Just A Bite?

Scenario 1:

I invite a friend round for dinner. The doorbell rings, I answer, we hug and I invite them in. We enjoy our meal while catching up, conversing, engaging, laughing, etc. I’ve made dessert too. It’s all very enjoyable. We even arrange to do it again.

Scenario 2: The doorbell rings, I’m not expecting anyone but I go to answer it. Standing there is someone I don’t know very well but have gotten along with in the past. Before I know it, they’ve pushed past me, they’re in the kitchen and riffling through my cupboards. I’m in stunned silence. This isn’t what I expected when I answered the door. I return to the kitchen and I’m yelled at to sit down. I’m suddenly scared so I do as I’m told. My fight or flight instinct has chosen to freeze and I can’t override it. They make a sandwich, all the while yelling at me. I’m frozen to the spot, I daren’t move for fear I’ll feel their rage via their fists. They scoff the sandwich down, leave the place in a mess and storm out of the house.

Still with me? Now, let’s say I want to make a complaint to the Gardaí about this? Let’s say I take it to trial? Why does my ability or willingness to engage in scenario 1 sully my testimony while his previous convictions for scenario 2 are inadmissible?

Because I opened the door, is it my fault? I should have looked through the peep hole. I should have been a better judge of character. I should have yelled back. I should have used my words and my fists to get them out of my house. Is it my fault because I had fresh bread in the house?

So it’s all my fault and now I’m afraid to open the door to anyone. I live in fear. I jump every time I hear a car slow down outside.

If this seems ridiculous to you, you’re right. It is ridiculous. Yet that’s what happens to rape victims daily, both by society and by our legal system. We fail them.

The purpose of Tinder is to meet and engage with new people. How can we do this is we don’t take people at face value? How has anyone ever found a new person to add to their world without an element of trust? This is not the fault of Tinder but equally, it is not the fault of the victim.

Enough is enough. Let’s blame the rapist. Are you with me?

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Decency

There are some people in our everyday lives that seem to unconsciously use us and manipulate us to satisfy their own selfish whims. They will of course tell themselves it’s justified. They don’t see the self-centredness in their behaviour,  to do so would be to admit they are not good at the core and let’s be honest, nobody really wants to face up to that.

My example is of my most recent ex-boyfriend. Bet you were all wondering where my dating blogs had gone. The summarised version is that he did all the chasing, he pursued me tirelessly but as it turns out most of what he told me was a fairy tale. They were small plausible lies that made him feel good about himself and were devised to reel me in to his duplicitous and twisted world. It all came to a head when he stood me up one day. What astonished me was the fact that he actually tried to blame me for the events of the day. I’d never encountered such arrogance and unwillingness to see outside of one’s own head in all my years. Some might call me gullible for not seeing this trait sooner but I’ve always seen the best in people. I will always take someone at face value until they prove otherwise. Well, surprise surprise, he proved otherwise. I also believe that how you treat people reveals everything about your character that anyone needs to know. The lies began to unravel once I was in a position to examine the relationship more objectively. Each lie when taken alone seemed innocuous enough, such as saying he was on strong sleeping pills when he wasn’t. Why lie about something like that? What’s the point? When did these stories begin? I’ve no idea, but it just takes one lie to call everything he ever said into question.

We’d only been going out a few months, that’s no big deal. What really got me riled was that we’d started out as friends, we’d been close friends for 12 months before the relationship began. I now doubt that our friendship was built on anything other than an elaborate tale of fiction and manipulation designed to massage his fragile ego. Why did he behave so appallingly, both in general and on that particular day? I’ve no idea and I really don’t care what his motives were. All I know is they are not characteristics befitting someone deserving of my time and efforts.

What I would love to know though, is how long he thought his stories would last? Was it calculated or was he making it up as he went along, falling deeper into the morass and trying to bring me with him? Did he even go so far as to believe his own stories?  Did he have an endgame? What was the point of all this? Was it  driven by malice or simply a pathetic attempt to seek affection?

