Gender Stereotypes & Mental Health

Okay… so this could be a tricky one. I’d like whoever reads this to keep an open mind, I am not trying to say my way of thinking is correct or that anyone actually has to agree with it, I just want you to try and keep an open mind. Also it is going to be a little stream of consciousness like so bear with me.

I have a lot of friends who are LGBT+ and I’ve had issues with my own femininity in the past. I’m cis gendered, which means I am comfortable with the gender I was born with but I don’t fit a lot of the stereotypes that come with my gender. I recently cut my hair very short and since then have received criticism and compliments both about my hair including insinuations that I must be a butch lesbian amongst other comments. Yesterday a tyre blew out on my car and I posted on fbk about it and I got comments about ‘girl power’ and how unusual it is for a girl to change their tyre. I admit I struggled getting the nuts off cos damn they are tight and had to call my husband for advice as he’d shown me what to do but I hadn’t done it solo before… but why does gender even come into it?

I’ve always been into things that aren’t considered girly, and if as a cis-gendered person I can be made to feel uncomfortable and question myself how hard must it be for people who don’t fit into that pigeon hole of ‘normal’. What is normal anyway? I am a gamer, I am into computers, I don’t do makeup or shave my legs and I don’t feel the need to jump up and down and scream at every exciting thing in life. I don’t sleep around, lead guys on or play games… flirting can be fun but only if both sides know that is all it is and if not its dangerous waters. (Note I’m married and happy with my partner at this point anyways).

This lack of girly behaviour made me unusual at my school were 3 girls dropped out pregnant, it also made me a case for sexual harassment from other students on top of the normal bullying, thankfully it never went far enough to be traumatising, just irritating.  Also being forced to wear skirts was a hell for me, I always wore shorts underneath to save embarrassments but I so wish trousers had been in. Apparently during primary school the other kids thought I must be a lesbian because I wasn’t interested in guys, hell I just wasn’t interested in anything until one particular guy got my attention in the final year of senior school, it just wasn’t on my radar. I know plenty of people who are a-sexual still going into their 30’s, there is nothing wrong with it. There are people who enjoy casual relationships but don’t need a partner and prefer it that way.

Being outside the ‘normal’ can easily feel persecuted and the need to hide the extent of your ‘wierdness’ can be exhausting. There is also the social pressure to fit in, that leads you to think ‘maybe I should try and fit my gender a bit more’. When you already live a life of anxiety and depression then societal pressures about gender and who you like so don’t need to be added on top. I have enough issues and my friends have a lot more from stereotypes to outright sexism or homophobia.

Why does gender matter? Why does who you fall in love with matter? Aren’t we all just people? I feel like life is too short to live with all this hate, how does the way we live effect you? Why do you feel the need to judge? Some people can take comments and brush them off and for some people it can be soul crushing and lead to a steep mental health dive. I have an anorexic friend who suffers the same issue of random strangers judging them and making comments that are either outright hurtful or that they think would help. It doesn’t even have to be gender issues, just anything visually unusual.

I am proud of who I am, I don’t feel like I should need to hide who I am or who I like but I also know that sharing information with the wrong people is still dangerous in this world. I love people, I don’t care what shape, size, gender, sexuality or religion they are as long as no one tries to pressure their views onto me we are all good. All I care about is that people are healthy and happy and so very few of us are. Modern society prosecutes and pushes us until we break, and there is no shame in breaking its only human. Hell 6 year old children are being treated for depression these days, mine didn’t hit until I was 16 with GCSE’s and my first death in the family.

You never know what someone is going through, how close they are to breaking. You never know where their insecurities lay. Some people will show it openly but a lot of people hide and have coping mechanisms so people don’t see. This is something I always try and consider (and don’t always get right) when interacting with people. Don’t hold bad days against people, don’t give up just because they are struggling because that is when they need you the most.

A friend once posted a quote “being well adjusted to a broken world is no good thing” so for those non-adjusted people amongst us, keep strong.

Self-Kindness Pt2

As a quick refresher the rough theme of this is going to continue (in a rather belated fashion) from where I left off in my last post https://selfcarediary.blog/2018/05/05/self-care-self-kindness-pt1/

It’s late and I am tired but I’ve been putting off or just plain not thinking enough to do a post and I need to get back on track in more ways that one. I’ve had a blip in my self care plan, you could call it a temporary break. In the spirit of being kind to myself I am not going to feel guilty or beat myself up about that, I am only human and I am trying.

Things to Celebrate

So this week I have managed to exercise 2 days out of my 5 day goal, despite not meeting my goal this is still progress. After all at one point I didn’t exercise at all!

