Your piece doesn’t fit their puzzle: Compassion for those we lose to suicide is vital, even if we don’t understand

‘But suicide IS selfish. The person may not be in a healthy state or mind or see any other way, but it is 100% a selfish act because it only ends THEIR suffering, whatever that may be, and brings a whole new level of pain on everyone who loves them. I don’t see how it can be anything but a selfish act. Sorry. I just don’t and I don’t believe I ever will.’

I find it very hard to ignore selfish and ignorant comments. Comments that are thrown out there with no intention to be sympathetic or understanding. Comments that manifested from a sudden urge to make a claim without any desire to study the field. It isn’t necessarily the ignorance that gets to me. We are all ignorant in some way. It is the damage caused by those deluded into thinking they are intellects on a topic without putting in the hours to become educated.

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This was taken in the early hours a few years back, I travelled 40 minutes with my mum and dad to attend an event in memory of loved ones tragically lost to suicide. It was a peaceful morning, the path up to the iconic Angel of the North was lined with candles, the walk leading up to it roughly a mile long. My mother lost her sister to suicide just after I was born, 28 years ago. My uncle also died due to suicide months before this event. I am no expert on suicide, don’t let me convince you otherwise. But to lose both my auntie and uncle in this way and for my mum to lose both siblings, I certainly feel I have an increased perspective of what leads up to such events and a view of how long the fight can be fought.

Many people clearly have a hard time grasping the idea that someone could possibly take their own life. From the hurtful comments emerging from the most recent and tragic suicide of a high profile artist Chester Bennington, this struggle to fathom a desire to end personal suffering leads to much anger and frustration.

People who die by suicide don’t want to end their life, they want to end their pain.

The problem seems to stem, I can only assume, from having a one size fits all mentality about mentality. Our mindsets differ, configurated in many weird and wonderful ways. We all know this, we all accept that our tastes and interests differ, never questioning our friend at the dinner table that doesn’t like peppercorn sauce. Can you imagine how condescending it would be to tell that friend they do in fact like peppercorn sauce because you do? To be unable to understand that your mind interprets things differently to the mind someone else possesses, and for that reason assuming that they must be wrong about their personal preferences? It is very simple to see why this would be highly inappropriate behaviour, and how respect would be lost rather quickly.

As much as our tastes vary, our mentality does towards life and what is thrown our way. Take fear. We are all scared of something, this something could be anything. Some fear heights. Some people have triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number thirteen. I am thankfully unafraid of the number thirteen, however the thought of jumping out of an aeroplane 13,000 feet up terrifies me. Simply taking my fears into account and knowing my nightmare scenarios may be the dreams of others helps me to empathise with those terrified of things I am not. I don’t understand having certain fears but I understand fear.

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Similar to fear, we perceive pain differently. Some have higher thresholds, some enjoy pain, most spend a life avoiding it as best as possible. We hate seeing loved ones in pain because we can relate, even if we don’t feel that pain at the time. The irony in mental and physical pain is that it all originates in the same place, the brain. What makes mental illness hard to comprehend is that it isn’t physical. Unless depression or the various conditions equally damaging prevent people from washing, eating or hiding self harm it is easy for it to go under the radar. We wouldn’t act so selfishly towards non-mental illness or disease. Similar to the restaurant example provided earlier, can you imagine a cancer victim being interrogated whilst in the hospital bed?

‘I’m sorry but I really don’t understand how you are ill? I feel just fine, I don’t see why you are unable to get up without being sick? I can just fine. It’s easy!’

I do not even have to elaborate on how absurd this conversation would be. The invisibility of the pain is what preserves the stigma around mental illness. It is a very damaging circle, on many occasions taking the below forms.

-Person may openly declare they are depressed. They may not but could show signs of a lack of motivation, appetite or desire to be sociable.

-This person isn’t taken seriously despite the intolerable pain felt mentally. People around cannot comprehend what they cannot see or that they do not mutually experience. 

-The person suffering kills him/herself. Unable to cope with life, not seeing death as an easy route but the only route. Similar to jumpers on 9/11, the mind and body takes any route out of pain, even if an event is temporary. 

-The reaction is that no one saw it coming, or that the suicide was totally unnecessary. An act that was purely selfish and inconsiderate.

I cannot stress enough how selfish it is for people to hurl opinions out there without first hand experience. To read an article, a five minute glimpse into the suffering that may have lasted a lifetime and to come to the conclusion that it was cowardly. I struggle everyday to think of how such a horrific event could be deemed cowardly. To hang a noose from a ceiling and knock the stool from underneath, knowing that these very moments will be the last. Tomorrow there will be no more hugs from loved ones. To have family members that have held on for so long before struggling to take it anymore be called selfish is incredibly arrogant. It doesn’t contribute anything of any worth, nor does it make anyone a good person.

