Sickening

Would you like to believe we live in a fairly advanced age? We have wireless internet, wheelchairs that can now climb stairs, printers that can produce 3D products, things seem fairly advanced right? Well, here we are in 2015 and in Britain, there’s now a growing debate as to whether or not M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) or CFS as some know it, is actually a real thing. No joke, we’re in a world full of fast cars, smart phones and replacement limbs but we can’t decide whether or not a chronic condition thousands upon thousands of people have had is real, or a bullshit story that’s been peddled by lazy workshirkers for generations.

A study by Oxford University followed 481 people’s lives for two years, all of those people having ME/CFS and watched them go through years of medication and consultation and then decided the best thing to do was encourage them to adopt better outlooks on life and exercise more. According to the study results, three quarters of the group improved after going through therapy and nobody, if the study is to be believed, got worse after being put through this programme. Dubious, as ME/CFS severely limit mobility and stamina so forcing exercise on them seems like it could have negative repercussions. The PACE trial (Pacing, graded Activity, Cognitive Therapy and random Evaluation) therapy revolves around the idea of gradual exercise and CBT therapy, along with random visits from an assessor to see how you get on, which seems fair but this test leaves a lot to be desired and even more to be criticised:

1. Benefits of a positive attitude

Ok, first qualm is this whole brave face and positive thinking will fix your problems ideology. Firstly, if you think positively, you’re going to gloss over the reality of your struggle, participants might have reported an improvement to their assessor simply because they felt happier instead of actually physically healthier and researcher bias might lead the assessors to see what they want to see (They’re smiling more than I remember them doing last month, they must have improved etc.). Whilst therapy is beneficial to those with ME/CFS, need I state the obvious that therapy is beneficial to just about EVERYONE. Depression, amputation, gender-reassignment, a diagnosis of cancer – things all made easier to cope with by speaking to professionals but you wouldn’t make those patients’ lives better by telling them to just suck it up and go for a jog would you? Claiming a healthy attitude is a cure is some wishy-washy idealistic nonsense up there with curing anxiety by taking bold leaps or curing addiction by just saying no more often.

2. Paced graded exercise

This idea is nothing new, as a previous carer for someone with ME, I can recall numerous physiotherapists and so on manipulating the weakened limbs of my dear friend into weird positions and telling her to do this on a daily basis to build her strength up or whatever. Problem here is that said exercise can take a lot out of people with ME and CFS, sometimes it is a struggle for them to even sit up in bed or brush their teeth, let alone lift weights or cycle or whatever the trials suggest. The energy levels of a sufferer are inconsistent, in the space of a week I have seen my friend go from smiling and laughing and jumping to being a disheveled mess groaning through paralysis. Videos can be found and audio logs recorded of ME patients being FORCED into exercise, being told off like petulant children for being ill and there are countless stories of children being taken away or people institutionalised for having ME. I am not joking, imagine if someone got locked up for saying they had a brain tumour or cystic fibrosis! This is a condition that is too complex for our current science to fully understand and in our frustration, we want to refuse to believe it exists. ME is the global warming of the disease world – it’s too hard to think of an answer so pretend it’s not a thing and let everyone die.

3. Misleading information (Lancet 2011 Editorial and Oxford Study)

The Lancet published a paper in 2011 that said 30% of their patients with ME/CFs improved after CBT and graded exercise yet this is based on misleading trials. Patients were asked to rate their fatigue on a scale of 0 to 11, any lower than 4 and they weren’t included in the study and they had to rate it as 6 and above to be considered for further trials. Fair enough? On a scale of 0 to 11, they called a level 6 fatigue “normal levels”. WHAT? How is that normal? Are they suggesting everyone, by default, should feel relatively shit all the time? Beyond that, patients weren’t asked throughout “How do you feel now? Still 6 or worse?”. Nope, just took their initial answer and ran with that. The Lancet made a publication based on a stupid definition of normal fatigue and thus padded out their study with people who felt ‘relatively’ better. Add to this the Oxford study that even admitted it wouldn’t work for everybody and needs further research done and there you have it – FURTHER RESEARCH NEEDS TO BE CARRIED OUT. Accurately I might add and it’s fucking embarrassing I have to.