I have also managed to get more than 6.5 hours sleep a night for the last week, it’s not quite my goal of between 7 & 8 hours a night but still its steady away.

I’ve kept in good communication with my partner and we are discussing issues together rather than either of us dealing with things alone. I also managed to see that his mind had gone down a guilty path and pulled him back round from beating himself up before he sank too far. Particularly proud of that one as even though we’ve been together 8 years I still have trouble between certain expressions. For example I often struggle between him being quiet and worried about something or just tired.

I decided to live with my body rather than fight it, I bought jeans that fit rather than the size I wanted to be.

Things to Learn From

So… I’ve not met all my goals… my brain naturally wants to view this as a failure and use this failure as a reason not to bother trying at all because what is the point, I’m just a useless failure anyway. Wrong.

What would I tell someone else who talked to me about this? What do my friends say to me when I voice these kinds of opinions? What about the questions I displayed in pt1?

  • What went right when I met my goals?
  • Why didn’t it happen the other days?

I think in this case it all comes down to motivation… I lost and then re-found my motivation to look after myself. How I did it? A little step at a time, doing one little thing for myself and another little thing until I felt like I had enough spoons or motivation to do a bigger thing. Or just out of a need to not keep going backwards.

Mindset Changes

I’ve touched on issues with my weight before, this week as stated I made a move in how I feel about my body. I need to stop thinking of myself as this failure of a gelatinous blob that is about as sexy as said description.

I’ll never have a flat stomach, I’ll probably never be a comfortable size 10 again. It’s not the end of the world. What is important isn’t what number the scales say or how many inches are around my waist… much as I still have strong feelings about said things. Punishing myself for what nature has given me is the opposite of self care and very much unkind. I wouldn’t be as critical or judgemental of anyone else’s shape so why should I do it to myself?

So my resolution is this > I am going to eat well and exercise, get my sleep and look after myself. My weight or waist may well change with this but the real importance is that I am healthy and nourished so I am going to try and remind myself of that whenever I catch a look at myself and dislike what I see.

Goodnight 🙂

Self Care & Self Kindness Pt1

Konnichiwa!

The focus for today’s writing is to try and focus on the good things in our lives, the things we manage to do, not the things we neglect. I will get in the counter argument early, yes it is important to acknowledge were we fail and fall down BUT it is more important to work out ways to avoid doing it again or just accept that it happens and learn how to pick back up again.

It is the difference between sitting looking back and feeling rubbish about yourself and looking forward about how things can be better. Sometimes you have to weather the storm of a bad day, or a bad week and keep going on the basis of you know it will pass. The last week I’ve taken a pretty bad dip, but I kept going as best I could and yesterday I started to pick up again. I got the gym, I didn’t eat crap… I’ve started a turn around. I know, I’ll have to do it again. 

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is a different way to label these ‘failures’ so it doesn’t sound so dire in your head. Much like changing the way we use the words should, want and need to better represent real priorities and to change the way we pressure ourselves. Though finding a way to word it that doesn’t put ourselves down still is tricky. After some input from friends I’ve had a suggestion that sounds good to me, it depends on how your mind works as does a lot of what I say but the idea is to approach it like a maths problem from an external viewpoint as if you were advising a friend.

  • Jenny wants to exercise for 30 minutes a day. This week she achieved her goal twice.
    • What can Jenny do to improve?
      • What went right?/why did she do it those days
      • What went wrong?/ Why didn’t it happen
      • What can she do to make the stuff that went wrong look more like the stuff that went right
    • It takes out the personal nature of the problem meaning that you don’t emotionally respond and you have a positive action moving forward.

What do you think? Do you have your own ideas?

Part 2 will follow later today or tomorrow, I figured I’d get this out there then continue later.

Spoons

I started off with all this determination and energy… I wasn’t exactly full of energy but something drove me to better myself. I’ve rambled on about anger issues, how important communication is, that I want to eat better and lose weight… get back into writing my novel, up my exercise to com bat the stress…

You know how long it lasted? A week… a lonely sodding week. I’m exhausted and drained having undone any of the goodness my initial renewment of self-care made. I also seem to have become temporarily decision anxious and have much analysis paralysis.

Started a post up the last few days and just nothing has come out. The most frustrating thing is with this recent slump is nothing new is going wrong. My job is very stressful but my general life outside of it is pretty good really, and my stressful job pays for it. Yet here I am trapped in my own head making up enough demons and ailments for a dozen people let alone myself.

