As I stepped away from the bright lights of everyday modern society I found myself in a quiet dark.
A soft space in the forest of life that felt nourishing, enriching, and a reminder of who I am.
I sat for a while in this soft simple space. Allowing my eyes to adjust to the dark.
Sights and sounds of the bright urban landscape can still be seen and heard in the distance, but it is far away enough that I can feel my inner world coming to life.
Visions emerge from within like a carnival of sound and colours.
Against the mellow night I enjoy their stories and imagery as I watch – enveloped in a sense of deep peace.
I see that I am safe. Known. Loved.
I feel the energy of life in my body.
The sensations of my heart beat and the air in my lungs offers a reassuring sense of being grounded in a state of natural being.
I awaken to a feeling of being connected in this forest of life.
The lights and sounds of the city landscape not separate from who I am – it is existing in this moment as I am – it is just not enmeshed in the experience of who I know myself to be.
I know I can be connected and at the same time not engaged in whatever is going on around me.
I breathe into this feeling of comfort and solitude and enjoy the flow of thoughts in my mind.
I know that this is who I am. A form of life. Here to experience whatever is present in the moment.
From this space I uncover the light of life within me.
I am not alone. All of life is present in this moment with me.
I feel a sense of love and compassion flow as I awaken to true love.
In love with this existence.
In love with this experience.
With the mind, my body, this heart and curious soul.
I take a breath and stand in this patch of the forest. Now lit with the light of awareness apparent from within myself.
I see the glisten of green on the leaves of the trees – showing off their natural beauty.
I see what I have the ability to do.
I can help to awaken others to the light of their inner life and to see that it can guide their steps.
I walk with the light shining bright within my mind and head down to the sights and sounds of the city.
No longer afraid, no longer in need, but aware of who I am and what I can do.
I find the path that feels good for me. Following my inner knowing and curious desires. I find my way back to the people. I find the ones who feel like love to me, and continue to live a beautiful life.
My personal experiences of being from a Mixed ethnic group.
As a part of Black History Month 2021, I am inspired to share some of my personal experiences of being from a Mixed ethnic group, and how I feel it has impacted me throughout my life so far.
I don’t feel like I’m from anywhere. There isn’t a country or place where people with Mixed ethnic backgrounds naturally originate. I was made by two lovely humans who happened to originate from different parts of the globe.
Because I’m not from a specific place I also don’t know where in the world I would naturally fit in — socially speaking. I feel too White to be considered Black, and too Black to be considered White. I’ve never really known what my culture is or how Mixed ethnicity groups might culturally appear to the rest of the world.
I was born and raised in the UK, but I’ve never felt like I was completely at home here. Being from a mixed ethnicity group in the UK has brought challenges. I’ve experienced microaggressions, racial stereotyping, prejudice and social exclusion. I’ve also felt like I haven’t been able to explore and embody my Caribbean culture fully— unless the behaviour I displayed was aligned with stereotypical, accepted ideas of what Black people are supposed to be like.
I’ve felt sad in my life about being unable to trace my Black ancestral history back beyond the point of slavery. I’ll likely never know what my ancestral family name was, or where my Black ancestors came from before being shipped to the Caribbean islands to work. Being unable to trace my family history has left me feeling stunted in my Black cultural identity. It’s like having two legs, but only being able to stand on one of them. I know I have a Black cultural heritage within me, but I don’t feel able to access or express it because I’ve felt so disconnected from it.
I also felt like I wasn’t beautiful for the majority of my life. Being raised around a eurocentric view of what is “beautiful” meant I was comparing myself to a perspective that didn’t align with anything about me. I felt like my skin was too dark. My bum was too big. My hips were too wide. My nose was too flat, and my hair was too frizzy. This unhealthy distortion of my self-image created so many difficulties in my life when I engaged in intimate relationships and made decisions from a place of having little to no self-respect, self-acceptance, self-love and self-validation.
This is probably a strange example, but still, it was an experience that gave me a message that being of Mixed ethnicities was going to limit my choice and opportunities in life.
I was in Middle School. There was a talent show. The Spice Girls were all the rage at this time and my friends and I wanted to recreate one of their songs for the show. I remember feeling forced into agreeing to be Scary Spice because we had the same skin colour and hair texture. I didn’t want to be Scary Spice — I wanted to be Posh Spice, but my desires at the time were less important than my physical resemblance. I remember feeling hyper-aware that my skin colour would be a factor in what people thought I was capable of doing. I’m very rarely aware of my skin colour when in social situations, but experiences like this remind me that I am different in appearance from the majority of people around me and that looking different can lead people to make assumptions about what I like, want to do, and can do in life.
Acceptance is found within.
I like scented violas.
Now imagine a scented viola was capable of having a conversation and someone said to it.
