Tag Archives: world mental health day

Addicted to Solitude

Coming in on a Friday evening from a busy week with no plans for the weekend and you’re absolutely fine with that. Plans will be made if need be, theres no rush.

Now it’s Sunday and you’ve barely done anything but sleep, relax and do as you please – again, you’re fine with that. Its just what you needed.

That was three weeks ago and you’ve done pretty much the same thing every week since.

Am I becoming addicted to solitude?

There is nothing I love more than my own company. As I grow older, I have learnt and appreciate that my own company is what I enjoy more than anything. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, and I’m pleased I’m at a point in life that I don’t have to rely on any one person or group of friends to gain happiness or joy.

Recently however, I kind of regret my seclusion and feel my anxiety rising. The thought of going out, getting ready, planning the wheres, hows and whats just makes me really stressed and the thought of it all just makes me throw in the towel. Previous readers of other personal blogs I’ve written will know struggles I’ve faced. I have always been keen to be the one planning events or nights out so that I remain the one in control of situations, but getting so used to doing nothing has made me not even want to do that.

Feeling like this has made me keen to explore the addiction of loneliness, solitude and seclusion. Just how many of us feel like this? Are we truly happy, or are we just hiding away, masking depression, anxiety and other struggles we aren’t looking to face right now?

Having fewer human interaction on days where it’s not needed in this day and age of constantly communicating and being so readily available all the time is something we all must appreciate when we can take it. Having down-time to destress after a long day or week is key to mental stability and self care. Full time work and seeing people everyday, forced into being happy, approachable and always communicating can put strain on someone when they don’t feel up to it. Its exhausting and by the end of the week, being home alone on a Friday night is blissful.

I love a Friday evening of a takeaway, some Greys Anatomy catch up and maybe a glass of wine. No pressure to entertain, look good or act in a certain way. Just me, and my pleasures and comforts. “I’ll make plans tomorrow” I always say to myself. Then the morning comes, and a few cups of tea later, a nice breakfast and Saturday morning telly, I realise I’m quite content and would rather just stay cocooned in the spot I’m in and not move. I have supplies, I have Netflix and I can communicate with the whole world by my phone. Lonely? Me? Pah! I’m loving life.

Genuinely, I am. I love my cosy weekends at home and it really recharges my batteries. Too much of it though, I feel is starting to become unhealthy.

A few years ago, I would go days (many, many days) without leaving the house, sometimes didn’t even want to leave my room, and since then I have promised myself I would never fall back into such a depressive regime. The last few weeks, I’ve seen this creep back in and I’m not entirely sure why. My job isn’t overly stressful and I don’t have a decline in friendships, I just don’t feel up to doing anything. I’m definitely not depressed like I was, and even though I still struggle with the odd day here and there, I’m happier than I have been in a long time. I just can’t seem to understand why I have become so addicted to staying in and, why now, I struggle to want to do anything other than stay in.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to see one of my best friends, whom, because of having different working patterns, we hardly see each other. However, the effort of going out really put me off. My mind suddenly turned into a to-do-list nightmare which I suddenly couldn’t cope with. Where will we go? What shall I wear? Who else is going? How will I get there? A snowball effect of excuses and worry which inevitably stopped me from seeing them. I don’t feel guilty about it, and I know they won’t be offended, but after seeing a quote by Jim Carrey later that day, I really got thinking about how I have become a bit of a recluse.

“Solitude is dangerous. It’s very addictive. It becomes a habit after you realise how peaceful and calm it is. It’s like you don’t want to deal with people anymore because they drain your energy.” – Jim Carrey

He’s right. It is dangerous, it is addictive and it is rapidly becoming a dangerous habit for my mental wellbeing. This quote made me realise that I’m shutting people out for no reason. As much as I enjoy my own company, it’s not what I want and it’s not what I should be doing week in and week out. Yes, after a long draining week, having some some peace, self care and meditating in whichever way you see fit, is good to have, but I feel I have to force myself to ensure I don’t fall into bad habits which will probably swing me back into a state of mind which wasn’t healthy for me before. I need to ensure I take control of this and take small steps into doing the things I enjoy. It may not be easy, and I may struggle, but I know the life of solitude is a lonely one, and that is something I most definitely don’t want to be forever.

If you get a random text off me to meet up for a drink soon, now you know why!

