Chasing The Likes

When I was very young and somebody asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would tell them I wanted to be a lawyer. Then they told me that required lots of hard work and studying so I changed my mind and pursued the dream of being a writer.

I was asked the same question again when I saw my first psychologist (two years ago). My reply was simple; Actor or Writer. When she asked me if I could see myself doing anything else I replied with “I wouldn’t be happy though.” At the time I thought nothing of it but a few weeks later we had been talking more and more and she had come up with the suggestion that perhaps I find myself wanting the validation of other people more than I want the validation from myself. It was an interesting thought although I didn’t dwell on it for very long at the time. I had spent too many years wanting to be a writer or a journalist to just let that dream die.

It wasn’t until last week when I watched a viral video circulating the internet that I realised just how right she might be. The video explains about the current generation and their social media addiction. Now, I don’t believe myself to have an addiction to social media. I will quite happily leave my phone in my room while I go downstairs to watch TV. I turn the phone off when I’m at work and don’t have it with me at all. I can play games for hours on end and forget to check social media for a long time. That is, however, unless I’ve done something.

By “done something” this isn’t even specific. I could have updated my Facebook status or sent a tweet on Twitter, hell even when I share a blog post I find myself becoming slightly addicted to social media. I didn’t know why this was, I thought it was just because I wanted somebody to like and share my thoughts and ideas, turns out I was a little off the mark.

The reason my social media addiction flares up then is because the brain releases dopamine when people like, share or favourite your things. I will lunge for my phone every time it makes a noise if I think somebody might have subscribed to my blog or liked something I posted on twitter.

It’s probably not news to most people who don’t “chase the likes” because they are removed from the situation and can watch it from the outside. For people like me, we don’t even realise we’re doing it. We argue with friends when they don’t like or share a status or something. Because, to us, it means you don’t value me and I get my validation from what you think of me. I become addicted to that feeling when I see my work shared and liked or commented on. It’s an amazing feeling that actually shoots my happiness way up the charts. However, like any addict, my mood crashes when I don’t get my “hit”. When I don’t get the likes I want or the shares I expect, my mood crashes and I get depressed. These are some of the times it hits the hardest as well because I feel worthless and devalued.

The problem? I don’t know how to not “chase the likes” because it’s all I’ve ever really known. My personality was formed around social media and the internet. It is pounded into us daily that the more followers you have on Twitter the better you are. Viral videos make people celebrities. Overnight fame is achievable. It may be fickle but it’s achievable much more than it was for previous generations.

But this doesn’t help depression. When YouTubers hit a million subscribers, when vloggers get invited to television shows, this just hammers home that I’m not good enough for this world. There is a female YouTuber named Zoella who a lot of people assume I hate. I don’t hate her. I hate her celebrity status? Why? Jealousy. I need the validation that she is getting from other people. I need that following to feel worthwhile in life. It sounds sad to actually read the words back but I can’t argue with how my body reacts to things. For the record, I don’t hate Zoella. Like all YouTubers I claim to “hate” or even “dislike” it’s just jealousy. You have something I want and I’m eternally chasing the validation you get on a daily basis.

I don’t particularly even have a solution here. I’m not going cold turkey from social media because my whole life is built around social media. In my spare time I’m on YouTube. I connect with my friends through Facebook. I check my Twitter when on my break at work. I can’t cold turkey it but I do have to admit I’m an addict for the likes. I don’t know how to not crave that validation or how to find the validation within myself. I just don’t know how to do it.

I’m sorry this is another blog post that doesn’t end happily, but it’s sort of life at the moment. They say the first step is admitting that you have a problem and so please consider this my admission. However, without help, I don’t know how to quit. But, as far as I know, they don’t make chewing gum or patches for quitting others validation.


Online Gaming and Bullying?

First I should preface this entire thing with the saying that “I am not a professional gamer”. I do not play games to earn money or win tournaments or anything like that. I am a gamer that plays for fun. Win or lose I don’t particularly mind, as long as the game is fun to play. With that being said I think I should begin.

I grew up with games and gaming. It was my release from a world that felt didn’t understand me and to interact with people (albeit we only had local multiplayer back then) who I had something in common with. I was lucky enough to be around for the widespread birth of internet gaming, an idea that 8 or 9 year old me would love. A chance to interact with people all over the world who share the same love and passion for games that I do. I very quickly learned that this was not the case.

Early instances of online multiplayer, with games such as Smackdown and Tekken, offered no penalty for quitting a game halfway through. This meant that as soon as you started losing you could quit and it would protect your “reputation”. This is an annoying act in itself as the idea of leaving anything unfinished and unresolved aggravates a lot of people. We were lucky though because it didn’t take long for companies to pick up on this and install certain penalties if you left halfway through a game. However, this didn’t come without problems.

At school  you have to face bullies because you are kept in a place with them, maybe it’s a classroom or a playground, until the teacher dismisses you. This is what has now happened with gaming. Should you not want to quit a game halfway through then you can be subjected to bullying by the rest of the people playing the game.

