Category Archives: Lifestyle:MK

Geek before it was mainstream

So, this weeks show is all about box sets and I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle the question from my gaze. What am I going to watch maybe, or cosplaying from popular shows (like GoT) but with a modern twist. Which I did respond to my co-presented with a rather over enthusiastic essay about cosplay which I don’t think was deserved and would probably would have served better as a blog. Then I got thinking about how both Marvel and DC are releasing films and television series which are very much mainstream.

I came up with the second idea this morning, but having given it some thought over the day, I think I can combine both topic ideas.

geek5

My love of cosplay is well documented and so it is obvious for me to look at this side of things. However, when looking at updating a character like Dany from GoT, it really depends on where you fall in cosplay. There are those that will copy a costume exactly, those who will cross play, do casual looks based on a favourite character, armoured Disney princesses are popular at the moment, and to stay with a theme for a moment, apparel like Twisted Disney. But the one thing that remains constant in these is that you are instantly able to recognise the character. It is very much a visible acknowledgement of the character you are portraying. We work in visuals when we cosplay, often we are sharing on social media, or building portfolios, modelling our handiwork. So the costume we design needs to be visually identifiable.

geek7

Which leads me to the observation (that I am not alone in making) that I am winding my way around to slowly. That pre millennium, every show was cleanly costumed. Let us take a quick look at the X Men – leading the way for comic to film cross over. If you didn’t ever pick up a comic, you may have come accross the X Men as a cartoon. And remember all those individual and interesting costume designs ? Each one designed for the personality of the wearer. This goes back to what I was saying about a visual representation of the character. Because comics are primarily a visual medium in the same way films are, with dialogue being secondary (and that is an argument we can have on another day). But if you put the X Men films alongside either comic or cartoon that you remember, there is a marked difference.

geek6

The costume is identical for each member, the individuality is left at school. Once you become a full member of the team you dress, like a member of the team. If you look at shows like Agents of Shield, even shows like The Flash, Arrow, hell let’s throw Super Girl and Jessica Jones in there. The body of the story, the content for the majority of the episode is conducted out of costume. The segments of the show that see our hero, or anti hero in costume (if in fact there is one) is very small and tends to be there to underpin rather than highlight the entire show.

geek2

It is easy to point out that tastes change, and that what was fashionable in the 70/80 and early 90’s certainly isn’t what is attractive to people any more. That we like things to have a sleeker design, just look at our phones, our cars, our lives. I could talk about how the uniformity indicates an end of childhood, and that even while different you are part of a controlled group. But again, a topic for another group. The fact is that superheroes have always worn a uniform but recently the uniforms have changed direction.

geek4

And that, that is what makes these shows more accessible. The fact that we are not made uncomfortable by people dressing up, making fools of themselves, that for the most part they dress like ‘normal’ people. Even in films like The Avengers, they spend as much time in ‘civvies’ as they do ‘in costume’. If you look at shows like Batman (yes, I mean the one with Adam Weston) then you notice that there is a distinct flip between the amount of time that was spent in costume and the amount of time in say, the more recent spate of Batman movies.

geek9

It is about accessibility, you can relate and understand and it makes the shows, and films more palatable to a wider audience. It means that the shows will be watched by people who have no interest or understanding of the background of the film of show – as can be seen by the popularity of the films spawns by the Marvel Universe. This is a genre that has bought the Geek culture into the mainstream. super heros previously resigned to only serious collectors or fans, banished to childhood are now being enjoyed by entirely new audiences because now, being interested in Geek Culture isn’t seen as bad as it once was.And let us not forget, the Avenger that most people want to laugh at Aquaman …. he is had a total make over, and I really cannot wait for that movie 😉

geek1

As for box sets that you might want to check out – Netflix has an abundance, there is my personal favourite – Gotham, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Daredevil. Available on Sky – we have The Flash, Arrow, Agent Carter and Agents of Shield with more being planned.

 

Detox, or to detox

So as part of the radio show, I was asked to do a piece on healthy comfort food… which … you know .. it didn’t really sit with me. Instead I am going to talk about what we eats effects how we look. I am clearly very self absorbed and shallow so this was probably an obvious fit. More so that healthy comfort foods… but I will probably go slightly off topic to include that as well! 

