It Gets Better?

“Stay strong, Keaton. Don’t let them make you turn cold. I promise it gets better. While those punks at your school are deciding what kind of people they want to be in this world, how would you and your mom like to come to the Avengers premiere in LA next year?”

So these words were tweeted by Captain America himself, Chris Evans. A great gesture from a character whose sole purpose in creation was to help boost morale with the suggestion that anything is possible. Captain America itself is about a bullied and unfairly treated youth who gets genetically experimented on with the results being that he comes out buff, chiselled and awesome. The origin story itself is the embodiment of the phrase “It Gets Better”.

I get that we have to be supportive and understanding. These are kids we are dealing with, the people that are told they are “too young to be depressed” because they haven’t reached that stagnant point in their life yet. As a child or teenager your everyday should be filled with possibilities and the future should be unknown to anyone and everyone. You haven’t reached your full potential, you’re still growing and you’re still coming to terms with everything. Both biologically and socially you still haven’t reached a stable point in your life and so there is forever the idea that it gets better. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with telling this mantra to children because in a sense it’s true.

There is something bleak about life after your teenage years. This is because your transitional period stops. You are expected to get a job, to find a partner, to settle down, to have a family or to focus on your career. The whole idea of being an adult and living is rooted in the idea of stability, you need a stable job and life in order to earn the money to live. The first question people ask you when they meet you is “so, what do you do?” because everybody is supposed to be at least partially on their way to this long-term ambition.

The part I take exception with in the mantra “It Gets Better” is that it doesn’t address those of us for whom it didn’t get better. It doesn’t account for those us in a dead-end job with no future or career prospects who struggle to leave the house when they relive bullying from years ago in their minds every single day. It doesn’t understand that as a child you are encouraged to be your best and reach your pinnacle but as you grow up you’re expected to settle more and more with each passing year.

My job wasn’t supposed to be long-term. It was supposed to get me away from the job centre whilst also giving me time to focus on writing. As it happens I am coming up for three years at the job with a future that doesn’t seem to change. Why? It can get better, get another job. As a teenager I would have no problems with leaving the job in hopes of a better one, as an adult I know the realism. I know that I’ve spent three years unemployed before this job and who knows how long I’ll spend after it. I know I’m pushing thirty and still living with my parents with absolutely no financial future of moving out. In this instance it doesn’t get better. It either stays the same or it gets worse.

I also know I’m crippled mentally from school. The bullying I experienced didn’t go the way that they tell you in the story. Bullies are alone in dead-end jobs with dull and miserable lives while you skyrocket and become yourself to the fullest potential, surrounded by the best people life can give you. That’s not how it worked. That’s not how it works for ninety-nine percent of the people who experience bullying either. Instead I can’t form a relationship because I’m so paranoid about the way the other person perceives and treats me that it leaves me barely able to leave the house while one of my bullies just has to take his shirt off to make friends.

So what is in store for people like myself? For those that are old enough to understand how life works and know that life doesn’t always get better? Those of us that are realistic enough to know that the good-guy doesn’t always win and the bad-guy doesn’t always lose. Those of us for whom bullying has forced us into a corner and we’re being held there by societies expectations and the threat of joblessness, homelessness, bankruptcy, or a future forever alone. What pearl of wisdom do we get that encourages us to put down the knife or the bottle of pills and actually continue on with life?

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In Regards To Keaton Jones

If for one moment you believe I advocate the bullying or belittling of Keaton Jones, or anybody else in the world, then you have failed to receive the message portrayed through most of these posts. With that in mind please keep in consideration that I am firmly on the side of Keaton Jones and do not wish to diminish his bullying because bullying is what it is, it’s poisonous and horrific.

Read the article here.

Now I want to address the fact that this has escalated to physical levels. Nobody gets milk poured over them and school just “doesn’t notice”. I haven’t found any evidence to suggest that the school has acted on this incident but likewise I haven’t found anything to suggest they haven’t and so I can’t judge them on that. What I can say is that Keaton Jones still seems terrified to go back to school. He still doesn’t understand how or why people do what they do and it’s that suggestion that leads me to the belief that the school hasn’t been hard enough. You want ways to run your school, check out my post “If I Ran The School” and you’ll find guidelines for dealing with bullying in there.

So I can’t really say anything more about the actual bullying that hasn’t already been said all over social media. I will, before I proceed any further, commend everybody on their support and outpouring of emotion in a time where this kid probably feels so alone. It’s not often I see so many people agreeing unanimously that something is abhorrent and shouldn’t be tolerated. It should be known that people do stand with Keaton Jones.

