If you asked I would tell you 1 in 3 of us have been subjected to sexual violence.
I would tell you it doesn’t have to define you. I would tell you, it wasn’t your fault. Don’t protest, it was definitely not your fault.
I’d tell you that blaming yourself absolves the perpetrator of responsibility, I’d tell you it was their decision not yours.
I’d tell you that things can and often do get better.
I’d tell you 40 is better than 20. Although you bones hurt more.
I’d tell you holding onto shame will eat you alive. I’d tell you that anger can be positive. I’d tell you, you don’t have to be nice to people who abuse you.
I’d tell you, you have way more power than think you do.
I’d tell you to stop concentrating on your flaws and see your beauty.
I’d tell you comparison is the thief of joy, I’d tell you instagram quotes make me roll my eyes
I’d tell you that sometimes I struggle to get out of bed, I’d tell you this is normal. I’d tell you no-one can be happy, or motivated or “on it” 100% of the time.
I’d tell you that everyone, ever-y one, thinks it’s only them who struggles.
I’d tell you that work is not everything although you need to pay the bills.
I’d tell you that your teenage children, despite moaning and grumbling, wish you’d talk to them more but your phone gets in the way.
I’d tell you to warn them that jealousy is not romantic, I’d tell you to warn them the way someone feels does not justify their behaviour, I’d tell you to warn them that “trust issues” is code for domestic abuse.
I’d tell you that abuse thrives in secrecy.
I’d tell you we shouldn’t carry the shame for the actions of others.
While a little bit of stress may be good for us to get working well, too much and we’re tipping into anxiety, panic then burnout. Too much stress and we lose motivation, it’s more difficult to concentrate and to remember things. Sometimes when we’re stressedout we keep jabbing at the thing we’re trying to do. We get frustrated and angry, and we can’t get anything done properly.
At this point you need to
Go do something else for a time. Then come back to it. If it’s your life overall that is stressful, try to find some time in your day where you can do something mindful or fun. This helps reduce your stress levels, and allow your brain to start processing properly. When I tell students this they sometimes say
“I don’t have time!!!”
But you do. Because by taking time out here and there and giving your brain some recovery time. You’ll actually be able to think more clearly, work will become easier and you’ll increase your memory and concentration.
For example, did you know that just 1 hour of gardening each week has been shown to reduce anxiety? Just this small amount of time each week can have amazing benefits.
What mindful activities do you do to relieve stress?
A Third Culture Kid or TCK for short is a young person who has lived for a significant amount of time outside of their parents home country. Sometimes called Transnational Kids or Cross Cultural Kids, their personal identity will be different from both that of their parents and the cultures in which they live. They become a hybrid of the two; hence the term “third culture”.
There are approximately 600 million people worldwide who live outside of their birth country for various reasons; some families only live in countries for a set period of time (e.g. diplomatic staff, military families, those who work for some international corporations), others move out of necessity (displacement due to war etc) and others permanently migrate to another country.
The diagram above can help people understand how they are different and similar to both their parents and the wider culture. They can use the structure to figure out what aspects of their identity come from where, and what they also find difficult. For example some young people lose the ability to speak their parents home language so can find it difficult to converse with grandparents.
How about you? Are you a TCK? What have you found to be the difficulties and the strengths you’ve gained from living away from your parents passport country?
2 months into Covid19 and I’m finally hitting a wall. A wall that most people I think have already ran into by now. I am so over every conversation, every news piece, every way this has seeped into our psyches. My brain is finally fuzzy with an overload of cortisol and I feel like I’m wading through toffee to do the simplest of tasks. This is a normal physiological reaction to an overload of stress. I am grumpy and I am stressed. It’ll pass and I’ll pop out the other side, I’m sure, but in the meantime here’s some things that would really help me:
1. STOP telling me to “stay safe”
Safety is the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is fundamental to our wellbeing. On a logical level I don’t feel unsafe right now. I’m doing the things that are asked of me and I’m generally healthy. But everytime someone tells me to “Stay safe” they are reminding me that I am unsafe – that I should be on the lookout for danger and that spikes my anxiety levels. And an overload of anxiety = not being able to think properly.