So let us kick off – I don’t know about you, but when I am scrolling down my news feed on FB, I seem to daily, if not more, be confronted by some advertising/promoted post about some diet/herbal/detox tea or drink. This is kinda why I have titled the blog as I have. The problem with these posts is not only are they misleading in what they are promoting but they are starting an as misleading back lash.

detox3

You see, I see as many posts about how we have organs that detox, so the entire idea is silly so therefore we should just ignore them. Well, yes, yes we do have some very hard working organs (thank you liver and kidneys) but actually… yes we do need a little help with removing toxins. It is called water. Not merely hydrating, and please don’t kid yourself that having flavoured water, tea, juice or any number of other things is the same as drinking 6 glasses of water a day. If it isn’t plain water, out of a bottle or tap, it just isn’t the same. Of course being properly hydrated is key, so if you want to drink tea all day, do! It will help you feel better and is better than nothing. But water will pass through your body, offering hydration but not causing your organs to have to do any additional work. Plus, on its way through, it will help flush out any toxins. So yes, it will help detox your body… I mean how else is your body going to get rid of the crap it has no need for?

So if you want to have happy, healthy skin, my first tip and the most important is to start drinking water! Every body is different so I won’t tell you how much, but generally speaking, 6 small glasses throughout the day would be a great bench mark. And I promise you will start to see a different in your skin, it will both look and feel a lot better. And this is a great base to continue the work on! 

detox

Now chocolate – if like me, reading fashion/girly magazines with your friends between classes for anything to help you figure out the brave new world you are entering as a freshly minted teenager… something always stood out…. Chocolate. Chocolate is evil. It literally causes acne. I mean.. it is the ONLY cause for it, and the only way to avoid breakouts is to give up chocolate. Right? Wrong! Sorry, I mean … sure your skin MAY react to chocolate and cause a breakout. Or it might be more hormonal. Do you find yourself craving chocolate at certain times? Maybe monthly, or in times of stress or anxiety? That there are a few factors that are causing the outbreak. Of course, if you are feeling guilty about eating chocolate, but the bar down 🙂

Now one thing I will say, clean eating is going to be the best way to make sure you are feeling and looking good. Avoiding processed foods, knowing what you are putting into your body will of course help you so much, making sure that each of your meals have a variety of different colours is important. Clean eating isn’t really as faddy as you might think. It just means that when you are putting together your dinner, start from scratch, don’t reach for that jar of sauce. Of you want a snack pick up something like a Nakd bar which have simple and clear ingredients listed so you know what is going into your body. 

detox2

This sounds difficult and I realise that I sound preachy – but the reason that we have become so reliant on foods which are stuffed with things we can’t even pronounce is that they are mostly preservatives. We also like things to be pleasing to the eye so we find foods colours in … technicolor for lack of a better phrase. But it only requires a little planning. I often make freezer friendly food at the weekend because I often get in later (relatively speaking) and so it stops me reaching for the takeout menu. So just make sure that when you go shopping, you have a list of what you need and get cracking.

Now, there is a lot of talk about how everyone seems to be suffering from various intolerance but that they aren’t genuine? I beg to differ – often we will pick up something be it a food or drink, out of habit or because of the happy chemicals it releases. Because what we have going on in our head may not be what the rest of our body is telling us. So if you do find that you start feeling sluggish, bloated, uncomfortable then start a food diary and this will help you pin point what is causing it. It doesn’t mean you have to stop eating that food group entirely – looking at you gluten – but you can start to make educated choices about what you are eating, moderate it and be prepared for the outcome.

detox6

And it is also an idea to have a look down the ‘free from’ section of the supermarket next time you are in – there are some amazing foods that have simplified their ingredients for example Nakd bars, which you my have guessed, I am in love with – CLICK HERE to check their website. They have all sorts of gorgeous goodies, from the Nakd bars offering a chocolate substitute, to the Nakd Nibbles that genuinely take like sweets, and their protein bars that I have for lunch (y’all remember I am lazy). But also looking at dairy alternatives, you don’t have to be dairy intolerant, or vegan to enjoy something different – I adore coconut chocolate ice cream.. it is devise! I mean I do have a dairy intolerance, and love coconut so I MAY be a little bias… but ye gods it is ambrosia! CLICK HERE for their website! 

What I am trying to say, is that what you put in your body will effect you – how you feel, how you look, your mood, it will effect your sleep. You are entirely responsible for your body, so make sure that you are feeding it with the right fuel, and exercising it. You will slowly see a difference, it won’t be immediate, it won’t be over night, I am sorry to say. But if you really want to look and feel good, step one is making sure you work from the inside out 🙂

detox4

 

The gift of chocolate

So this may not be the blog post you are expecting.

10

A little back ground, I have worked within the NHS for around 7 years now – admin/customer service related in three different department. I currently work within a department which carries out procedures, it is not an emergency department but it is the first time there is a real possibility that a patient could be admitted following the procedure. Prior to this I worked in Sexual Health and Physiotherapy. I joke that I am working my way around as many disciplines as possible.