Self-care can create a stable basis but it takes spoons to do it… and then there is the next step of challenging our negative thoughts, or accepting things as they are… doing something about the way I feel.

Maybe I have been a bit naive in thinking I could take it in turns or just focus on one side of the coin.

Dunno… out of words for now so I’ll just leave it there…

Balance & Self Image

I was a little uninspired yesterday so I thought rather than try and force a topic I’d wait until one came to me. I suppose this was a good thing in a way because nothing happened yesterday that made me think ‘I must write about this!’. I do feel like I have become a broken record recently where everything is mental health and self care and I don’t talk about anything else :/ I hope it isn’t getting tiresome for my friends.

But today there is a little something to celebrate and something that has given me a lot to think about.

Self-Care Update

So I’m still working on the same basics, until I get these down I’m not trying to go for anything more complicated. Good sleep pattern, regular exercise and healthier eating habits. There are other things I need/want to do but I have to pick my battles and how many things I am fighting at once or I will just burn out on it and stop. I’m stumbling enough as it is.

Celebrate

So in the featured image today is an outfit I bought in Japan in February of last year… which I haven’t worn until today due to a level of paranoia about standing out etc etc. I was finally brave enough to wear it out today! It is a gothic/punk style Lolita outfit, could lump it under kuro lolita I guess. However my outer jacket doesn’t fit anymore and this leads me onto my main topic of the day.

Self Image Issues

Even the most well adjusted of us has something about our physical form that bothers us, even if it’s just being an inch too short to reach the top cupboard. Some of us are much worse and its a task to find Anything at all we like about our physical forms. We usually end up with two choices; fix it or learn to be happy with it.

I, despite what anyone else tells me, feel at best a plain Jane and at worst a gelatinous blob that no one would want to look at. All in all I’m not that bad, my thighs feel pretty massive sometimes but what really upsets me when I think about myself if my torso. I have fairly small breasts which makes pulling of a lot of tops off really hard (I know big would be worse but still) and right below them the fat starts… it used to be flat over the ribs and just a bit of a pot belly. I know I will Never be able to get rid of the pot belly but right now its massive. I am 2 stone heavier than I used to be when I was far happier with myself.

I get the feeling I wouldn’t be happy with myself even if I lost the weight but at least I would fit in my nicer clothes that currently won’t fit at all or feel really stretched and show off all the unwelcome bumps.

Self Care vs Self Image

All this effects how I feel about myself and part of my self care has to be to deal with this… so… which path do I take and when?

I said before that I have to pick my fights… right now eating healthily is hard enough without calorie counting on top of that… but today made me want to lose weight Now. Healthy eating and exercise should by rights reduce my waistline anyway and then I have a better footing for dropping calories and an established healthier lifestyle.

But it can be difficult to apply the patience we need to make a sustainable change.

It is too easy to rush in guns blazing and burn out… been there done that. At one point on slimming world I got to target… but I put the weight back on for various reasons and haven’t been able to find the same commitment to the program again. I can’t for the life of me tell you why it worked the first time and not after.

I am not sure what to do for the best atm… a quick change would give me a boost sooner… but is jumping a few steps really a good idea?

 

Drowning

I sat down to start this post and it was going to be about what I missed posting yesterday about my day. In a very short space of time my mood has taken a drastic swing from the hopeful things are going well to what’s the point in trying. The reason? Chemicals and hormones… I have been exhausted all night which  put pay to my original ideas of getting on top of the house or getting back on the treadmill.

Its been a bit of an average day, work is the usual amount of stressful and frustrating. But I’ve been feeling physically tired for a good few days and I guess I just hit the mental side of the exhaustion coin.

I haven’t made my lunch for tomorrow, tea was just fish rather than something well rounded and tbh I’ve barely drunk enough except tea at my desk through the day to keep myself awake (yeah I know I was cutting down on caffeine, I was also not going to go to KFC but I’m just a hypocrite aren’t I).

I could go on… right now I hate myself… I’ve procrastinated, I’ve been lazy and self indulgent and let go of my self care and I’m not even on the two week mark. I am exhausted and I’m not sure if I would rather scream and punch the wall or curl up in a ball and cry. I’m a walking ball of negative energy and let me tell you it sucks.

BUT “Never let a stumble in the road be the end of your journey”

I saw this awhile ago on facebook, I don’t remember who posted it. Right now I am stumbling… I have stumbled before and I will again…right now I’ve lost the energy to fight and I’ve grown exhausted from trying.

I’ll probably still be tired tomorrow, it takes a little time to claw the energy back but the important thing isn’t when we fall down, it is that we get back up at all. 