2. Please STOP telling me to [insert unsolicited safety advice in here]...
I’m not meaning Ministry of Health or WHO here. I’m talking about that bloke you know who is always reminding you to bleach your doorstep, that it’s all a global conspiracy or don’t buy stuff from China (which makes no sense and is tinged with more than a splattering of racism). Again I am doing all the stuff the MoH is asking of me. I am not putting myself in harms way as much as humanly possible given the threat is INVISIBLE! I don’t need reminding every five minutes that I should be feeling unsafe right now.
3. Please STOP adding my work email to your companies mass mailouts.
If I didn’t have contact with you before all this started what makes you think I care about how your company is dealing with Covid19? I don’t. And I don’t need you spamming me about a pandemic every couple of days.
I recognise the irony of writing a post asking people to stop talking to me about Covid19 and safety. And I also recognise that people need to talk about it to process what is happening. So take care of yourselves out there. Remember feeling like you’re wading through toffee is the new normal so take steps yourself to reduce those stress chemicals. This is what I need – what do you?
The idea that we need to care for ourselves is not new but many of us still neglect it. Why? I think it’s because when times are good, like our physical health, we don’t take much notice of our mental and emotional health. We just potter on.
On the flipside some of us roll our eyes at the idea of self care while actually practising it. Self Care doesn’t have to mean sitting meditating every day, for example it doesn’t do it for me, but exercise where I can immersed in the moment does. For some spiritual self care will be about prayer, for others walking in the woods with their dogs will rejuvenate their spirit.
It also depends on how you are doing overall. If your emotional weather is generally sunny at the moment, self care is putting routines in place that can help you when your storms come. If you’re in the midst of a mental health crisis your self care routine may be as simple as focusing on ensuring you have eaten & had a shower. Something which isn’t as simple as it sounds when you are not doing okay.
Your support system is also really important to acknowledge – who can you turn to if the going gets tough, or to have fun with this week? Your support system doesn’t have to be IRL it could be friends online, helpline numbers or support services. There is always support out there, no matter how alone you feel.
So choose to take some small steps today to invest in your emotional wellbeing – it would be great to hear how you look after yourself in the comments!
If you feel uncomfortable, upset or angry when someone does something, chances are your boundaries – the actions you will tolerate towards yourself – have been violated. Some of us don’t want to challenge that person because we hate conflict. Some of us think that if we show them we are unhappy they will understand and not do it again. It doesn’t work. You need to be explicit and here is how:
I felt uncomfortable when you criticised me in front of my friends.
I would like you to talk to me in private if you need to tell me something.
If you continue to criticise me in public I will no longer be friends with you.
OR if you no longer want to be friends: to protect myself I will no longer ask you to come out with me.
I used to do sexual health outreach sessions in the city centre, and there is always problems with doing any kind of condom demonstration out on the streets as, well, you don’t want to be brandishing, what to many members of the public anyway, looks like a plastic penis…
Soooo I’ve made a ‘furry box’ – this has the advantage of not only being ‘discreet’ but it also helps young people practice putting condoms on in the dark.
They are also fairly cheap and easy to make. Before you start you will need:
1. A box with a lid – I use a photocopy paper box
2. Some outlandish fake fur
4. Glue and/or staples
Okay-cokey – Ready? Lets Go…
Remove the lid and cut 2 holes in either side of the box so when the lid goes back on you can stick your hands through comfortably as shown below:
Step 2: Cover the lid with fur using either the glue or the staples to hold it in place.
Step 3: Cover the base with fur as above
And TA-DA! You should have something which resembles the one below.
Stick a condom demonstrator in it and a load of condoms and challenge young people to see if they can put a condom on in the dark.