9

So now back on track – I am now in the habit of carrying a couple of bars of chocolate in my bag. I am not a big fan of chocolate to be honest, I get the occasional craving for it but generally speaking it isn’t a big concern. But I am make sure that I don’t leave the house without a bar – and a magazine if I have time. And there is a good reason for this….

5

This week, I called a ward to see if they could bring a patient down a little earlier for this appointment. I was treated abruptly by the member of staff on the phone (yes, it isn’t just the public) and told the patient had been discharged ‘days ago’. Which led me to calling the patient’s wife and confirming that they would be coming in later – I had had the presence of mind when making the appointment to send a letter to the home address as this is not the first time. Now I am the clinic co ordinator, so I don’t actually have a lot of direct patient contact and generally speaking, I am snowed under so I didn’t see the patient come in. But a couple of hours after my lunch break I became aware of fluttering and a lady who had been sat in our reception area since I had got back from lunch. It appears that a patient had taken a turn and it was suggested that he be admitted.

4

It was at this point I put two and two together and realise that the patient’s wife was sat in our reception area and would have a long evening ahead. So I reached into my handbag and pulled out my bar of chocolate, and walked over to the patient’s wife. She started laughing and commented that with breasts as big as hers, did she really need chocolate. We got chatting, she started crying, I nearly started crying, we had a discussion about her children, and we even laughed. I felt bad leaving, I mean, I really felt guilty. Why should I be going home while her husband is still on a couch in one of our exam rooms?

3

This isn’t isolated, a couple of weeks ago, a patient came in for a procedure and it was deemed clinically necessary for him to stay over night for observation. This is rare but happens. Unfortunately, as usual there was no bed available so he was left spending the afternoon in the clinic with his wife. After our last patient had gone, one of the nurses popped down the canteen to get him and his wife dinner. I made tea. It was a silly  little thing to me, just a cup of tea, but both the patient and his wife were so grateful. I then remembered I had bought a magazine that morning, so I gave it to the patient’s wife to read. Not her usual reading material but waiting around in hospital especially when you aren’t expecting it, can be long, and tiresome. Then just as I was packing up to go, I rememberer I had emergency chocolate (that is a thing, right? ) in my bag, and gave it to them as a desert. Again, they were both very grateful and it over whelmed me somewhat so I quickly beat my retreat.

2

I am not suggesting that you all go out and start stuffing your bags with chocolate – unless you want to. What I am trying to say is that it is a multitude of small gestures and not always a grand gesture that makes a difference. When you help someone cross the road, pick up an item that was dropped, hold open a door or even smile at someone. Try and treat people the way you would want to be treated, I know it can be hard and at times challenging. People have a lot on their minds, they can be selfish and self absorbed. But not only does one good turn deserve another… it is also a positive for you. I always end up feeling happier when I have helped someone. And you don’t have to feel guilty about it – you are on a dopamine and Oxtocin, dopamine is released in the anticipation, and Oxytocin is released during social bonding. It is a reward situation, which is to say, when you anticipate something and get a good feeling, it strengthens your resolve to do it again.

1

And I am getting all pseudoscience on you aren’t I ? I remember watching an episode of Friends, years ago, in which Phoebe was getting upset over her inability to preform an entirely selfless act. Because it is impossible. We are driven by a risk/reward in our own body. We do things because not only do we understand that it helps another person out, but because we feel good about it. So don’t ever feel guilty! Embrace it, if it makes you feel good and you want to do it again? That is fantastic, we all start doing a little more good and feeling a little better! 

6

The experience of work

So on the show recently, we discussed business, and different aspects there in, and I wanted to look at unpaid work, and whether it is something you should seriously consider/does it actually help. We looked at volunteering on an earlier show, and I am no stranger to the concept of volunteering. I have done it in one form or another over most of my life.

But there is a difference between volunteering and interning – something which has been in the news for a while. In a job market where there are plenty of graduates and people with a lot more experience, it really does seem to be an employers market. But there is a difference between what is expected from a volunteer and an intern.

work2

Interning is more or less the same as the work experience weeks you will have done while at school and may have been part of your course at college or university. It is a chance for your to shadow people, to get an idea of what the job actually entails, experience the business environment. You gain valuable insight to the company, as well as training that can stand you in good stead for seeking a job. But internships should not be long term. They are an excellent way of getting your foot in the door, of giving the employer a chance to see if you would be a good fit for the company.