This happened to me recently. I took a foray into online gaming with a fantastic game called Overwatch that I had heard a lot about. I was so excited about this game because it was genuinely a really good game.

(This wasn’t my first Blizzard game though, I had put a lot of hours into Hearthstone and was always excited to load it up. I wanted the same experience from Overwatch.)

But I do fear my experience with Overwatch has been tainted by the recent bullying I have experienced. I admit I am not great at the game. I’m playing to have fun remember, not necessarily to be the best at the game. However other people feel it fine to tell me through the chat feature to uninstall my game because I’m so bad at it. They also feel the need to tell me which characters I get to play as and then moan about it to the team if I don’t follow their orders. I thought this would go down badly on Overwatch but I found that people AGREED. My team were shouting expletives through the chat at me just because I hadn’t devoted my entire life to being the best at Overwatch. It really put me out when one of my team suggested that the entire team “report me” for reasons unspecified (I believe reporting should only be used for bullying and/or threatening/disruptive behaviour). What really shocked me was that my team agreed! They knew I wasn’t as good as them, your level is clearly displayed, but to gang up and agree a group report based on nothing more than my ability at the game is sickening. This isn’t even “good-natured fun between friends”, I don’t know these people and what they’re saying is not “good-natured fun”, it’s vindictive and horrible bullying.

I don’t write this for me. Personally I’ve given up caring what people think about me when I’m playing games. I don’t play games to help you win, I play whatever is fun for me. I write this for the people who have a hard enough time in their everyday lives and who want to escape into a game only to find themselves vilified and bullied because they don’t practice every waking hour. It equates to bullying. You see people picking on somebody in a school playground you would do something, why do we accept it in gaming circles? Gamers, as people, have a history of being marginalised and so why do we try and do it to each other. Why can’t we offer out an olive branch of perhaps asking somebody if they need help or tips with certain characters? Offering better play strategies? Suggesting easier characters to play as (but if they don’t want to that’s their choice). It’s not a difficult thing to do, it’s actually just being a nice human being.

I understand this boils down to bullying and why people bully. These people have their domain where they are the Alpha Male – tough guys have the playground and gamers have online games – and that they are essentially trying to assert their dominance by bullying others. But bullying, any form it comes in, is disgusting. Games are not a place where gamers should be scared to go, games should be a safe-haven for those having a tough time, those who find it hard to make friends in the outside world, a place where you can escape your “ordinary” life for a while.

Please, let’s not let this get out of hand. You don’t know the mental stability of the person you are playing against. You can’t judged someone’s mental health on how they play and you can’t guarantee that your words aren’t going to be taken personally.

Thank you. As always, if you know somebody who is going through a hard time similar to this then please direct them to this blog and let them know that they aren’t alone and how they’re feeling isn’t something to be ashamed of or to hide away.

Follow me on Twitter – @JoshuaJace121

Mental Health and Unemployment

My mental health was already skewed from the moment I began secondary school, but long term unemployment definitely did not help this. Not only does everybody look down at you as useless and lazy, but very very few people are actually willing to help you unless they get some direct benefit out of it.

I was unemployed for three years (from 2011 till 2014). I aspired to be a journalist and as such was looking as ways to boost my experience because I already had the University Education, it was just the experience holding me back. I decided that I wanted to start a YouTube channel focusing on interviewing people. I wrote off to a number of well known (and at the time lesser known) YouTube personalities asking for an interview (I figured they would be the most down-to-earth and contactable people rather than Hollywood Celebs). I explained that I would be willing to travel to them (if they were in the UK) or we could do it over Skype if they preferred that. I didn’t hear a single thing from any of the people I contacted. No acknowledgement at all that I even existed. This, for an unemployed person with mental illness, did nothing to help my self-esteem and I believe was a factor in my prolonged unemployment. I’m not saying everybody needed to agree to the interview but people need to realise their actions (or inaction) have consequences. Had they agreed to an interview it may have only taken 10 minutes out of their day and changed my life completely. Had they even acknowledged my existence it might have had a different outcome. By totally ignoring a perfectly innocent and professional request it made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything, like I wasn’t important enough for their time.

This may not seem like a big deal to most people because most people don’t wish to be journalists or work in the entertainment industry, I do. This was my first step onto a ladder. It was an inventive way for me to get myself out there and gain the experience I had been told I needed to get. Nope. Nothing. And on top of that I was turned down for internships at Newspapers and Radio Stations for no real reason other than “we don’t take people” and no explanation as to why. I was devastated after these interactions that sometimes I didn’t leave my house for weeks on end.