Instead of questioning how someone could leave a family behind, it would be much more progressive to open up to the possibility of mental anguish so unbearable that they have to do so. Anything else is just a failure to empathise with those that had nothing but love before disease got between them.

Compassion will always be the way in this world of unknowns. Don’t ever let disease get between you and the person that may have once held the door open for you, it would be tragic to be the person that closes it on them.

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When we lose our heroes

I woke up this morning with my thoughts on the sad news from yesterday. I have been thinking a lot about those we consider heroes, whether it be a parent or partner, pet, philosopher or performer. What is hard to deal with is when these seemingly immortal and incredible people leave us much earlier than expected. How!?

It wasn’t too long ago that I typed up a quick post with lyrics to In The End by Linkin Park.

Time is a valuable thing, watch it fly by as the pendulum swings. Watch it count down to the end of the day the clock ticks life away…

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Whenever I think of the word time, or utter it in conversation, my mind heads down the path of this song. In a way it is a healthy reminder that time is not something we can put on hold. We can let it slip by or we can ride that wave as best we can and be as active as possible whilst riding it. One day our feet will lose grip of that surfboard, we all fall into the sea but some travel a big distance before doing so.

When we idolise someone, they seem invincible. Perfect. They can also be taken for granted, as if they have always been around and always will be. When their time runs out and they are no longer around, we see them as human again. Not someone that is perfect but someone with flaws that strived for perfection with incredible effort. To me, a hero dying is like a Spider-Man removing his mask. The human is revealed and instantly relatable. The flaws and imperfections, the illnesses and fears all become visible. I don’t mind my inspirations being human. If anything it motivates me to strive for similar success.

The problem with a high profile death is that we only get a glimpse of their life, the success and the wealth. The suffering isn’t always in silence but out of view. For some, a suicide can be a selfish act. If their Wikipedia page states they are currently touring the world and earn this much from record sales, they must be happy, right? Can we claim to know the lives and the apparent state of mind of a person we have never met? Of course not. To assume would be incredibly arrogant. 

My family has been affected on more than one occasion by depression and suicide. Maybe this is why cries of selfishness are so offensive to me. I know the daily struggle that can last years and the instant opinions from complete strangers that form conclusions with 100% conviction. It is much more respectable to admit we cannot know the mind of another person than to be so wrong whilst believing we are so right.

The comforting aspect for me is that no one ever dissapears. They are always here, the cells are no longer assembled in the way they were to create such art, but they flow by us everyday. That I find truly mind blowing.

Respect existence or expect resistance

I love this quote! The eerie graffiti is located on the west coast of Scotland, the location of the UK’s nuclear warheads. My sister currently lives in Scotland and recently had the opportunity to visit Faslane Peace Camp set up nearby by protesters.

 

I was reading this post by My Simple Life on her visit to Hiroshima and thought it would be silly if I didn’t offer a glimpse of my sisters brief day visit. Around the camp, trees hold posters with nails and cable ties, displaying the reasons why we should abandon our Nuclear Deterrent. The UK has four Vanguard-class submarines, one on patrol whilst the other three undergo maintenance and prepare for patrol. Each submarine can carry 16 Trident missiles, each missile carrying 8 nuclear warheads. Each warhead, eight times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima. To think these warheads are located a three hour drive from where I type this is a little concerning. I’m out of range if something was to go wrong, right?

The Internet has slightly differing stats, although the message is still powerful

The Trident nuclear deterrent is in question here. Some say it is way too costly, operating Trident each year costs the UK roughly £2 billion. Some say it is pointless to run, if we were to be attacked by another nation, the deterrent clearly didn’t work and it would be too late to do anything. Of course, it is also seen as immoral, we have seen how deadly such an attack can be. At the peace camp, two Hiroshima survivors planted a tree that can be seen below.

Pretty powerful and I can certainly see the appeal of a world without nuclear bombs. If only it was that easy.

I love Singapore! (And I haven’t even been yet)

The journey to a destination doesn’t have to be the boring part. Apparently there are adventures between connecting flights and I’ve found a great one with Singapore Airlines.

It makes me sad that we often miss out on these, I for one have made this mistake and I’m trying to avoid doing this on future travels. I want to squeeze as much experience out of life and travelling 35 hours from London to Sydney is a heck of a long time to see nothing but in-flight movies and airport terminals.

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I’ve just got back from my mums, I went back to see my goddaughter and felt it would be a good time to take some of what I won’t be taking to Australia back to her place. That is probably 99% of all things I own. Judging by how messy my flat can get I assumed I had a lot of stuff that needs emptying before I leave. It turns out I don’t have too much stuff, I am just messy.