Now not to sound too negative, getting work experience is a great idea, it gives you a chance to learn new skills, a chance to network and figure out if the job is right for you. But you need to make sure that you are not being used. An internship should be a week, 2 at the most. It needs enough time for you and your potential employer to figure out if it is a good fit. However, having an internship does not imply there is a job at the end of tit, It is equally likely that the company has a busy time ahead and needs some extra hands.

work3

Remember you don’t have workers rights as an intern – this is why they are very short term arrangements. The moment there is a sign of a contract or agreement for full time hours and or responsibilities – you need to ensure that you are being paid, at the very least the minimum wage. No matter how much you want a job, don’t allow the employer to push you into a situation you can’t afford to be in.

But there is another angle you might want to think about – giving your time for free, because is something you love. It doesn’t need to be big, is a friend might be setting up a new business and you can help them with advice or an extra pair of hands. Or maybe you can help at an event, there are many different roles that need to be filled at fetes, runs, festivals. Could you run a stall, or a work shop, even be a steward? You can look at this as an opportunity to network, maybe get paid next time. If you don’t have strong enough skills or confidence to want to charge to your time, doing things for free can give you a boost and change to practise your skills.

work4

If you are starting, or running a small business, you will not have enough money to pay staff, don’t be afraid to ask your friends, put a shout out, discuss your business with people. You never know who might be able to give you a hand, often people will be able to give at least a little of their time for free. Just make sure you don’t push too hard or you might end up with people being resentful.But, and this will sound more like me, the self titled Social Media queen that I am (I love social media… its amazing!) – reach out. You never know what skills or connections people have. Often people forget as well and need a nudge.

What I would say, don’t jump into something feet first. You are going to need to have an income for at least the first 2 years, so take your time and gather skills and knowledge as well as the savings to help you on your way. If you are serious, make sure you are doing something you love, but not at the risk of ruining what you love. Don’t pick something you enjoy to unwind relax, or take a time out as a new career. Unless you have something else to do in the same situation, you will not only hating something you previously loved but potentially burnt out.

A signpost directing work life balance

Well to round up as I have covered a little ground here – if you are looking to change your career path, see if you can get a little work experience, shadowing. You can do this within the company you already work at. It is often encouraged and will help you make decisions about whether it is right for you. It will mean losing out on free time in the short term but will have long term benefits. Even if you realise it wasn’t for you, at least you know!

Next, offering your time for free – do you have a skill, a hobby, knowledge that you can pass on? There are so many places to do this, charities, local communities, schools, church groups often rely on the help of volunteers. It is important to make sure you are CRB/DRB checked if working with children. It is also worth making sure you know who is covering insurance, for example if you are going to help out at a local Family Fun Day by doing a workshop – are you already insured? Will the organisers cover you? Yes, it is boring but better safe than sorry! Even if you don’t feel you have a skill or knowledge to offer, ask around and see if there are any ways you can help out! It is a great way of getting to know new people, feel like you are part of the local community and do a little net working!

work7

Lastly starting a business – this is a biggie! It isn’t something i have every done, and therefore not the best person to ask. I have an earlier blog post covering help and advice from some very talented friends of mine. Remember, never be afraid to ask for help, you never know how might be able to help! Networking is fun, don’t overload people though. Make sure that you are making time for yourself and still have time outside your new business venture to unwind – starting your own business takes a lot of guts, it is ultimately rewarding though! Never be afraid to ask for help and advice though!

Have fun, remember, this is not the employers market, don’t let that attitude make you undervalue yourself! Don’t be afraid to try something new, it may not work out but equally you might find a new love! Have fun, enjoy yourself! 

Click Here to listen to the radio show on Mix Cloud 🙂

work6

 

The business of inspiration part 1

This week , the show was about business, and as it happened we recorded the show early at the site of a new business. It also happened to fall on International Women’s day – which was lucky! 

I asked a few of my lovely friends to discuss pros and cons of business, and it was interesting to get prospective from people’s personal experience. But it was also empowering that the respondents were all female. Because of this I wanted to spot light my amazing and inspirational friends.

Firstly we have Donna Bull MUA click here for her facebook page. Her biggest tip for being self employed/running your own business is to keep on top of paper work. She also suggested using Joist which is a great application that you can download onto your phone or tablet to help you create estimates and invoices. Donna also suggested making sure that you don’t spend all night on your phone. With much business being conducted on line, it is easy to forget to switch off. If you are interested, Donna is a fantastic makeup artist, face and body painter. She is based in Slough.