On top of this the Job Centre did absolutely nothing to help my predicament. In the three years I was unemployed I received absolutely no help in getting a job (which is what their job is). They decided that finding a job would be easier if everything was mandatory. I went on three different CV courses that they told me I had to attend. Every time I went to a new course they told me my CV was wrong, which was odd because it had been professionally written by another person working for a CV course. Eventually I ran my course in the Job Centre (12 months I think it was) and then they threw me over to a company that wasn’t even part of the Job Centre. There was no communication between the Job Centre and this new company and as such I spent a lot of my time there repeating stuff I had already done at the Job Centre and whenever I tried to explain that I had done it they simply replied with “But it’s mandatory”. This is the Job Centre’s way of helping. They don’t actively help you, they just make everything mandatory. It really became too much when, having told them I suffer with mental illness, depression and anxiety, they told me that I would have to work full time at a recycling plant (a dump) for free or lose my benefits. This is a horrific notion – how was working full time at a recycling plant supposed to improve my prospects of getting a job in journalism? The answer? It wasn’t. At this point the Job Centre had stopped caring about finding me a job that was relevant to me (or even paid) and just wanted to force me off of their books and into an unpaid role.

Fortunately for me a vacancy opened up at a supermarket near where I lived. I applied for and got a job working there (although this didn’t come without its problems). I feel sorry for anybody unemployed now because the world has taken a dramatically sharp turn towards “It’s not what you know but who you know” and unless you know people in the right places you could be looking at years of unemployment and mental health problems.

Please, as always, if you know anybody in a similar predicament please feel free to share this link with them. This blog is set up to make sure that people don’t feel alone and know that other people have gone through similar things and come out on the other side.

Sticks and Stones

As I was growing up the only advice I got about bullying was to “not let it affect you” which is the single most unhelpful piece of advice you can give a person. I would rather you showed me how to not let it affect me because now, at twenty seven years old, I still don’t know how to “forgive and forget” or how to “move on” from a situation. I still get bouts of anger and hatred stemming from something that happened to me when I was at school. I still find my mind flashing back to the school playground every time I see an overly loud and/or obnoxious child.

I was bullied throughout high-school and I don’t remember having one single good day at the school. I was terrified to go into school, I didn’t want to leave the house and I felt alone in the world because I had no friends. Even the “friends” I did have were the most appalling bunch of two-faced dicks you could ever hope to meet. The sad thing? They’re living their lives now without any sort of repercussions regarding their actions and I’m the one that is crippled with self-doubt, anxiety, depression and hatred.

The bullying I endured at school was not physical. I had one or two altercations but I never wanted to resort to violence because I know I have a temper and I was always afraid of pushing my temper that little bit too far and causing some actual, proper harm to somebody. That’s why I don’t like getting angry, to this day I’m still very reserved when it comes to actual violence because I don’t know whether my mind would stop me if I was ever going to go too far.

The bullying I endured at school was mental and I don’t care what anybody says about “sticks and stones may break my bones etc.” because that shit isn’t true. More damage has been done to me with words than it ever was with violence.

My “friends” at school were on and off but I was stupid enough to believe that when we weren’t fighting that we were actually friends. No. This was never the case. I don’t believe during the five years we spent together at school that we were ever actually friends but I feel I was the only one that suffered this misconception. They had no qualms about playing me and my naivety, asking to borrow my stuff and then destroying it and claiming it wasn’t them. I would later find out that if I ever lent them anything they would wait until a class I wasn’t in and then just crush it under a chair and claim that they lost it or that somebody else in the class did it.

But I was a fool. I had nobody else and this was a time in my life where I needed people. I needed people to feel like I had a purpose or I may have done something I would later regret. So I clung to these people and when they wanted to be my friend I would take them back. They would use and abuse my friendship every time and I would just accept it because I had nobody else to turn to.

The bullying policy at my school was horrific. It was practically non-existent and the teachers wouldn’t physically do anything to stop it happening. If you told a teacher you would simply have both kid’s parents called, everybody would sit down together, you’d talk through what happened, shake hands at the end and that would be the end of it. The next day you would walk into school and the bullying would just continue, or even get worse in some circumstances.

Nobody teaches you how to deal with it properly. I wish I could tell you how to deal with it but I still don’t know. I still can’t forgive and forget. I still hate those people that made my life at school a nightmare. I still wish horrific things on them as some sort of redemption for bullying me and crippling my social abilities. It’s not fair that they get to go on and live their life while I’m struggling to wake up in the morning because it’s become almost routine that I feel downtrodden and unworthy of living.

Even to this day I can’t make friends. I’m scared people I make friends with are secretly talking about me behind my back. I’m scared that I’m just a placeholder in their lives. I’m scared that they don’t really take our friendship as seriously as I do. And I’m scared that I really don’t mean anything to them.

Bullying is a poison. Go to a doctor and they may not be able to see a few traces of it in your system but over time it’ll build up inside of you and then, when they can see it, it’s too late because it’s already infected your body and broken down anything good you once had inside of you. Your body and mind are now just a toxic wasteland of hatred and foulness.