But – yes, you knew there would probably be a but – this isn’t a special occasion. This isn’t a rare one-off occurrence and it’s certainly not a new development in the school/education system. Bullying has been around for as long as you can imagine. Sometimes it’s not always as severe as in this case, but any incident where somebody feels unsafe to go somewhere should be treated seriously. Thousands of people are bullied everyday and it’s okay to say it’s not acceptable but to let it get to extreme numbers is just negligence in the system. I know from experience that my school did not take bullying seriously, it just viewed it as a right of passage for kids to go through. Unacceptable.

We shouldn’t look at Keaton Jones’ situation and say “this kid needs help”, we should look at it and say “things need to change”. Not just for Keaton but for everybody else who has ever felt that way. Not everybody has the courage or support system to talk about it so candidly and not every parent would share it on social media. It took me until I was in my mid-twenties to finally talk openly and candidly about the bullying I experienced. Whilst we know I commend the support that this kid has received, let’s not let it just be for those with a voice, let’s give the voiceless the help they need as well.

THIS ARTICLE CONTINUES BUT PLEASE STOP READING HERE AND LEAVE IF YOU AREN’T READY FOR THIS ARTICLE TO GET A LITTLE BIT SELFISH.

I almost didn’t write this bit last bit because it felt odd to say it but the more I thought about it the more I realised how much it was eating away at me on the inside. I’ve always said that I’ll write about things that make me suicidal and affect my mental health, and this is one of them. Not only in the ways listed above, but also in a lot more of a personal way.

As a nearly-thirty-year-old man I mostly get the response of “you should have gotten over it by now” or “don’t let it ruin your life” whenever I talk about my bullying. I have a post on here and a video on YouTube titled “A Message To My Bullies” which was one of the most raw things I have ever written. That video has received 2 views and I fear at least one of those was me re-listening to it. Sometimes I feel like I’m shouting into a void and my words just disappear once they leave my mouth. Sometimes I wonder if what I’ve written is open and available to other people. You know that feeling where you don’t know if a text has been sent or not? And when you realise it has been sent and nobody replied then you have to face the fact that nobody cares.

Do you know how hard it is to spend your entire life feeling worthless and awful only to find that once you share your stories nobody actually cares? That’s sort of what I’m feeling right now. But maybe I should expect it, a cute crying child will always be more marketable and pleasing to the masses than a mentally unhealthy/unstable twenty-eight-year-old.

Self-Harming

This one is actually quite difficult for me to talk about and should definitely come with a warning that it is in regards to some serious mental health issues and any thoughts of this nature should be discussed with a professional.

So I’ve never really talked about self-harm before. That’s because I didn’t do it until I was about 25. I was never a teenager who cut themselves with razor blades and has the scars to prove it. My way of coping, because self-harming is some people’s way of coping with things, was to get lost in fictional worlds of computer games and books. It wasn’t until I was put into a situation where my stress and anxiety levels were through the roof and I had no escape that I did it for the first time.

My first time was at work. Having been unemployed for three years I was having a difficult time adjusting to working and not having as much free time as before. This was compounded by the feeling of insignificance that I felt doing the job and the fact that the overtime felt pressured rather than offered. So, being at work and having to work with customers all of the time, you don’t have half an hour to disappear somewhere for a sleep, video game session or to get lost in a book. You’re stuck. So I started scratching. We’re not talking just a little scratch here and there, I would scratch until my arms bled and there would be friction burns up most of my forearm.

The reasons for this are many-fold and I don’t think self-harming can be specifically boiled down to one particular reason, I think it’s a culmination of a lot of things.

Firstly I felt insignificant and so I sort of felt like I deserved the pain that came with it. I felt like the lowest of the low, with no friends, no future job progression and basically like my life had come to a standstill. For a twenty-something year old I felt like I was a failure because I wasn’t successful (you can see this in other posts about YouTube and Celebrities that I have written).

The second reason was that I was doing it for attention. Not in a “look at me” kind of way, just in a way where I wished somebody would notice and stop me, or take me to one side and talk to me about it. Nobody ever did though. But that was what ran through my head sometimes, that I wished people would pay more attention to me and notice how much pain I’m in.

Another reason was that I felt helpless. With overtime feeling forced it no longer felt like my time was my own. I was permanently paranoid that I’d be called into work and it nagged at my mind. Even when I was at work, the idea that they would approach me and ask me to work overtime felt like they were taking away my free time. My way to respond to this, to have control over something, was to scratch my arm until it bled. It was a strange feeling because it was something I could control, nobody else could make me start or stop, that choice was down to me. It reclaimed a little bit of the freedom that I felt like I had lost.