Lisa and David had a couple of suggestions – Lisa said that you shouldn’t try and learn everything at once, there is a lot to learn. Just the way it goes. And her husband David offered this bit of advice: Try something, if it works repeat it, if it doesn’t build a hypothesis on why not, then test that by trying something new, if it works repeat, if it doesn’t loop till it does. Cashflow is king for first 3 years, spend your cash wisely. Enjoy

Lisa owns and runs Espiritu Salon & Spa in Radlett click here for their website, and  click here for the Facebook page. The Salon is a gorgeous place for a mini spa day, a quick treat or a little general upkeep. Very relaxing, with a fantastic range of treatments and I recommend a visit at your earliest opportunity! 
Lisa also has a blog – go check it out!
spa3
Katherine – who has taken a break from running her Etsy store, Handmade by Ify had this to say : Definitely the paperwork as Donna said, but also, if building the side hustle around work then it’s about being organised with your time, that’s where most people go wrong when starting a business. My main struggle was balancing motherhood and side hustling whilst working my day job… Also be patient if progress is slow at first, always be thinking what can I do in this down time? When times were quiet for sales at etsy I always built up more inventory and started designing for the following seasons stuff. Ify has taken a break from running her store – she initially started her store while at university, but after finding herself in full time employment and with a new baby wound down the shop until she could find a better work life balance. I am patiently waiting the big reopening!
Hazel runs Jax ‘n Boo with her husband as well as being a part time model – and online wax melt (and accessories) business and has the following advice: Learning to seperate business and home life, that Facebook message on you page doesn’t need to be answered at midnight when they sent it lol. Utilise social media to access a wider audience. Paperwork I agree with what Donna says, keeping on top of it so there’s not the end of year tax return panic. If you are creating your own product, pricing it correctly and not undervaluing… Oh and to remember it’s your business and livelihood, I always struggle cos I want to help people out, that’s not the way to earn yourself a paycheck though lol
 I highly recommend their products, some of my friends have had the starter kits inflicted on them as gifts – great value! I find that they are not too strong so even if you or another member of your household isn’t a massive fan of scents in the home, I am sure you will find a compromise! If you are interested, click here for their website and click here for their facebook page. 

 

Last (for this blog) we have the lovely Gillian who runs Emerald Wig Emporium Click Here for the website and Click herefor the facebook page- she is also a fantastic costumer and cosplayer! So you will be hearing more from her as I have picked her brain about a cosplay blog I am putting together. I haven’t approached her yet about the Lady Gaga wig suggestion we came up with on the show so watch this space! Now, this is what Gillian had to say : Yeah, the paperwork side of things is huge, and can become an issue down the line if you don’t get on top of it from the start.
I registered as a private limited company, Directors etc., from the very beginning, to protect my family in case there was ever an issue in the future (you must always think ahead). This meant a million times more paperwork, costs, effort and confusion – including all sorts of official scary paperwork and vat returns after the first 6 months.
I’m very organised anyway, and my hubby is an auditor/quality manager/systems developer so having him helping me was priceless. He’s created stock databases, automated order sheets and so on. Absolute time savers.

Try to restrain yourself when it comes to giving out freebies. While I’d only love to give all the wonderful people I’ve met through wig wearing, a free wig as a present, it still costs me to purchase the wig and then ship it…..this money comes out of the funds for advertising, promotional material flyers etc. and brings in no profit which can be used to increase stock variety.
It is a business after all, and if you intend growing a business, you always need to aim to increase stock variety etc.

Work hard, but have fun. I love what I’m doing, and that makes all the difference. There’s no effort involved when it’s something you enjoy.

Be fair to yourself and ignore the negative Nancy types. Hehe! You’ll never please all of the people all of the time. Dream big, and go for it.

Now I am more than honoured to count these people amongst my friends, all inspirational, finding their own path, and happy to help when and if they can. Donna is a stunning makeup artist, she genuinely can turn her hand to it all and will not hesitate to give you tips and advice, Ify is such a kind and generous person – she will help create anything you have a mind to make. She is also the inspiration behind my ‘clashes but matches’ fashion approach. Lisa and David – these are just the kindest, sweetest couple. Will do anything in their power to help and are good to have if you need advice. Hazel is a sweetie – she has had some setbacks in the last 12 months but instead of allowing it to break her, she has come back with a business. Gillian is fabulous – she has put a lot of time and effort into her new business, and is happy to share her experiences. Gillian is not only a great business woman, she is a fantastic cosplayer and I love seeing what she comes up with next. When thinking about what or whom inspires you… you don’t have to look far. Have a look at the people in your life and see what they have done, what they are doing. Every day people are setting new goals and challenges and it is fantastic to see people helping each other, building each other up. 

 

Born to be … in a tribe?

So a couple of weeks ago, on the show, we looked at what it means to be different, what are our differences, are we really all that different.