So what is it that drives people like this to lie compulsively to others? Do they consider those around them unworthy of basic honesty and decency? Do they even think about the other people they affect? I appreciate each of us are essentially selfish at our core, that’s simple self preservation, but to cause harm to another for no apparent reason beyond personal gratification or ego-massaging is something I cannot quite get my head around. Surely such a blatant lack of empathy coupled with a fragile ego is classic narcissism, how did I not see this sooner?

Most importantly I refuse to let this change me as a person; elaborate revenge fantasies aside! I will continue to be warm, honest and open to everyone I meet. I will continue to believe that truth is singular and the most valuable gift you can bestow upon anyone. I will continue to maintain a positive outlook in all my dealings with people and in potential relationships. To do anything else would be to let him under my skin and he’s proven that he’s not worth that. But a word to the wise, don’t ever dare lie to me or break my trust: what is it they say about a woman scorned?

And so I’ve returned to Tinder, where for the moment at least, I’m new and interesting. I might even be referred to as fresh meat. And the first date dress is out in force again.

Who Is Your Best Self?

inner-strength

We all want to be the best possible version of ourselves. We take pride in our successes and try not to dwell too much on our failures. We are continuously learning, growing and changing. We make small changes to our character and attitudes all the time. We learn understanding, compassion, grace or generosity from others. Similarly we can learn intolerance, ignorance, hurt and deceit from the behaviours or reactions of others.

We all try to be a little bit better, stronger or warmer. Yet everyday we experience failures to some degree. From time to time we can come across what seem to be insurmountable walls, obstacles that seem too big for us to overcome.

We look at others, how they scale their walls with ease and wonder is it something we’re doing wrong? Are we weak? Are we destined to sit behind that wall forever and never see the other side? I believe the key to being your best version of yourself is not to be the person to scale the wall first time, every time. The key is to pick yourself up and keep on trying, every single time. I think we learn more and grow more as a result of facing up to these challenges than we actually do from the final act of overcoming them.

There are some truly insurmountable walls that in truth we’ll never beat, but to be perfectly honest most of the walls we meet are those we build ourselves. We decide in advance we can’t do something, or we quit after the first half-hearted attempt. Our strength lies not in our ability to scale these walls but in our ability to keep on trying.

Can you imagine never facing up to the wall? Never trying to get to the other side? Sitting down behind it and shaking with cowardice. Or worse, convincing yourself that you never really wanted to scale that wall anyway, all the while accepting your lot and never achieving your possibilities.

I try to work hard at not lying to myself. I stumble at my walls regularly, as I’m sure we all do but I will usually pick myself up pretty quickly. I pride myself in my resilience, my ability to dust myself off and try again. I’m not particularly special, I’m no better than anyone else but I will keep trying and keep a tight hold of the strength of will that allows me to do it. Some call it stubbornness, I like to call it determination.

When we stop trying; we stop learning, we stop growing, we abandon our dreams and we cease to be valuable to our loved ones.

After all, a diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well.

Our Inner Voice 

We all suffer loneliness and insecurity to some degree in our lives. These feelings are usually independent of our environment. They are generated internally by a little inner voice that seeks to do us harm.  

We look around us and see everyone else to be so much happier and have their emotional needs fulfilled. Why do we so easily compare our lives to the lives of others? I think it’s safe to say, it will never come good to do so. 

There are two obvious and popular ways to deal with these feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. The first is to build a wall. We don’t let anyone in so they’ll never have the opportunity to disappoint us. The second is to come across as needy. We are the friend or lover that continually seeks reassurance of our validity. Neither of these options are particularly appealing, nor are they successful having tried them both. 

I could suggest that we as a society be more open with our feelings so those around us know they are loved. Doing this can only be a positive experience but in this particular instance the insecurity and inadequacy come from the inside and cannot be repaired by external forces. Reassuring someone daily will not negate the inner feelings of doubt. 