I must tell you to prepare because this is where my mind gets a little bit warped.

When I was unemployed I would look for ways to be more selective in the kind of jobs I could take. I still wanted a job, I just didn’t want them to be able to send me to work nine-to-five at a dump for zero pay (which is something they actually threatened). And so, along the lines of self-harm, I did consider something more serious than just scratching; I actively considered physically hurting myself until my life became confined to a wheelchair.

Now, this is where it gets warped because I know being in a wheelchair isn’t something to aspire to, but in my head it was. It got me sympathy and the attention that I craved but it also meant my options for work were limited. I could still do stuff I wanted to do, like writing and journalism and stuff, but it meant my range was restricted down a bit more. It was, in a sense, a control issue. If I put myself into a wheelchair then it meant I could control where and when I got a job, and I could make sure I took a job I was happy with, I had legitimate reasons to turn down certain jobs.

It also comes with a little bit of self-pity. If we circle back to my romantic life for just a moment, the idea of being in a wheelchair gave me a reason (in my head, remember) for why I would be eternally single. It would be my excuse for why nobody found me attractive, I had something I could blame rather than the current confusion of not understanding what people don’t like about me.

To show you how fucked up my mind is sometimes, I also considered self-blinding. Yes, a small part of me hoped that like Daredevil I would be great at martial arts with massively enhanced senses, but that’s sort of the child in me still wanting to believe in everything being possible. But no, it gave me a talking point. I’ve spoken before how, outside of being “The Intelligent One”, I don’t know where I fit in, but this gave me a place to fit in. I didn’t have to fit into that box because the blindness would give me that box.

Also, both of these things would give me the ability to provide my mind with the excuses for why I wasn’t rich and successful. It wouldn’t nag on me any longer because it would understand that opportunities are restricted and the chances for blind and/or wheelchair bound people are lesser than an able-bodied person.

I don’t mean to make light of any disabilities, that never was or is my intention, but in my messed up head sometimes I don’t always clearly see the negatives. This is the truth about what went through my head on the occasions I considered it and shockingly enough the negatives were never something I thought about until my mind was in a more sane and healthy place.

If I Ran The School

So it’s probably no secret that I had a hard time at school. The environment at my school, at least through my eyes, was toxic. By the time it came for me to leave secondary school the place had gone downhill with teachers either too afraid or flat out refusing to do anything about any sort of bullying. I once had a chair thrown at me in a classroom where the teacher was watching and all he did was tell the student to “sit down”. That was the extent of the punishment in my school.

We did have these things called conduct marks. Basically you had ten conduct marks each week and every time you misbehaved or broke the rules the teacher could take one away from you (I can’t remember if they gave them out or took them away, but either way it was a tally system). At the end of the week, when you got your Planner signed by your tutor, the amount of conduct marks you had (or had lost) would indicate your punishment; detention or meeting with headteacher usually. The problems here were that tutors were far too lazy to check Planners and so a lot of people got away with misbehaving and no repercussions.

So this is where the title comes in. If I ran the school I would make some changes.

First and foremost everybody would be treated equally. I know teachers try to do this but I’m talking on a wider scale. The drama kids are treated the same as the sporty kids, the same as the arty kids or the DIY kids. It’s all the same. If any achievements are to be celebrated then all of them will. At my school it was far too obvious that sports were favoured over anything else. The assemblies always had sports awards and sports news and stuff about the school sports teams. It was horrific for anybody who wasn’t interested in sports. Do away with that and make everything fair. You talk about the local sport success in assembly? Then you also talk about the viewing for students’ artwork or the auditions for a school play.

The major change I would make is to discipline.

You have three chances in the first phase basically. If somebody puts in a complaint about you misbehaving, breaking rules or bullying then they need to be investigated. If the investigation proves you have misbehaved or broken rules then these are the three-step punishments to be followed.

Step 1 – You receive a warning. (If a severe punishment is needed then you receive detention). (Offer help if the infraction may have been due to a mental health issue or biological problem).

Step 2 – You receive a detention (If a more severe punishment is needed then you receive a suspension).

Step 3 – Suspension.

When you return to school after your suspension then your three chances turn into two.

Step 1 – Detention.

Step 2 – Expelled.

These cover most of the infractions within school boundaries. Bunking off school? Refusing to listen to a teacher? Non-Physical bullying? They are all classed under this scheme.

However, there is an alternate scheme for serious infractions. This category is for use in the case of physical violence (of any sort) or carrying a weapon and other serious issues.

Step 1 – Expelled. The Police will be involved if it would be considered a criminal offence, had it been outside of school property.