When I was a kid, 7/8 years old, my mother asked me to explain what makes men and women different. Having a younger brother, I have some rudimentary idea of the difference in anatomy. However, every one of my suggestions were shot down. She attempted to explain that there are no real differences between us, and that the difference between the sexes is not so easy to quantify. This was an early lesson that never left me.

different

But we are different, we have to find non verbal ways of communicating our differences to others, to show which tribe we belong to. This can be to open up lines of communication but to also warn people. To show what you care above, what you love, to show where you come from or where you intend to be.

There are many tribes that you can belong to – when I was growing up, I would say that music was the strongest influence on me, and how I dressed. I spent most of my free time working with horses, and animals which meant that I was dressed in old clothes, and not easily identifiable. But I found myself becoming more and more interested in music, it had always been a strong influence in the home, and I fell hard for rock, and later, goth music styles. There are pretty broad and I won’t dissect the sub cultures within. Let us just say that because I wanted to be ‘different’ I found myself dressing in a way that would help people easily identify me as part of a culture. Of course, at the time I didn’t think so, at the time I was being utterly ‘non conformist’ by refusing to wear the fashions of Miss Selfridge and River Island. And yet again  my mother pointed out that by dressing in a certain way (band t shirts, leggings etc) I was conforming to another group. You will generally speaking always be conforming to a group no matter how hard or little you try. It is human nature to try and fit you into a box so you can understand that person a little better.

different2

But it isn’t always so easy, like Johnny Ruckus who I interviewed recently – he has been fairly open about the problems he has when he is in costume, and alcohol is in the mix (although not always) and shared recently how he had been picked on by a bunch of guys while wearing a Star Trek sweater (irrc) and therefore being a Geek… while they were wearing football t shirts. Because some things are more socially acceptable. 

There are so many horror stories, we all remember Sophie Lancaster, literally killed for looking different. If you don’t remember or want to learn more, please head to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation Here. They work hard to help promote understanding of subcultures – the aim that people will not be targeted for their self expression. 

different3

Now, if it feels as if I am spinning in several different directions, it is because I am – being different is something extremely difficult to quantify, because what if different for one person, is normal for the next. What you might consider weird, is just average for the next person. That is more that what people wear, it is jobs, lifestyle, hobbies, pursuits, where you live, who you live with. 

We should all appreciate each others differences and instead of making fun of things that we don’t understand, learn, ask questions, show an interest and who knows where that will lead. There is nothing wrong with the path you chose, you are no less of a person because you outwardly show your individuality, or if you keep a little bit of you inside. Be yourself, because it is the only you there is. And you are beautiful 🙂

different1

Visible mental health

I know, what am I even talking about! Mental health isn’t visible… isn’t that the problem? Or when it is something you notice… do you understand what the symptoms are, what the ticks, clues are. How to help or react? Is is something you worry about in yourself or a family member.

mh6

I was tasked with looking at whether social media is good for mental health as my feature in this weeks radio show. I normally do a shout out for people’s comments or stories for the show amongst my friends .. but I stopped. This was one subject I just didn’t feel comfortable asking of people. And yet I am a campaigner for visibility in mental health. Why then would I not want to offer people a platform to discuss their own experiences.

Because often the reason I know that someone else even has a mental health condition who isn’t already pretty close to me, is because it is being discussed in a closed group, in a safe environment. I want to normalise mental health discussions and I want to help people talk about it. And being able to discuss it in a safe group is the first step. I have writen a blog with my own struggles, but I am also secure in the knowledge that many of you don’t know me. And that you won’t bring it up with me. Because frankly when someone tells you they suffer with a mental health condition you want to know how to treat them. Are they telling you because they need to share it with someone or because you have been treating them in a way that isn’t cohesive with their condition and they want to help you understand so you can change how your interact with them ? Do you know anything about the condition, are you going to research it. Do you ask questions?

mh2

One thing I do continuously find myself battling with personally, is what do you share with people, I mean at what point to you stop being a little ‘weird’ or ‘quirky’ and start becoming a liability. When do people start looking at you with other eyes, when do they stop mentioning things, inviting you to things, at what point to you drop to the bottom of the list because you have ‘issues’.

Social media is a wonderful thing in this respect, because it stops you feeling so isolated, you can join groups, you can find people who understand, who have been on similar paths, who have words of wisdom or advice, somewhere free of judgement, or at least if there is, it isn’t from someone you need to interact with again. It can even just be a place to vent away from prying ears. Social media is fantastic as it has broken barriers, it has opened doors, it has meant that geography is just numbers on a map, that you don’t have to go out to talk to someone, that you have potentially people to talk to at a moments notice, if needed.

mh3

I love social media for these reasons, but on the other hand, it is incredibly isolating, not only for you, but for those around you. While you are emotionally investing in your new friends, who may live thousands of miles away, you are increasing the distance with your friends and family, co workers, peers, who are in close proximity but feel as if they are in a different galaxy. And conversely, may be able to share some of those same fears, and hopes that you are pouring into your virtual friendships.