4. More Misleading Information (Psychological Medicine)

Of course, there are numerous culprits here, Psychological Medicine conducted their own tests. Using the scale again, from 0 to 100, 100 being fit as a fiddle, you had to score below 65 to enter the trial and above 60 was considered healthy. See a problem immediately? If you scored 62 coming in and left scoring 63, you showed up on the statistics as ‘healthy’, therefore cured! With such ridiculous standards, patients could be counted as cured with minimal effort on the part of the doctors involved, any improvement amplified by this scale. The journal even published criticisms of this scale but made no effort to retract their claims that “22% of the study group recovered through therapy”, which as we can see, recovery is bloody easy if you need a score below 65 to enter but a score above 60 to be called cured. Furthermore, there were four criteria used, one a total dud criterium of ‘meeting no clinical definition’ and you only had to meet one of these criteria to count as improved. Ergo, a study that was hard to qualify for but easy to count as improved as a result of taking part. Lies then, carefully manipulated data and misleading weakened standards to present statistics the researchers wanted, instead of the actual truth.

I’m angry. I’m fucking livid. This is nothing more than the neglect and abuse of no fewer than 250,000 people in Britain alone and calling their disability a simple case of the blues that can be wished away with a big enough smile. If these misleading studies gain ground in the public eye as fact, how long until ME/CFS no longer count as grounds to claim disability relevant benefits? Are we going to force people with chronic pain, hypersensitivity, restrained mobility and poor cognitive function into work despite the obvious effects it will have on them? I wouldn’t put such cruelty past the same government seeking to scrap the Human Rights act.

If you’re angry too, click the link below to visit ME Action, a website set up by those dedicated by fighting for our loved ones who groan in agony from the shadows. We must not stand by and let these people become abused as lazy mopes needing a boost of life and a hug, they need medical consideration and each of them needs a care plan tailored to them – some can manage to walk, some can barely move their head – it’s not a quick fix. Keep researching better solutions, medications and coping mechanisms and don’t just dole out this flimsy “Smile and get over it” horseshit. There are petitions, sign them!

http://www.meaction.net/

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What Evil Looks Like

This isn’t going to be a fun read but it is an important one and perhaps that should motivate you to read this article, especially if you are a man. Forewarning, the content ahead is about sexual abuse so if that will upset you, look away, but I encourage you to look on – these topics need to be discussed. By now this is old news but the point is no less valid and needs to be reinforced wherever and whenever appropriate. George Lawlor, student of Warwick University, opted not to attend the optional consent classes offered at his university on the grounds he does not, and I quote ‘look like a rapist’, apparently feeling unfairly judged as such and believing his own conduct above reproach. The said student put up his own blog post of why he didn’t go and I’d link you but I don’t want to sully this blog by offering traffic to such a vile corner of the internet but I’m here to offer a firm rebuttal and to explain why rape culture is a thing and why we need to work on it.

George’s primary point is that consent classes are condescending and patronising insults to men, accusing them all of being potential rapists. Consent classes, incidentally, are classes in which university students are educated on how to have healthy sexual relationships and how to correctly interpret real life scenarios. For example, if a girl comes over to a guy’s place with the intention of having sex with him but upon arrival, changes her mind, if that guys persists – that is rape. She wanted it, she changed her mind, coaxing her into it or pressuring her is rape. The classes focus on ambiguous situations, things that you might not be aware are unhealthy or unfair on your partner and how to behave more responsibly, ensuring each sexual relationship you have is completely consensual and legal if nothing else! Great idea if you ask me, I’ll go into it a bit more in a little while but I’d gladly go to such a class, not because I fear I lack the knowledge but because it sounds like a healthy environment in which to learn more about safe and satisfying sex lives. George though argues these classes are patronising, treating men like potential criminals, but this isn’t the case. Think about it this way – you’re required to attend Fire Safety meetings and Fire Drills in the world of work, does that mean they need to dissuade potential arsonists and pyromaniacs? Maybe, but for the most part it is the benefit of all involved, it promotes safety, knowledge and equips those present with the correct attitude as it reaffirms what they know to be right. We ALL know what to do in a fire, it’s ingrained in us – leave your possessions, leave in an orderly fashion, assemble outside at the safe point – imagine if the rules of consent were as ingrained in us as the rules of fire safety or crossing the road. Kids aren’t stupid, they know a car hitting them will hurt, we teach them so as to make sure they have all the knowledge they need to be safe.