How can we prevent this? I can’t give you a definite answer but I can tell you that bullying needs to be taken seriously. I’m not just talking “tell a teacher”, I’m talking about people actually doing something about it. Nobody ever got suspended or expelled for bullying me (even on those times they were physically violent towards me). These need to stop being used as threats and be used a lot more seriously. More people would think twice about bullying if their were honest-to-god consequences for their actions. In some instances I even believe police intervention should be used because some children can be quite psychopathic and need a firm hand to be dealt with.

We also need to educate the victims of bullying. We need to help them understand how to get on with their lives without letting the toxic hate build up inside of them and corrupt their minds. We need to stop assuming bullying builds character and actually pay attention to the needs and wants of those being bullied.

And I don’t care for excuses. There are no excuses to why your child is a bully. Address the problem. Too many times people just say things like “he’s going through some things” or “he’s got a bad home life” or “he’s just a teenager, they do these things.” No. Address the underlying issue and don’t just pretend that a half-an-hour conversation in the headteacher’s office is going to solve it for good. Make your school a safe place to go. Don’t let those that value education be too afraid to go into school and get it.

I say this as somebody dealing with mental health issues as a result of school bullying. I say this as somebody who still harbours hatred and anger towards people he hasn’t seen in over ten years. I say this as somebody who can’t form proper friendships out of fear and self-hatred. I say this as somebody who never wants a child’s mind and mental health to be twisted and warped by bullying ever again.

Please share this if you know or anybody who is or has been bullied. And make sure you offer help to those that might be going through hard times as a result of bullying. Even if it’s just pointing them in the direction of somebody who might be able to help, it’s better than pretending they’ll outgrow it.

To Tattoo Or Not To Tattoo?

When I was younger I never wanted a tattoo. It never crossed my mind and I didn’t particularly idolise anybody with tattoos. For a long time I couldn’t understand why people would want to get a tattoo.

I didn’t expect to get the reaction that I did when I posted this question to Facebook. I half expected nobody to reply or nobody to even care. As it turns out it was one of my most popular Facebook posts to date with a lot of people commenting. The majority of people said tattoo which wasn’t entirely surprising as I know a lot of people with tattoos and a lot of people who like tattoos.

What did surprise me though was the people that said otherwise. Nobody outright told me not to get a tattoo, it was more of a concern of whether I have thought it through. It was a surprising reaction given that nobody I know is explicitly against tattoos (that I know of). One of the more thought provoking comments was “What do you wanna get done is probably the better question… if you know what and where you want it and think you can live with it… get it..” This raises some interesting points but troubles me considerably because I’ve never considered my mind very trustworthy a lot of the time.

So here’s some backstory to this idea;

The idea of a tattoo isn’t new to me. It has always crossed my mind as a way to symbolise my devotion to something. At one point, I will admit, I considered having a musical note with “Backstreet Boys” tattooed somewhere around it. I was young and naive and I will admit I am glad that I didn’t have it done. Not saying that the Backstreet Boys haven’t played a huge part in my life, just that my devotion to them has cooled down over the years (not gone completely, I’m not that crazy). So I’ll admit I’m also glad I didn’t get an O-Town or Nsync tattoo for very much the same reasons.

My fear is that I have to justify everything to everybody, I can never do something just because I want to do it. I always end up hating myself if I do that. So I needed to think of a reason to justify getting a tattoo. For me I never had a reason. My brother has three tattoos; one that represents a once-in-a-lifetime trip, one that he believes represents his personality and another that he got for his children. I don’t have any milestones like that in my life, my life has been controlled by depression, anger and hate for the most part.

But this was something I had to take into account when considering a tattoo. I didn’t want an angry/angsty tattoo that I would regret later in life. I needed something that spoke to who I was. I actually didn’t have to search too hard before I found the design I wanted.


This is the design that if I were to get a tattoo that I would get. This is a Rune from the book series The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. This is important to me because those were the first books where I actually read about a place I wanted to be, about people I wanted to be with and worlds I wanted to live in. It was my perfect escape from the crazy going on inside my head. This Rune in particular stands for Angelic Power and I didn’t give it much thought till I had a depressive few days a couple of months ago and needed a reminder that I was special, that I had something special inside of me that made my life worth living. This, to me, is what that symbol represents. It represents the power inside of me to continue on living, to carry on regardless of what other people think of me and know that I do have something to offer the world and that I do have something special.

So there it is. That would be the design (although I’m unsure if I’d get it in colour or just all black) and I would get it tattooed on my wrist or forearm as a place I could look at when times got tough and I needed that reminder. Do I think I can live with it? I don’t know. I don’t know what that feeling is supposed to feel like. Does anybody know what that feeling is when they get a tattoo? I wouldn’t know if I felt it because I’ve never had to make a decision that permanently affects the rest of my life. If worse comes to worse I could find solace in the idea that at least mine means something, people get tattoos for considerably worse reasons than mine.