If you feel like you can relate to the above, or are struggling with loneliness, message me on Twitter – @putasinghonit

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Opening the doors to a Punjabi home

“Rewind it, rewind it! Guys, quick! There’s a Singh on TV!”

If you’re brown, Punjabi and own a TV, chances are you’ve said this at least once in your lifetime.

That’s why, if you are Punjabi, when you heard that a short, made for TV movie was coming on called “The Boy with the Topknot” you instantly set reminders, pressed record and possibly sent out viral chain messages over texts and social media alerting everyone you know about this show starring a cast of people just like you.

I live in Wolverhampton, where the majority of the story was set, and I was born here. I’m a Sikh, Punjabi and British. I was very excited to watch the show, especially after reading the book just a few years ago. I knew what to expect and knew that this particular story needed to reach a much wider audience than it had already done.

Books are wonderful. They force imagination and let you escape into the pages and words written; but for this particular story, I’m glad a movie adaptation was made as I knew more people would be likely to engage. It’s not that common that British Punjabi people are shown on primetime TV with so much hype and excitement attached around it, and already knowing the story that was about to unfold, I was also aware that for many families who would be watching, it would be the first time they would see a story like it shown on TV.

Most Punjabi characters on prime TV are often shopkeepers, taxi drivers or doctors. They are usually extras in background scenes or a part of comedy skits and scenes to give light relief in dramas. “The Boy with the Topknot” however showed a normal working class family living in a small part of Wolverhampton living a normal life – or so it seemed. Much like many Punjabi families, things looked pretty and perfect on the outside. Family photos of gatherings, the whiff of freshly flipped chapatis and the cackling of cousins and siblings sat around chatting about old times and making each other the butt of their jokes.

As the story went on, we learnt that Sathnam, the lead of the story, was the lone wolf of his family. The youngest of the children, he had been given the chance of a wonderful education and had not been pressurised into marrying young, unlike his siblings who married in their very early twenties. Studying and excelling at one of the countries top universities, he moved away from Wolverhampton and built a new life in London. His career was going great and romance even better. Just one problem, his girlfriend was not what his family would want and not the covergirl for a typical Punjabi daughter in law marrying the only son of the family. She was a white girl called Laura.

As well as this dilemma of love, the story also tackled mental illness. Something which is not very often spoken about in many families, let alone the brown ones. Sathnam didn’t know this until quite late into his adult life, but his father had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He had been on medication to control his violent episodes and had totally been a different man to that his mother had first met when marrying him in the late 1960’s. The film showed flashbacks of the wedding and how Jagjit, the father, had been violent throughout their wedding day. It was mentioned how such awful events were covered up back then with the notion of black magic or casting spells. Rather than admit or deal with the pressing issue of mental illness, almost fifty years ago, blame was passed onto the new wife and that she had put a curse on her newly wed groom to make him act in such a way.

As the story progresses, the mother at the centre of the memoir opens up more about her story and how she got her husband the help he needed to make him the man he is today and the father that Sathnam grew to know and remember. As well as flashbacks of the husband he once was before seeking medical help, memories that Sathnam had of his father whilst growing up were highlighted also. Walks in the park sharing chocolate and a mention of him being a normal guy were touchingly beautiful and really put emphasis on just how much the mother of the family didn’t want Sathnam knowing about his fathers past as his memories of him all seemed to be rather positive. Punjabi families, and I can only talk from experience here as I am one, are very good at keeping things private, so it is not a surprise that Sathnam had no idea what was going on at home whilst he lived away in London.

By nature, Punjabi people are not talkers. Unless its to brag about land, their children’s educational or employment stats, or that they saw so and so doing this and that with so and so, you won’t really get into the nitty gritty about the ins and outs of what goes on behind the closed doors of a Punjabi home. Now, I’m not saying we’re special or have anything particular to hide, its just that our business is our business, and much like The Sanghera Family in the story, there is a real sense of pride to think about before airing out any dirty laundry to all and sundry.

Some of the Punjabi people who watched Tuesday nights film, shown on BBC Two, have said it was “not really what I was expecting” or “quite boring to be honest” but one criticism that I’ve heard was that it had shone a bad light on Sikh, British Punjabi people and that it was not a true representation of family life for our culture. Now this is only a handful of people to comment on the show, and the majority of the feedback has been positive – but I can’t help but notice, all negative feedback I have seen has been from Punjabi people.