Furthermore, taking these consent classes as a personal insult George, it tells me volumes about you as a person. You take ‘men being potential rapists’ as meaning you? If you know you have a healthy attitude towards sex, why is this so offensive to you? Men who get upset when feminism call out the patriarchy on sexism or transphobia by responding “But that’s not me!” need to realise it is not them specifically being challenged, unless they are actually doing those things in that moment, but the societal norm as a whole. You’re not exempt from that, as I’m not, we have to accept we’re a part of a culture that perpetuates violence and sexism and rape, what matters is what we as individuals strive to be and preach to others. We can’t be let off the hook as nice guys or knowing enough about feminist views to think that’s okay, we have to constantly work to be better, to do more – we might be a part of a negative culture George, but we enjoy the privilege of being straight white men, we get listened to, so don’t complain about someone maybe possibly implying you’re a rapist, shouldn’t the bigger issues be things like the prevalence of rape culture and the rising statistics over the years? Complain about that for a bit.

George put up a photo saying “This is not what a rapist looks like”, which I have two immediate responses to. One, what does a rapist look like? A January report in The Telegraph suggested one in every three women in the UK has been the victim of unwanted advances or sexual assault at least once in life so either there are a shit ton of similar looking dudes all with the same criminal attitudes or, more plausibly, there isn’t a singular rapist stereotype women should be taught to avoid. You want a disturbing fact? 80% of rape survivors KNEW the attacker, when we hear of rape we picture lonely women walking down an alley and getting mugged by a goon with a knife – this happens, let’s not overlook that, it’s terrible – but rape can be so much more subtle and dark. Rape can be a kiss that came with an unwanted hand in the front of a girl’s skirt, rape can be a drunken husband letting off steam on his unwilling wife, rape can be guys ganging up to take advantage of a girl they’re friends with. A rapist isn’t always some hooded delinquent in the shadows with the face of a killer, it can be that ‘friendzoned’ douche, a potential boyfriend, a study buddy, a one-time thing looking to make you his new habit. We like to think we can spot evil from a glance but we can’t, nobody has that ability, you can’t actually judge people that fast and before you know it, that nice guy you invited over one night to help you cram for an exam has turned up with other motives. If 80% of survivors knew the attacker and one in three women have at least said they felt like they were harassed, then one thing is certain – a rapist can look like anyone. You included George, no matter how nice or friendly or safe you think you look, I’ve known women who have been attacked by guys half your height and twice as jovial. I’m not calling George a rapist but just so he knows, he could look like one. I could too, get over it.

Lawlor stands at a position of privileged ignorance then, likely never having been a victim of sexual abuse himself, he can look down his nose at these classes that are just as much about empowering victims as educating potential aggressors into being better people. By disrespecting these classes, you disrespect every single victim of sexual abuse, you tell them that men aren’t responsible or accountable for what happened to them, it was their own stupid fault for getting too close to those nasty rapey men and not cosying up to nice guys like him. The outrageous tenacity of that viewpoint and level of stupidity makes my blood burn with rage. If you believe all rapists are bush-lurking cretins, you exempt yourself from being a rapist, you justify everything you do as not being an assault from the bushes. You also condone a certain creed of man to the harmful stereotype of looking like someone that deserves to be alone. Face it George, what you mean is handsome white heterosexual men aren’t rapists, but ugly ones or minorities are? I’ve had the misfortune of exploring your blog, from what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was your secret philosophy on the matter.

We need to break away from stereotypes, especially ones that belittle a serious crime like rape as being a horror story trope and not much else. Rapists aren’t a particular breed of men, some are but some are otherwise perfectly well-respected members of society. George, maybe you aren’t all that bad a guy and maybe I’m being hard on you but your contempt of consent classes is a privilege you can enjoy as a handsome white straight man, the most well-off of well-off demographics. We can’t let ‘nice guys’ off the hook by perpetuating the idea of all rapists being obviously creepy – it insults women, it degrades men and the facts don’t support it. Women’s safety is a massive issue, it’s one we aren’t doing enough about and these classes are an effort to address that imbalance, respect that.