So I’m still up in the air. I’m still undecided about a tattoo which will come as a disappointment to some but a relief to others. But rest assured this is not a decision I am making because of peer pressure or because of fear, it is a decision I make based on who I am as a person and whether I can justify getting a tattoo or not.

If I’m Not ____ Then Who Am I?

Have you ever found yourself on the outside of a conversation? Where you want to say something but there’s never an opening and there never feels like a right time to say what you want to say? And the more you think about it the more your input sounds redundant or stupid and then by the time you’ve convinced yourself that what you have to say is funny or important then the subject has already changed? And now you’re just left with the lingering feeling that you were left out.

Okay so this is a constant battle I have with myself every time I go out of the house. I can’t interject myself into conversations because I don’t feel what I have to say is worth anybody else’s time. Because of this I end up just sitting quietly in a corner somewhere whenever social gatherings occur. I bring this up because I tried something scary today – I went to a social event.

Work was having a Christmas meal for everybody who worked on my department and there was a Quiz Night too. I am a sucker for quizzes – I will never say no to a quiz – and so agreed to go. The actual quiz itself was great and I actually had fun and felt like a normal human being. This was because people were looking to me for the answers.

I have always prided myself on intelligence. I won’t say I’m intelligent but I do like to learn things and my Dad has always instilled an importance of education in me. The only problem that I find is that now I don’t have a personality outside of being “The Intelligent One”. When I’m around smarter people I find myself empty and adrift, not knowing where I belong. When I can’t be The Smart One I find myself unable to be anything else because it’s what I’ve come to know myself as for so long, and the only personality trait I actually value about myself.

To this point my evening was crippled in two ways. Firstly I didn’t win the quiz. My team came second. I spent the rest of the evening running through reasons we didn’t come first – The other team probably cheated, the questions were tailored for older people and not people of my age, the quiz didn’t involve any of my specialist subjects, my team was basically me and one other girl holding the team up. I refused to admit that I lost because another team was better than us because where would that leave me? Empty and without a place to belong. If any of the above were true then I could still cling to my intelligence because the reason wouldn’t just have been that I wasn’t good enough. But I still can’t bring myself to admit it. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad loser or mentally unwell.

The other reason things went downhill is because I can’t interject myself into conversations. This means that before and after the quiz I was basically sat silent eating my food, drinking my lemonade or just waiting to be included in something. During the quiz people relied on me to give answers, they needed to interact with me because I had something to offer. Outside of the quiz nobody seemed to care and I struggled to interject anything because I knew as soon as I opened my mouth all eyes would be on me and I would have been expected to say something momentous or life changing when I simply didn’t have it in me.

Nevertheless I am giving myself credit for actually leaving the house for a social event. The last time I did that was probably a good eight or nine months ago. But I can’t help but feel all of the inadequacies I have been fighting for so long – being alone, being not good enough, feeling stupid, being unpopular – all of these things just rush back to my mind the moment I say goodbye to the people and I suddenly remember how miserable me and my life are.

I didn’t want to end this on a sour note but this is how my evenings out end. Whenever I say goodbye to the people I am with my mind switches to negatives and I find myself just wanting to lock myself away and cry for days on days. This isn’t practical though so I end up just pushing the emotions down and not talking about them and then another social situation will roll around and I’ll feel horrifically miserable again at the end of the night.

Binary Genders and Too Gay

This is a follow-on post from Sissy That Walk! If you haven’t already then I recommend reading that, it was my first blog post on here and it was the first time I discussed anything even slightly personal.

I didn’t realise, until recently, how much my parents had shaped who I have become. I knew they have influence and I knew I take traits from them and their parents – the basis of genetics – but I didn’t realise just how much social interaction with a person can change how you behave.

My parents didn’t let me have long hair until I had finished compulsory education. Their reason for this was that they didn’t believe long hair looked neat and presentable and they were trying to raise a child that would go to school looking smart and neat. I took exception to this at the time but there was nothing I could really do about it.

Flash forward a few years.

Nineteen years old, attending University and have shoulder length hair. There was something therapeutic about straightening my hair. It was a nice time that I could listen to music, straighten my hair and actually feel like I was having an influence the way I looked. I was at home one time and going out to meet some friends. I was running late and the hair straightening wasn’t as easy or as relaxing as it had been before because of the time constraints. I asked my dad if he could give me a hand because I couldn’t see the back and it would go a lot quicker than trying to do it myself. He flat out told me “No”. Not rude or obnoxious, just a simple “Nope.” When I asked him why he simply told me “I’m not going to help my son straighten his hair.” And so when I asked that if I were a girl would he help me then? His reply was “Yeah, of course.” Which was basically like him saying “You’re not the son I wanted.” He didn’t have to say those words, that’s what it felt like. And no, he never did straighten my hair.