The importance of this show was a great deal. It highlighted topics which go on in more families than we probably know. Mixed relationships and metal health are massive taboos still to this day in 2017. The story that Sathnam wrote about stemmed from as far back to the late 1960’s where mental health was not as big of a talking point as it is now. Still to this day, mental health and the many illnesses that stem off from it, are not spoken about in Punjabi homes.

We have a growing number of teenagers, young adults and women who suffer in silence day in and day out with demons which they are scared to deal with because of the shame and fear held upon by family values and pride. Most of the stories of poor mental health in Punjabi people that I have heard seem to stem from marriage, childbirth and sexuality. All very taboo subjects to speak about around any Punjabi family home and are often labelled as black magic, voodoo or a sign from God.

“The Boy with the Topknot” opened the firmly closed door of a normal family household and let viewers in to see a real Punjabi home where nothing was as it really seemed. It showed that even decades ago, mental health was a huge unspoken about problem, not only caused by social media, the pressures of stressful jobs or something we have “just because its popular.” It showed that its not a fad or a phase, and that its a real growing problem we need to talk about and address in our communities. The story also highlighted the strength that our mothers have in upholding the family home as well as the family name, but never get credit for, and it also acknowledged the huge pressure in marriage and the stigma around having a non-Sikh, brown, Punjabi, Jatt girlfriend (that list of check boxes is long, aye?!)

It also, more importantly, gave the opportunity for our families to have a conversation and to look and to delve into our pasts.

How did our parents meet and who introduced them? What was the wedding like? What was going on in the world the day you were born?

Simple questions which can turn into conversations unravelling a whole history of things swept under the carpet because of pride.

Shame is a wasted emotion, don’t let the thoughts of the others stop you from living your best life. Speak to your families, learn about your past and befriend your parents. They have probably been through more than you know and will ever get to experience. They are a fountain stories, knowledge and wisdom.

A lesson to be learnt from Tuesday nights show is that opening up and being truthful with those closest to you is a thing of beauty. You don’t have to fling your closed door open for all to enter at once, but let people in now and then. It’s good to talk.

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“We Are Sorry To Announce…”

It’s been a long day. You’ve been up since the crack of dawn and all you want to do is get home as soon as you can and chill out. You’re feeling hot, stuffy and the last thing you need is an over crowded train journey home. You want a thirty five minute commute home, and a stress free, quiet chilled one at that. 
This is me, and many others every single day after work. 

Then you hear the words over the tannoy, echoing out across all five platforms. 

“Due to a fatality on the tracks, this train has been delayed by…”

The crowds offer a tsunami of sighs, followed by a few F bombs and people looking at the time in disgust at how anyone could be so selfish to do this to them. How could anyone be so rude to cause so much disruption at this time of day? The cheek of the person. We all have problems, we all have stressful lives and we all now will be late to get home too. 

Now lets take just a minute to pause. 

Yes, we will be late home, it has been a long day and yes, we probably will now miss the first twenty minutes of Bake Off. What a pain! In your worry and stress, how much time have you given to the poor person who felt life was just too much to handle that they couldn’t carry on? A minute? Thirty seconds? Or that one second, where your initial thought upon hearing the news was panic and rage for your own selfish reasons of things not going your way?

This person, minutes after death, will be spoken about, ridiculed and tutted about throughout journeys, on social media and spoken about as if they were an inconvenience. Texts and tweets will be sent calling the person selfish, an idiot and jokes will be made that they could have waited an hour or so. A life was lost and in an instant all they have become is a statistic and an inconvenience. Not once has anybody thought about what pushed this person so far to the edge where they thought about ending their own life in such an awful way. Who has thought about the family who will have to get that call and eventually identify the body? What about the poor driver of the train, who so badly wished they could stop the train in time but had no control? What about the staff at the station who, whilst we all moan, shake our fists at and demand refunds from, are all dealing with the pressures of their own jobs but now are also dealing with a fatality at their place of work. 

That announcement of your train being delayed is much more than an inconvenience to your journey. 

There were 237 rail track related suicides last year. Shockingly, a decrease from years before. The decrease comes from rail staff working closely with the Samaritans, who offers courses to teach members of staff on what to do and say to a person who may be looking vulnerable. The Samaritans stress that talking and sharing is the first action in saving the life of someone close to a situation of this nature. 