One of the main issues I work with as a counsellor is relationships and how people can become closer to the ones they love. Often they have gotten into patterns of controlling behaviour and seem to think if only the other person could change their behaviour then they would be happy. But relationships are not one sided and no-one has a magic control wand that makes other people do what they want them to do. So just as no-one can control you, you can’t control anyone else. The only persons behaviour you can control is your own. That is not to say people don’t try to – they will bribe, threaten, nag, criticise and punish to attempt to get people to do what they want. This doesn’t bring people together though, it tends to pull them apart. I may be going out on a limb here but I’m pretty certain you don’t like anyone trying to control you.
William Glasser in Choice Theory talks about 7 Deadly Habits: deadly because they are likely to kill any relationship, whether that be romantic or friendship. He also talks about 7 Caring or Connecting Habits which will bring people closer together. Both are below:
People are often quick to tell you what the other person has done, or not done. They get frustrated and possibly angered at the other person. Reminding them that the only behaviour they can control is their own, I always ask:
What do you want from your relationship? Do you want to stay together?
What are the main problems in your relationship?
What are you doing that are sustaining these problems?
What is going well in your relationship?
What is one thing this week you could do in terms of your behaviour that will bring you closer to the relationship you want?
Most people can think of at least one thing they can do. It could be as simple as eating together without playing on their phone, or asking how their day was. If you are in a rut with your relationship, give these a go. Reflect and make a small change today.
About a month ago I was diagnosed with mild to moderate SNHL which means, in a nutshell, I am a little bit deaf. In both ears.
It is something which normally happens as we get older, it’s just mine was accelerated a bit. Cos clearly at 39 I’m still young! Well according to the Audiologist – who I clearly liked!
But what is, is. It’s not like I didn’t know it, not really. I’ve known I find it difficult to hear people speak when I don’t wear my glasses for years. Like it must be at least 15 years ago I first noticed it. My contact lenses had fallen out at work and I had to get within a metre of young people to understand what they were saying. (FYI that’s a lip reading thing NOT a woah the vibrations through my glasses help me hear kinda witchcraft).
So anyway after Jason telling me I was deaf for years, the hearing test finally confirmed it. Bilateral SNHL.
Basically I can’t hear you if you whisper. And sometimes if there’s too much background noise. I also can’t hear you if you cover your mouth then you speak. Also, apparently I have problems with the letters S and F and th sound meaning I may mishear you and make stuff up in my head. So sorry about that, please bare with me.
Today I’m trialling a hearing aid. I’m hearing sounds that I only just realise now that I haven’t heard for years. The opening of a cigarette packet, the whirling of overhead fans, the mutterings of Jason…
Only around 1 in 6 people who need one will get a hearing aid. I get it, glasses are acceptable; hearing aids aren’t. Many people do not want the world to know that they are disabled. Or old. Theres stigma. There’s not wanting to be treated differently. Or its vanity. Whatever.
Since telling my friends I’m a bit deaf, three people I know have told me their story. We are all around 40. We all have hearing loss akin to people at least 20 years older. So theres more of you. I know there is. We were born around the time the Walkman was invented. We laughed in the face of the warnings that told us to turn down our music. We danced by the bass speakers in drum n bass clubs. We never thought we’d get “old”.
There are so many people hiding their hearing loss so please, you people with perfect hearing… if you are given the option… ALWAYS use the mic.
I finally finished watching the third season of 13 Reasons Why and I wanted to pick up something the (new) school counsellor says to Clay Jenkins.
He asks “how do you do your job everyday when nothing ever changes?”
She replies by telling him that he personally helped Tyler change by encouraging him to seek help. She says all she does is show up. Good days. Bad days. She shows up, implying that’s all most people need. Someone reliable they can talk to when things are tough. That and I believe someone who hangs onto the hope that things can and do change for people. That things can get better.
In the show Clay is that person. He is the keeper of secrets, the friend most people turn to when there is a crisis. He shows up. And you can see the weight of what he carries around.
You can also see that without all that weight he would be lighter, happier.
I’m not arguing that you should stop listening to your friends. I am arguing however that if you are a “Clay Jenkins” please speak to someone to offload, maybe someone like me, a school counsellor. You don’t need to tell us your friends secrets, just how you are doing so you don’t take on too much. Counsellors have Supervision to help them deal with everything they hear – use us to help you deal with what you do.