The reason I bring this up is because I came out to my parents in April of 2015. In April 2016 my workplace was having a non-uniform day as part of their efforts to raise money for a local charity. I was ready to go to work although I was unable to drive myself because my car was being worked on at the garage. So my dad agreed to take me, my mum works just around the corner from where I work so it wasn’t an inconvenience for him. Well, I came down the stairs in my jeans, trainers and Dolly Parton T-shirt – A T-shirt I loved and had bought when I went to see her in concert. It was my first time wearing it and I always liked to convey a little bit of my personality through my clothing when possible. My mum’s reaction was “You’re wearing that?” To which I told her that I was. She replied with “It’s a little bit…” With a hesitation. I didn’t fill in the blanks for her, I wanted her to say it. “Gay.”

And this isn’t the first time in history she has made similar glib and off-the-cuff comments. I bought a T-shirt whilst at University – Nothing fancy, just a black t-shirt with stars on it. Well when I went home to visit I questioned why my new T-shirt hadn’t come back with the rest of my clothes. “Oh” My mum replied. “I thought it was a girl’s t-shirt.” And I never wore the t-shirt again.

I did drag one time at University. It was phenomenal and I loved it. My parents knew I was doing it but they didn’t know at the time that I was gay. (All three of my older brothers had done some sort of drag fancy dress party before so it wasn’t strange that I would do it too). However, when I got home my dress and heels that I had worn suddenly weren’t my clothes anymore. They were my mum’s clothes because I had just worn them for a themed night out, it wasn’t like I was going to keep them. I never saw them again and I still don’t know whether she has them or threw them away. I still miss them, particularly the heels because I have to admit that I love a good pair of heels.

I know why my parents do this too, and that’s possibly the most painful part of it. It’s not bigotry or prejudice, it’s just them wanting to protect me. My mum has said it a whole load of times, “we’re your parents, we don’t want anything bad happening to you” which is a sweet sentiment but it does, when you look at it, sort of make sense that for a long time in my head being gay was a bad thing. Even when I learned to accept that I was gay, I was very careful that I wasn’t going to be “too gay” because that came with negative connotations. I’m still, to this day, very conflicted about what’s in myself and what my family has ingrained into me to be acceptable.

I only write this because I have two nephews – one will be four soon and the other is coming up to eight months – and already I can see the gender norms being enforced on them. It’s not dramatic things, just passing comments like “dresses are for girls” or “those are for little girls, you want the little boy ones”. I dread to think if either of my nephews have any of the same thoughts I do when growing up because they are already being subtly repressed by their parents and grandparents and the binary gender foundations are already being put in place before they even start school.

How I Coped With Depression: Television

This blog post was inspired by a friend of mine. I hit a low point in life and didn’t know what to do. I was stuck in the pit of jealousy, anger and that horrible spiral that YouTube kept me in. I couldn’t watch YouTube anymore because it was making me feel worthless. My friend suggested some form of escape. Amongst her suggestions was the idea to “get lost in a television series. Totally immerse yourself in it and forget the real world for a while”. While this isn’t a long term solution (because you have to deal with things rather than avoid them) this definitely helped lift my mood enough for me to carry on with life from time to time. What I wanted to share here were a selection of TV shows that really engrossed me and captivated me enough for me to forget all about anything else going on in the world.

Scorpion – This show is about a team of geniuses – a mechanical prodigy, a doctor of behaviour, a human calculator, the world’s fourth highest IQ – who don’t feel like they fit in anywhere because of their intellect and inability to connect emotionally with others. A waitress proves to be their best ally when she joins the team in order to be a go-between for them and “normal people” to help translate and get them to understand and empathise. It all sounds very dry like that but this team of geniuses save the day on a regular basis. Sometimes they save the world, sometimes just one little girl’s life. Oh and you’ll learn a hell of a lot if you actually pay attention to the show. (If any of it interests you then definitely look up the technical terms they mention). It’s all loosely based on the life of Walter O’Brien so while you have to take things with a pinch of salt, the maths, science and logic behind it all is almost perfectly accurate.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Have you ever wanted to drop your boring, mundane life and move somewhere completely different? Find new and different people, have wacky adventures? Well that’s exactly what Rebecca Bunch does in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Why she moves is debatable but this is a story of one woman changing her life because it’s in a rut. In true Sitcom fashion not everything always works out for her (it’s television after all) but I felt connected to Rebecca from the first moment I saw her living in New York – she appeared to have it all but she wasn’t happy, not on the inside. It’s not been explicitly stated whether Rebecca has mental health issues although the warning signs are there (she just doesn’t see them because you don’t if you’re so close). The show stars Rachel Bloom and a host of Broadway and professional singers and dancers so you can expect some amazingly funny, moving and thought provoking musical numbers. If you like musicals (not just the hyper upbeat ones either) then this show is for you.