I’m not going to stay down. I’ll get my fight back, just not tonight… so I don’t need to beat myself up about it. I’m just low right now, nothing to be ashamed of or worry about and it doesn’t make me weak… I am just not as strong right now.

I’d love to hear back from people about what you do to get your fight back when you’ve feel like your lying on the ground.

Most times in life, I keep putting one foot in front of the other and at some point realise its not as bad anymore and I’m not feeling as dark without ever understanding the mechanism behind it.

Looking Back, Forward and Now

Another mixed bag day, its not all that surprising really, life is like that. No day is perfect and no road to recovery is a straight line. When the changes are small and subtle they take awhile to build up and we can get frustrated with it. With any luck it will be two steps forward, one step back not the other way around. And some periods in our lives are just easier than others, for example I know that once this big project at work gets past development things will settle down a bit.

Random Acts of Kindness

You should see something in the featured image that really gave me a reason to smile today. A present was left on my desk by a work friend and now gets to sit smiling at me while I am at my desk. I was goofy happy and ended up hugging my colleague in the middle of the office :P.

For those that don’t know, this is Totoro from the Studio Ghibli film ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ and it is one of the things we most share in common, along with a love of cats. My all time favourite is ‘Laputa: Castle in the Sky’ and this was my gateway into Japanese anime as a child. I picked up the hobby of watching anime in a move that I suppose could be called self care, nurturing a hobby that makes me feel good and bringing friends together. I have a group of a dozen or so other anime fans and we meet up once a month or so and share a couple of episodes of different series.

I’ll call it half on half off topic, but either way it is a fun thing to think about and lightens my mind when I think about it, and now I have a poster at work to remind me when I need moment to look away. Never underestimate the value or effect of a random act of kindness, support from colleagues or friends can go a long way and be such a life saver. If you don’t have that at the moment maybe you can find a random act of kindness of your own to guide the way.

Things to look forward to

So since September I have been taking a part time Japanese course, we are planning on our second trip out there next year. Having something like that holiday to look forward to can really help give me a light even if its far away I can see it there in the distance. I know Japan isn’t something everyone can afford, for me it’s my reward for the high pressure, high stress job that I do. But there must be little victories that you can look forward to, even if its just a long weekend in the lakes for some fresh air and walking or just a calm weekend of doing nothing at all.

It has however added a lot of stress keeping up to it with everything else going on in life so sadly we are not taking the next class until the next academic year in 2019 to get other things done in the meantime. My partner wants to do online courses to switch from control systems to software and I want time to write my novel and make a real consistent go of it. I have a lifelong dream to accomplish, I made the first going to Japan and being dressed as a Geisha (who is an artist NOT a prostitute). We can’t do everything and rather than try we are being smart and prioritising. We don’t have to do everything at once, in fact its probably better that way.

Things to look back on

It occurs to me at this point in my post that while it is important to have things to look forward to it can also be important to look back on certain events. They don’t all have to be positive, just moments in life were you learned a valuable lesson you need to keep with you as you go forward in life, that will help you achieve your goals.

Living in the now

At the same time, we don’t want to keep living in the past or always looking to the future, this is where a practice called Mindfullness can come in handy. It is all about living in the moment, accepting who you are, where you are and how you feel, what you think. Accepting it and moving with it without judgement, guilt or ridicule. I’ve chucked in some links below to give you an idea. There is also a great app called Headspace that can help with this.

https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/#.Wt-bXMgvyHs

If you just aren’t the meditation type the very simplest way to bring yourself into the moment is so focus exclusively on your breathing. I have used this many times to ward of an anxiety attack or come back from hyperventilating. You find a quiet spot and you count your breaths, focus on the length of your breath, slow it down, extend it. Set a pace and make sure you spend more time breathing out than in. I can’t give you a guarantee but it works for me.

Should, Need, Want

So I’m drifting a bit on the food portion of self care and I know I am not really bulking up the sleep side as well as I should. There is that word… should… it can be an evil burrowing little word that whittles away at our sense of self worth. I should be pretty, I should be intelligent, I should be skinny, I should be feminine, I should be better than this… it puts pressure and stress on your every thought and action.

Other words that can have a large impact are need and want, they also often get mis-used. We need to eat, to sleep, to have time to relax… we want to have a career, to make that film at the cinema. Just basic examples but it can be very important, it puts focus and importance on something. Sure for good self care we should do things we want as well but we need to do the basic items of making our bodies run.

On that note… I get up for work at 6am and want to try and get 8 hours of potential sleep time which means being in bed and winding down to sleep by 10pm… It’s quarter past now so goodnight 🙂