“I can see that you have both light and dark purple as the colour of your petals, but you have to make a choice about which one you want to identify with.”
Can you imagine how difficult it might be for that flower to choose between which shade of purple it wants to express from within itself? It’s natural for the flower to express both shades — without concern about how the other flowers might judge them. I found that I am very much the same.
As I began to explore the conditioned thinking I had around who I should be I realised that of course, I could accept my ethnicity as being Mixed. I didn’t have to try and fit myself into being predominantly White British or Black Caribbean. I am whole as I am.
Once I saw this for myself it felt like the most natural thing in the world to just express my Mixed heritage. I stopped trying to convince myself and others that I have to choose which bits of myself I am safe to express and instead express what feels good in the moment.
Being in a Mixed ethnic group feels so good to me now because it kind of has a cultural feel of its own. It’s a bit nomadic — in the sense that Mixed ethnicities do not have a geographical place we can call home so we make our home wherever we are. We also have a natural insight into at least two cultures and can experience first-hand how these cultures can exist harmoniously within us.
I’ve found that accepting myself as being in a Mixed ethnicity group has encouraged me to see that I exist in life beyond my cultural identity. I have a deep appreciation of diversity and can see that all our differences reflect the one truth of us being a part of life as a whole. When we can see that there is nothing inherently wrong with any part of us and that who we are is a natural form of life, we can see that truth for everybody. Regardless of how they appear and choose to express themselves.
I’m exploring my understanding of what “God” is at the moment as I’ve noticed that the word triggers a lot of unhelpful thinking and I want to try and understand why.
My thoughts about “God” make me feel like I want to recoil in shame because I feel as though I’m not good enough as I am right here and now.
I feel like I’m being judged for having an appreciation of God, and also that I’m judged because my way of appreciating God doesn’t align with standardised religion.
I also experience feeling scrutinised within myself, and that I’m a bad person for embracing my human needs and desires.
In the face of all this thinking, I feel as though I’m unable to be my natural self and that’s why I want to get to the heart of what I feel and know about God.
Exploring the word “God” has made me realise that it’s tied up with different kinds of doctrine, beliefs, rules and dogma. It’s gone from being a word that I can use to describe a feeling, or an experience, to a word that has the power to create and conjure a being that is separate from myself.
The word “God”, I think, has been used in the past as a way of attempting to control human behaviour. It’s often associated with experiences that have the potential to incite fearful thinking in us — such as — what might happen when we die, or what might happen when we are alone and unwitnessed by others. I think this uncertainty has left a lot of room for speculation and has been the source of where a lot of our unhelpful ideas about God have come from.
I’m reclaiming this word for myself and want to use it how I see and understand it.
I see the word “God” as a way of describing the energy and intelligence of universal life which exists in all its forms, and beyond them.
God, to me, is a creator of forms. It is what creates all life.
It is not a “he” or a “she” or a “them”.
It is not a separate form of existence, and yet it is completely impersonal to our individual lives.
It is an energy that is present with us all the time.
It flows through us in every moment offering wisdom, guidance and support.
It is the expression of the sun and moon. Nature and the trees.
Flowers and the earth. The oceans and the stars. Human beings, birds, bugs and fishes.
It is the life that exists all around us,
God is not, to me, a judgement on how we should live our lives. God is not an opposition to thinking for yourself and making choices about your own experience of life. God is not an external entity that you can anger and prompt to punish you when you make a mistake or get something wrong. God is not a personal opinion or judgement that can change the fate of your entire existence.
God is a word that you can use – alongside lots of other words (Goddess, energy, love, flow, Gaia, Mother Earth, Tao, Divinity, Mind, freedom, nature, expression, intelligence, creativity, the universe) – to describe your experience of life, within and beyond its many wonderful forms.
Three years ago, in the early hours of this morning, I lost my mum following a tragic accident. She tripped and fell down the stairs which caused injuries she was unable to recover from.
I’d been with her during the day before it happened. Laughing, joking and spending time with her; not knowing it would be the last time I ever saw her able to that.
The night it happened was a nightmare.
I was fast asleep when I felt my husband, Jamie, wake me up. He told me he’d heard from my sister and that we needed to go to the hospital to see mum. She’d been in an accident.
I never normally turn my phone off, but for some reason, that night, I did. I don’t know why, but I never saw the calls my family were trying to make.
I remember jumping out of bed wide awake. Calmly, but quickly. I got dressed in the first clean clothes I could find, jumped in the car, and drove as fast – and as safely – as I could to the hospital.
I don’t know what I was expecting to see when I got there, but I didn’t expect what I saw.
Her body was swollen and she was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and machines that were helping her to survive.
The doctors and nurses were doing everything they could to try and save her, but the injuries she sustained were severe, and the doctors made it clear that she may not be able to survive them.