Grief is a funny old beast, usually reserved for loved ones who die, but can also sneak up on you for people who have left, for an incarnation of who you once were, or for a place or time when things were good; different. Living away from home can sometimes seem to be a never ending cycle of grief, renewal, loss & hope.
In many ways we are really privileged. There are reasons many of us came to where we are – usually the employment opportunities and pay is better than in our home countries, for one or both of us. Our Instagram feeds are filled with photographs of far off destinations that we are blessed to be able to travel to because of proximity, low cost and said better pay. Even when we’re not on holiday, we often live in countries where the sun always shines, looking like we’re having a fabulous time. According to our Instagram feeds. And it feels somewhat spoilt to talk about the other side of living away. Because living away is a choice that we make. We are not fleeing war or persecution. We’re looking for jobs, opportunities, adventures… no one forced us here. Even those of us whose employers told them they had to move had the choice to look for alternative employment. Granted the alternative could be unemployment in our home countries, but it’s still a choice and one that lots of people left behind may also make if afforded the opportunities we had.
But yet still. Despite how shiny our lives look there is an undercurrent. An undercurrent of not quite fitting in. Of finding people we connect with, who we love, who become family, who move on. People who inevitably leave. It’s like falling in love then losing that person year after year. When you stay in your home country, your family & your friends (for the most part) remain the same. Abroad we try desperately to make a connection to then find it’s ripped away. We find someone we want to hang out with, then discover they are leaving 6 months from now.
Some of us grieve for who we once were. We might have been someone in a previous life. We may have had a career, aspirations, achievements that other people knew us for. People knew our story. Yet when we move we are a story that hasn’t been read yet. A book maybe people aren’t too interested in. A book that has been placed on a shelf way at the back, that perhaps can’t be bothered anymore to try and be read.
With every move there are gains. And with every move there are losses. Unresolved grief can strangle us into depression and unsurprisingly many people who have moved multiple times can find themselves suddenly and unexpectedly mentally unwell. On top of this can come guilt for being ungrateful for the life you have. How can I be unhappy when I have all this? Why am I constantly angry even though I have all this? Which can send you spiralling further…
It’s okay to grieve and not feel okay. Talk it out with someone if you can. Find a therapist who understands transition and unresolved grief. Make a list of everything and everyone you’ve lost along the way – acknowledge what they meant to you & say your goodbyes again. Give yourself time to heal.
I bought these coloured lolly pop sticks a little while ago & finally got around to writing on them today. Each stick has the start of a sentence on it which the young people can finish.
Ideally they shouldn’t think too hard about what they answer. A way to do this could be to give them a sheet of paper & ask them to write down the first thing that comes into their head.
You could do a similar thing if you are into journaling and want random topics to write about. You could write things like – love, politics, family, religion, hope, tragedy, fulfilment etc on them and pull them out at random. You could colour coordinate them as well, so the yellow ones could be internal emotions say, the orange could be about relationships, blue about the world, green about self etc. The questions or topics you devise will depend on who is going to use them and for what purpose.
Mine will be used in counselling with young people so explore a range of emotions, wishes and coping strategies. What will you use yours for?
“When we don’t consent to flirting, when it’s not reciprocated and it’s repeated, it is harassment. Hissing “slut” at women is harassment. Rape threats online is harassment.”
A contribution by Aylssa Cowell
There are only two legitimate reasons for sex: fun or procreation. I cannot think of any other circumstance for it to be okay if it is not fun. If it stops being fun, then it should stop too, unless you’re desperate and are both consenting to get pregnant.
Sex should never hurt.
Consent cannot be given if the person is asleep, passed out, or if you are threatening or hurting them to comply.
But then most sexual assault and rape is about power, not sex. Assault of the sexual kind is about getting what you want, about getting yourself off, your own selfish wants and desires with complete disregard of the other person or people you’re doing it to.
Both are such simple words, but when it comes to sex, they are sometimes difficult to say. Worried about what will happen if we say ‘no’ and they go ahead anyway, or worse? We’re always thinking three steps ahead. “If I say no, what are the consequences? What about this? If I show them, I’m not into this, they will stop. They’ll have to stop… right?”