Supernatural – Oh boy, where to begin with this show. It’s quirky, funny, brutal, gory, emotional, sexy and downright fantastic. Two brothers return to the family business – Hunting. Only this isn’t normal hunting, this is Supernatural Hunting, we’re talking vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, demons, kitsune and everything in between. Actually everything in general really. The real draw for this show is the chemistry between the characters – having spent twelve years together on the show Jensen and Jared might as well be brothers. Throw in a curmudgenly, paranoid, booze addled mentor; a winged angel who doesn’t understand humans; and Crowley, The King of Hell with a British Accent and razor sharp wit. The writing is on point throughout this show. Even the weaker episodes still hold up a hell of a lot better than a lot of other television shows. The show isn’t afraid to make fun of itself, or the people who work on it and it’s a breath of fresh air in a world that can sometime feel so bogged down in seriousness that you forget to have fun. I wish I could give you a review of each Season but I’ll just have to hope you give it a watch (definitely a recommended watch and kills a lot of time – 12 Seasons worth).

Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments – A relatively new show and not one I would recommend to everybody. Read the books if you really want to get involved in this series but the television show is second only to the books (both are streets ahead of the film version). Clary Fray finds she isn’t like normal people when she discovers the secret world of Shadowhunters – an organisation in place to protect the world from Demons (and rogue downworlders such as Vampires and Werewolves). I suppose this is worth watching if you like pretty people kicking ass (which I do). There is copious action and a variety of weaponry but it’s not all an action packed kick-ass show because there are some nice romances that pop up too. I preferred this to the film because it really hit the characters better than the film did. It stayed fairly true to the books (whilst also taking into account the transition of medias) and was actually a nice adaptation from book to screen.

How To Get Away With Murder – Okay so maybe people might frown upon me suggesting this for escaping mental health problems but it’s a nice show to see that even the well presented and the well manicured aren’t as put together as we all think. It’s nice to really see people with flaws (and my god this show exposes a lot of character flaws) but not in a way that you hate them. Told through flashbacks and flash-forwards and unreliable storytelling with immense amounts of deceiving and selfishness, it’s a great show for anybody who wants to escape from the world of picture perfect celebrities and perfectly put together people with perfectly put together lives. If you want to peel back the facade of perfect people and see underneath then this show might just be for you. The characterisation brought about by both the writers and the actors is something of a marvel, a great watch. Viola Davis is exceptional in this show.

With the exception of Supernatural, all of the shows above are available on Netflix (at least the UK version of Netflix anyway) and are definitely worth checking out if you have a subscription. I’d suggest picking up Supernatural anyway though, it’s definitely brought me a whole new comfort realm to fall into when I’m feeling the need for escape.

I Wish I Could Quit You!

I have never really openly discussed my mental health and the triggers that affect it. To be honest up until two or three years ago I didn’t know I had mental health problems at all. To me I was just a misanthrope who didn’t like the world or a huge percentage of the people in it. It never occurred to me that there were reasons I didn’t like things and that people without mental health problems couldn’t understand where the anger and hatred was coming from.

Let me tell you why I wanted to write this blog. I don’t have a lot of friends. My parents moved in 2012 and I was unemployed and had to move with them. This is nothing I could have changed. But I moved to an area where I didn’t know anybody. I had no friends. For the first two years I remained unemployed and YouTube became my staple friend. I could waste hours upon hours on YouTube. It was like a television channel where there was always something to watch. I was enamoured because I could always find something.

One of my regular channels was a YouTuber called Yogscast Kim. She played video games and did the occasional Vlog, funny sketch or interview with somebody famous. I really enjoyed all of the Yogscast videos but Kim’s were the videos where I became switched on about what was going on in my head. She would frequently talk about her past, her background in journalism and editing and I actually connected with what she would talk about (given that when I was unemployed the one thing I wanted to do was Journalism and interviews). Then, one day, she was just talking about her life and the things she does and she happened to mention that she found it weird, in a good way, that thousands of people watch her on YouTube, or that she gets to go and interview famous people, or that she sits on panels at conventions. And I felt the hatred course through my veins. I felt the anger boiling up inside me and I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t hate Kim, I knew that I didn’t hate her because she had actually done nothing to wrong me and just thirty seconds before I was watching her videos quite happily.

The problem was me. More specifically the problem was jealousy. After stopping the video, taking a step back and assessing why I was angry, I realised I was angry with myself and not anybody else. I was angry that I was a failure. I was angry that I wasn’t living that life. So after this came numerous attempts for me to try and emulate that lifestyle. YouTube video views are fickle and inexplicable, nobody can quite tell you what will be a hit and what won’t. So this anger would resonate inside of me when my videos would only get twelve views while everybody else seemed to be getting thousands. I even took this anger out on the few friends I did have, blaming them for my failure because they wouldn’t share or like my video or subscribe to my channel. But this was just a spiral downwards and I knew, deep down, that it wasn’t their fault. I was a failure in my own eyes.

This happened with a lot of people. I found myself no longer able to watch videos of people I had previously enjoyed because I felt the jealousy inside me getting too much. It would depress me so much that I would actually just feel numb, like life was happening around me and I was just a pointless waste of space in the world.

