I’m a big thinker, right? And I’d say my brain is at capacity most of the time. I’m constantly mulling over how I can improve things. Not just the goings-on of my inner world through various mediums of self-improvement, but also the outer one. From a vegan diet to living plastic-free, I’m on a constant mission to try to do my best with what I have. The world needs to change and I’ve dedicated my life to helping that come to fruition. But there’s an extra element that’s thrown into all this. Guilt. And it eats away at me from time to time.

Let me back-pedal a bit to talk about my time in university. Whilst there, I was a key member of the Amnesty International Society – a society that I still very much support. Nowadays, however, I do so from the sideline rather than actively. When I was heavily involved, my perspective was rather different to how it stands today. When day in, day out, you’re following the stories of the most broken of humanity, you are grateful for simply having a roof over your head and food in your belly. And freedom, of course. Just having those basic things is incredibly wonderful. If you get choice added in too, you’re flying.

But as I say, time went on and I left university and began placing more and more focus on environmental issues. The causes I was fighting for were marine habitats, rainforests, native woodland, animals facing extinction, coral bleaching and microplastic pollution. It became less about the people and more about the environment. If I think about it logically, without a planet there are no people and so of course these are worthy causes to be fighting for. But as I sit here with a regular income, enough money to pick and choose my food, my clothing, my lifestyle, I can’t help but feel an element of guilt.

Millions of people around the world – including many on these wealthy British Isles – can’t afford the luxury of choice. They can’t afford the time to even think about being able to shop in fancy food stores that offer aesthetically-pleasing vegan foods and household cleaners and beauty items that are made with an array of delightful natural ingredients. Their priority is getting food on the table for hungry mouths that need feeding. Their priority is being able to afford the rent each month. Their priority is being able to make it through each day. Living on the breadline is no place to be.

So I can’t help but feel guilty when I preach about how we should all be eating vegan foods and living waste-free as much as possible when in truth I don’t understand what it’s like not to have the choice. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in fact growing up I witnessed the stress that a single mother goes through trying to put food on the table for her kids. Her priority was keeping her children healthy and happy. But even with this, I don’t know what it was like to be her. I can’t fully understand.

My dilemma is not wanting someone living a polar opposite life to my own to look at me and see naivety and an unachievable goal. It makes me sick to think that I could evoke anger in someone over my lifestyle choices, values and priorities. It’s this fine line to teeter along, with compassion for humanity on one side and an inner environmental warrior on the other. I don’t yet know the best way of figuring all this out. And in truth, I might never. (To clarify: no one has raged at me. This is purely hypothetical.)

But one thing I do trust in is my gut instinct; as should we all. It guides us. The reality is that there’s no way I could compare my life to that of a low-income single mother with 4 children where the fight for survival is first priority. I’m not living that way – fortunately. So all I can do is what feels right to me, based on the scientific evidence I have ready, with wthe resources I have. If I can afford to choose the most ethical foods to eat, not consume plastic that ends up in the oceans and write about my lifestyle choices in the hope that it might influence someone else who can also make those choices to start living differently, then why not do it? It seems logical…

I’m part of a whole generation wanting to do life differently. We want to live more harmoniously with our planet, improve our infrastructure using renewable energy and live lives that place emphasis on creativity and passion rather than the mind-numbing and mundane. I frequently refer to it as ‘the vagina lottery’ because we don’t know what kind of family we’ll be born into. All we can do is the best we can based on what we know.

We don’t all fight for the same causes and in a way that’s actually kind of great. If some of us could keep doing the great work for humanity while others clean up the environment, we should have a sound future ahead of us. Perhaps that’s all I need to trust in; the fact that we’re all different for a reason and it’s best to just embrace it, even if it does seem flawed. We need each other; that’s the simple truth of it. We’re stronger together.

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Simple question: do you take responsibility for your life and all the things that you do and consume and participate in within it?

Responsibility

Is the instinct to say ‘yes’? Is that instinct there because when we’re young, we’re taught that taking responsibility is a good thing and therefore you want to instinctively answer ‘yes’ so that you don’t get in trouble? God forbid you feel bad about yourself, right? We don’t want to be judged by our peers, right?