My siblings were already there when I arrived and we reached out to other family members to share the news. They arrived as the night dragged on and it was looking less and less likely to us that she would pull through.
Still, we held onto hope. We wished her well, cried, and told each other stories about her as we waited in the family room for some positive news to come through.
The doctor’s messages were becoming bleaker and bleaker, as we started accepting the reality of what was happening. We started fearing the worst for her recovery.
We waited and worried and hoped through to the early hours of the morning before being confronted with the heart-breaking news that she wasn’t going to make it. The doctors didn’t feel it was viable to keep her body going on life support. They couldn’t see a way for her to come back to life.
My siblings, family and I spent some time with her while she was on life support. We we’re able to say some final words before the doctors disconnected her from the machines sustaining her life.
We stayed with her and held her while she peacefully passed away.
It was a crushing moment. I don’t recall knowing heartbreak like it.
The loss was felt instantly.
I knew her spirit had gone.
I‘d had a turbulent relationship with mum throughout my life.
We were both stubborn and strong-minded, and it was only in the final years of her life that we were starting to form a good bond. I felt devastated that the opportunity to have a good relationship with her had been so harshly taken away.
I pined for her. Longed for her, and craved her physical presence in my life. I cried into my pillow for hours at a time. Even moved into her house and slept in her bed during the time leading up to her funeral.
I couldn’t cope with the reality of the loss. I just wanted to be close to her.
Even now there are times where I feel like all I want is to fall into her, and to feel her embrace me with a non-judgemental hold as I cry, and weep, and moan about whatever is that is on my mind.
I feel her loss in those moments the most, but her passing has taught me a lot that I am grateful for.
Her death has taught me that no one else can die in your place so there is no point in sacrificing your experience of life for anyone else.
It doesn’t matter how much a person loves you, or how much you love them, or how much you do for each other in life, when your time to go present there isn’t anyone who can die for you.
No amount of people-pleasing, sacrificing your needs or bending to anyone’s will of you can prevent the eventual end of your life from happening to you.
This time in which you are alive now is for you to experience.
It’s your time to enjoy life, and spend it doing whatever you want to.
I live life now in the moment — doing my best to disregard how it might appear or how it might grate against thoughts or expectations.
I also realised that there is no point sacrificing your true self in exchange for being liked, accepted, or validated. You don’t have to suppress your ecstatic expression of life, or try to fulfil a conditioned role or set of behaviours. There are no rewards in mind for putting yourself through that.
I live as freely as I can now— within the natural bounds of being an empathetic human.
I don’t waste time labouring under any illusions that I’m guaranteed to live a long and healthy life.
I work for the things I want to experience now.
I enjoy a passionate and creative life, now.
I see that there is no point in working myself to the bone and being miserable now — in the hope of a brighter future, or a relaxing retirement. I know I might not make it there. I instead find the light of the present moment now, and work from there. Taking action that feels right and in support of what makes sense to do in the here and now. This includes taking care of my personal needs.
I want to see and experience as much of life as I can — with the resources I have available, and I try not to let anything stop me in this work of uncovering what we are capable of in life.
I don’t know how much longer I have left to live, and I have learned to not deny myself the pleasure of living a wonderful life for myself.
Mums death deepened my appreciation for life as a whole.
I appreciate the people who show up in my life. For their love, and for their lessons.
I appreciate the capacity I have to serve others and to give back where I can. I appreciate the beauty of being served and supported by life.
I appreciate the basic experience of being alive and how fucking cool it is. Like, what even is that!? Being alive? I appreciate the ability I have to explore it and try and figure it out for myself.
I’m also less afraid of death.
I realise it is inevitable. A natural part of life.
Feeling death that close changed my understanding of it.
It’s not just something that happens to other people. It can happened to people we love. It can happen unexpectedly. It will happen to us.
I see death more like the end of a party now. Just my time to go home.
I also learned from mum that life’s challenges are never the end.
That no matter how difficult things seem there is always hope because until the unavoidable end comes, life is always supporting and guiding you through.
You are never without grace, wisdom, intelligence, resilience, intuition and an ability to respond.
I am grateful to my mum. For birthing me into this world. For the life, she lived through and shared with me. For the lessons, she has taught me — both in life, and the ones she continues to teach me through her death.
One experience of being part of the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community.
I have wanted to share this story for some time but felt uncomfortable for putting it out there for fear of embarrassment, and judgement from my friends, family and peers, but I’ve realised recently that my fear of being judged isn’t nearly as important as the truth of my experience being shared.
This desire to share was brought to light after watching a film recommended by my cousin called ‘The Watermelon Woman’ — directed by Cheryl Dunye. It’s about an aspiring black lesbian filmmaker who is searching for information on a black actress from the 1940’s (spoiler alert) and discovers through her research that this actress was in a lesbian relationship with the director of the movie.
