Ecoprivilege: Spending money to save the world

I care about the planet. We only have one of them and I want to be sure my great-grandchildren get the same enjoyment from their time here that I have so far.  So it saddens me how hard some companies make it for people to make eco-friendly purchasing decisions.

Plastic bags: not very nutritious.
Plastic bags: not very nutritious.

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Slipping through the cracks

I want to clarify something before we start: I don’t believe I should be entitled to anything. I know there are people far worse off than me and I have nothing but respect for them. The everyday stress of being on a limited income is awful no matter your circumstances. I’m not trying to compete with anyone. I simply wanted to share my story. I believe by sharing stories we learn of perspectives different to our own.

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There are holes in our safety nets. They’re shaped like educated, accomplished people who fall on hard times. They’re shaped like designers, writers, creative professionals who are too experienced for retail work. They’re shaped like people in loving and supportive relationships whose partners have worked hard to earn above minimum wage. They’re shaped like people with mental illnesses who need a little bit of wiggle room in their working lives.

Photo credit: JCD Kerwin
Photo credit: JCD Kerwin

I am not all of these things. But the holes in the net are still shaped like me. Continue reading



Arguing on the internet (and why you should just be nice, okay?)

Let me preface this with the following:

  1. I had intended to post a ribs recipe today, not something serious (don’t worry, the recipe is coming).
  2. Anyone who knows me even the slightest knows the love I have for social media and opinions.
  3. I don’t actually like having to remind people of basic manners.

Now, with that aside, let’s talk about arguing on the internet and why your opinion, and your right to have an opinion, doesn’t mean you get to be a dick. Continue reading



“But have you tried being happy?” Mental illness and social assumptions.

Fuck depression and fuck mental illness. No, really. Excuse my language but that shit is not okay.

I know at least 6 people who are currently struggling with mental illnesses, all involving elements of depression. Some are so bad they’re housebound. Some, like me, carry on like they’re a normal human. Because they are. When you look at the stats it’s hard to see that as anything but the truth: 1 in 5 Kiwi women, and 1 in 8 Kiwi men, will have at least one major depressive episode in their lives (depression.org.nz). When, on average, 17% of the population will struggle with depression alone during their lives it ceases to be an unusual or uncommon disease (Note: these stats do not include bipolar disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and schizophrenia – all illnesses that bring depression-like symptoms – or any other mental illness).

There are many theories on why mental illness is so prevalent in modern society. Some have suggested it’s a product of our high-stress lives. Others have suggested that the only thing that’s changed in modern times is our understanding of it; that mental illness has always been a pervasive issue but was infrequently diagnosed or understood (papers such as this discussing the common problems faced with identification and diagnoses show this clearly). No matter the reasoning, it’s evident that diagnosis of mental illness has, to some, become worryingly common.

As I write this I wrestle with my own demons. I feel like the colour has gone from my world and the sound has been turned down. Thankfully, I know this is only temporary. I have patches like this but they don’t usually last more than a few days. I have been on SSRIs for anxiety, and the depression it brings, for two years. Prior to taking them my illness, which came on suddenly in my early 20s, was crippling. A coworker once found me locked in my office at work having a full-blown panic attack: I was sitting on the floor, hyperventilating and in floods of tears. And I couldn’t tell them why. My fears weren’t real or founded; the doctors told me my mind had created anxieties to fill the void left by completing my university studies. They said I was so accustomed to living in a high stress state that my body was trying to recreate it.

Those were dark times and I am glad I have moved on from them, not only thanks to medication and professional care but thanks to significant changes in my lifestyle aimed at supporting a healthy mental state. Asking for help wasn’t easy but I am glad I did it. Now, I am someone who can manage my mind through exercise, good food, and meditation and mindfulness. It’s allowing me, with my doctor’s help, to finally begin weaning myself off my medication. I know this makes me fortunate.

With the clarity of mind the last two years have brought my concerns have evolved:  These days I worry not about my mental state but the way society perceives it. We look on physical illnesses with a reverence and gravity that many struggle to attribute to sicknesses of the mind. In my life I have seen people be repeatedly allowed time off for colds, flus and various diseases without fear this will make them seem less capable of doing their jobs. But there is still a hesitancy to speak up about needing time off or care for one’s mental health. There is still a persistent fear that you will either be a) judged a slacker or b) judged weak and unstable. I am not saying this from research but from the experiences of myself and my friends. I feel this about the admissions in this article even as I write them.

From an incredibly young age we are brought up to understand that sick people are limited in their capacities for day-to-day life. But, unless we or someone close to us suffers it, we are not brought up with the same awareness of mental health. You only have to think about some of the questionable advice that’s handed out to those suffering to know this is true. When was the last time someone suggested you just try *not* having a cold? Or a kidney stone? Or cancer? Did they tell you it’s all in your body as if that somehow invalidated it and proved you had the power to overcome it with a quick self-slap? If it doesn’t work for chemical and biological problems of the torso, arms and legs then why would it work for the brain? And yet this is the “advice” many hand out when confronted with the uncomfortable realities of mental illness.