Language Mentality

Trigger Warnings – Discussions of the mental health spectrum (OCD, Schizophrenia, Depression, Bipolarity) and one passing mention of suicide, discussion of bullying relating to mental health

Well the people have spoken, or rather clicked on links, and the site stats speak for themselves, you’re all pleased to see me back in action. I’m on my way to one hundred views in less than a week of activity and my works have reached seven different countries including India and Finland. To that I say thank you, I’ll keep up the hard work, keep sending in your support and keep reading

Anyway, that aside, I want to conclude this week of mental health awareness (Well, OCD awareness) with a little rant I’ve been meaning to get round to for a good while and that is the use of mental health terms as adjectives. I know that instantly some of you will relate or at least understand what I’m about to talk about, the use of depressed as a synonym for sad and such and today I’d like to talk about why this is a habit we now need to break as a collective so I’m going to call these out one by one and cut them down where they stand

1. Depressed

Slang Usage – “I’m so depressed!”, “Don’t be so depressing!”, “I’m feeling a bit depressed..” – Used to mean sad or unhappy

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with clinical depression

Words To Use Instead – Morose, Crestfallen, Down, Gloomy, Melancholy

You hear it all the time – someone has had a hard day, they’re tired and grumpy and they’re usually sulking in a corner when they come out with “I’m so depressed”. Ok, if you are depressed, that’s fairly accurate, as in you show the signs of depression. However, depression does not come about as the end result of a bad ┬áday at work, it is a condition that lasts much longer than a day or even a few weeks, it is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness or bitterness that can last for months or years. If you think you are suffering from depression, consult your GP. You may start to notice if you feel a constant low mood or lack of interest in your own life. Please don’t take depression lightly though, it is a serious issue that isn’t as simple as just being sad, there are chemical reasons for it (Lack of serotonin, links to hypothyroidism) and emotional reasons (Constant stress/grief/post-natal depression) but if you’re just feeling low, it’s more than likely just a rough patch in your life and may well pass soon enough

2. OCD

Slang Usage – “I’m so OCD, I always keep my pencils in line on the desk”, “He’s a bit OCD about his DVD collection”, “I wish I was OCD, I’d clean my room instead of letting it get into a mess” – Used to mean picky, organised or having an unusual quirk

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Words To Use Instead – Organised, Fussy, Pristine, Quirky, Tidy

OCD, the subject of the week, is prone to a lot of misunderstandings due to constantly reinforced stereotypes. If you have to have things a certain way, you’re not OCD, you just like your own order – like any decent person does. OCD isn’t a disorder that means “The patient likes to be organised and is generally tidy”, no, the ‘cleaners’ out there fear the negative consequences of not doing these little thing, they clean surfaces to avoid getting germs that could infect their children but it doesn’t do them a favour. I cannot remember her name but a woman recently released a book about how she used to spend so long cleaning the house for her kids that she’d forget she’d have to actually, y’know, pick them up from school. I know your counterargument might be “But it bugs me when…” but that’s not OCD, OCD is “But it makes me sick with anxiety when…”, something bugging you is just your own desire for organisation or perfection. If you’re tidy and likes things in a certain way and get annoyed when that’s not the case, chances are, you’re a perfectionist or just generally quite a well-kept person. Good for you, just don’t write it off as OCD until disturbances to your order genuinely make you feel sick or panicky

3. Schizophrenic

Slang Usage – “The weather’s a bit schizophrenic, one moment sunshine and then it tips it down?”, “I thought you wanted me to stay? Make your mind up you schizoid!”, “The stock market is a bit schizophrenic with stocks rising and falling constantly” – Used to mean indecisive or unpredictable

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with schizophrenia

Words To Use Instead – Indecisive, Confused, Unpredictable, Tentative, Conflicting

Schizophrenia seems to be largely misunderstood as being a crazy person who talks to themselves and can’t make a clear decision but heck, if you diagnosed every indecisive person alive as schizophrenic then 80% of us are schizophrenic. Schizophrenia is seen as a dangerous and frightening thing to be by most people and yet strangely okay to make fun of. For the record, the stereotype is wrong, not all of them sit there playing good guy, bad guy with themselves, some harrow much more unsettling thoughts but some have it in remission or under control with medication and therapy and function within our society like the rest of us. You are not schizophrenic if you’re indecisive and someone who is unpredictable or irrational might just be stressed, confused or genuinely just a loose cannon. The use of this word in this way is very harsh and ignorant as it suggests all schizophrenics are essentially re-enacting Jekyll and Hyde in their head. Schizophrenic is not an adjective, end of discussion

4. Bipolar

Slang Usage – “I thought I was having a good day but I’m upset, so bipolar”, “He’s always either really happy or really sad, he’s like bipolar or something”, “It was cold yesterday and yet it’s hot today, it’s like God is bipolar”