The film goes on to research this more, and also why there is such a lack of historical information on the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community working in the creative field.
(This is a major spoiler alert. So if you intend on watching the film, I wouldn’t read on past this point until you do.)
What inspired me to want to share my personal experience is that the film highlighted how difficult it was to find historical information on the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community, so much so that the story itself was in-fact fictional. I was led to believe that ‘The Watermelon Woman’ was an actual woman who existed as a part of our lived history, but the film reveals at the end that she is made-up because there is so little history on BIPOC members of the LGBTQ+ community available.
This shocked and surprised me, and also drew me out of my self-conscious bubble to share my experience because I want future generations of the BIPOC LGBTQ+ community to reflect back and know that there are people in their history living comfortably within their sexuality and sexual identity — and that there is no reason to feel afraid or embarrassed about exploring your sexuality, and expressing your sexual identity — Whatever that is.
I only learnt in recent years that a sexual identity called ‘pansexuality’ even existed.
I had, from being a teenager, identified as being bisexual — because that was the only word available for me to use. But alongside men and women I have also had intimate, romantic and sexual experiences with people who identified as being transgender, and two-spirit – so finding out there was a sexual identity that didn’t discern between genders was liberating for me.
Attraction is always about individual expression. The biological form that that individual shows up in, is irrelevant to me.
I fall for people’s energy.
The way they move and speak, and carry themselves.
The confidence they have in their actions and their ability to move through life.
Physical appearance and gender have always felt secondary to that. I simply feel pulled, and passionately drawn towards particular individuals, and I don’t read into that feeling much beyond that.
Being married and in a committed relationship means that I don’t pull on sexual attractions outside of my relationship, but I still experience them, and I think being married — and still feeling attractions towards other people — has raised internal self-reflection around why attraction still happens and what these feelings mean when they arise.
I’ve asked myself questions like:
‘Why do I still identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community if I’m contently married to a cis-gendered man? Wouldn’t it be easier to just tell people I’m straight?’
Well, I think I still express my sexual identity as a matter of principle, because being pansexual is still true for me.
Even though I am content in my relationship, I still experience feelings of attraction to people of all forms and gender identity. I don’t act on those impulses, but they’re still present, and so to call myself a heterosexual woman, even though I am in a heterosexual relationship, would be a lie.
Being mixed race and pansexual.
This is my experience. I was born a mixed race cis-gendered woman. I was born pansexual. I did not choose my colour. I do not choose who I feel sexually attracted to. These are qualities of my expression that I cannot change or control. Nor would I want to. I am here to be the expression of who I am in life— both in appearance and in character.
What feels natural for me to do is what feels natural for me to do, and I am no longer willing to put myself through feeling like I need to hide, shrink, deny or lie about who I am in order to alleviate anyone’s conditioned discomfort around me and who I am.
Brené Brown spoke to this so beautifully in one of her videos about fitting in.
I can’t remember her exact wording, but to paraphrase it she said something along the lines of — I can no longer deny my true self in order to fit in. Because in denying myself I may fit in with you, and your idea of who I should be, but I will have betrayed myself, and that is a betrayal I am no longer willing to accept or tolerate.
In my experience, I have found that being in the BIPOC community added another layer of conditional bullshit onto being pansexual. Being mixed race has meant that I have felt this unspoken expectation to fit in with the white male perspective of how society should be. By being mixed race I am already considered different from the majority, and so add being pansexual on top of that – it’s just another form of ‘different’ that the mainstream patriarchal heterosexual euro-centric view of society has to come to terms with. Being that my survival has been dependent on social systems, in the past, it was easier for me to try and fit in than it was to be the unique individual that I am – and to accept that I may stand out from what is considered to be the ‘norm’.
I also found the BIPOC Community to be less accepting of my pansexual identification— I assume it’s because there are so few available historical references and known BIPOC LGBTQ+ role models in history that it’s difficult for people from these communities to see outside of the conditioned social parameters that being white, straight and cis-gendered is the ‘norm’ that we should all be striving to work towards.
As I’ve come to realise, nature doesn’t function in that way.
There is no ‘norm’ or ‘standard’ of how we all should look, act and be.
There is who we are and there is what feels natural for us to do.
All else we perceive around that is created by thought.
Expectations and judgements are not solid.
The lens through which we view reality is tangible and malleable — infinitely.
Our expectations, conditioning and judgements are never fixed in place by nature. Therefore we do not need to live by them when we see that they are not supportive of life expressing itself as a whole.
Life is what it is.
Nature is what it is.
People are who they are, and love who they love.
Our perceptions of that will be what they will be, but as individuals, we don’t have to live by the perceptions, judgements or expectations of others.