We’ve got a whole melting pot of problems on the planet at the moment. All, essentially, stem from bad parenting. (We know how I feel about parenting *shakes head*.) So we divide into power-hungry humans, masking quivering insecure children on the inside. And people who turn a blind eye to helping one another because in our time of need as youths, no one helped us. We fight about all the wrong things and we misalign our priorities. We jeopardise our chances of happiness because we’re too damn involved within our own heads. We laugh, we cry, and ultimately devestate our earth one generation after the next all because we refuse to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

That phrase, ‘taking responsibility’ stretches further than simply saying we’ll be there to pick our kids up from school, or turning up for that meeting on time. Taking responsibility for ourselves and the role we play in society first means owning up to who we are, what our values are and facing all those inner demons. We don’t like to look at what’s wrong with us. We’re completely blind to it, as Allain de Botton so famously preaches in his work on love and why we find ourselves in unhappy relationships more often than not. And unless we open our eyes and face the bad stuff, how can we possibly take responsibility for our actions?

We act in really strange ways that seem illogical, all because of wounds that score the inside of our head and heart. Sometimes the nature of these strange acts is small and harmless, but get a collective of ‘small and harmless’ and you’ve got ‘large and harmful’.

Detachment

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that we do this. The first is that we are lazy and detached in our food consumption. We expect to have everything available 24/7 on a supermarket shelf. We consume meat we haven’t hunted, fish we haven’t caught and vegetables we haven’t grown. I get it. In this corporate world we find ourselves in where few are in touch with the environment these days, we can’t all be hunters and farmers. But there’s a fundamental problem with only ever seeing your meat (if you consume it) sold in small plastic-packaged portions on a cold, metal, sterile shelf. It detaches you from what is real. What’s real is that that is one of many parts of an animal that had a life and was kept captive and killed for you. You are not taking responsibility for your actions if you consume meat and aren’t OK with killing that animal yourself. You are not taking responsibility for your consumption if you don’t know how it was killed and what the living conditions were like for it while it was alive.

Then there are the fish. Take a look at the state of the world’s oceans today and you’ll see that they’re not doing all that great. Overfishing, invasive species, ocean acidification and plastic pollution are just some of the problems we face that are causing extinction on an enormous scale. If you consume wild-caught fish without having any awareness of the state of the sea from where it was caught, you are not taking responsibility. If you support farmed fish but haven’t looked into the effects of eutrophication in the area where they were farmed, you are not taking responsibility.

Then there’s all the packaging, the plastic and the processed food. You sit in your house and each week the garbage is collected from kerb-side and transported somewhere that’s our of your sight. You are lucky that your neighbourhood aesthetic isn’t tainted. But someone, somewhere has to look at your waste. Is that being a responsible person? Consuming mindlessly certainly is not. That sealed bag of salad that you bought from a supermarket is likely packaged in non-recyclable plastic. That piece of plastic will be sat on our soil for many hundreds of years longer than you will find yourself alive. It will degrade into smaller pieces and distribute itself across our soil and seas, working its way up the food chain until one of your offspring many generations from now will consume it. You may feel no remorse for what you did to that person. After all, you’ll never meet them; never love them. But does that make it OK? No, it doesn’t. You wouldn’t like it if you found yourself on this earth unable to find any unpolluted food to eat or water to drink, would you? You wouldn’t want to live in a wasteland because all the ecosystems had collapsed due to what your parents and grandparents and generations prior had done.

Think about the things you enjoy. Chances are, something outside, in nature, is one of them. After all, that’s why you bought that camera, isn’t it? You want to capture scenes of that beautiful waterfall you plan on visiting next year. And when you’re on those golden sands at the beach, you want to remember how clear the water looked and how vivid all the colours of those tropical fish were, right? Newsflash! Those things are disintegrating. Unlike the Midas touch, everything we touch these days turns to plastic. We are wrecking and ruining and depleting and consuming and soon there will be nothing left.

Everything you do creates a ripple effect across this globe. We influence each other and your actions are those that will change the world for better or worse. The decision is yours.

Photo via Unsplash

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Yesterday, along with thousands of other exhausted campers, I left Glastonbury Festival. For those of you who don’t know, Glastonbury is the world’s greatest 5-day party. It’s a place to forget the outside world and all your woes. You can let yourself go. It’s a place to be free and explore who you are and what you enjoy. But after 5 days of utopia, the outside world hits you like a bus.

The first thing that struck me as we came across regular folk in the surrounding areas was their faces. What I mean is, there was no perma-grin like there was on every festival-goers face. People looked tired, bored or worried. Not all of them, but many. They were just going about their days, but I saw something deeper. I saw a collective unhappiness. I saw a society that didn’t spark joy in its people. This was a dramatic contrast to a festival where attendees are made to feel as if anything is not only possible, but accepted without shame.

