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mantra

I’ve been having a bit of a tough time lately. Oh, don’t worry – nothing is actually WRONG.  Everything has just seemed a bit difficult. You know the sort of thing – keeping on top of the house, looking after the boys, thinking about my work direction, trying to get time to be me rather than Mummy. When something as mundane as forgetting to buy olive oil is enough to make you snap, you know it’s time to take a hard look at yourself.

But as they say, when the student is ready the teacher appears, and help has recently come from two directions, one more unlikely than the other.

I recently interviewed the artist and author Lucy H Pearce for The Green Parent‘s August/ September edition (I work quite a way ahead for them – put it in the diary!). Lucy is the author of five books (and is working on her sixth and seventh as we speak) and we were chatting about her first, The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood. It’s been a long time since I thought of myself as a creative person (have I EVER thought of myself that way?) and while I was reading the book I struggled to see myself in the “Creative Rainbow Mother” archetype that she describes.

mermaid_hair

But somewhere along the line a little spark of creativity has been kindled deep inside. Since reading the book I’ve had my hair dyed an array of “mermaid’ colours, and after speaking to Lucy by Skype, I have even, perhaps more profoundly, been drawing a bit (not to mention filling page after page with labyrinths). And trying out a bit of lettering. This might not sound like much to you, but when you consider that my bullet journal generally just consists of very unfancy to do lists in my usual scrawl, this is a big change.

I won’t spoil the forthcoming interview (!), but Lucy highlighted the difference between creativity and “artistic-ness” and gave me a whole new way of looking at the blank page with a sense of excitement rather than terror. Thank you, Lucy!

labyrinths

In that vein, the picture at the top of the page is of a spread I did in my bullet journal of my new mantra (you can see the cover of my bullet journal in this post). When everything gets on top of me, I sing this quietly to myself: “Back and forward flows the sea, back and forward flows the sea, back and forward flows the sea.” If you want to hear the tune, go to the BBC website and listen to the Beachcombing episode of CBeebies Radio show Waterways. Waterways is a really charming and calming listen – I recommend it! And yes, CBeebies is still playing as big as a part in my life as it was when I wrote the “Iggle Piggle is a dying sailor” blog post that ruined In The Night Garden for so many people.

I love the sea – despite living more or less as far from the coast as you can in this country – and this gentle melody, ebbing and flowing like the tide, helps to ground me and stop me feeling overwhelmed. How can you feel stressed about forgetting to buy olive oil when the waves are always crashing onto the shore, pulled by the moon?

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dm_epilepsy_feb2017

The Daily Mail has done it again. Yes, I realise that I should never be surprised by anything that appears in the Daily Fail, but I can’t help but be shocked that yet again they have equated epilepsy with violent behaviour.

Take this story which appeared on the website today: Epileptic plasterer who ‘killed a banker with a single punch on a night out attacked him “because he felt threatened” after one of his victim’s friends made a comment about his race

Did he punch the man while his limbs were jerking during a seizure? No. Was he dazed and confused after coming round from a period of unconsciousness? No. Does the fact that he has epilepsy have anything to do with his violent and ultimately fatal outburst? No.

He left his job after being diagnosed with epilepsy. That’s it.

He told jurors he worked as a plasterer for about four years after leaving school, but quit work after he was diagnosed with epilepsy following a seizure.

‘I haven’t been able to work. I stay at home pretty much,’ he said.

He’s 31 now, so that’s a long time not to work. Many – or indeed probably most – people with epilepsy work and lead normal, fulfilling lives. Normal, fulfilling lives which don’t involve punching people and causing their death. Epilepsy had nothing, and I repeat NOTHING, to do with that violent rage.

The Daily Mail has form for this. Back in October 2012 I was so incensed with a very similar piece – that gem was Epileptic man stabbed his noisy neighbour to death with a fish knife in row over eviction – that I wrote and complained to the paper. This is what I wrote. I didn’t get a response, of course. The chap in the piece had mental health problems which clearly contributed to the tragic outcome. Again, his epilepsy had nothing to do with it but was just a peg.

Woo, look at those crazy epileptics! They are mentally ill! Maybe they’re actually possessed by demons? We’re all going to catch it! They’re going to kill us all!

Right, people?

As I wrote in my previous complaint:

  • The term “epileptic” is used in the headline and copy as almost a justification for this man’s violent behaviour. In fact, his having epilepsy was of no relevance to the story whatsoever.
  • Relating this man’s violent crime to his epilepsy only serves to reinforce ill-informed prejudices and the unnecessary stigma which people with epilepsy incredibly still face. If he had had asthma, would the headline have been “Asthmatic plasterer […] “killed a banker””?
  • Don’t get me started on the use of the label “epileptic”. As a person with epilepsy, I refuse to be defined by the condition. It’s just a very small part of who I am – I am not “an epileptic”. In the same way that people would surely not refer to a “Downs Syndrome baby” in this day and age, it would be fantastic if people with epilepsy could be granted the same respect.

I know I shouldn’t give the Daily Mail the oxygen of publicity but this really grinds my gears.

This kind of unhelpful media representation only serves to reinforce the stigma and prejudice which sadly still exist. No one needs to be ashamed of having epilepsy.

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