I’ve also learned that I have been stupidly paying more for my train journeys than I should have been. Instead of buying ‘off peak’ on the touchscreen ticket machines, I should have clicked ‘more options’ and purchased a specific time. This is my own fault, as my train journeys are roughly every couple of months it is something I haven’t thought about. Now that I need money more than ever, that extra couple of quid each way is welcomed.

Here I am waiting for the train yesterday. Drifting off topic a little, I have an ever growing fascination with castles. They never bore me, a constant reminder that the closest we can currently get to time travel is looking at what has been left for us. It seems from this view that the line runs right into the castle. Very platform 9 and three quarters, that. It doesn’t, the Victorians didn’t seem to care how close to the castle they got, clearly appreciating a carriage with a view.

Whilst all this was happening, I emailed Singapore Airlines as I was told that they offer hotel packages for travellers with long layovers. What did I have to loose? With the good customer service I was told to expect from this airline they emailed back pretty quickly, offering to book me in for their Ambassador Transit Hotel, paid for in 6 hour blocks. This didn’t really appeal to me, however they also offered to book me onto one of their Free Singapore Tours (FST), offered to those with long layovers. How cool is that? It can be found on their website, by clicking the link or heading for Plan Travel- Privileges- Free Singapore Tour.

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One of two tours can be picked. The Heritage Tour or the City Sights Tour. The Heritage Tour seems to be more of a tour of history and culture, taking us through areas of historical importance and the ethnic enclaves of Singapore. The City Sights Tour seems to be more of the modern sights, such as Marina Bay and the amazing Avatar-like Supertrees. I love the historical and cultural aspect of any place I go, however as each tour is 2.5 hours, I feel I will be able to digest the sights a little easier than the history. Also, the City Sights Tour is only offered to those with a six hour layover or more, the Heritage Tour is available to travellers with a 5.5 hour layover. As I will be there for a whopping 17 hours, I was lucky to be offered both. The City Sights Tour appeals to me a little more with this in mind, like a forbidden fruit. Sorry, 5.5 hour layover people!

Reading the descriptions it seems like they may cross paths, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. I struggle with choices of this nature. I have decided on the City Sights Tour and have been booked in. It seemed very quick and efficient, all I have to do now is experience it first hand. Afterall, I can always book the same airline back and choose the other tour!

For the time being, my blog will be focused on my travel planning. It helps keep me organised. After I arrive in Sydney, I will mix it up a little with my usual inputs on anything and everything. Whatever reason you decided to follow my blog will hopefully be justified with a post you can relate to. Of course, travel and photography will play a huge part.

Which of the tours would appeal to you? If you have ever been, I would love to read your stories and if there is anything I should look out for in particular.

Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

 

 

First class for £30!

Yesterday was different. Not only did I find myself in a vegan restaurant eating a falafel and hummus wrap (it was delicious by the way) I almost spat it out when a naked bike ride cycled right by the window. Sadly for them it was a pretty cold day..

Cleansing my soul

At the minute my routine is:

Eat.

Blog.

Work.

Prepare for Australia.

Sleep.

Repeat.

Not that I would dare to complain, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is not the lack of free time that I would change, it is the time spent doing things that I have to do that isn’t what I want to do. We wouldn’t spend our lives wanting as much free time as possible if our lives outside of that free time were spent doing what we enjoyed.

I’ve been considering how I will get to London in September, as the only travel I had booked up until last night was from London to Sydney. Flight would be the easiest, taking under an hour and would mean I didn’t have to spend time getting through the hectic traffic in London to the airport for my next flight. Trains would be a (still pretty convenient) three hour trip and it is much easier for me to get to Central Station than Newcastle Airport. Coach would be the cheapest by far from only £8, however I hate sitting on a coach for 8 hours knowing that it would take the same amount of time to get to New York City. Madness, huh?

This thinking process ended with one email. Virgin East Coast sent me an email warning me that their sale was ending at midnight. A sale I didn’t know was even on! £30 train tickets from Newcastle to London. Not only that…
FIRST CLASS!!

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My first ever view of London was this one, after stepping out from the Underground.
This may not be as much of a surprise to my readers outside of the U.K., depending on how cheap your rail travel is. Here it is in no way cheap. Looking at tickets today the prices range from £36 to £121, without the free upgrade. As I opened up the email at work I assumed the £30 fare was the cost of an upgrade with clever wording, however as the pages loaded it seemed like the real deal. 


And here I am, £30 poorer but increasingly more organised, starting a tiring three day journey to Sydney with a smile, free beers and meals for the first leg of this epic journey. Thanks Virgin!

Have you ever been first class? Did you get a great deal, get it complimentary or simply like more luxurious travel?

This is a first for me, I will be sure to blog this experience on route to London come August 31st.