We are free to be the expression of life that we are — beyond any expectations of who we think we should be.
The thoughts we think, the body we navigate, and the circumstances we live in are all being expressed into this infinite and universal space.
This space (as I understand it) is like a womb for life. An empty space from which, and a platform upon which, all life is expressed and apparent in awareness.
Being made aware of this space has inspired me, in the most fulfilling of ways, to understand the freedom I have in life to take action.
I have no idea what this field is.
I don’t know what it’s made out of, how, or why it was created. I doubt I ever will know for sure, but what I do know is that I understand it — and I experience it from within my mind.
I imagine it like the inside of a television, and like a television it has no opinion or personal judgements about what is being received and displayed through it. It just works in receiving information, processing it, and then projecting it onto its screen so it’s visible.
I see the field of creativity working in this way. The information of life is transmitted, received and projected throughout this universal field, and that’s what we experience as life.
When we see this for ourselves — that the thoughts we think, and the experiences we have are being projected into this universal space — we can access this deeper understanding of the neutrality of this divine and creative field.
In uncovering this understanding for myself, I found that I was less affected by the thoughts I had in mind, and felt more responsive to the life I saw existing around me — in recognition that all life is apparent and observable in this clear and present space.
I saw that I could express myself in a way that felt good, pleasurable and enjoyable.
I saw that there was nothing in this space with any power to control me and that I could flow in being my natural self. I saw that there wasn’t any threat to my innate wellbeing and that I was free to navigate this creative field in any way – or direction I wanted to, in exploring life as a whole.
As I started to observe thoughts in wholeness in this field I came to see them as offerings of life that allow me to experience the essence of something, or someone. Seeing thoughts in this way meant that they stopped being a problem I needed to try and manage or do something about.
The content of what we think, to me, isn’t anywhere near as interesting as the fact that we do think, that we have this ability to think, and that our experience of life is being generated by this stream of thinking.
What can mess us up in life is when we engage in the content of our thoughts believing it to be a true reflection of the way things are.
When we think our thoughts are appearing as orders, premonitions, or directives — telling us what we should and shouldn’t do, we can lose sight of a deeper truth of life. From what I’ve seen there can be truth contained in thought, but thought can also be wholly creative and so checking in with our deeper sense of wisdom and intuition can be a steady guide in knowing when to take action based on the thoughts we think.
Uncovering your unique artistry
As good (or as bad) as human beings have ever been throughout the course of history, we have never been able to influence the way the earth moves around the sun — or how the planets and stars align.
The universal functioning of life continues to do what it does, in the way it always has, regardless of our human behaviour.
To me that means we are always off the hook — universally speaking.
Free to play, experiment, and be creative in the way we take action. There isn’t any part of us which is bound by the way we’ve done things in the past, or by what has been before. We are in essence, free.
Free to try new things.
Free to play with new ways of expressing ourselves.
Free to open ourselves up to new experiences.
So does being off the hook mean that we don’t have to be aware of how our behaviour might affect people and the life existing around us?
No. I don’t think so.
Understanding that I am universally off the hook has made me more aware of what I do, and of the actions I take. I feel more considerate of the life existing around me and have a deeper insight into the impact my behaviour might have. I feel respectful of the freedom and love that is offered to every living being.
In experiencing this I feel liberated to enjoy and appreciate the relationships I have — with an understanding and recognition of the truth that all forms of life are temporary.
As we observe and explore this space and field of existence, with the understanding that we are free to be in it – and play in it, we can be more creative in the way we experience, utilise and express our thoughts and feelings to one another.
We can dance in the flow of thoughts that feel good and can — with a healthy disrespect — ignore the ones that don’t.
We can find a way of expressing ourselves that aligns with the essence of who we are in nature. Our true selves. The self that exists beyond who we think ourselves to be.
Life then opens up into being this beautiful, expansive experience of observing the essence of expression for what it is — and of seeing what is possible for us to do in this unlimited, clear and neutral field of creativity.
It’s often the stories that embarrass us most which – in sharing them, liberate us from feelings of shame and unworthiness. Of feeling like we don’t fit in, or that our experiences are too shameful to speak of.
Some embarrassing stories of mine are on the tip of my tongue at the moment, and I’ve found in recent years that this normally happens when it’s time to release them from my heart and mind…
I have fallen from grace more times than I care to remember.
I’ve lost sight of myself, and others in the clouds of stormy thinking and misunderstanding. I am not a saint by any means, but nor am I an intentional sinner.
I have been a shitty person, and have done shitty things throughout my life— and I often conclude that the overarching source of experiencing psychosis is that it was a spiritual reckoning in facing up to the things I’d done that I wasn’t at peace with.
