myself about it, but it’s not something I give a damn about.

I am passionate about bisexual issues. I got pissed off when Tom Daley said he liked girls still even though he was dating a guy, and many people, sadly from the LGBT community, just dismissed any notion of him being bisexual, as if we didn’t exist. I hate being told I’m a closet Lesbian and having to explain that I also like guys. I hate people telling me I’m just pretending so guys will want to bang me. I hate being told I am greedy or untrustworthy, and likely to cheat.

But that doesn’t mean I’m proud. Honestly, if I had worked super hard to convince myself to like women and men, and it had taken a load of effort and skill, sure, I’ll take credit. I’ll yell how proud I am of myself from the roof tops.

But I did nothing. It was natural, and it was as pre destined as my beauty spots, my hair colour, eye colour and flat feet.

And unless I worked hard to get somewhere, I’m not proud.

Country Living, new found peace.

A few weeks ago, I moved out of my parents houses in Birmingham (divorced parents) and into my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Milwich, in Stafford. Partly because after a horrible incident with someone that used to be a significant part of my life led to my parents watching my every move every 5 minutes and worrying and generally being a little on the over protective side (understandably, given the circumstances), and partly because I have work here.

I currently live in the village of Milwich in the middle of absolute nowhere near Stafford. The bus into town only comes once a day, there is only a pub, a church and a village hall here, and the only company I have are my aunt and uncle, a dog, a cat, two sheep, and the locals at the pub I go to sometimes.

And yet I am the happiest I have been in a while. Being away from the world, and, well, everything, has given me time to think things through, to get back on my feet. I have been kept busy with the job of restoring my aunt and uncle’s holiday home, or going out and exploring. The solitude has given me the opportunity to think things through about my life, and to be alone with my thoughts, and be more logical. I have the inspiration of my beautiful cousin who is an inspiration to any young, single woman who hasn’t been treated very well, and my aunt and uncle are wonderful supportive people who share my taste for wine, knitting, and hold fabulous dinner parties.

And the scenery is beautiful here. I went out an hour ago to escape the heat, and I looked up at the stars, and I’ve never seen such a starlight in England. During the day the smell of beautiful flowers and freshly cut grass fills the air (though admittedly with an undertone of farm animal shit), and you can see sprawling fields for miles around.

Here, in the middle of nowhere, in this tiny village, I feel I have regained my freedom.

Daddy’s girl

I have always been a Daddy’s girl. I have never denied it, I have had the mick taken out of me at school and university for being one, but I will always proudly say, I am a Daddy’s girl.

My Daddy isn’t perfect. His views on love and happiness make me want to bang my head against a wall. He is a devout atheist whereas I am religious. He made some quite major mistakes whilst being married to my mother, thus resulting in the divorce. Put him in a room full of people, and he is lost. He will probably (jokingly) insult you the first time he meets you, and perhaps says the first thing that comes to his mind without thinking it through.

Nevertheless, he is my weird, wonderful, and very much loved Daddy.

He is the Daddy that underwent three bone marrow transplants to ensure that I would be alive and able to write this now.

He is the Daddy that used to sing and whistle a song that went “Little Zara, Little Zara, Little Zara, Little Girl, Little Zara, Little Zara , You are Daddy’s little girl”, a song he still insists on singing or whistling to this day.

He is the Daddy that has always taken me for walks, even when I was about three or four, and he would have to carry me on his shoulders because I got tired halfway. He has kept the tradition of walks, but I’m a bit big to be carried on his shoulders now.

He is the Daddy that when he planned a holiday to Santander in Spain and drove us to the wrong ferry port, decided to get a ferry to France and drive continuously through the night to ensure we got a holiday.

He is the Daddy that through bad breakups, has bought in bottles of wine specially and sat on his balcony with me whilst I cried on his shoulder, and has taken the next day off work so we can drink wine together and I can rant to him till stupid o’clock in the morning.

He is the Daddy that upon discovering my ex boyfriend was a wearer of fake marks and Spencer’s tweed, went above and beyond to find me a genuine tweed jacket. Unfortunately, in Birmingham, it’s a bit tricky. So he bought mea smart black and white jacket instead.

