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We all struggle

11 Oct

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day.

Yesterday, a very brave friend of mine spoke out about being diagnosed with bipolar earlier this year.

Yesterday I was reminded of Elyn Saks Ted Talk – one of the most open, compelling narratives I have ever heard from someone living with a long-term, isn’t-going-to-go-away mental illness.

Elyn Sacks is a legal scholar. A highly-qualified, highly-respected woman who does not want to be defined by her condition. A woman who doesn’t want to be labelled ‘schizophrenic’, preferring to be understood as ‘a person with schizophrenia’.

I love this distinction. It helps us all. Who, after all, wants to be defined by their struggles or scars? Who wants to look in the mirror and see the label ‘depressive’ or ‘loner’ or ‘addict’ or ‘loser’ stamped on their forehead (and all over their heart – where no-one else sees it)?

Who wants to be ‘the other’ when we are all, actually, in the same boat?

As Elyn says – so beautifully – “there’s a tremendous need to implode the myths of mental illness, to put a face on it, to show people that a diagnosis does not have to lead to a painful and oblique life … we are people, not diagnoses”.

How true.

Yet how we forget this: that we are people, each of us brimming with hopes and fears, dreams, struggles and potential. We are people who need to be loved, accepted and included. We are people. Human beings. And all of us struggle – some with physical ailments, some with emotional heartache and others with mental illness.

Let us not forget. We are all human, whatever our struggles.

We might try to cover them up. Yet we all struggle.

We all struggle. Maybe every day should be World Mental Health Day.


Summer, do you have to go?

20 Sep

Yes, I know – the blog has been somewhat dormant over the summer months. I guess it’s the opposite of conventional hibernation. I took some time out to reflect on why I am writing here. I was busy (it was indeed a fun-filled summer). And I had a little holiday. But, I am back in the world of blog once more and I hope that my writing will appear more frequently than it has of late.

Books I have loved this summer include:

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain) – this deserves its own blogpost (one is on its way). Absolutely brilliant.

Stone Arabia (Dana Spiotta) – original, intelligent fiction. Really makes you think about memory. Fascinating.

Ten Letters: To Be Delivered In The Event of My Death (Chris Russell) – there is so much goodness in this that I am reading it very slowly. Much to absorb and think about.

Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy – I read these earlier in the summer. I became obsessed. More than I ever have been over books. Utterly compelling, clever and creative. So sad that he died before he could write more books. I am now officially a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction (never thought I would utter those words!)

Blogs I have discovered:

Grief, 3 little girls, and God somewhere –

Anecdotes of a manic mum –

Very powerful blog on depression (and absolutely brilliant writing) –

Favourite summer moments:

Going to the Paralympics


A little holiday in Greece:

Getting completely and utterly, totally obsessed with the Olympics

The launch of LIV UK – an extraordinary charity that is building children’s villages for South Africa’s 5.2 million orphans. I am thrilled that I will be working for LIV UK over the next few months.

Beauty in motion

30 Aug

Last night, I watched the paralympic opening ceremony. If you fast-forward to 3hrs 11 minutes & 30 seconds – you will discover beauty in motion.

This dance (and the song Bird Gerhl – sung so hauntingly by 16-year old Birdy) is one of the most beautiful things I have seen for a very long time.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth spending a few minutes watching this.

And if you have – why not watch again? It is – after all – compellingly, extraordinarily beautiful.

An unconditional love

26 Jun

I read this blog post yesterday and cannot stop thinking about it.

I am thinking today about “unconditional love”, a phrase often bandied about – but rarely practised. What does it mean to love someone unconditionally? Accepting someone as they are now, not as-you-would-like-them-to-be?

Shari Johnson, who wrote the blogpost, speaks of unconditional love from a mother’s perspective. I want to learn this sort of love. And put it into practice. As Shari says: “I had always known that I had a problem with unconditional love, but I thought if I followed all the “rules” and “worked” for God and his Kingdom, I would get a pass on the love thing. I didn’t.”

Will we love unconditionally – even if it means being misunderstood by others. What if it means I am judged to have “lost my way” or “backslidden”? What if there is a cost?

I’d rather be judged and misunderstood than be the judge who misunderstands. I want to love those around me and accept them as they are, without agenda. Even when  there is a cost. For there will be. This love is not easy.

Life before (certain) death

22 Jun

This blog post is really worth reading – a deeply challenging and very moving account of a man facing his mortality, unable to hide or pretend anymore.

Somehow these diagnoses – the bad news of cancer – seem to bring clarity as well as sadness.

My aunt was recently told she has cancer of the lining of the lung. If you are the praying kind, please say a prayer for her. She is so brave.

The bad news of cancer is a reminder that none of us are immortal. That life should not be taken for granted. And that the important things are often different from those we prioritise day-to-day. As Clive James – another man facing his own death – said this morning on Radio 4: “we can’t take anything with us anyway”.

The challenge – for those of us who are healthy today – is to remember that we are not immortal either. And that our time here on earth is limited too. How does this shape how we live our lives today?

One (hand)step at a time

20 Jun

I’ve been thinking recently about how life sometimes feels like one mountain-climb after another – one struggle followed by another, one battle then another.

This short video stopped me in my tracks. Gratitude replaced complaint. Gratitude and awe.


Us (not “them and us”)

12 Jun

This is an amazing film about the work of Umthombo.

Umthombo is an NGO that wants to challenge the negative stereotypes enshrouding street children. The images of glue-sniffing victims – once so popular – have been replaced by a new mantra: “surfers not street children”. (And we could replace the word “surfer” with a number of others: skateboarder, student, champion…)

The label “street child” has become a dirty word in South Africa. It has widened the gap between “them” and “us”. Street children are seen as “the other”. They are “not like my children”. They are “criminals”, “dangerous”, “to-be-avoided-at-all-costs”. They are, quite simply, “not like us”.

This short film, and the work of Umthombo, challenges these preconceived, socially constructed beliefs (lies). It reveals how lives can be transformed when determined, compassionate people scavenge amongst that-seen-as-rubbish by wider society, refusing to believe that any life is beyond redemption.

Yet this transformation comes at a price; it’s not easy working on the frontline.

I know – I used to work with Tom (founder of Umthombo) many years ago. Yet the cost – the tears, tiredness and traumatic days – is worth it. One changed life is worth it.

Umthombo needs our support. These kids need our support. After all, they are surfers. They are skateboarders. They are champions. Not street children.

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