Zero tolerance. This is what zero tolerance looks like. It’s expelling people when they need to be expelled.

Follow these rules and the school will be a much better place for those that do want to be there.

But, I hear some people say, these people who were expelled will suffer down the line when they leave school with no qualifications. To that I say “So?” If you cannot be a civilised human being in school towards other students then I have very little sympathy for you. What school doesn’t do now is reinforce consequences. Nowhere will take you if you’ve been expelled from every school in the area because, and rightfully so, you will be seen as trouble.

This is brought on by the fact that I witnessed an awful lot of physical bullying in my school. Not just towards me, although that is the stuff I remember most vividly, but across the entirety of the school. And guess what? Probably only between 1 and 5% of these cases were ever treated seriously. Some of them weren’t reported because they knew teachers wouldn’t do anything and those that were reported were mostly just dismissed after a meeting with parents (which is considerably unhelpful for everybody involved).

Parents don’t currently take it seriously. If this rigid guideline were in place then you know the severity of the infraction because it relates to the punishment. Parents would have to take it seriously when physical violence is seeing their child kicked out of all schools within the area. They will need to take action instead of claiming excuses for their child. Because that’s what we need more of, more action and less talk.

A school needs to start being treated like a workplace. I know that the rules I have suggested are the rules that my company obeys. As such we have zero physical violence, I’m not afraid to go in there in fear of being assaulted and because we understand there are consequences to actions. If we seriously broke rules then we would be looking for another place to work, the same should be said for a school.

Body Image Issues

Now it’s probably no secret, after the previous post, that I have body image issues. I was going to address this as an eating disorder and the signs and struggles of it but on reflection I didn’t want to diagnose myself with something I personally don’t know much about in fear of misrepresenting those that do suffer with it. Instead I decided I would talk about my body image issues and the story behind them.

As far back as I can remember food has always been a problem for me. I was a fussy eater from a very young age. Now I know people will be reading this thinking “you just haven’t tried the foods enough” or thinking I gave up after one mouthful. No, I went through the whole “you’re not getting down from the table until you clear your plate” thing as a child and it lasted a long time into childhood. So let’s just admit that I knew from a young age that food wasn’t going to be my friend.

One of my earliest memories is my mother bringing home some clothes and asking me to try them on. I couldn’t have been very old, probably only about seven or eight. So, as I was getting changed to try these t-shirts on, my mother says the words “put your belly away, you look like a pregnant duck.” Not offensively and not chastising me for anything, just in a jokey way, but jokes still mean things. I’ve never forgotten those words and they do still echo in my head whenever I try on clothes or try to find a comfortable outfit.

Let’s move on to school. Hold tight because this is where it gets personal and difficult for me to talk about (given that the only person I’ve mentioned this to before is the school counsellor). My group of “friends” at the time were awful. You can read about them in other posts I’ve made but trust me, they weren’t nice people. I only hung around with them because I had nobody else and sometimes being ridiculed and mocked was somewhat preferable to being known as the kid with no friends. But anyway, these taunts took aim at my appearance. Let’s take a look at some of the things on that list;

  • “Mushroom” hair – because apparently my hair resembled that of a mushroom.
  • Fat/big lips
  • Big feet
  • Overweight – coupled with as many chins as they could count to that day
  • Too big/tall

All these things might not seem like a big deal but there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t reminded of every single one of these things by the people who were supposed to be my friends. I would even find little pictures passed to me depicting me as some sort of giant fat ogre with a big round head, grotesque fish lips, huge clown feet and wild/unkempt hair.

Let’s mention here that my way of dealing with the bullying was to basically eat my feelings. I may not have liked vegetables but I can put away chocolate and donuts quicker than most. Especially since I have an addictive personalty in itself and so good food means a good mood which resonates in my head next time I’m feeling down or next time I see a box of donuts in the shop.

I lost a lot of the weight going through puberty which I’ve been told about but I’ve never personally noticed myself. Whenever I look at my reflection I still see that overweight kid staring back at me, the one with the big paunchy belly who is too tall with double chins.

Let’s add on top of this that the body shaming doesn’t stop there. Through the ages of sixteen to twenty-five I had long hair; various lengths but primarily shoulder length. I loved having long hair (which I have talked about before) but I was about the only one who did. My brother’s hated my hair and nicknamed me Worzel Gummidge and every member of my family would question when I would get it cut and say that it looks dead and lifeless and has no style to it.