He is the Daddy that still calls me “little girl” at coach stations, train stations, in public, or even in front of his patients.

He is the Daddy that took me shopping immediately after a break up to buy me a jacket because he wanted me to feel better about myself.

He is the Daddy that takes me shopping for dresses and clothes because he “wants his daughter to look good”.

But mostly, he is the Daddy that I can talk to about anything. The Daddy that when I feel like crap, I can call at any time and tell him everything. He is the Daddy that is defiantly sceptical of anyone who goes out with me. He is the Daddy that goes above and beyond to make sure that I am okay. The Daddy that will bombard me with phone calls to make sure I am okay. The Daddy that when I said I was going to church and considering getting baptised, went above and beyond to make sure I hadn’t joined some odd cult.

And so, despite his imperfections, despite our difference in beliefs, and despite his hopelessness sometimes, to me, he is a perfect Daddy, and I will always be a heavily devoted Daddy ‘s girl, and to me, my Daddy will ways be perfect.

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Mish Mish

So for those of you who haven’t heard, all my animals, except the cats, died a few days ago, and I was sadly in London, in the middle of a lost handbag crisis when it happened.

The loss of Ziggy the Guinea Pig, and Oreo and Mish Mish has upset me greatly, and I loved all three of them, but the one that has torn me up the most, has been the death of Mish Mish, who I had the longest, and was most attached to, so this is dedicated to her.

I bought Mish Mish in September, who was so named after her apricot colour, and Mish Mish is Arabic for Apricot. I remember seeing her crawl up to the glass in a Pets at Home Store, as if she were begging me to take her home, and I fell in love with her.

From the moment I took her home, she stole my heart. She was playful, adorable, and full of love. We depended on each other for support and love, and she came to me at a time when I felt alone.

I will miss waking up in the morning and seeing her scramble up the cage to come out. We would share an apple for breakfast (I ate most of it), and she would climb on my lap to play, before I went to Uni.

I would come home, and she would run from wherever she was hiding to greet me. She would play on my bed whilst I would read and study (and try and stop her from eating my books). I would put her in bowls, wine glasses, mugs and take photos, or watch her play on my bed.

She was there whenever I needed someone to talk to. Whenever I needed love, she was there for me to cuddle and play with.

She shared in so many great times. She would come to the university Rabbit Café and play with all the students, and posed whilst the Japanese students took photos of her.
She would chase after the rabbits in her hamster ball, trying to make friends, only to find them cowering away in corners behind pianos or tables.
She would entertain everyone at rabbit café by crawling across the piano, playing the keys as she ran.
She posed whilst my friend, who had bought his camera, took professional photos of her. She would enjoy the hamster cakes that one of our university housing staff used to bring for her to Rabbit Café, and would play in her handbag in return. She was the guest of honour at the surprise party we held for my chaplain, the organiser of Rabbit Café.

She was well behaved whenever my friends, be they fellow Tories or people I was campaigning for during student election time, looked after her.

She loved Ziggy the guinea pig, who was very patient with her, and would crawl into his fur and cuddle next to him whenever I got them both out.

She would play patiently whilst my young cousins and nieces stroked her, prodded her and picked her up and cooed over her.

She have me a heart attack when I thought she had wet tail, and paid £80 for a vet appointment for, only to find it was a false alarm, and had everyone at the Vet’s surgery playing with her and fussing over her, all commenting on how beautiful and friendly she was.

Essentially, she was more than just a hamster. She was a creature so full of love, who bought love and light to so many people. Everyone who saw photos and videos of her would ask about her. She showed me so much love, and gave me the strength to carry on in my darkest moments.

She will always have a special place in my heart, and it still hasn’t hit me that she has gone. She won’t be there, rushing to greet me when she hears my keys in the door. She won’t be playing next to me whilst I read, watch films or study anymore.

I buried her in the garden with Ziggy and Orwo yesterday, and the whole thing still doesn’t feel real. My Daddy, bless him, tried to cheer me up with a new hamster today. He will be loved. He will be cared for, but he will never replace any of my pets, and especially not Mish Mish.