En route home we decided to stop by a supermarket to pick up some essentials before facing our sad, bare fridge. I didn’t think to change out of what I was wearing to do so. It never even crossed my mind. (It was a crop top and shorts; nothing offensive or overly revealing.) But once I got inside, I was met with disgusted looks. Granted, that might have been primarily due to a lingering stench from having not showered for a week, but something tells me it was the fact that I wasn’t conforming. I had mud on my feet and grass in my hair. See, at Glastonbury the wackier the better. You can even get your boobs out and cover them with glitter and there’s no need to feel like you’re being preyed upon or looked down on. Self-expression is encouraged. Fun is warmly embraced.

Reality didn’t feel like that. Reality made me feel ashamed of looking a little rough around the edges. Reality told me it didn’t want me. And I’m here to shout back and say that that isn’t OK. Why should I have to plan my footwear based on how quickly I can run in it if I’ll be alone on a night out? Why should I shy away from shorts because it’s just easier to try to walk through life trying to be invisible and not attracting any attention to myself? It’s interesting, because at the festival, most of the women were wearing the most revealing of outfits. But there was nothing sexual about it. It was beautiful. So I’m asking what makes it different within the festival grounds? It really comes down to the sheer number of women dressing that way. It becomes the norm at Glastonbury. No single female stands out because we all go there. We all embrace the extravagant. But we come back to reality and back to our regular wardrobes. We fear the extravagant once more because it attracts attention. It stands out.

How do we redefine ‘the norm’? How is it that we can spread the freedom of creative self-expression from Worthy Farm into all of our cities and towns? And it’s not just the clothes we wear and the way we decorate out faces, but the empathy and the sense of community. Political talk was bold and brash this festival, with many artists criticising the powers that be. They preached love and understanding, with Corbyn himself even making an appearance on the Pyramind Stage to urge us to reunite as a people, rather than support the divide. He spoke of music and poetry and creativity at the core of a happy society. He praised the Eavis family for allowing all of the festival attendees the space to express and enjoy themselves. There is something exquisitely magical that comes from that much togetherness and the hope is that it can come with each of us into our everyday lives now that the festival is over.

Yes this is a rant at wanting everyday life to be just as magical, but it’s also an opportunity for discussion. What are your thoughts on this topic? How do we redefine the norm and create a more loving society where all people are treated equally and allowed to express themselves without fear? Lord knows we’re desperate for it.

 

 

 

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Cruelty-free and Vegan

A few years ago, when I decided to no longer purchase cosmetics produced by brands that consent to animal testing where it’s required by law, I felt proud of my decision. Don’t get me wrong, I have every day since, too. But something I’ve grown to realise over the past couple years is that that alone isn’t enough for my ‘ethical purchasing consciousness’. I want every purchase I make to feel good. I want it to feel right. And despite the advantage of purchasing cruelty-free and vegan, I’ve realised that it isn’t enough. There are numerous other aspects to consider, such as quality of ingredients, packaging, ethics of production etc. These things have been niggling. I’m at the point now, where I simply can’t deny them.

The global cosmetics market is estimated to be worth around €181 billion. And I can’t see this figure decreasing any time soon. With influence thrown left, right and centre from Youtube, Bloggers, and Instagram as well as the more traditional television and magazine advertisements, we are bombarded. Those promoting cruelty-free and/or vegan brands totally get my praise. Many people still don’t realise that while we don’t test on animals here in the UK, many of the brands sold here are also sold in China where it’s required by law. (If you aren’t familiar already, Logical Harmony is where it’s at for determining the ethics of products before you purchase them.)

There are obviously some great things that come out of purchasing CF & V options. Firstly, you aren’t supporting the trade in China. Secondly, you’re choosing to support more compassionate consumption. Thirdly, you’re getting the ball rolling and increasing awareness. But I’ve realised that these aren’t the only ethics to be aware of in the consumption of beauty products. What about the formulation? Are you willing to use potentially harmful ingredients that can bioaccumulate in your body so long as it means that you aren’t supporting animal testing? Do you sacrifice yourself for the greater good? And what about landfill? Do the brands you support have an environmental policy? Is the packaging recyclable? Do they encourage you to bring it back to counter/store? Some brands who do support animal testing actually offer these. There are mixed priorities, clearly.