Now, I am the first to say that the internet is not evil, it is a great tool, and does good things, but it can’t and won’t replace being able to pick up a phone, and invite someone out for a coffee. There is nothing really that will replace that social interaction and sometimes you genuinely need that human contact. If you are feeling isolated, or have moved to a new area, friends have moved into different phases of their life and don’t have time to meet, social media can be a great tool to meet new people. There has long been jokes about it being a dating site. Have a search on local groups, activities, see if there is anything you can join, be it a hobby you already have, an exercise class, or new skills. Being on social media often means people involved can start communicating and then it feels a little less daunting when you actually go to the group. You make new friends and learn new skills, or pick something up you didn’t do before. 

mh7

So what I am trying to say, is that talking about mental illness is great, the only way to ‘normalise’ it in our society is to ensure that talking about it no no longer something we avoid, or find odd, difficult, or other. When we don’t talk about it, we never learn about it. Shutting it away makes it seem like a bad thing, something that should be covered up. And the internet is not only a powerful tool allowing you to seek advice, and find people who are empathise with you, to make connections. It is also a tool for people to educate themselves on mental health. We literally have all the information at our finger tips. We can and should educate ourselves. Be positive in all things.

Peace.

peace

Cosplay by Roxy Lee

In a recent show, I talked about Cosplay, I love cosplay, and embrace the fact it has become more mainstream. I follow a few cosplayers on line – I love seeing the process and the costumes they come up with. There is a different level of interaction with different artists, and I approached a couple to gain some insight to their experience of cosplay and the community. One of the cosplayers I approached was Roxy Lee – like Mistress Zelda, I first found Roxy Lee through Geek Girls and now spend most of my time stalking her on her Facebook Page.

If you recognise the name, it is because Roxy Lee is my mentor when it comes to make up – her skills are fantastic, what first attracted me is her ability to put together some pretty epic special effects looks using items found in the average makeup bag. She is always there to answer questions and a mother bear to her friends as well as putting together some ass kicking cosplays – which you will find on her page. And now over to the lady herself :

10685324_947514302009087_510523888320179706_n

  1. How did you first get started in cosplay
  • I was actually a booth babe for a known comic series called “Bad Kids go to Hell” Funny enough I was modelling at the time and looking to branch out into something more interesting and answered an ad! I did it voluntarilly and had the time of my life and found a culture I never knew existed. You could say I kinda accidentally fell into this world and thank god for that!
  1. Why do you cosplay?

– Honestly there are times I don’t have the motivation, drive or energy to cosplay and that goes hand in hand with what is going on in my life at the time. But mainly I cosplay when I am in a great place mentally and emotionally as it helps me feel creative and express myself. But mainly I just enjoy the artistic side of it, I love the feeling of accomplishment I receive once completing something I am proud of, and the outpour of support from viewers and those who share my work is beyond a feeling I can express. I also love attention. Not many will openly admit that but I do. I am a born performer lol. It also helped me meet some of my greatest friends, people whom have accepted me for me and not bullied me for my interests.

  1. What are your favourite aspects of cosplay

Easy, people, creativity, feeling of accomplishment, pride, attention, fun!!! Performance, love and a feeling of being understood and accepted.

12240071_917506061676578_7651070090003562292_n

  1. How do you find the community
  • We would need a lot more than this page to explain my stance on this at the moment but I will say it isn’t a very good one lately. The community is becoming something different and as sad as it is I still remain accepting of peoples choices and direction. But it is making it extremely hard for certain artists to be noticed in their work to create a business out of it. And the negativity, bullying, harassment and judgement is starting to get to me. Call me jaded I guess. The things I stated above of why I loved this community and this hobby are slowly diminishing. Which adds to the lack of motivation to create new costumes. It is vicious cycle. I got into this community for acceptance and quickly realized that was the last thing on the list for a lot of people. I think I will mainly stick to my makeup for the time being as that is my happy place haha.
  1. How do you select a costume – do you go for ease, comfort, do you consider your body type

I wear what I feel best in, comfort and mobility are huge factors as I love to really get into character and move around a lot in photo shoots. I tend to pick characters I can easily portray as closely as possible or resemble as much as humanly possible also. I don’t like to wear wigs all that much so a character that I can fit my hair into, or dye or cut to resemble is a plus. But for myself personally I costume to my comfort in my body, not my body type. If I cosplay as a character, say my arkham asylum ivy, she has an open exposed shirt. I am not comfortable with that but still wanted to wear her outfit, so I simply wore a buttoned up blouse instead. Bam problem solved! But I also tend to wear costumes I can add my spfx background into, and basically every costume I wear I add blood and cuts into anyway haha.