Mish Mish, wherever you are, I hope you know how loved you were, not just by me, but by everyone you met.

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Keeping faith in hard times.

On Saturday, I was stupid enough to lose my handbag. I was devastated, as my house keys, bank card, Uni ID and mobiles were in there, my flat mates are away until Friday, so I was broke, homeless, and generally feeling really crap. In addition to this, I discovered whilst using a friend’s phone at church to try and locate the handbag after mass, that my beloved hamsters had died.

Not the best way to start the week. I felt hopeless, loss, and slightly losing faith.

However, something happened to restore it.

Over the last few days, upon hearing my predicament, people have reached out to help me. Friends have put me up on sofas and beds, and have made sure I have been fed and watered, and could travel to try and find my lost bag, despite the inconvenience. Strangers have seen me crying in moments of despair, and have reached out with words of comfort, and, in one case one day one even gave me a large amount of money because they wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to starve/be homeless, despite having never met me before in their life.

When talking about faith, those critical of it will make the point about good things happening to bad people, so how can there be a god.

But, perhaps ironically, it has been during hard times when my faith has been restored.

A couple of years ago, I was at University when I discovered that my Great Grandmother, who I loved very deeply, was dying in hospital with terminal cancer and that I needed to come home. The news knocked me side ways, I felt numb, shell shocked, and spent a lot of time for the next few hours staring into space, wanting to hide away and pretend that nothing was happening. I had just started university, I was far from home, and I didn’t know anyone that well.

At which point, a Polish friend of mine, who I had only known for a few months, saw me on campus, and asked what was wrong, in which I explained. Immediately, he got in touch with a mutual friend from Birmingham, and both of them took me to her flat. I was cooked for, we watched videos on YouTube, and had a joint Christmas meal so that I didn’t have to be alone. Despite everything going on, I felt so much love and warmth, and was allowed to laugh some moments, and cry and rant and rave, and it’s kindess I shall never forget. My Polish friend, not wanting me to travel alone through London on the day I was due home, carried my suitcase all the way to Victoria, and waited with me until I got on the coach. Whilst I wasn’t subscribed to any religion or faith at the time, looking back, it was proof that I was loved and cared about enough that people wanted to look after me.

And through hard times, I have had my faith restored again and again. When I discovered due to emotional health issues that I was going to have to retake the year, and wouldn’t admit it to myself, friends reached out to shake me back to reality, and helped me sort out my retake. Following the termination of a relationship, I was taken care of by friends to ensure I didn’t have to endure the pain alone, kind hearted strangers in tube stations saw me crying and alone, and offered coffee, conversation, comfort, and a shoulder to cry on, and my family took me in to give me comfort, wine, and to try make me feel that I was still valued.

We can sometimes lose faith when things go wrong, but perhaps if we stopped to look at how many people offer support when we are in need, then perhaps it could be restored.

And about that bag, a kind hearted stranger handed it in, and I am reunited with it :)

Stranger in my room (Poem)

Hello,Police, I’d like to report a crime,
There seems to be a stranger,
In this room of mine,
She claims to know me all too well,
But is a stranger to me, as you can tell.

She’s sitting here, and and continues to speak,
Taunting me about the ways in which I am weak,
She says she knows my loves, my life and my past,
And I don’t know how long this nightmare is going to last.

I try to reason with her,
Yet she continues to taunt,
With her vindictive critique,
She seems desperate to haunt.

I scream, and I cry, and I beg and I plead,
Yet still she continues,
To cut into my soul, and make it bleed.

Try as I might,
To send her away,
She stays where she is,
And I’m beginning to feel afraid.

She tells me I’m worthless,
Inadequate and small,
And whenever I try to confront her,
She pushes at me, so that I fall.

She goes through my pockets, my possessions and things,
And plays with my bracelets,
and trinkets and rings,
I want her to go, yet she refuses to leave me be,
Hang on, no matter,
I’ve realised…this stranger…it’s me….

Self Injury Awareness Day – For those who need help.

