Normal- The Most Insulting Word

Most people who know me, will know I hate the word “normal” with a passion. People just expect you to be “normal” and be like every other person.

Ask yourself What Is Normal?

The official definition is “conforming to standard; usual, typical or expected.” Everything which that defines is wrong. To so many people, including myself and others who suffer with mental health and disabilities, being told that they aren’t normal is a regular occurrence. This is a clear issue in my opinion and needs to change. It’s insulting as not one person who suffers mentally wants to stand out from the crowd, they want to blend it and more often than not, not be noticed in any way.

Every person’s “normal” is different for so many ways. It’s our individuality and personal quirks that makes the world so amazing to be on. Different backgrounds, genders, ethnicity, sexual orientation, morals and health conditions just to name a few are reasons why everyone has something to bring to the world. My “normal life” is different to say my sisters. I go to uni, have counselling, referee and suffer from anxiety, where as she has her own home, a long term partner, a great job and a strive to be a Doctor of Psychology. As you can see, her norms of life and my norms are different. Granted there are similarities such as same parents, similar values, similar mindsets but I don’t work, she does, I don’t have my own place, she does. Her norms are how she lives and makes continuity in her life and obviously I have my own way of life too.

I suppose what I’m trying to say without going too much off on a tangent, is that there is no such thing as normal these days. All “normal” is, is the preconceived traditions of Britain which yes served Britain so well but no longer are they relevant or current. My way of life as an autistic person is normal (standard) to me. Don’t say to anyone that they aren’t normal as it is so unbelievably offensive as not one person in the world who is suffering wants to stand out. Allow those who are struggling to blend in and almost be unnoticed unless they choose to step forward. Let others choose to live their lives in their own way, respect that and never put someone down or insult them just for your own personal gratitude.

Respect others, praise others, treat others well and be polite. Life isn’t about putting people down or outing them for their struggles and worries. Life is worth living so don’t make someone else’s worse.

Until Next Time,

Thankyou and respect to all who reads this,

Ben

Review Of The First Month Of Uni

So today (19th October) brings an end to the first 4 weeks of uni. 1 “freshers” week and 3 weeks of lectures and seminars. This post was inspired by Courteney from my course who is doing the same on her blog so feel free to check it out via the link. She’s recently moved down to Shrewsbury from Durham for her degree and she’s set up a “life of a shrewdent” instagram and blog!:) https://courteneyjade13.wixsite.com/lifeofashrewdent/single-post/2018/09/11/The-final-countdown here’s the link to her blog and her Instagram is shrewdent so feel free to have a look!:)

So on to my review of the month. First week was freshers and as I’ve written about on a separate post and was very very challenging for so many personal and social reasons but I’d like to think I’m growing every single day and finding my feet continuously.

So the first week felt incredibly strange but exciting too. Being back in the classroom as a learner was in all honesty, horrendous. Something I dreaded and still dread going into 4 weeks on all be it, I dread it less and less as weeks go by. A class of 25 learners in sometimes crowded rooms which are not easy to leave if and when I need to take a minute to breath and calm my system down again. As I write this, I’ve not had to take a time out yet and that is something I’m immensely proud of myself for as it’s something I didn’t expect to be the case. Granted I had a wobble in freshers week but hey ho, it happens and I moved on and accepted it.

At present we are focusing on 5 of the 8 modules and it’s made me truly realise how much theory and broad the aspects of teaching education is. For so long I thought that teaching was simply the motion of teaching the subjects but in fact it is so much more. You have to look at the teaching standards and how to meet them, the learning skills for us as learners but also the Primary aged children and finally even covering culture perspectives such as gypsy children and how they learn. The OU gave me an understanding of the cultural perspectives but never did it cover the teaching standards.

Now it’s time to look at the scheduling of lectures and the length of them respectively. Lectures have ranged from 2 hours to 4 hours which more often than not a 10 minute break during the 2 hour ones, a 15-20 minute one in a 3 hour lecture and about a half hour break during a 4 hour lecture. So far I’ve only had 2 lectures in a day which after being off work/uni for so long leading up to this degree, is draining and I fully respect the other students on my course who come to lectures and then go straight to work! In the new year the amount of lectures in a week dramatically increases but let’s deal with that when it comes to it. 1 assignment has already been completed and I get feedback from that in the next few weeks so that will be good just to see how I’m working academically and the improvements I need to make going forward.