But this wasn’t saved when coming into my sexuality and guys would tell me “you’d look better if you cut your hair” or how some people would laugh and compare me to Nana Mouskouri which I had to just brush off as “banter” but really was quite hurtful. At University, where my hair was a main hatred of pretty much everybody I encountered, somebody else managed to find something else to bring to my attention. When talking to him about guys and how I don’t seem to get noticed by guys he suggested “try losing the glasses” which then just made me paranoid about how awful my glasses looked.

But this is actually a major point. Not the glasses thing, that guy was a dick (although I do still hate my glasses), but the idea of getting attention. Never have I been approached by anybody who thought I was attractive. The only attention I get on online dating websites are from men who are usually 50+ and that doesn’t help my self-esteem when they’re not entirely picky (seriously, I feel like a name on a mailing list). But I can count on one hand the number of times I received compliments about my appearance and they are always from friends who say it when I’m feeling rather self-pitying and down. I’ve never been the kind of guy who people find attractive, I’ve always been the kind of guy that people find “interesting” which is just what they say to ugly people to make them feel better (like telling the fat kid he plays with a lot of heart, I got that a lot too at school).

(Oh and don’t get me started on the gay community who looked down on me whenever I went to a gay club because I wasn’t 5’11 with tanned skin, Toni & Guy coiffed hair, designer shirts and tight abs. Or because I wasn’t ultra skinny. Seriously, being considered “plus size” and unattractive for it is the only thing that makes me wish I could change my sexuality.)

Pretty People Have It Easy

A while back somebody asked me the question; is the world easier or harder for better looking people? At the time I didn’t know how to answer. After all, not everybody wants to be judged on their looks and sometimes typically attractive women have found success in their male dominated fields, only for their success to be overshadowed by their appearance. My feelings are very much not the same as they used to be.

I have spent the last couple of days looking up plastic and cosmetic surgery as a way to improve upon my appearance. Not that I hate my appearance because I don’t, I just dislike it and think some things could do with improvement. This is because in my head, I don’t know where or when the wires got crossed, but improving my looks would increase my chances of success in life.

Woah, woah, woah. Did he just say that? Yes.

Let me give you some facts to begin with. I have made videos for YouTube for a long time now. Most of the views for these videos are a slow trickle; starting off with maybe sixteen or seventeen in the first few days and then dropping to one every other day before completely stalling at a relatively low number (usually just under thirty). (I’ve been doing it longer than my channel suggests too. I deleted a lot of videos when the view count stalls and I begin to contemplate suicide). However, I have seen much less impressive channels – less charisma, worse production and sound quality etc. – that have 10k+ subscribers. I currently have less subscribers than I do actual videos on my channel, that’s how bad it is. The only difference I can see between my videos and their videos are that they are pretty.

Let me give you an example and we will use ASMR videos for this. The girls are usually front-runners in ASMR given that most of them these days just pan their camera downward so it focuses primarily on their breasts and voila, you have views. To get a lot of views you just have to be young, innocent looking and be prepared to sex yourself up. By this I mean forget the main focus of ASMR being all about the sound production, just make sure you look sexy in whatever you’re doing and you’re a hit. For guys genetically blessed it’s also not that hard. Clear skin, good hair and a slender or toned body gets you views regardless of your quality. If you wonder how to get popular as an ASMRtist then just take a picture of PJ Dreams, FredsVoice ASMR or ASMR Darling to a cosmetic surgeon and ask to look like them. This isn’t even a reflection on them (because I try to put my personal views of a person aside when talking about their videos) but the comment section on their videos is THIRSTY (modern day talk for overly sexual and desperate). It’s quite clear that a lot of these people only watch them for the eye-candy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like eye-candy myself and some of the people I watch happen to be pretty, but I’m not going to comment on their videos about how gorgeous they are because technically it has nothing to do with the video. It’s also never the main reason I watch a channel or a video, it’s always usually just a plus point and never something I take into account when considering to subscribe or continue watching.

Okay so this is just ASMR so far. But look at the famous Vloggers. Zoella, Caspar Lee, Joe Sugg, Davey Wavey, Joey Graceffa, Shane Dawson, Tyler Oakley. None of these people are unattractive and the primary reason people watch their videos is because they’re attractive. I will admit that in my younger years I was enamoured with Davey Wavey because he was hot. He’s still hot but I find myself caring more about what comes out of people’s mouths than how they look without a shirt. But these people earn a living looking pretty and it’s reinforced by those who buy Zoella’s £50 advent calendar or watch Caspar Lee go on some stupid road-trip. It’s absurd. Can we even look at some people who have received viral attention due to their “videos” which should be down to the message portrayed but ends up just being about how pretty they are (I’m looking your way OliverVlogss and The Rhodes Bros).