Seeing as today is Self Injury Awareness Day, I thought that I would write a blog post about self injury. First of all, statistics for the issue are hard to measure, because it’s based on people coming forward and agreeing to be part of statistical research, but a rough estimate is that about 10% of young people have tried to injure themselves on purpose as a form of self harm. It’s an issue that isn’t exclusive of gender, sexuality, religion, race or age.

I should know, because I have Self Harmed before. It’s an issue that I struggled with for most of my teenage years, and an issue that still effects me. Whilst I haven’t had the hardest of lives, things were difficult. My parents were in the middle of a messy divorce, I had a terrible time at school, and I had suffered the loss of one of my Grandparents, whom I was very close to. It was a time where everything in my life had gone beyond my control, and I felt frustrated, angry, upset and confused. Having never been one for “opening up and sharing my feelings”, I didn’t know how to tell someone that everything felt so out of control, so I began self harming, an issue that was a main part of my life for most of my teenage years. I can remember my parents being called into school, or someone at home finding out for the umpteenth time and an argument starting, or having to be conscious of what I wore for fear of someone finding out, again.

It was an issue that confused friends and family too. Nobody knew how to talk to me, or what to say, for fear of me injuring myself, which I had mistaken for thinking that talking to people about my problems was useless, and withdrew into myself even more, thus prompting the self harming to increase.

Eventually, the problem did get so out of control that the NHS practically dragged me to a psychologist, where I was being forced to talk. I hated it at first, but eventually, talking about my problems when things got too much came naturally to me, and thus the self harming decreased because I stopped feeling a need to do it.

It’s an issue that still affects me today, at 21 years old. There are times, when I do get tempted to self harm, but it’s extremely rare now days, and when I do, I either phone my parents, go for a walk, go and see a friend, something to get me out of the situation.

However, even though I’ve stopped, the issue still effects me. I still have to be very conscious of what I wear, and tend to either stick to Jeans or long dresses with tights. It’s something that with every (romantic) relationship I enter, I’m going to have to tell my partner at the early stages in case they find out another way. It’s something that I’m going to have to explain to my children if the scars haven’t faded by then.

If you are reading this, and you yourself self harm, then I’m not sure what advice I can give, but I’m going to try. First of all, remember , you are not alone. This is an issue that can affect anyone from any background. Secondly, my next piece of advice is to talk to someone. Parents, teachers, lecturers, personal tutors, friends, priests doctors, someone that you feel you can trust. If you don’t want to talk to people you know, call a helpline like the Samaritans. They’re completely anonymous and will always listen to you. It’s important that someone knows what’s happening, so that you can get support and help available. By letting someone in, people will know that you’re struggling and can help you.

If you know someone who self harms, talk to them, you could change their lives. Don’t feel like you have to walk on eggshells, or change the way you speak to someone if you find out they self harm. There are things you shouldn’t do, like trying to make them promise to stop, or using emotional black mail, but at the end of the day, Self Harm isn’t a term of identification for someone, it’s just a problem they struggle with.

Just to reiterate though, never make someone promise to stop, or use emotional blackmail, ie: “If you loved me, you’d stop”. Self harm is a difficult thing to give up, and takes time, and by using promises or black mail, the person will just feel incredibly guilty and even more worthless, and could even do it more.

I guess that’s the only advice I can give, but I hope I’ve helped at least one person with this.

I also want to share with you to a brilliant film about the issue, called Hidden Harm, which deals with the issue of Self Harm extremely well, and is made by two very good friends of mine.

Hidden Harm Self Injury Awareness Film

Women Priests

The issue of women priests and women bishops has been long debated in the Church of England. From heated discussions between congregation members over a coffee/glass of wine in a church, to debates in the General Synod, it’s definitely an issue many feel passionate about. Theological arguments have been bought out from both sides of the debate. Those against will quote extracts from the letters of Saint Paul or state that the apostles were all men, whilst those in favour will quote bible passages where women were shown to have an active and important role in the church.