So long America, it was fun :(

I wanted to find an image that represents the USA in differing ways for this post, I decided on this picture taken in Austin, TX. 

The famous yellow taxi. Glass highrises dwarfing the one storey eateries lining the grid traffic systems. Right lane driving. These all stand out to me as a British traveller. 

My home city of Durham bans building over two storeys high in some areas to prevent obscuring any views of the cathedral, or so I was taught on a geography trip back in school. Grid systems would be ideal, sadly this is impossible when our city was built when horses were the main mode of transport. It was also important to build in an area that was difficult to conquer, common throughout Europe. It is a city that has always taken my breath away, not just because of the views but the effort needed to walk up to the market place. You can see why the centre is pedestrianised, and how this spot was perfect for the building of a castle and cathedral.

Credit: Van Rhijn Aerial Photography

But this post is about the New World. Today, I received notification that my US visa expired. It isn’t something that I have looked to renew as I have spent the years since 2010 in Malaysia, Brazil and short breaks in Europe. A lot happens in this space of time. I lost my father and uncle in recent years which of course took the wind out of my sails. I had no ambition to travel at all but thanks to great friends and amazing family, I got back on my feet. I would love to have went back the States and it feels weird that I haven’t, I made great friends and still keep in touch.

Sometimes we don’t get upset that something is over until it is over. I haven’t thought much about the visa still being valid but now I see it isn’t, I slumped a bit. If anything it is a reminder that I need to visit this great nation once again, one so vast that one image alone cannot portray the United States of America accurately. I miss the food, the friendly people, the numbered streets and alphabetised avenues and people thinking I’m Irish or Australian.

My visa expiring has inspired me to visit again one day!

Pre-travel goodbyes

I love the inside of this card.

Happiness is living your dreams whilst you are wide awake…

It is getting to that point in which I receive the good lucks and all the bests. When it starts to hit me and the feelings of excitement dwindle a little, the realisation hits me of the sacrifices made in moving to another country. I won’t see my family for a little while. My ‘little while’ may be a long damn time for some, it depends how you perceive one year.

They need me and I need them. I also need to live, if my family didn’t do the same in their youth, what stories would they have to tell me? Would I be here at all?

Thank you to the two Scottish Margaret’s for this one!

The reality is that even though my family will miss me as much as I will miss them, we all have a duty to self progress. To be a little selfish and to treat ourselves as much as we want to treat those we love. What better way to show how much we love family than to give them something to be proud of? To show them how well they have raised us, the ambition and drive placed within us materialised in the form of a plane ticket and new footsteps in unspoiled sand.

My visit to Texas back in 2010 was the longest I have been without family, thirteen months. Oddly, I was always someone preffering to stay at home. I loved my home comforts. I assume university helped me out of that comfort zone, after my second trip to New York City during my degree. I realised long-haul wasn’t a scary experience and thanks to the Jet-stream over the Atlantic, the return journey home was a pretty short one. If I remember rightly it was only 6 hours 30 minutes (ish), sharing the whole back row with one friend. A journey back home from another part of the UK may take that time (driving of course) and that would be without such homesickness. Homesickness for me is prevented by not thinking of how far away my family are in miles but in time. No matter where we are in the world, family are pretty much in reach within 24 hours.

Please forgive the quality of the images below, I used a cheap camera. I didn’t have a smartphone back then and have never owned a professional photography camera. FYI, the first picture was from my first visit in 2008, when the foundations were still being cleared and prepared for One World Trade Center and memorial. My visits to NYC have been 2008, 2010 and 2011. The One World Trade Center is under construction in a couple of images, snapped in 2011 after I left Texas and flew from New York to London. I still didn’t own a decent camera!

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The first two visits were only short breaks, five days each. I remember flying to Dallas on that first long stretch away from home. As the green card was being placed on my tray and the captain announced how long of the flight was left, it finally hit me that I would be away for a year, starting there and then. A year! I am glad it hit me when it did, if I felt the same feeling of reluctance earlier I may not have bought my plane ticket. The feeling didn’t last long, my brain instantly stimulated by new accents and weather, new foods and sports. When I did need to contact home I could do in an instant thanks to Facebook and Skype. The whole experience wasn’t as daunting as I feared it would be whilst I filled in the green card. I still firmly believe it was the best year of my life.

I also seem to remember more of that year than I do all the years since combined. Despite having many more trips, a year of travel consists of so many stories and new experiences. Similar to how we feel about aging, time flies the older we get. As a child everything is new. Every colour and word, every animal and sound. The more our days become increasingly similar to the last, the less we notice the hands moving on the clock. Travel for me is a time machine slowing down life. When I think of being away for such a long in Australia come September, I think of the benefits.

Like a gym session, don’t worry about how crap you feel doing it, think of the results!!