And this idea makes other people feel bad. It makes other people question their own life’s worth. I have considered committing suicide half a dozen times in the last week just because I hate how I look when compared with some of the people mentioned above. I know it’s not their fault, but it’s how I feel about things. The suicide aspect comes in because I feel so ugly and insignificant compared to these people that I honestly don’t believe my life is worth living, given that the only thing people appear to value in life is how somebody looks. If we’re giving Zoella enough money to buy a £1 Million house based on how she looks (which, let’s face it, is her primary brand) then it makes me question what monetary value (if any) would be placed on my appearance.

So do pretty people have it easier? There’s no easy answer because as I know from experience, anybody can suffer mental illness, but if you want success on YouTube or in the media then it definitely helps to get rid of the double chin and get those man boobs liposuctioned.

 

Employment, Mental Health and Sexism

So as I sit here and write this there is a sore on my arm that has bled and now scabbed over. This particular sore is from work where I was so depressed during my job that I took to scratching off layers of my skin, causing an open and bleeding wound and a friction burn down a large part of my forearm.

If there’s one thing I have learned throughout my life it really is that companies do not care about the individual. When I first joined my company I had to leave after three months because of suicidal thoughts/problems. Rather than transfer me to a different department – to a department I actually wanted to work on – I was told that the only option was to leave. This caused all sorts of problems and was not helped by the unwillingness of certain members of the company to do what was best for my own health, forcing me to leave.

So I left and then jumped through a hundred different hoops (three months later) just to get a job in the department I wanted to work on. I was helped by a wonderful woman who went over and above her duties to help me get the job, knowing how much it meant to me. Basically she was my anchor and my support while working there because I knew, if I had any problems, then I could go and talk to her and she would try and help me as best as she could. She recently left the company because a better job came along (and she has to do what is best for her and her family) and so it’s left me afloat in a company that doesn’t seem to respect mental illness.

I was recently called into the office of the Store Manager who told us that he was looking to move more people on my department into the evening shifts and that it shouldn’t really affect me because all my shifts are evenings anyway. He asked if I would be happy moving my shifts and I explained not really, my routine has taken a long time to get used to and I like that I do four days working and then get three days off. He said he would take this on board when working out the new rotas. He didn’t. He moved one of my shifts to a Tuesday which completely messes up my routine and means I don’t have the smoothness of working I am used to. It’s start and stop and very juddery which doesn’t ease my mind.

The only problem is, what do you say? This is the Store Manager, you can’t say no to him. One person tried to explain that the shift she was moved into wasn’t ideal for her and he basically said “I can change your shift with 28 days notice. This is your 28 days notice.” Which is basically his way of saying “I do what I want.” Now he openly said in my interview that he “doesn’t mind making people do something they are uncomfortable doing.” Which, of course, speaks volumes for a manager.

I’ve had these conversations before, where I try to explain that for my own mental health it would be best if I didn’t change shifts, and the reply is always “this is a business, we have to look at this like a business. I’m running a business, we have to do what is best for the business.” Because the bottom line, ultimately, is that your health is less important than the business.

Despite having worked three months on the shop floor and having to leave due to suicidal thoughts, they still see no problem in making me go back onto the shop floor to stack shelves. Now this isn’t a millennial “I don’t wanna do it” kind of thing, this is a “when I’m doing it, I actually want to drink bleach or slit my wrists” kind of thing, because I feel so insignificant. But that doesn’t stop them from making me do it. And why do they make me do it? Because it’s a business and it’s what’s best for business.

Also, other people can’t work on the shop floor for medical reasons – bad backs, heart conditions etc – which I respect but at the same time the company needs to respect that mine is a medical condition and not a preference. But in a list of things that a company respects, mental health is right down the bottom.

A company will slap up pictures and slogans saying they like to help with mental illness and your mental health means a lot to them but in reality, when it comes down to it, if your mental health interferes with their job and gets in the way of running a business then it’s the business that takes priority, not your mental health.

I have explained that I find it hard working on the shop floor and the response is “You’re a young lad, there are things we expect you to do.” Which sounds an awful lot like judging a book by it’s cover.

And this is because my company is also rather sexist.

Be a woman and they’ll accept any medical condition you have. Seriously, one woman has a rash on her leg and they don’t put her on the shop floor because of it. I suffered from vertigo and the second my doctor’s note ran out they had me on the shop floor without even so much time to get a second.

Just some examples in my company;

“We hired you because we couldn’t have a girl working on the shop floor lifting the heavy bottles of pop.” – Said when I was first given the job of working on the shop floor.