So far I’ve had only 3 lectures, all of whom seem nice enough and understanding of my condition which is incredibly reassuring. The main lecturer is lovely and completely supportive of me recording lectures on my audio recorder if needs be but also the tone of her voice is welcoming which in my view is crucial for me to focus throughout the sessions. The head of subject seems great too. Met him on the open day and in all honesty I thought he was an approachable guy who is clearly passionate about education. Finally the other lecturer I’ve only met briefly during freshers week and she was amazing when on the first day I approached her saying I had a panic attack before getting to uni and she just told me to deal with my anxiety in any way I need to.

Pastoral care at the uni has been brilliant for me. They’ve set me up with an inclusion plan and given me some ways to cope with my lectures. Something which the OU never gave me, in terms of support with mental health during the degree. This aspect of face to face uni is one of the things that attracted me to restarting my degree. The uni pastoral care are always available for a chat and have already put me on the right path to obtaining counselling quickly which will help me no doubt in dealing with this change.

The students I’ve met are lovely but I’m not going to repeat myself after writing a post about this during the week so feel free to have a look at that. It’s the post Called “Meeting my Female Double and Making New Friends at Uni”.

Just want to close this post but saying for anyone who’s unsure about going to uni, all I can suggest is from the early stages of being at this uni, uni life is 100% worth it.

So until next time,

Ben

It’s okay not to be okay

So as the title of the post suggests, “it’s okay not to be okay”. So many people think that admitting they’re struggling is a weakness, but in my opinion it’s a strength and showing the world that you’re strong enough to come across vulnerable. “Man up”, “Grow a pair”, or “Just get on with it, you’ll be okay” are phrases so commonly thrown around in society to those who are struggling mentally.

Why are those sayings around though? What do they even truly mean? Why do they matter? To answer the first question, it’s the aged old tradition of Britain that you just have to carry on through the tough times and get on with it or man up. Those traditions are incredibly old fashioned and out of touch. They don’t truly mean anything if we are all being honest. They are just said in conversation with no real backing or reasoning. So I ask you, why say it if you don’t have any understanding behind their meaning? Finally to answer the question of why do they matter? They don’t. They don’t matter one bit and never will. Anyone who ever say them to you again in future, ignore them. They’re simply being stereotypical and just robbing you off and you all deserve so much more than that.

It’s okay to be vulnerable and not to be okay. It’s okay to admit you’re struggling and needing help and that should be promoted in society and the media that asking for help is perfectly understandable and shows that you will achieve and become better. Sometimes things have to get worse in life to get better, but you sometime have to put yourself at risk but those risks, I can vouch for from personal experience are 100% worth it!

Showing strength by admitting you’re struggling is something that needs to be championed. Someone I know to be recently did this and I’m so unbelievably proud of them. I will support them through this tough time just as they have supported me in the past and they will get better. I know they will and deep down they know it too. They’ve shown how strong they are by admitting they’re in need of help.

I ask anyone who knows someone going through struggles to get around them and pick them up. Do something spontaneous for them and surprise them. It could make their day and help them realise they can get through it. Life’s tough at times but with support from your friends and family, you can achieve greatness and muddle through the black and find your way to the bright sunshine as cliché as it sounds. Every person in this world has at least 1 quality that they bring to the world and I for one want people to believe in themselves that what they bring, is amazing and special and ultimately, THEY ARE VALUED!

You are valued and even when you think that no one cares, trust me, there’s someone in the world who does and they will find their path to you and show how much they care. I suppose what I’m trying to say in this post is that try not to be scared by admitting you’re feeling down and wanting support because you’re showing the upmost amazing courage by doing so. I openly speak about my worries, struggles and fragilities but for others it’s a challenge.

Love yourself for what and who you are because the world appreciates you and so many people appreciate you too, sometimes you just forget it which is perfectly okay. I repeat this again but admitting weaknesses is a sign of courage and strength. Never be afraid because IT IS OKAY NOT TO BE OKAY!