So what can we do to deal with this hunger inside us, unsated by our loved ones? Honestly I’ve never managed it alone, I have always needed professional assistance.There are numerous therapies available such as CBT or ACT. Our insecurities are fed by an inner voice that I can’t control alone. This voice feeds on moments and turns them ugly. From my experience I’ve found it’s a slippery slope from feelings of inadequacy to clinical depression. Clinical depression is when that ugly inner voice wins the battle over rational thought. Nip it in the bud, look for the signs, read up on it, talk to your doctor and get a counsellor. You’re not alone no matter what that voice tells you, far too many of us have been there far too often. The voice lies, it twists and turns facts until you no longer know what’s real or true. 
I’ll never be fully healed but each time he wins a battle I learn a little more and gain more tools in my arsenal to beat him down. We all have the power to beat him. There’s no shame in seeking the expert guidance of a professional to help you see what you need to do. You’d seek expert advice for any other task, why not for your mind. 

I’ve made no secret of my recent challenges with mental health but when my drugs failed to pick me up like they had done in the past I fought back and did some research into why. I’d been on a low dose of generic medication for ages and never had a problem with them so I was truly puzzled as to why they weren’t working when I really needed them.

We’ve all been told by our Dept of Health, doctors and pharmacists that generic medications are the same as branded but cheaper. I endeavored to dig a little deeper. I wanted evidence.

As you may know once a medication patent expires, a bunch of different companies can jump on the bandwagon and try to make that same medication to flood the market with cheaper product. They didn’t undergo the cost of research & development, clinical trials, new product marketing and the like so it’s understandable they can sell it at a lower price. So what’s the problem, they’re the same right? Well, yes and no.

Directive 2001/83/EC, Article 10(2)(b) defines a generic medicinal product as a product which has the same qualitative and quantitative composition in active substances and the same pharmaceutical form as the reference medicinal product, and whose bioequivalence with the reference medicinal product has been demonstrated by appropriate bioavailability studies. The different salts, esters, ethers, isomers, mixtures of isomers, complexes or derivatives of an active substance are considered to be the same active substance, unless they differ significantly in properties with regard to safety and/or efficacy. Furthermore, the various immediate-release oral pharmaceutical forms shall be considered to be one and the same pharmaceutical form.

I’m focusing on drugs that are pitched within Europe with the same dosage and delivered orally only, as these are the most common and this was what was potentially affecting me. That said, the rules for USA and Australia seem at a glance to be identical.

Firstly, the generic manufacturer must adhere to the same requirements with respect to clean production area, traceability, packaging & labeling, submissions, market authorisation, business conduct standards, etc. I’d expect nothing less.

Secondly they must perform what’s called a bioequivalence study. This study will prove that the drug is in fact the same as the branded one. There are specific rules with respect to eating and drinking before and after test times, duration between sampling, methods of collection and so on. This is also quite normal. The subjects within this study must be healthy and suitable for evaluation naturally enough. The number of subjects required is 12 at a minimum. Is this an usually low number to you? It certainly is to me but let’s continue.

For generic medications there is no need to show efficacy. This means the generic manufacturer isn’t required to show that the drug actually treats what it’s sold to treat. Then again, these tests were completed by the patent holder for the branded drug and this generic is the same so why would they need to redo these tests.

I think it is also worth mentioning that if a number of different dosages are being applied for, it may be permitted to perform this study for just one strength. This isn’t ideal but not a dealbreaker either.

The molecule must be mostly the same. It doesn’t need to be identical in any instance. Slight differences are permitted. It must be designed to treat the same condition/ailment as the branded drug and it must pass the following mathematical tests (usually taken from blood or plasma):

  • The concentration of drug circulating in the body (normally measured in plasma or blood) over a period of time.
  • The maximum concentration of the drug in the body.

What is required is that the readings from the generic drug match the branded drug to within 80% to 125% for both tests. That’s a pretty broad range for something that’s supposed to be identical.

And that’s not all. It doesn’t even need that the generic drug company satisfy this exactly. They only need to provide 90% confidence that their results fall within the 80-125% band. There are some exceptions to these rules, such as drugs that rely on rapid release.

In summary, there’s a good chance you’re taking a generic medication whereby the molecule must be similar; the dosage you’re on might have been tested; the concentration needs to be in or around what is asked of it; the length of time it stays in your bloodstream should be roughly the same; it was tested on at least 12 people and there’s no requirement at all that it does exactly what it says on the box.