We must do better in situations where we hear about incidents of suicide. Yes, it affects our evenings for an hour or so when we want to get home and yes, it may make us late for an event, but please remember those who are really effected. The next time your train is delayed for this reason, take thirty seconds to remember that person positively. You didn’t know them, but surely they deserve a prayer or a moments silence, even if it is just personally from you. 

They deserve respect now that they have found their peace. 

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Take Good Care, Loving Yourself is No Crime. 

As someone who has struggled with depression and high levels of anxiety, I definitley like to help others when and wherever I can. An odd tweet, an emotional out of character Facebook post, or crying out for help which only those who have been there will probably spot. Recently, a few friends and followers have expressed their anxiety issues and I’ve tried to help and offer a shoulder of support if need be. Now, I know, when I was going through the worst of my mental health problems a few years ago, someone giving advice and offering their piece of knowledge on how I could be feeling was the last thing I needed – but at the same time, the only thing I needed too. In time, I got through it as best as I could, without medication (not that its a bad thing, my GP was just a bit rubbish!) and I sort of got used to self medicating myself on my down days. 
I learnt by doing this, an act of self love, appreciation and the building in confidence of myself. In this short post, I want to give whoever is reading or needing, a list of what helped me on my down days, and what I do to ensure I look after myself whenever I’m in need of it. There is no shame in putting yourself first now and then. 
* Nap. There is nothing better than getting cosy and just relaxing for an hour or so in silence. When it seemed like the world just wouldn’t shut up or I couldn’t stop my head from over thinking, sleep was always a good way of just zoning out for a little while to recharge those batteries. 

* Take a day off! Don’t be embarrassed. That report isn’t in until next week and your calander is pretty much clear tomorrow. Book it off. Take a mental health day and do something you enjoy, even if its nothing amazing, take the time out for you and only you. 

* Eat what you want, how you want to eat it and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Lets be real, food is the *heart emoji* of all our lives so why not enjoy it like God intended? Order that greasy burger, extra fries and large milkshake and satisfy yourself! Who cares about calories, when there is good food to enjoy!

* Music was one of the biggest parts in my self remedy. Headphones in, world out was pretty much my motto for a good few years. Even the cringey “pretend you’re in a music video” songs whilst sat on the bus or walking in the park, its a great way to clear your head and if the right song comes on, dance party away! (My go to dance party song is The New Radicals – You Only Get What You Give, fyi)

* Without trying to sound like a hippy, but, nature duuude! Yep, I know, if you’re like me, sometimes the thought of even leaving the house was quite the task on really tough days. I couldn’t deal with the thought of dealing with the public or have anyone see me. Sitting in the garden or sitting by a window and feeling the breeze did the world of good though. This was a big thing for me on the way home each night from my last job where I basically worked in hell for nearly three years. Fresh air does amazing things. The cool air really helps when your in the heat of an episode of anxiety. 

* Lower your self expectations. Rome was not built in a day. Be OK with being mediocre for a bit, there is no rush. Enjoy a work life balance. You’ll get there in your own time, there is no shame in pausing for a while. 

* Cover yourself in crisps and binge watch a Netflix series. Pretty self explanatory, sadly, crisps are not included in the Netflix subscription.  

* Set up an Amazon wishlist, and treat   yourself once a month. I’ve started to do this and its the best thing I’ve done. Nothing too extravegant, but a good book, a new kitchen utensil, bedroom furnishings, whatever it is, treating yourself whenever you can is so much fun. Celebreate yourself, for you are amazing, and whats a celebration without gifts (and cake)

* Enjoy your own company at your own pace. Concerts, shopping and just random visits out alone are so nice when you don’t have to cater for everyone elses likes and dislikes. Its a bit weird at first, but learning to enjoy my own company was such a liberating experience for me and its something I really enjoy. Not all the time however, but now and then its good to just be alone doing what I love to do. 

* Spend time with those who celebrate you at any chance you get. Having a set of friends and loving family members who make me laugh, understand me and never judge was key in the progress I made. 

These are just a few of the things I could think of which make me feel better on days where I need to practice my self care and love. They might not work for you, and thats ok, everyone is different. The point of this blog is to help you compile your own list of what makes you happy. Shopping, long drives, going to the gym, whatever it is, do it. Whatever makes you happy, just do it. Loving yourself is no crime. 

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