Thankyou as always for reading,

Until next time,

Ben

Meeting My Female Double and Making New Friends At Uni

Now this post’s title is a little strange but it’s true too. Starting uni, I was scared that I’d be labelled for being Autistic or not meet anyone else who understood me or even was Autistic themselves, but boy was I wrong! On the 2nd day of Freshers week I met another high functioning Autistic person who’s on a different course to me, but she was someone I spent a lot of time with freshers week and who I regularly speak to. She’s given me permission to write this post about her and it’s something I feel privileged and over the moon to write about.

When I was first diagnosed in August 2014, I was almost pushed towards attending Autistic meet ups or groups, of which I refused to go to for 2 main reasons mainly. One being that I didn’t want to be around others like myself due to not accepting I had it for a while, but secondly, I was worried and rightly so, that all the other Autistic people would be the lower functioning ones and dare I say, completely unlike me.

So why is she exactly like me other than the obvious that we both have the same condition? She has the same mannerisms as me, the same mindset in term of predominantly suffering from struggles around anxiety and unexpected changes but also she has the same outlook on life as myself. Meeting her and now calling her a friend of mine, is truly a blessing and it’s one that’s reciprocated from her side. Socially I’m developing myself at uni so much but knowing I have her and agreeing to support each other through the trials and tribulations of our degrees across the 3 years is amazing. She’s an awesome person and one who I know won’t just be a friend for the duration of uni, but one who I will regard as a friend for life.

So much worry went away the day I met her and got to know her. She’s as I say, my female double. Granted she’s not into sport but I’m not into some of the things she’s into but it’s not about that. It’s about how both of us have a love of a certain area and know so much about that area respectively.

Across the short time I’ve been at uni I’ve met some other amazing people too. Social media helped me to meet people pre course but there’s a couple on my course who I’ve been speaking to since July and have helped me settle in and they’re amazing people! I’ve been accepted for who I am and not having to just fit into a social group. Everyone on my course who I’ve spoken to are lovely in particular the lads who I was wrongly worried would find out I’m Autistic and slightly different and not bother with me, but by god how wrong could I have been! They’re a great set and so accepting which has reassured me and allowed me to enjoy uni for what it is!:) Even those not on my course are lovely. I’ve bonded with another one in particular who’s now my boss of an imaginary job fantasy type thing which no one will ever understand and in truth, I don’t understand!😂😂

I’m just going to close this post in a corny sort of way and just thank those I’ve met for allowing me to be me and just enjoy life to the max for the first time since grandad passed in 2015.

Until next time,

Thankyou as always,

Ben

A Poem For Those Struggling with Life

So I’d like to think poetry is something I’m good at and enjoy so I’ve been thinking a lot of late about mental health, and obviously I posted the suicide awareness day blog post a few weeks ago, but after seeing something on social media today, I’ve decided to try and write something for those who are struggling with life, hence the title. I’m not professing I know it all, or am some expert, but I’m simply someone who’s had their troubles and over come them to be happy and who I am today!:)

So here goes……

The World Is Not So Bad When…………

The world is not so bad when you have those around who you make you smile,

The world is not so bad when you have no worries whatsoever when you’re a child.

The world is not so bad when your family find a way to cheer you up,

The world is not so bad when as a child you dream of being a big strong grown up.

The world is not so bad when your team scores a last minute winning goal,

The world is not so bad when you find your way from the dark and the blackened hole.

The world is not so bad when you watch awful Saturday night tv and feel no guilt,

The world is not so bad when you reminisce about the life that you have built.

The world is not so bad when you have an awesome dream,

The world is not so bad when at Christmas as a family you sit down and watch the queen.

The world is not so bad when someone random makes you laugh,

The world is not so bad when in winter you nestle down in a relaxing long bath.

The world is not so bad when you see the light at the end of the day,

The world is not so bad when you go and watch your pet play.

The world is not so bad when you realise just how much you have to live for,

The world is not so bad when realise the things in life that you adore.

This poem doesn’t claim to make sense, but in fact I’m trying to take a tough subject but make it slightly light hearted and I’m sure different people can relate to different parts of it, whether it be the Britishness of the Afternoon tea, or playing with your pet. The poem in someways is about what cheers me up now or cheered me up when I was growing up. It’s incredibly random but surely isn’t that what life is about? Enjoying the random parts of life which makes life so great. The days when random fun and spontaneous things happen which make you smile.