I don’t know about you, but in my eyes, that doesn’t equate to the same drug and I’ve returned to branded drugs. I refuse to put a price tag on my mental health.

Research gathered from Directive 2001/83/EC, Article 10(2)(b) and European Medicines Agency Doc. Ref.: CPMP/EWP/QWP/1401/98 Rev. 1/ Corr.

Enough

Today I’m fed up. I’m fed up of not being well, of not winning the battle. I’m tired of feeling sad, angry, numb, anxious, and inferior. I’m exhausted from the feeling of my heart pounding to get out of my chest, of hyperventilating multiple times a day, of feeling unwell and needy, of feeling unnecessary.

I’ve had enough of having the concentration of a goldfish, although I suspect that’s an urban myth and not actually true. Poor misunderstood goldfish.

I’m worn out from having all my thoughts clouded by negativity and confusion, of not trusting my own thoughts or feelings, of being on edge all the time, of doubting anything good that anyone says to me. I’m fed up of being told that walking, exercise, mindfulness or being busy will help because I’m exhausted just keeping my head above water.

I’m tired of celebrities telling me they’ve been where I am and they got through it. Every battle is different. Every person is different. By telling me they’ve succeeded, they’re reminding me that I’ve failed, yet again. Yes, it’s well intended and it certainly serves to raise awareness but it’s not helping me, clearly I’m doing something wrong if I can’t succeed.

But mostly I can’t take being told again and again that there is an end to these feelings. Depression and anxiety are not like flu, a broken bone or cancer. They are not beaten, you do not heal. More often than not they are never cured. They are managed and balanced every day of my life. I’m fed up of falling down the well numerous times in my life. I’m fed up of climbing back out again. I’m fed up of the never-ending merry-go-round that is my mental illness. I’m fed up (in advance) at the prospect of the rest of my life being like this, a constant balancing act to feel worthwhile for a small snippet of time.

Yes, I’m also fed up of harping on about it. I’m fed up of it dominating so many of my conversations with colleagues and friends. I’m fed up of crying when my boss is being nice to me. I’m fed up of confirming to her that I’m a basket-case. Truth be told, I’m fed up of feeling like a basket-case.

I’m tired.

Down The Well

Imagine you’re walking along a familiar path. There’s a pretty deep hole in the ground, just like a well shaft. You’ve walked this path many, many times. You’ve fallen in occasionally but not every time, sure that’d be silly.

You’ve put up warning signs around the well; you’ve learned to tread carefully so that you won’t misstep again. You’re applying knowledge from previous falls and everything pretty much goes according to plan.

Occasionally you will still lose your footing and when you do fall, what happens is that you won’t have the strength to catch the walls and halt your fall on your own. By far the easier option is to roll into a ball and protect yourself from the inevitable bang that awaits you at the bottom. You convince yourself that once there you will gather your thoughts and consider your options for escape. Of course, the sensible option is to catch yourself mid-way so you’ve less of a distance to climb back up but you’re not thinking rationally, you’re in freefall.

Recently I missed the warning signs and fell. This time was different though. Instead of curling into a ball to protect myself from the impact, I used skills I’d learned from previous falls. Go me! Applied learning FTW!

What I did was I wrote about it here, I told everyone what was happening and do you know what happened? I stopped falling. I clung to the edge of the well and watched as so many people threw ropes to help me up. I’ve stumbled on some of those ropes and I’m still climbing but I refuse to stop climbing, I’m stubborn like that.

What have I learned this time? To talk, don’t just tell someone, you should tell everyone. The people around you won’t know you’re falling if you won’t tell them and they can’t help you if they don’t know. One rope just isn’t enough and it places far too much responsibility on the person holding it at the top. If you had any other illness that you live with and manage daily you’d tell them if it was flaring up, wouldn’t you? So tell them, tell each and every one of them and let them throw you a rope, and they will.

To everyone who called, texted, commented, provided company and identified with my words, thank you. It means so much to know others want me out of the well. I’m not there yet but without you all I’d be sitting at the bottom of that well, alone. Thank you.