But when unable to voice ‘no’, we scream it with our body language. We throw off signs like:
we’re just not into it… you can see we’re just not into it… we are hiding in our minds wanting it to be over,
please just hurry up and let this be over.
“But if they weren’t into it, why didn’t they fight back,” others will judge later, “Surely, they would’ve fought back because that’s what I would do.”
That’s because so many of us do not that that the common response to trauma is to freeze.
Too many of you reading this will have your own stories. That time when…The repeated abuse when…
Please know that you did not deserve it and you are believed. The World Health Organisation estimates that worldwide 20 to 25 percent of women and 10 to 15 percent of men will be victims of sexual violence in their lifetime. More will be sexually harassed. How many of us have been creeped out by someone’s behaviour? When does flirting tip over into harassment?
The simple answer is consent. When we don’t consent to flirting, when it’s not reciprocated and it’s repeated, it is harassment. Hissing “slut” at women is harassment. Rape threats online is harassment. Being touched without consent is assault. Are you aware the Brunei Penal Code protects you from this? That there are actual laws in place to help you should you choose that route?
It doesn’t matter what your relationship status is, no one has the legal or moral right to demand any sexual contact without your full & enthusiastic consent. Lack of consent = sexual assault / rape.
Sexual consent should be given freely, it should be informed, reversible and it should be enthusiastic. And it is up to you, regardless of gender, to ensure that your partner consents fully. Just because we agree once to something doesn’t mean we have to do that same thing again. Just because we do one thing doesn’t mean we have to do the next.
So, what does enthusiastic consent look like in real life?
It looks like enjoyment.
It looks like smiles and laughter, and pulling closer.
It sounds like ‘yes’.
It considers all forms of communication – the words that we say, how we say them, and our body language. It checks that all of these are in alignment – that they all are saying ‘yes – this is fun’. It takes into account that a slight push away of the wrist or a turning away of the head means ‘I’m not into this’.
Relationships & Sex Education was a massive part of my previous work history. Until I moved to Brunei in 2014 I trained professionals in the UK in loads of different courses freelance or in partnership with the NHS. Since I’ve been out here I haven’t done much sexual health training at all. Maybe once a year.
Today I had the absolute privilege to facilitate training with professionals from Thailand, Singapore & Hong Kong looking at comprehensive sexuality education. It was a hilarious, laughter filled day discussing serious issues and ways we can help young people navigate the complexity of growing up.
I wish all the best to the participants & hope they go back to their respective schools with ideas & the momentum to inspire change.
And it has renewed in me why I am passionate about this subject and being an alternate source of education than the internet for young people.
I worry sometimes about young people and technology. No not for the reasons you might think of straight away. Not the sexting. Not the access to explicit content. Not the bullying. Not the myriad of horrendous people online. I’ve seen young people take down and deal with all of that spectacularly – its a world they’ve grown up in – most of the time that’s the easy stuff. No what I am worried about is the inability to turn off the tech from friends and within romantic relationships.
When I was young – the very sentence makes me sound old – I went to school and saw my friends. I ‘played out’ – I saw my friends. I went home and over-analysed every minute detail of the day over the phone with my friends, until my mam or her mam screamed at us to get off the phone… the phonebill!! blah blah blah. Same with my boyfriend. I saw him for a couple of hours a day max. There was always a period of the day where we were alone or with my brothers, probably arguing about something someone had stolen off someone else. I left my friends and my boyfriends behind physically, and often mentally. I just watched the TV, listened to music or, perhaps wrote out song lyrics which completely expressed my unrequited love (true story).
Whatever drama was going on, I got a break from it.
Now this is important. When we are worried about someone or something our stress chemicals flood our brain. We need time where we are distracted, doing something, anything, that helps reset this. If you walked into your house and your bathroom was flooded, what would be the first thing you’d do? Hopefully it would be to turn off the tap. Same with stress and anxiety. You need to be able to turn off the tap. In my job as a school counsellor I ‘prescribe’ fun activities as an antidote to stress. You need to be able to switch off.