It was something I hadn’t given much thought to until a few months ago. A lot of those I know aren’t exactly in favour, and having never really spoken to a female priest, I had never considered the issue as one that affected me, I and wasn’t passionate about it. After all, what’s the likelihood of me ever becoming a priest?

However, a few months ago, I started getting involved in our university chaplaincy. Our head chaplain, Sally Hitchner, is a priest by profession, and it was through meeting her, I began to think more about the issue.

The work that Sally has done for the university has been exemplary. She’s turned our chaplaincy from a dingy desolate building that no one even knew existed, into a buzzing social and philosophical space. It’s somewhere students can go to get away from the stresses of University life to either relax with a mug of tea, read one of the many philosophical books on offer, or just to chat with other. She’s been the first chaplain at the university to have a pro-active role in mental health support for students, starting the first chaplaincy mental health support group where students with mental health issues have a safe space to support each other, talk to each other when times are difficult, or even ask each other questions. Our rabbit cafe, a cafe where students and staff bring there rabbits (or in my case, hamster), and anyone can drop in, have coffee and play and relax with pets when the stress gets too much, attracts over 50 student each Friday. In addition to this, other groups have been set up, such as feminist reading groups and a Faith:No Frills Bible study group for students interested in or starting out in Christianity.

Our Chaplain is also someone who genuinely cares about each and every individual student, chatting to each and every one of us that comes through the door, always being willing to listen to whatever problem or question you have, big or small. She’s someone that loves helping people, and has a lot of love for people.

For many of us, even those who are not religious, our chaplaincy has been somewhere where we have managed to meet new people, and build new, good friendships with wonderful people. It’s somewhere we (myself included) can go when life seems to be getting too much, or when we feel at breaking point and we need somewhere to escape to, or somewhere where we just want someone to talk to who we know will be listening. For many of us, myself included, going to the chaplaincy for one of the regular events, or even just to chat to Sally, is the highlight of our week, or sometimes, even our day.

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So where does this fit in with women priests?

I suddenly had a clear stance on the issue when I took all the above into consideration. I love going down to the chaplaincy, and it’s something I look forward to every day. It’s somewhere I know that there will be someone there who will listen to me, whether it’s Sally herself, or one of our regulars. It’s somewhere I can find comfort in times of hardship, and somewhere I can take refuge in a safe space when things get too much.

So then I thought, what if the issue of women priests had not been resolved? Would all the benefits that I enjoy from our Chaplain’s service at Brunel still exist? Would I still have that one place I feel I can go to, where I know I will be welcomed with open arms, no matter what I’m wearing, what I got in my last essay, or how I’m feeling?

And if someone can offer that, that basic love and compassion that the bible teaches us, someone that truly wants to help people whoever they may be, and on such a large scale, should they be told that they are inadequate to be in a role that allows them to do so, just because they’re the ‘wrong’ gender?

Of course, I have researched the issue, theologically and sociologically. It’s an issue that I’ve asked many people about, or had many discussions about.

But I think if someone really does have that amount of care, compassion and love for their neighbour, and believes in their faith so strongly that they want to go into a role that allows them to demonstrate that, then for me, that’s all the argument I need to persuade me to support their going into the priesthood, regardless of their gender.

Advice for dealing with douchebags.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a rather young family member, who shall remain nameless, but got me thinking whilst I was cooking my spaghetti after working late at the library. The youngster in question, was telling me they weren’t enjoying school too much because a small group of fellow classmates were being particularly crappy. Okay, it wasn’t quite worded like that, but if you remember back to your school days, you can probably imagine what I am talking about, snide remarks, whispering behind backs, you know the sort of stuff. It’s something I remember from my school days, and I wish I had given better advice. So, I thought I would take to the blog, and write an advice guide on how to deal with such douchebags, applicable to the young and the old, because I could probably pick at random someone I know, and find they can tell a similar story.

So here goes;

1) People are douchebags, and this is going to happen throughout life.