“Didn’t they have any men’s costumes?” – When I turned up to a Halloween fancy dress day as an Evil Queen (for which I won best costume, thank you very much).

“Nice to see you dressed as a man today.” Said by the same person when he next saw me at work.

(If you need any explanation as to why these things are sexist then I would be very happy to explain it).

Now two of these things were said by my Store Manager who is very condescending and so they come across as offensive rather than jovial. Let’s not mention I don’t often joke with the Store Manager, he makes me uncomfortable, and so these comments do just come across as sly digs more than anything else.

Also, while we’re talking about the company I work for (who for legal reasons, because I am still an employee, I cannot mention the name of it) we’ll end this with a comment from my boss that I’m not sure whether to be offended by or not.

I had explained to him that I wear a design on my badge in support of the LGBT community and it represents being Out At Work. Well, he proceeds to talk to me about Australia and the recent marriage equality vote, but what really got to me was that he then said “don’t worry, I’m not just going to talk to you about gay shit.” This was hardly the professional manner I had expected from somebody who was in charge of running an entire store.

Why I Don’t Like Leaving The House

The other day we were watching Strictly Come Dancing and one of the couples were dancing to the song “The Lambeth Walk” which, personally, is a song I’ve never really heard of. But as they danced my parents reminisced about their experiences in and around the Lambeth area. My mum said “That’s where I got my pearl ring. The one I bought with my first week’s wages. It was stolen in the burglary.”

The burglary she is referring to happened in March 2012 and I still hold myself responsible for it.

At the time I was supposed to be in Canada doing volunteer work but had come home early due to some difficulties with mental health and living away from home for a prolonged period of time. On the day it happened I was at home on my own – all three of my brothers had moved out and my parents had gone down to Bournemouth to visit my grandparents – so it was just me at home.

I got a text in the early evening, around four o’clock, from a friend asking if I wanted to go over and play video games and hang out with him and another friend. I agreed because hanging out with them made me feel normal. I know I don’t need to justify why I went but hanging out with them really made me feel like a normal person, I could be myself and wasn’t putting up barriers or walls for anybody. So yeah, I went.

The night went great and I was around there for a good couple of hours before we had to leave because they had work the next day. So I took my friend home and then went home myself.

Nothing seemed strange upon first entry. I unlocked the door, let the dog out to do his business, and then came back to go upstairs. I stopped in the living room when I saw a folded up note on the floor. I unfolded it and it was Canadian money. Money left over from my trip that I hadn’t got changed back yet. Now I don’t lose things, I don’t misplace things and I often remember exactly where my things are, so to find this on the living room floor was a little surprise.

Thinking the worst I ran upstairs and threw open my door. There was a large empty space on my desk where my laptop had been – the wires were still there, just not connected to anything anymore. My bed was covered with the drawers from my chest of drawers and any tin and/or container I had was opened and emptied onto the bed, obviously looking for anything valuable.

I ran back downstairs, let the dog in and noticed the back door didn’t lock. After checking it (and having the neighbour around to check too) we saw somebody had actually got into the door itself and dismantled the locking mechanism (and done away with it completely). I phoned my brothers and they came to stay with me for the night and phoned the police for me.

Anyway, in the next few weeks/months we had to make a report of what was stolen. I found out over this next few weeks that my mum had all of her jewellery stolen. She didn’t mind some of it because, as she said, it was “costume jewellery” which wasn’t all that valuable. But in amongst the jewellery was an heirloom – my great grandmother’s wedding ring – and the pearl ring that my mother had bought with her first week’s pay in her very first job.

Now I have felt guilty about this ever since it happened. If you look at two basic facts you can see why.

  • If I hadn’t come home from Canada early then my car would have still been on the drive that night and it would have looked like somebody was at home.
  • If I hadn’t left the house to go to my friend’s house then I would have been at home to prevent anything being stolen.

This, for anybody who is wondering, this is why I don’t leave the house very much. If I leave the house then there’s a chance it will happen again. The house gets broken into, people lose valuable things and I feel personally responsible. I’m still carrying around the weight of having lost family heirlooms and pieces of sentimental value, I couldn’t cope with coming home to that scene again. Every time I leave the house I have the fear of coming home to a crime scene again.

I turned down the counselling they suggested at the time. I thought I was strong enough to understand it wasn’t my fault. Somebody breaking into your house isn’t your fault. But I should have taken it because I still, almost six years later, blame myself for what happened and feel responsible for everything that was taken in the burglary.

I thought I’d be most moved by losing my laptop but it doesn’t phase me at all. I don’t care that they stole that. What I care about, and what I feel bad about every time it’s mentioned, is that things of personal value were stolen. Things that weren’t mine. They meant a lot to my mother and I feel like I caused her that pain when the house was broken into because I feel responsible for not preventing it from happening.