But the thing that I question is the ethical supply chain, or perhaps lack of, in many CF & V drugstore brands. It really can be summarised like this: 99% of the time the more you pay, the better quality you’re going to get. By ‘better quality’, I mean better ingredients with smarter formulas, more innovative packaging and probably happier staff who are producing those products for you.

It goes in the same category as ‘fast fashion’ for me. Granted, cosmetics won’t last you nearly as long as a piece of clothing if you look after it, but is it better to purchase every shade of a cheap drugstore blush for the same price as one high quality option from a niche brand? Depends on what your priorities are, I suppose.

The cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics market is still in the minority sector. That’s going to be the case for at least a few more years. But in the meantime, I encourage you to do your research on the brands you’re purchasing from. Go further than CF & V as your check boxes and ask questions like:

  • How am I going to recycle this packaging when the product is empty?
  • What ingredients are used in this formula?
  • Where is this product made and by whom?

There’s no one out there doing things perfectly. We’re either producing trash or driving around in pertroleum-fuelled cars or whatever else that’s harming the planet. It’s a constant quest for improvement. But I feel that as long as you’re on the path, that’s really what matters. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to encourage your favourite brands to go one step further in becoming more ethical in their production.

If money is the issue, before you feel the pressure to buy luxury brands in recyclable glass bottles that cost you your whole month’s salary for one product, consider DIY instead. Keep it simple. Invest in a jar of high quality organic coconut oil that is multi-purpose and can allow you to make some of your own products.

Be mindful and ask questions about everything you’re purchasing. Remember: what you spend your money on is what you’re investing energy in. Make sure those purchases align with your values.

Photo via Unsplash

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Chris Cornell

Depression does not discriminate based on gender or race or occupation or how much money is in the bank. Depression is not restricted to the homeless, the poor, the gay, the divorced, or any other label that is frequently bestowed upon us by society in a derogatory fashion. It can strike any of us at any time. And when it does, it knocks us for six. It’s just as paralysing as any broken limb or virus, only its worse. Why is it worse? Because no one sees it but you. No one feels the pain you’re going through, but you. And society won’t cut you slack even for a minute. Doesn’t that tell you that we’re doing things wrong? Doesn’t that tell you that we need to fight for change?

Chris Cornell’s recent and heart-breaking suicide was one of many that sweep our globe every year. It was a death of desperation. In his final moments, we will never know if he was sick of the pressing numbness or the crushing pain, but my guess is that he was in limbo between the two. He was a voice of reason and understanding to millions, but entirely alone all at the same time, when it mattered most.

I may not be famous, but I know a thing or two about living my days seeing no way out other than through death’s door. I suffered with depression for almost 3 years and it was crippling. But like anyone that made it out the other side, I feel a responsibility at my core to fight for an ecosystem – a society – that helps those who can’t yet help themselves.

If you’ve never been depressed, you are incredibly lucky and I hope from the bottom of my heart that you never have to experience it. But it will also make my job more difficult as I try to explain to you what it feels like. The best way I can describe it is that depression is a bit like lying in the fetal position under the surface of a murky swamp. You are paralysed and can see through the turbid water that there’s some sort of party happening over at the end of the jetty on the water’s edge. It looks like people are having fun, although you can’t see very clearly with the layer of scum above your head. You can’t move. You can’t feel what the party-people are feeling. You’re simply stuck beneath the surface trying every moment to find a way to breathe so you don’t drown. You’re simultaneously hoping that you do drown. You toy with the idea that you do. If the dark depths of the swamp can envelope you, they can put you out of your misery once and for all.

You see, depression is this combination of so desperately wanting happiness, whilst having not the faintest idea of how to get it. But it’s worse; there’s not an ounce of drive or determination within your bones to try to figure out how to get it. You are essentially trapped and stagnant and suffering in the hopelessness of it all. And the worst thing about it? Living in a society that gives no time or help to anyone in the pond. God forbid we even utter the D word for the fear of causing any kind of uncomfortable reaction in others. God forbid.

Depression

Cornell hanged himself hours after playing a show to fans and this is what shocked us most. How could we not have seen it coming? Only, this is the problem. Depression causes dissociation. Deep pain hurts us. And our need to survive means that we do what we can to cope with that pain. Talking about it is the difficult thing to do. So instead, we compartmentalise it. We let the pain become buried somewhere so deep within us that the outside world doesn’t even know it’s there. We keep doing life; we go to work, we run errands, we pay bills, but flashes – or ‘triggers’ – take us back to that pain. And they become more and more frequent and jolting until we can’t cope with them anymore. When desperation strikes and we feel that powerless, it’s too overwhelming and impossible to see any way of things working out for the better. It’s much easier to put an end to it all.