It was an enlightenment to the truth that I was on a path of taking action that would inevitably bring me face-to-face with the worst that life could offer me, and thankfully, in my wisdom, I saw the sign that it was time to turn my life around.
In the act of ‘turning my life around’ I noticed that it wasn’t so much about changing my circumstances (although changes in circumstances is what happened as a result of the actions I took), it was more about understanding how my experience of life functioned within the wider picture of reality.
I started to see — in this journey of understanding — that I was the one creating the experiences, and circumstances that I (innocently) believed were the cause of my shitty behaviour.
Once I saw this for myself I was able to then make better choices. Choices based on what I actually wanted to do, not reactions born from unhealthy conditioning.
I came to understand that my behaviour was inspired by nothing more than experiencing, believing, and acting on the thinking I had about life; but until this understanding came to me, I didn’t have the insight to realise that my experience of life was subjective, and so I would act as though my behaviour was justified in an assumption that everybody felt, and saw things the way that I did.
I thought, in my misunderstanding, that everyone was pretending to be happy and I was wise enough to be in on the joke. I thought that true happiness was a myth, or something that only ‘other people’ — people with wealth, status, or achievements could experience.
I would try distract myself from this hellish experience and would seek out anything that was louder and more intense than the thoughts I had which convinced me I would always be inwardly miserable.
I turned to things like promiscuous sex, drugs, loud music, probing arguments and being toxically involved in other people’s lives. I would create drama, lie, gossip, be disloyal and unfaithful in my relationships. I would use any way I could find to distract myself from this underlying, ever-present feeling of doom, being lost and uncomfortable in not knowing how to be myself in this life.
I become the chaos that I experienced within, and life — being a mirror — reflected this chaos right back to me through my external circumstances.
I didn’t feel a lot of love for anyone back then, not truly, and I didn’t think that anyone could truly love me, and so I did what I thought anyone would do in a life without love — whatever they wanted, without care or consideration of how that behaviour might make others around them feel.
“Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” became the best forms of distraction I could find, and so while I felt unable to love myself, I could at least distract myself with these things… and I had fun, but it was a kind of superficial, egoic ‘fun’ that was short-lived, destructive and that ultimately led to more feelings of being detatched, dark, lost and desperate.
I wanted something deeper. Something more substantial. Something enduring and secure.
I wanted intimacy that felt real and true.
Something holy, but without a need for religion, cults and rituals.
I wanted to find a piece of home in life that felt like mine to be in.
I wanted to feel like life could contain all of my experiences, my form, essence and creative expression.
I wanted life to feel like home, and not just something I had to tolerate in pain until the day I died.
In having a breakdown — and feeling inspired to explore things like spirituality, psychology and philosophy — I found some of the answers to the questions I was looking for like “how to be happy” and “how to find peace”.
I learnt that I had to love myself and be responsible for my needs — and it sounds cheesy, if you have spent most of your life being a survivor, tough and independant. Being kind to yourself, and loving yourself can take some getting used to, but it’s been the only thing I’ve found that has helped me in turning my life around.
It has allowed me to see that my experience of life wasn’t hell on earth, but was me believing my own thinking and then playing that thinking out through my behaviour.
As I started to become more aware of my thinking, and more importantly how I didn’t have to believe or act upon it, I started to settle down. I started to become more aware of my ‘response-ability’ and how I could choose what I wanted to do with my body and time on earth. I could choose how I wanted to treat the people around me.
“Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll” became less like distractions I needed to block out thoughts, and appeared to me more like experiences that are present which I, as an individual, can choose to engage in — or not.
Sex to me now is not something I need to feel attractive, worthy, or loved, but is a celebration of our human form.
Of life, love and intimacy.
Of connection, expression, trust, care and kindness.
Drugs and alcohol are not things I need to get by in life and use to deal with stress, but are an expression of life that offer an experience that I can choose to engage in, or not.
Rock ’n’ roll is no longer a crutch I need to support me to feel like I fit in with life — with all of the emotions, fear, pain, darkness and desires that come up with it.
It is an opportunity to experience music in a heavy, captivating form. One that acknowledges and appreciates the expression of raw unfiltered emotion…
The need for relying on distractions from thinking dissolves in this understanding that the thoughts we think do not have to be a source of misery, pain or separation.
Nor do they determine how our behaviour has to be. Thoughts are a creative expression that provide an opportunity for us to experience something about life.
They can serve as ongoing reminders that there is more beyond our conscious individual selves at play in the universe.
We have this ability to observe and question our thoughts, as we experience them, and can decide what activities we want to engage in — based on what feels good to our mind, body, heart and soul.
I read a play on words yesterday that turned my understanding of responsibility completely upside down.
The word was written as “response-ability”, and something about seeing it written down in this way blew my mind…
Often, I’ve felt burdened by the idea of responsibility.