I hate to say this, but this is true. I remember when I was staying with my cousins in Bangor, we were in the garden, and we saw a Zebra Finch in which one of my cousins decided it would be a good idea to try and coax it inside. I thought he was bonkers at first, but being a knowledgable animal lover, he explained that because it was a foreign bird, if it tried to nest in the garden, the other birds would basically attack it until it died, something known as mobbing. Of course, we were unsuccessful in our attempts, so I don’t know what happened to it, but I can relate it back to this. People are very much the same. One of the key behaviours that make me convinced that we are a product of some form of evolution, is the need to make someone a scapegoat. We have never moved on from our animal mentality, and feel the need to move in packs, or to become a part of a pack. When there is someone or something that seems foreign to our pack, we immediately feel alarmed that it will threaten the harmony, and so we feel the need to make that outsider into a scapegoat, and make it known that that thing, or person, is not welcome. This behaviour is usually initiated by the pack leader, or the alpha, who needs to assert his or her authority so that they can retain their position, and other, less significant members of the pack, feel the need to follow suit in order to remain accepted by that pack. It sucks, but sadly, that’s the circle of life. Now, most of us have moved on from that animal instinct, so no longer feel the need to maul people to death, but we use a much subtler method to make the outsider understand it isn’t welcome, mainly by trying to make the outsider as miserable as possible. Or, just by whispering about a stranger’s mannerisms, clothing etc behind their back, so that we can mark them as an outsider so that it can make it easier for us to “attack” if need be. Unfortunately, because we haven’t quite yet evolved as much as to not need a pack mentality, this is going to happen with certain groups throughout life. I’m 21, it still happens to me, and many others older than me, at work, at social groups, even on busses full of strangers. It sucks, but if you think of it this way, it’s easier to understand, so it may make you feel better.

2) For every douchebag, or group of douchebags, there will always be someone who appreciates you.

I’ve gone through life having to deal with such behaviour. In fact, I can guarantee that everyone reading this will have done. The first key to coping with it is to understand why it happens, as explained in point 1. What you also have to understand, is it isn’t your fault, but I will leave that to point three. My second step, would be to realise that you are appreciated.

There are people that are going to go out of their way to make you feel like crap. The next step is to think of all the people who appreciate you. If need be, make a mental list. Who, when such things happen, or other disastrous stuff, is there to listen? For example, I have my parents, who, whenever things go wrong, or people are being particularly crap, I call and moan to. I have friends in other cities and countries that I will chat to, or phone at 5am because some idiot at the local bar made a comment that upset me. I have friends who I can meet for coffee, or just moan to. I have relatives in the Staffordshire countryside who I can go and visit, and moan to over a bottle of wine. Your list may look different to mine, but I guarantee that there will be at least one person who you can talk to.

Another way to look at it, who appreciates you? Who, when things are going badly, turns to you at their darkest hour? Who, when they need cheering up, do they give you a call and you’ve gone for a coffee or a drink, because they want you to cheer them up? Who, when they need something doing, immediately turns to you?

Once you realise that there are people who love and appreciate you, the person, or group of people who make try and make you feel crap, seem pretty insignificant, even if just for a short while, and that’s half the battle.

Adding a sub step, you also have to ask, who gives you honest advice? People that genuinely care will sit you down in a corner and give you honest advice when you screw up. It may be critical, but do not confuse them for the douchebags. Douchebags will either point out your so called flaws in public at your expense for amusement, or make snide comments, or whisper behind your back. A kind friend will give you advice whether you ask for it or not, and will do so discreetly, to try and cause you as less harm as possible. It’s easy to confuse the two when you’re at your lowest, but believe me, it’s a sign of appreciation for you and your feelings, so hang in there.

With this step, it also makes it easier, if things are getting unbearable, for you to tell someone, maybe who can even intervene, a teacher perhaps? A parent? A friend? By doing the above of this step, you realise you’re not alone, people do care , and will take you seriously if you need help.

So I move on to step three.

3) Realise that it isn’t your fault, and don’t try and change yourself.

If we turn to step one a second, you will see that the behaviour is something that, although simplistic, is part of the circle of life that you can’t change. Which means that no matter if you wore different clothes, acted differently, didn’t have a regional accent or weren’t so eccentric, they’d find something else to scapegoat you for. The pack mentality is a simple one, so you have to realise that IT ISN’T YOUR FAULT.