So the truth is that no one could see this coming, except him. And maybe not even him. Perhaps that last show caused tipping point. We’ll never know. And the fact that there are whisperings of his decision as being selfish infuriates me. Being in a state of depression is one of ultimate self-loathing. We don’t see any worth in ourselves, any point of us continuing to do life. We feel desperately isolated and alone and suicide is a way of putting the pain to bed for good.

I am thankful that my body, the universe, or whatever else pushed me to seek therapy as a form of coping with depression. My belief is that being listened to  – even if the therapist doesn’t offer practical solutions – is the best cure for depression. We are in this current society where everyone is the CEO of their own lives. Everyone wants to feel important and put themselves first and in truth it’s a lonely collective. Loneliness is a plague that has infiltrated every corner of the planet. Our lives revolve around relationships and we seem to have forgotten this somewhere along the way. Without connection and genuine, loving, relationships, there is no point in life. That’s the absolute truth. You can have all the riches of the world, but without someone to share it with, they’re worthless. So why aren’t we listening to and supporting each other?

Obviously I can’t speak for the world, but I can speak for England. We have created this disgusting, unconscious society that has its priorities totally out of whack. And the United States was the same when I lived there and it’s only getting worse. What the fuck are we doing? We are intelligent, incredibly creative, wonderful creatures that have enormous, complicated brains. If their health isn’t up to scratch, everything else suffers negative consequences in a direct chain reaction. We’re telling our children that their priority is to get good grades, rather than to be kind to one other. We’re telling our graduates that their priority is to get a well-paid job, not to use their skills to improve society. And we keep letting the wrong kinds of people run our country, feed us lies and make decisions that mean our certain failure.

We are the people of this planet and we’re unhappy and suffering in silence. If we don’t prioritise our wellbeing, there is absolutely no point in spending time or resources on any other embellishment. If our people can’t function, can’t communicate or trust in one another or be free to flourish and express themselves, what good are we? When I was depressed, I ate, work and slept. I was a robot, though one much less efficient than an artificial alternative would have been. The magnificent thing about being human is that we can feel and we appreciate beauty and we create. Those of us who are struggling with our mental health cannot do those things. The pain is just too much. So it’s really quite simple: fight for a society where putting our health first is prioritised. Privatising our health care system is going to do the exact opposite of that. And that is what a Conservative government believes in. If you vote Conservative, you are voting to give aid to those that don’t need help and disregarding the millions that do. Think about it.

Vote

I know you feel small and unimportant, but the truth is that you are a human being and citizen of this country just like anyone else who has a fancier title or bigger house or more notes in their wallet. You count just as much as they do. And your talents should be harnessed, because you are full of them in ways that no one else will ever have. I can’t tell you who to vote for, but I can encourage you to fight for our mental health. We need empathy and compassion now, more than ever. I’ll be voting for Jeremy Corbyn because his belief is to give a voice and distribute resources to those who need it most. If we support all our people, we can create a healthier society. With a healthier society comes a happier society. And with a happier society comes more beauty and creativity and love.

If you haven’t registered to vote already, it takes less than 5 minutes and can be done here. You’ve only got until May 22nd, so do it now. Don’t wait.

If you’re feeling like shit and want someone to talk to, reach out to someone you trust right now and tell them how you feel. If you feel like you don’t have anyone and feel desperate, call the Samaritans now. There are kind, loving souls who want to help you get better. Long term, I highly recommend psychotherapy. It changed my life and it can change yours too. Facing your demons is the hardest thing you can ever do, but it makes space for healing and happiness.

I also have a piece going up on Peaceful Dumpling on Monday 22nd all about perspective on depression and some different ways of thinking about things that helped me immensely in my journey. Take a look over on there on Monday, or have a look on my Facebook or Twitter where I’ll post it when it’s live.

Chris Cornell, you beauty, I am one of millions that is heart-broken to see you go. I’m sorry you felt like you had no way out. We all wish we could have been there to love you and give you kind words of strength when you needed them most. But I hope that out of your death comes a rise in support to those also suffering in silence. May we start looking after our people and help them when they need it, rather than turn them away. May we stop treating depression like it’s ‘just a bad day’ and start taking it seriously. And may you spend the rest of your days full of peace and joy with all the other greats that we’ve lost that were symptoms of a sick society.

Photo via Telegraph , Unsplash and Sphynx

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