Like it encapsulated all of the things I didn’t want to do, but had to do, if I wanted to be a responsible adult. Things like:
Maintaining the housework. Being financially responsible. Being emotionally responsible within my relationships. Holding down a job. Taking care of my self-care needs.
It all felt like stuff I had to do, but was being done through slightly gritted teeth — along with an association of it feeling like a bit of a drag.
Like I needed to gear myself up for it all first.
I would say things to myself like –
‘Deep breath. You can do this. You have to. You don’t have a choice. This is just what adults have to do. This is what it means to be an adult – being responsible.’
I felt within my mind that all of the actions I attached to this idea of being responsible were a just natural burden of life. Something I couldn’t get around. They just had to be done, whether I liked, enjoyed, or saw the necessity of them for myself.
Making ‘being responsible’ about what I was doing, and not about who I am resulted in this resistance and reluctance being present. A feeling of being a victim to my circumstances.
Seeing ‘response-ability’ in a new way has been an enlightening realisation.
Responsibility is not about the things we have to do — it is a freedom we take in the way we approach, and respond to what we are faced with.
It is our ability to respond to whatever we are faced with, in whatever way we deem appropriate, for any given situation.
There is nothing in life that can ever take this freedom away from us.
It is a freedom that is eternally available to us.
We are not the helpless victims of our circumstances.
We have this ability to be naturally responsive, and our responses can come in any form.
Sometimes silence, and non-action are appropriate responses to whatever we are faced with.
Realising this means that we can assess whatever information we are presented with, as it comes to us, and respond to it in whatever way feels good to us in that moment.
In whatever way feels authentic, real, and true to who we are in this moment.
We are never bound by external factors in how we respond to whatever we are faced with in our lives — whether it relates to relationships, finances, world events, working commitments, health, household chores, self-care needs or creative endeavours.
There is never a need for any of these things to exist as a source of stress or pressure for us when we can demonstrate our natural response-ability with them.
I feel inspired to share my experience of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) in the hope that it is seen and understood by the people who, like me, felt alone in their experience.
I found a great deal of compassion and acceptance for what happened to me by reading about other peoples expereinces — and so I hope that this can, in some way, contribute to the knowledge and experience that has been shared by others.
I may be biased, but I think that CSA is one of the most despicable violations of childs’ human rights that any adult can commit. With the exception of murder, it takes away a childs’ right to experience their body in a way that they would choose for themselves.
I consider myself lucky to have reached an age of puberty before my body was abused in this way and feel a deep sense of compassion and empathy for the men and women out there who didn’t have an opportunity to enjoy their bodies as children in a way they might have wanted to.
The most sinister element of the abuse for me was the grooming. It was what made the experince so dark — feeling like I couldn’t say anything to anyone about what was happening because I felt like I was the one who was instigating it.
I was made to feel like I was the one seducing him, even though I was only a young teenager at the time and he was married in his thirties. I felt like I was responsible for what was happening to me.
Through his words and actions I was convinced that it was all my fault, and even though I didn’t like it, I put up with what he did to me because I believed I had brought it onto myself.
At the time I felt like I had no choice but to put up, and shut up.
The abuse lasted for about a year or so, from what I can remember; and I carried so much guilt and shame around with me that I felt like the world could never accept me for who I was.
Everything appeared dark and completely out of touch for me. I could no longer relate to my friends when they talked about their excitement of kissing boys when I knew that every part of my body had been violated by this man in his desire for me. Instead of feeling like a confident child who had so much to live for, I felt like an abomination. Wasted. Impure. Corrupted and defiled. Destined to live outskirts of society — never being accepted, never feeling loved and never free from what had happened to me.
This sense of feeling like an outsider was dominant in my life for a long time and only now am I beginning to feel a sense of belonging from within myself.
It took a long time to heal from being sexually abused— almost two decades, and it required an understanding from within that what had happened to me was wrong. I had to first become aware that the experience was abusive — even though it wasn’t violent, or overtly oppressive. I had to accept within myself that I was raped in a way that was manipulative and insidious and it was this understanding that brought a sense of relief, self-compassion, empathy and healing.
I had to realise that what happened had not been my fault — beyond being present in a circumstance from which I was vulnerable enough to be abused. I came to understand that the logic and understanding I used at the time to make sense of the situation was formulated within the mind of a child. How could I possibly expect myself to have understood the situation from a mature perspective when I hadn’t yet to gone through the process of becoming an adult? I found in this realisation there was healing and compassion.
I found freedom in being able to talk about my experience and realised that the CSA felt so dark because I thought I had to keep it to myself. That it was shameful to talk about it with others. That I was betraying my abuser by doing so. I did find it difficult to open up at first, but over time — and through talking about it with highly supportive people I’ve been able to find a sense of being at peace with what happened. I can see now that it doesn’t define who I am and what I am capable of in life.