Using step two, you will see that there are people that appreciate you, and that if you were a terrible person, those people wouldn’t care about you as much as they did.

So if it’s a mentality that you can’t change, and you have people that appreciate you, why bother to change yourself?

So now, if you’ve accomplished the above three steps, I think you may be ready to deal with four and five, the killer moves that I use which allow you to combat such behaviour. They have worked for me, but if you have a different method, or find that these don’t work, in which case, hang in there, but so far as I know, they’re effective.

4) Kill it with fireKINDNESS

You’re probably looking at the screen thinking I am insane right now, but let me explain. The mentality explained in step 1, is simple. The aim effect, is to make you feel excluded, or insecure enough that you back off, withdraw within yourself, or leave the shared environment. Which means they are looking for a reaction. By backing down, you give a desired reaction. By responding with equally snide remarks, or being visibly upset, or being physically reactive, you give a reaction. For me, the “stick up for yourself” method never worked, because it showed people that the mob actions were affecting me, which just meant they worked harder at it to pursue the end goal. What I eventually started doing, was being nice in return. If people were whispering about me, responding with a smile. If people made snide comments or tried to ridicule me, I would just laugh it off and continue acting in the warm friendly manner as I would with friends. It started to work, and it really did frustrate people trying to bring me down, that they just couldn’t get to me. It takes a lot of bravery and practise, and believe me, there are times where it’s really tempting to just punch someone, or make a comment back, or throw my drink over them, but being nice has been more of a weapon than any of these things.

Of course, obviously, if people are waiting for you every day outside the gates of school to beat the crap out of you, then being nice just isn’t going to cut it. In this case, TELL SOMEONE, and if you end up in a fight, defend yourself physically.

5) Do not give up, be strong, work hard, be successful.

Believe me, this is a brilliant step. At secondary school I was bullied quite badly, and there were times I really wanted to just give up, hide, or in some cases, even die. However, with the encouragement, and severe talkings to from parents and family, I stuck to my books, studied hard, and am now at university. This is what my dream of success was, and despite everything, I made it this far. My next goal, is to study abroad in Krakow, or either start working within Politics in the UK and work my way up. What does success mean to you? Set yourself an ambition, or a goal, and work for it. You don’t even have to tell anyone about it. It can be something big, like travelling the world, or something simple as knitting a scarf. By doing this, you not only have something to stick to, that you can you use to remind yourself that all the douchebaggyness is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but when you achieve it, it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to look back on all the crap that was happening at the time, and go “wow, even though all this happened, I’ve still accomplished this?!” In addition to this, nothing pisses douchebags off more than by seeing that despite the fact that they really tried to make your life a misery, you still accomplished your goal.

6) Do something that makes you feel good

Chances are that if people are being douchebags, you’re going to have moments when you feel low. Make sure you take time out to look after yourself. Watch movies, find an empty space and just scream and let out your frustration, enjoy a night in with a take away and a bottle of wine (if you’re over 18), arrange a coffee, a night out, a trip to the cinema or theatre with a friend, dress up and make yourself up even if you’re not going anywhere, dye your hair a new colour or give it a new cut. When you’re having to try and cope with stress laid on by other people, it’s important to do things to remind yourself how important YOU are, and make YOU feel happy. Otherwise you won’t have the energy or confidence to do the other five steps. Not only that, but there are times when you just need to realise how important you are to yourself. Whether you believe that your being on this earth is a result of a scientific accident, or at the hands of a creator, you are a unique individual with feelings, habits, emotions and characteristics that make you special, and it’s good to remind yourself of that sometimes. Having a goal can remind you of this too, as said in step five.

I hope this helps whoever reads this, if you’re going through a rough patch at school or work or Uni, and are having difficulty coping with people that are just going out of their way to be douchebags, then just remember these 6 steps. I cannot claim that they will solve all your problems straight away, but even if reading this gives you some comfort to know that there is someone out there who genuinely wants to help you, then I’m glad to have helped :)