Actual Definition – Diagnosed with bi-polar depression

Words To Use Instead – Temperamental, Erratic, Fickle, Impulsive, Inconsistent

Ever had a great day ruined, or a bad day made into something brilliant? Moods constantly shifting as the day goes on? Well, a lot of you will say yes here so it’s safe to say that if the majority of us feel this way, it’s not a disorder, it’s just a part of life. Bipolarity is a swing between states of depression and mania and doesn’t always happen in the same day, these switches can last for months at a time and someone who is bipolar might never feel “normal”. Bipolarity can lead to feelings of ambitiousness or joy interchanging with hopelessness or suicidal thoughts and is not a case of being happy and sad within a short time frame. I hear this being used more to describe the weather as a form of personification for the weather but let’s be real people – the weather doesn’t have moods, your mood is just affected by the weather. Rain isn’t sad, the sun doesn’t smile and clouds aren’t actually lazy drifters.

5. Psycho

Slang Usage – “He went psycho when I told him!”, “Calm down psycho!”, “Looked like a proper psycho with that angry face!” – Used to mean someone who is very angry or bad-tempered

Actual Definition – A psychopath

Words To Use Instead – Angry, Livid, Furious, Aggressive, Grumpy

As someone who has tested positive for many traits of psychopathy, this one hits close to home and I find it to be a derogatory term that attributes any aggressive behaviour to being the end result of a fault in your own mental fault, as if it’s your fault you’re annoyed. Granted, I may well be an actual psychopath so those people who taunted me as “the school psycho” might actually be onto something but it doesn’t change the fact they were deliberately provoking me, I didn’t just explode for no reason. If you call someone a psychopath, that’s a serious thing to call someone, you’re saying that they are a remorseless being incapable of empathy. I struggled to gain a sense of empathy and the theory that I am essentially dormant (Due to a childhood free of abuse) and not active is what made my life much easier and my rage controllable with enough effort but not everyone has it as easy as exerting some self-control, some may not even feel guilt for their misdeeds and some may rely on medication to fit in so don’t make it harder for them by calling every aggressive person you meet a cold-blooded psycho nutjob

6. Autistic

Slang Usage – “She just didn’t understand me, is she autistic?”, “You’re so awkward, are you autistic or something?”, “He likes counting stuff out loud, it’s his thing, like that autistic guy in the movie!” – Used to mean an awkward person or someone with unusual habits or in a worst case scenario, someone who is slow or unintelligent

Actual Definiton – Diagnosed with autism or a similar condition on the scale of autism such as aspergers

Words To Use Instead – Awkward, Unusual, Eccentric, Difficult, Odd

Autism is the new retardation it seems, I hear this word being used as synonym for stupid. Rule of thumb guys, if you think someone is stupid, call them stupid or dimwitted or anything other than a retard or an autistic person. I dreaded telling people I had aspergers, the moment some found out they started talking slower, checking if I was ok every five minutes and saying “Don’t mind him, he’s got assburgers” to every stranger who looked at me funny. Autism and aspergers are either seen as cute and quirky or dopey and infuriating and that upsets me as a man with aspergers, my brother being autistic and having met many like me. I mean, do you take me for a dullard? No, I’m perfectly intelligent, got A* across the board in my core GCSEs, my IQ is technically genius level and my brother worked hard to overcome the label of ‘the stupid brother’ to smash his school’s expectations of him and now you can’t tell by looking at him, or me, that we are what we are, people just think we’re two general nerds. Autism is just a different wiring to achieve the same result, it’s the Playstation to the Xbox, the Renault or Peugeot – same basic deal, just some slight differences but ultimately doing the same thing

I know you might use these words in jest but these jokes stick and serve to reinforce stereotypes and frankly it’s only mental health that gets this kind of stigma. Imagine if I said the weather was as unreliable as a woman, that you’re as angry as a black man, that the weather seems a bit diabetic. I understand we do use physical illness as an adjective, a bad idea is called cancerous after all. I also know that not everyone is offended by this behaviour as it serves as a vehicle to raise awareness but I think we can agree that the fact these words are now used to describe certain character traits means that people know these things exist, they just need educating on what they actually are. You might call someone OCD for always cleaning their room once a week, but do you understand what actually defines someone as OCD? The time for educating people about mental health is here, for children and adults alike because the joke has long since stopped being funny