I still have trouble. I am a work in progress. Still, at times, I find myself having to switch off videos when I feel that feeling inside of me. And I can’t just quit YouTube. I don’t have local friends or local things to do, YouTube is my way of killing time. The sad thing is that it feels like an abusive relationship – YouTube can make me feel as crappy as it wants because it knows I will always come back because I don’t have any other options. And I’m not even sure I want other options, I like the people I watch on YouTube. I like their stories and their entertainment. I just don’t like the way I feel about myself.

If you were hoping for a happy solution then I apologise. I still don’t know what to do about this but it has helped me slightly to acknowledge that it’s jealousy that triggers these feelings and that I don’t actually hate people. When I think I hate people it’s usually because I hate myself for some reason.

Sissy That Walk!

I didn’t know it at the time but the way I grew up, and the area I grew up in, was very gender split. If you were a boy then you did things like play sports and if you were a girl then you did things like dance classes. Even the Physical Education classes in my school were gender biased and made sure the boys played certain sports (Rugby, Baseball and Basketball) while the girls did other activities (Hockey, Dance and Softball). At the time this was what I thought the world expected of me. To be the rugby playing manly man that they were expecting. My dad played rugby. My brothers all played football. I was sent to numerous sports clubs to try and give me something I could do.

I knew what I wanted to be at the time but I didn’t know there was a word for it, all I knew is that society around me wouldn’t have accepted it. I knew at the age of thirteen that I was gay and that it was just another aspect of me that society wouldn’t like.

I retreated into the media to try and find solace in the portrayals of LGBT people on screens and magazines. This was not a clever idea and pushed me to the brink of near suicide in my post-University years. This was because the media didn’t portray gay men in a positive light. Not only were they barely seen but they were also promiscuous and bitchy and they appeared as very slender or buff models. This isn’t what an overweight teenager going through an identity crisis needs to believe all gay men to be like.

At University this was reinforced with a rather bad experience with the LGBT society who really personified the idea of the bitchy and two-faced gay stereotype that had shaped my teenage years. This perception was now ingrained in my head and I knew I didn’t want to be gay.

The problem was that I knew being gay wasn’t a choice and so it was who I was doomed to live as for the rest of my life.

I spent a long time feeling not good enough. I wasn’t any of the gay stereotypes and so I didn’t feel like I belonged alongside the LGBT community. My upbringing, the society I grew up in, had made me feel like an outsider. I didn’t fit in with macho-straight guys but I had been conditioned to believe that a man shouldn’t do effeminate things and that whenever I was in front of people I shouldn’t display these qualities. Every limp wrist, hand on hip or hair-flick was picked up on and shamed to the point of me hiding possibly ninety percent of myself.

I like staying up late. At night, when everybody else was asleep, I could be my headphones on and lip-sync into the mirror as much as I wanted. I could be as sassy as I wanted, I could flip my hair and shake my hips as much as I wanted because nobody wasn’t going to disturb me. By daylight I would go back to being your normal mild-mannered, quiet, “butter wouldn’t melt” type of guy.

Even when I accepted that I was gay and came out to my friends and family, I still wasn’t me. I was still this cardboard cut-out of a person that society had forced me into believing was what people wanted me to be. When I look back on this I think how my friends would say that I didn’t hide it very well, that I was still a little bit effeminate, but trust me, there was a whole boat-load that you weren’t seeing. There was diva beneath the surface that I held down for so long it became painful.

Then I was introduced to RuPaul.

My friend, in early 2016, introduced me to RuPaul’s Drag Race and I was hooked. The colours, the lights, the fabulousness, the dresses, the hair. Everything. It was spectacular.

This was what I was needing. I needed Drag Race. I needed RuPaul and I needed his girls because they were the personification of everything I had been trying to stuff down deep inside me. And they were doing it on television. In heels. And these girls didn’t have a single ounce of shame about what they were doing, it was glorious. But not only this, the show also portrayed them as people. They weren’t the butts of jokes or the sex-selling face of a company, they were actual people who just wanted to entertain and look great. Until that day I honestly thought I was the only one with these creative thoughts and that I should keep them quiet or the world would hate me.

And to top it off they lip-synced. Something I had been doing in my mirror since I was a child. These were the people I needed.

I honestly had never felt so passionate about a television show in my life. I wanted to be friends with these girls. I wanted to know who they were and talk to them. They were the most accurate representation of me that I had ever come across and yet I had never put make-up on my face.

I’m still learning. I’m not going to say that now you can see me in Soho with high-heels and a mini-skirt but RuPaul and his girls have honestly changed my perception of society and given me a place to feel like I belong. I can only hope that one day I find a drag-mother to show me how to really bring out the glitter and the sparkles that have been kept beneath the surface for so many years.

Thank you RuPaul. You broke through societies deeply ingrained perception and showed me the reality I needed to see.