My Emotional Hangover

It was my first social outing in almost a year. I’m not counting work, gym visits or doctor/dentist appointment. Other than those things I haven’t actually socialised with anybody since I did a pub quiz on November 28th 2016 (I know this because I wrote about it in If I’m Not ____ Then Who Am I?). Now I remember why.

You know when you drink a load of alcohol and you have so much fun at the time but then the next morning you’ve got this pounding headache, a sense of regret and a deep hole of misery in your stomach? Yeah, that’s what I got right now but I haven’t had anything to drink.

Basically I’m led to believe my system doesn’t enjoy an overload of emotions. I adore Karaoke, like seriously love it, and so when work invited me to a leaving-do that involved Karaoke then how was I going to turn it down? I loved every blinking second of it. From the moment the Karaoke started to the moment I got into my car I had a smile on my face.

Then I got into my car and the smile faded. My head spun all the way home and I just wanted to pull my car over and cry. I had to select my music very carefully because I was at the very brink of breaking down and any song (even Rachel Bloom’s The Buzzing From The Bathroom) was at risk of seeing me in floods of tears.

I know what does it too. It’s the emptiness. It’s the feeling of going from a room full of people who actually want to see you to sitting in a car on your own driving home where you’ll get a microwave meal and go to sleep by yourself in a double bed. (The double bed is important because it makes you feel more lonely than before, so I tend to avoid sleeping when I come home). But this isn’t helped by the constant loneliness I feel whenever I see somebody I’m attracted to. There were guys I saw tonight that just sent my heart into a tailspin because they’re straight and it’ll never happen between us.

This isn’t even limited to social events. My mood often skyrockets when a cute guy comes into work (there’s one, his name is Charlie and he sends my heart twisting) but then when they leave my mood takes the slippery slid all the way down to rock bottom where it looks around and notices how forever alone it will be.

And that’s a big crux of my personality and paranoia. I feel I will be forever alone. I’m twenty-eight years old and I’ve never had a boyfriend (I had a girlfriend but that was for a week when I was nine and I’m not hugely keen on having another). This might seem very shallow and self-centred but it just means I’ve never had anybody who wants to spend their free time with me. I’ve never had anybody who feels better just by me being around. I’ve never felt anybody sleeping next to me and felt safe. It’s little things that add up to a huge factor of misery in my life.

But I don’t know why either. People say stop looking for it and I do. I go out with nothing else in mind but to enjoy myself and then a cute guy comes alone and BAM! my emotions do the same gymnastic routine they practice every time I leave the house.

This loneliness has actually crippled me to the point where I don’t think I will ever be in a relationship. I just don’t know how one begins naturally. Short of the playground “I like this boy but don’t tell him” whilst secretly hoping she tells him method, I don’t know how relationships begin. I can’t tell a guy he’s good looking. In my head these are the scenarios that go through my head when I tell a guy he’s good looking;

  • “Thanks?” With an awkward smile from them and then they leave ASAP.
  • “Not interested.” Followed by being ignored.
  • “Yeah, too good for you.” Which is fairly obvious in my head.
  • They’re straight which leads to anything from violence to crushing disappointment.

I just don’t know how to handle it. What do you do? Like this guy Charlie. I know he’s gay and he’s hella cute but I can’t talk to him. My brain feels like it disappears when he’s around. I can’t even do my job properly and have to try deep breathing exercises just to get my brain back to function. But I’m crippled by that playground fear of (mainly) schoolgirls who rush around going “she likes you” and then when you ask them out it’s all been a lie and they giggle at your humiliation. That’s sort of what I feel will happen if I like a guy.

Let’s not get started on the straight guys I crush on. I can’t help crushing on straight guys (not all straight guys, let’s clear that up). It’s not that they’re straight that makes me crush on them but the ones I do find myself enamoured with is never going to happen. In my logical and rational head I know that but my heart still tells my brain of a future of when we’re a loving and happy couple.

I gave up alcohol because I didn’t like what it was doing to me. I can’t give up attractive guys because they are all around. People are attractive. Even if you’re in a relationship you can admit that a guy or a girl is attractive. Some people just are. And they are my alcohol. They send my emotions into a whirlwind that I don’t know how to stop. The fallout from the storm can take an age to get over and ultimately it just cripples my self-confidence even more.

And so a life of singledom, loneliness and seeing other couples happy just makes you wonder if life is even worth living sometimes. If you’re going to be alone forever then why prolong the misery?