So as always, I Thankyou for reading. Until next time,

Ben

World Mental Health Day

Time to be real and honest here, how many people truly realise and understand the pain and struggles of mental health?

The silent killer as the saying goes, the illness that’s not clear to see but so many people struggle with it daily. “You don’t seem depressed”, a saying which is so commonly flounced around with no real backing from the person saying it. After all, what does someone who’s struggling with mental health, whether that be depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD just to name a few, really look like? Are they meant to stand out and make it obvious what they’re struggling with? Or do we as a society need to be more understanding and cautious knowing that so many people are going through problems? Stats publish by The World Mental Health website (2017) show that 1 in 6 people around the world suffer from mental health weekly. Just to put that into perspective, in Shrewsbury just over 60,000 people live here, so that’s over 10,000 of those are suffering.

Remember your school days and on average you would have a class of 30 pupils, 5 of those people on average could have been struggling. On an even smaller scale, think about having a full car of 5, from those stats, more than likely 1 person is suffering.

I openly speak about my mental health and my struggles with depression and anxiety but they are simply traits on autism amongst other things. Mental disabilities such as Autism are classed different to general mental health. Mental health is a common killer as I’ve stated a short while ago on my post around suicide, but what can we do to buck the trend of people thinking mental health is a weakness?

In my opinion there are 3:

1, Lets try to remove the stigma of mental health that society has, which hopefully will allow others who are suffering in silence to open up and try and receive the support they do desperately need.

2, Make treatment available easier than it currently is. Granted the NHS are stretched and I full respect that, but the current waiting list for counselling is roughly 8 months! Something which I’m currently on myself. 8 months is too long. Any longer than 4 weeks is too long in my humble opinion. Things can change so much in 8 months! Sometimes changing so negatively in cases where people can’t cope.

3, The final point is quite simple. Just be nice to people. Don’t ridicule them or put someone down for no reason. You don’t know what they’re going through. They may be feeling so low and what you say could make it even worse and lead to catastrophic consequences. I’m not saying deliberately go out your way to approach people in public and be overly nice but I am saying, don’t go round being an idiot making people feel low or saying things which people aren’t going to find pleasing.

So this post is kind of a rant as such about what needs to change and why it needs to change, so I apologise if I’ve not exactly enlightened your day by posting this!

As always, Thankyou for the support,

Until next time,

Ben

What was starting uni like?

So after a little 2 week break, I’m back:) As I’m sure the 200 odd people who read my posts will understand, I had to allow myself a break from posting and concentrate on putting myself into the beginning of uni.

Last week was for me Hell! It was unorganised at times which for my anxiety, wasn’t great. Sadly it lead me to a panic attack on the Friday morning, but more about that later. Typically “Freshers week” is a week for socialising, getting drunk and creating vivid memories. Personally I believe i accomplished 2 of those factors. The social aspect was great, met people on the course, of whom all are lovely which is really reassuring going forward, and making memories kind of happened too as in the process of meeting those people, hopefully the memories of when I first met them, will stay with me and I will look back on graduation day with a smile on my face and realise just how far we have all come.

Enrolment was a strange feeling. It was very very short, but getting that Student ID card felt surreal. The moment the dream of going to traditional uni was achieved. The dream that was always written off, was now a reality.

Thursday and Friday were due to be induction days to the course. Sadly not everything went to plan for me! I coped okay on the Thursday, but sadly Friday was too much and a panic attack later, meant that I couldn’t go in. Wasn’t ideal but it happened and we move on!:)

This week was a lot better. The first proper week of uni. Lectures beginning and the real work starting!:) The reality of what uni life will be has certainly kicked in. I sit here writing this shattered after what effectively was a 4 hour lecture with a lot of info compacted within that period. In fact 14 pages of notes!😂 Slowly but surely I am settling in and having the people in class who are great and knowing the tutors are aware that I have Autism and that I may need to have a 5 min break if I’m having a wobble, is certainly helping.

So uni has started, it’s real now and the hard work has already began. First assignment due in on Wednesday so here’s hoping I make a good first academic impression and get positive feedback going forward.

Until next time,

Thankyou as always,

Ben