I found a supportive counsellor who offered space and helpful guidance so I could navigate my way through the minefield of conditioned thinking in order to find clarity, and an awareness of how these thoughts had been holding me back.
I found a spiritual understanding that allowed me to make peace with my experience and to see the man who abused me as worthy of my forgiveness, love and understanding. I would never want to see him again, or experience him as a part of my life, but I realised that in forgiving him I was free of him — and of the experience from ever holding me back in living my life to the fullest.
I found clarity and an understanding for myself that this was the only way I ever going to feel truly healed, well and free to love.
By understanding what had happened the world appeared less dark to me. I felt like less like an abomination and more like someone who had endured a difficult trauma. I felt like someone who could tell my story in the hope that it might guide others to find peace, understanding, self-love and forgiveness in their journey of healing, hope and acceptance.
I started to feel like someone who could live whole, free and open to seeing what else life might have in store for me.
I started to live like someone who could love herself.
Lots of love, Shaneen x
(I understand that each journey is unique and so accept that my experience may not look anything like anyone elses. If you have felt negatively impacted in any way by my story, and would like someone to talk to someone about it I highly recommend reaching out to rapecrisis.co.uk
They can offer signposting and support for you in navigating your experience of CSA and recovery.
It’s World Mental Health Day today and I want to share some of my experience of being sectioned with psychosis and how I got through it.
Mental health difficulties can be challenging, even without having to face social stigma and a lack of understanding about the nature of mental health.
This World Mental Health Day is focused on ‘Mental Health for All’ and I love that tagline. It’s a reminder that each of us are influenced and affected by mental health in some way, and I think a little bit of kindness and recognition of that can go a long way.
I was detained under a Section 2 of the Mental Health Act in 2014. This meant that the hospital could keep me detained for up to 28 days while they carried out further assessments to determine whether I would be in need of longer term care. I went through an appeals process to be released from hospital early because I was finding it more distressing the longer I stayed there. After about three weeks I was allowed to go home to continue healing there.
It took a while for the active symptoms (hallucinations and delusions) to settle down. A few months probably. I was prescribed an anti-psychotic medication to help combat the symptoms and also signed up to receive some counselling.
I found the counselling helpful. More helpful than the medication to be honest. The medication made me feel like I was numb inside so I stopped taking it after a few months. The counselling was great though because it was the first time I felt able to talk openly about my experiences and was able to make more sense of what happened to me.
The symptoms of psychosis were disorientating and confusing at times. I was having both visual and auditory hallucinations -as well as delusional beliefs about what the hallucinations were supposed to represent. I was completely entranced by the whole experience and felt as though I was being guided through my mind to discover some unknown truth about life and the universe.
At the same time my friends and family were trying to engage me in everyday activities so I could continue to take care of myself and the people I loved. It was hard at first. It felt like a battle. I’d been seduced by this mental experience. I wanted to stay in it and forget all about my everyday responsibilities. It felt like I was being made to choose between two separate worlds. A spiritual world of the mind and imagination, and the sensory and physical world of the body.
The general messages I’d received in life up to this point was that you either chose a materialistic life, and deny yourself the pleasures of a spiritual life- or you choose a spiritual life, and deny yourself the pleasures of the physical.
I believed this to be true at the time and didn’t think I was ‘allowed’ to experience both the body and the mind as one. It felt naughty, even a little bit wrong to do it, and so I would indulge my spiritual pleasures in secret.
I’d read paragraphs from books written by mystic scholars, like Rumi and Khalil Gibran, in private while dreaming about their deeper meanings. I’d listen to audiobooks about the ‘inside out understanding’ and swim in the flow of feeling spiritual joy.
As time went on my understanding of nature deepened and I started to realise that I could embody (what seemed like) the dual experiences of the mind and body.
That I could allow myself to openly enjoy sensory experiences and have freedom of thought.
I remembered that this is what it feels like to be a fully functioning human being.
Whole, complete, full, free.
It was shoddy social conditioning that had led me to believe I couldn’t have both my mind and my body together.
Since having this realisation I have been able to experience joy, a deep sense of belonging, love, peace and an inner calm that I never knew existed. I accepted that I’d had bad experiences with mental health and that a lot of people probably wouldn’t understand what I’d been through. I accepted that I’d been psychotic and it was this acceptance that gave me the self-compassion I needed to heal from it.
I realised that the social stigma we might face because of our mental health experiences in no way define us or determine what we can be and do in life.
I overcame psychosis, and being sectioned, in that simple act of accepting them completely from within. I embrace them as experiences that- in their own way- gave me an awesome insight into the power of the mind.