Now I think this is where the problem lies. The tech has given young people access to each other 24 hours a day. When a friend leaves them ‘on read’ they get angry, or anxious that they’ve done something wrong. Moreover there is no getting away from each others drama. Or if someone is having a really tough time – of course as friends you want to support them. But where does it stop? I have heard stories of young people acting as mini-therapists to their friends until 3am, sacrificing their own health to help their friends. I know of young people – absolute heroes – that have talked other young people out of suicide in the early hours of the morning. The weight of this lies heavy on the shoulders of the helpers as anyone who works in the helping profession knows. But young people don’t have supervision. They don’t understand the meaning of self care and shutting off. And one by one they become more stressed and anxious, but unable to pin point why.
Then there’s romantic relationships. Leave me on facetime while you sleep. Connected all night. Expectations to be supported and to be there for each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Expected instant replies. Expected password sharing. Expectations that were not there 20 years ago.
To young people I say this. You are absolute superstars and the support and help you give each other is tremendous. However you cannot drink from an empty cup as they say. Please, please, please consider setting some boundaries. Think about turning your internet off at 10pm. Get yourself some rest. Spend some time on you having fun. Get out into nature. Laugh. The world will be there tomorrow. Self Care is not selfish, and anyone who tells you it is, is. Continue reading Navigating Tech and Relationships
In light of the renewed interest in the allegations against Michael Jackson, I thought I’d post this discussion from back in 2013 when I was interviewed for a Brook project on talking about sexual pleasure within Relationships and Sex Education. As Steve also says, children and young people who are sexually abused or exploited do not have the words to say, nor sometimes even understand what is happening for them. Comprehensive sex and relationships education for all is essential in this regard to safeguard young people from abuse.
2017 was a very difficult year for me – I learnt a lot from almost falling down a very dark hole and the struggle to get back out. So when 2018 came along I found myself in the first couple of months trying things I’d never done before. Now whether this is a direct result of 2017 or if it’s an age thing (hurtling towards 40 at what seems like warp speed) I’m not sure but it turned out to be a great year. I decided early on to try new things each month and report back on them. I can’t say I was particularly good at reporting back each month but it was great fun. So in 2018 I tried the following:
January: Poetry Slam. This was petrifying and it’s really hard to write poetry!
February: Stand-Up Comedy. I did a 10 hour course with Bruhaha and performed for the first time in February. In total I have done 4 shows this year. Great fun.
March: Staff Dance Troupe.We performed in front of staff & students. Good fun and I didn’t forget too many steps but not interested as a long term activity.
April: Build a Website. I built this one. It still needs a lot of work but its a start.
May: Illustrated Lettering. Good as a mindful activity but I don’t have the patience for calligraphy.
June: Graduated with a Hat! Swish Swish!! And I cannot rock a graduation hat.
July: Dance Photography. Not as glamorous as I expected.
August: Grow Vegetables. I had high hopes but come Dec only the Chinese leafy vegetables and my herbs have survived. Replanting & hoping for a better 2019.
September: Sailing. We nearly capsized. I was glad I wasn’t in charge.
October: Join a Sports Team! The Womens Rugby Tournament was fun & I scored!
November: Clay Modelling. Fun but too messy – can’t see me getting a kiln anytime soon.
December: Make a Dessert. Nutella Cheesecake which was so tasty I made it a second time!
So for 2019? I’d like to get better at Photography and at Stand Up Comedy. I’m enjoying taking photos of surfing and of sports fixtures. And animals. I’d like to perform stand up outside of Brunei so the censorship restrictions aren’t there and I can talk about way more things that happen to me in everyday life. I’m going to carry on trying not to kill plants.
Other than that I think I’ll still try new things as I’ve enjoyed the purpose of this year. I hope your 2019 is full of life and adventure, and lots and lots of laughter. As Gretchen Ruben says – the days are long but the years are short, so pack as much as you can in there. Goodbye 2018. Hello 2019.