It’s time society started to understand the costs and far-reaching consequences of depression and mental health issues. “[A] new report estimates the global cost of mental illness at nearly $2.5T (two-thirds in indirect costs) in 2010, with a projected increase to over $6T by 2030.” (NIMH) What does that actually mean? Most low-socioeconomic countries have a GDP of less than 1 trillion dollars. That means the total worldwide cost of mental illness by 2030 will be *six times* what the poorest countries currently generate in gross domestic product in a year, comparable and almost equal to cancer care. And most of these costs are not direct medical care; they’re lost income and time, social support expenses and ongoing disability costs.

Take a moment to absorb that information. Cancer, a disease with worldwide recognition as one of the most serious health problems humans face, costs approximately the same long-term as mental illness. And people are still asking those suffering depression to “just be happy”.

It’s time for changes. Education and awareness is probably our best bet. And honesty. I’m done pretending I’m always okay. If admitting that sometimes I’m sick makes me weak then that’s a burden I will have to bear. I can only get better when I acknowledge that I am unwell.

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Please be aware the statements and statistics in this article are strictly informational and are not intended to offer advice or replace instructions provided by your healthcare professional.

If you feel you or anyone you love is suffering from undiagnosed or poorly managed mental illness please seek professional help from your GP or encourage them to see theirs. If at any time you feel you can’t cope you can call Lifeline, or one of their sister organisations, on 0800 543 354.

You are not alone.



Take Me to Church: The growing push for equality

Irish artist Hozier has topped charts and made headlines around the world recently with his song ‘Take Me to Church’. The song, Gospel-inspired and strangely reminiscent in sound of the Led Zeppelin my father played when I was a child, has a very religious overtone to it, praying and discussing worship repeatedly in the bridge and chorus. Dig a little deeper, however, and a new meaning begins to emerge.

“Lyrically, “Take Me to Church” is a metaphor, with the protagonist comparing his lover to religion” (Wikipedia). Beyond this, are layers upon layers of subtext and insinuation. Publicly, Hozier has discussed the song’s representation of his disapproval of the practices of the Catholic Church, something he was heavily exposed to as a child. More controversially, he has also discussed the undertones of acceptance for diverse sexualities and the importance and naturalness of the human sex drive, something made clear in the homosexual relationship represented in the official music video.

Talking to NY Magazine in 2014, Hozier summarises the key messages of the song:

“”Take Me to Church” is essentially about sex, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek attack at organizations that would … well, it’s about sex and it’s about humanity, and obviously sex and humanity are incredibly tied. Sexuality, and sexual orientation — regardless of orientation — is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation — that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love. Turning your back on the theoretical thing, something that’s not tangible, and choosing to worship or love something that is tangible and real — something that can be experienced.”

Hozier has not been candid about his sexuality. When asked if there is a personal reason he has been so outspoken against homophobia he asserts that not only if there not a personal reason but he sees no need for there to be. In this one statement Hozier parallels and echoes views of other outspoken artists and public figures who have expressed, either publicly or through music, their distaste for homophobia.

Lady Gaga started a charity, the Born This Way Foundation, in 2011 to help combat homophobia and promote acceptance of gender- and sexual diversity in young Americans. Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis may have collaborated with Mary Lambert for their song Same Love but it certainly didn’t start with her; the two straight artists began writing and producing the song originally under their own impetus, proving that the push for equality in sexual orientation doesn’t have to come from those most directly affected.  Elsewhere, German celebrities lined up to kiss for a GQ piece denouncing the anti-gay protests and laws promulgated by Russia in the lead up to the 2014 Olympic Games.  And Hilary Clinton joined festivities on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia to make a statement, supported by the President of the United States, on the importance of promoting acceptance as a basic human right worldwide.

Everywhere you look the cries for equality are getting louder and louder. More and more countries are legalising same-sex marriage. Places like Uganda, Nigeria and Russia, countries with openly homophobic laws, are facing harsher and harsher criticisms and sanctions. The world is changing, more and more publicly, and being who you are is no longer something you’re encouraged to hide.

Celebrities and public figures far and wide, gay and straight, are joining the movement to end homophobia. The push for acceptance of diverse genders and sexualities has well and truly moved beyond the confines of LGBT sub-culture and into the public space. And it is beautiful. But we need more artists like Hozier and more songs like ‘Take Me to Church”. We need more diversity, strength and acceptance in our public figures. We need to keep pushing and fighting. And we need to win. Because being who you are, not fitting into someone else’s narrow and prescribed box, should never be shameful and should never be persecuted.