  1. Do you design and create your own costumes? And do you stay true to the source material or ‘inspired by’ designs?

Little bit of all worlds. I don’t stick to one type of cosplaying. I have bought pieces from thrift stores and modified them or pieced them together, I have made entire cosplays from scratch, I have commissioned others to create armor and guns for me and I have borrowed other costumes from friends just to try something I normally wouldn’t for shits and giggles. I don’t hold a standard to any one cosplayer. Their cosplay is their cosplay experience. It is all personal. I do however tend to add something of my own into every costume for creative purposes.

12006130_892340844193100_8572571155989699755_n

  1. Have you ever faced any negativity while in costume or in the wider community?
  • Sure, I was once told I was fat as Lara Croft even though I was probably at my thinnest and felt really great about myself haha and was an athletic ass kicking lara croft, I knew this. So it didn’t affect me as much as it might have. I am a curvy girl and I am perfectly ok with that but it did not make it right for this stranger to try to make me feel uncomfortable about my own body. I was also in a situation where two people were taking about how they wanted to rape me in a costume as if I wasn’t even present on my own page reading it as a person, that one upset me and I spoke out about it, it kinda received a viral amount of support from people so that was awesome to see so many people stand up to these bullies. But other than that my page is an extremely safe place with wonderful people that I admire and respect and adore. But as an admin at Geek Girls and manager at Super Cosplay Girls I see the harassment every single day, and it starts to weigh on you.
  1. Have you ever faced or found yourself in an unsafe situation?
  • Myself and many of the Geek Girls faced a sick man who was stalking, harassing and threatening us with horrible murderous actions and rape for months. Simply because we cosplayed and simply because some of us (many of us didn’t do this) had sexualized images. He was horrendous in what he would say and I wont repeat it but it scared us. He would make new accounts and harass us for weeks at a time non stop. He actually threatened to come kill us at our events. We went to the police with that one and it is an on going case. It is sad because he finally admitted to myself and another girl that he did it because he felt rejected by women like us and just wanted to see us naked…. Da fuq? I didn’t sign up for that.
  1. Tips for staying safe and having fun while in cosplay?!

Never ever let someone tell you to just deal with it. And to not stand up for yourself or that you deserve it or encouraged it because of what you do or who you are. They are absolutely wrong. Everyone will react differently to an unsafe or potentially harmful situation. We all have different coping mechanisms. You deal with these problems as you see fit. Never allow someone to make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in your own environment and do not be afraid to speak out about it or call them out on their behaviour. Do not condone it. Ban and delete them as soon as possible, do not give them the option to repeat their behaviour or defend their actions. Freedom of speech does not equal freedom to harass. You are the boss in this situation. You control it. Never forget that you are in control. The worst possible thing you can do is allow these people to take that away from you.

12028_938319812928536_5388783351069575805_n

Cos play by Jonny Ruckus

In a recent show, I talked about Cosplay, I love cosplay, and embrace the fact it has become more mainstream. I follow a few cosplayers on line – I love seeing the process and the costumes they come up with. There is a different level of interaction with different artists, and I approached a couple to gain some insight to their experience of cosplay and the community. One of the cosplayers I approached is Jonny Ruckus. He replied, which – and I am not afraid to admit, caused arm flapping and generalised fan girling. I first came accross Jonny in his LV Stormtrooper armour – or was it the Ghostbusters outfit? I don’t know! But I fell in love! Jonny is an incredibly talented prop builder, with an amazing attention to detail… including his Hello Kitty proton pack. He also doesn’t take himself seriously (you already got that with the Hello Kitty and LV reference though…. right?)- this makes the page engaging and entertaining – and he gives some amazing photo opportunities. Let’s hear it for the worlds okayest cosplayer!

If you haven’t already, give his facebook page a like. But enough of my waffling, here is what he had to say :

12346306_780034782124393_5947390720559755673_n

  1. How did you first get started in cosplay

I was building props from Ghostbusters just as something to have in my house to display and wear for Halloween; it was during the building process it was explained to me about cosplay and doing so a cons.

  1. Why do you cosplay?

I got into it for the charity aspect; always had booths at cons raising money for charities or doing charity events. I still enjoy going to cons for the sake of being a ham and showing off my costumes

  1. What are your favourite aspects of cosplay

Easily meeting new people and seeing kids reactions to your costumes, to them you’re real, they don’t know it’s some guys dressed as Superman; to them they just met the real Superman

11892184_730277733766765_7527150364244547621_n

  1. How do you find the community

I had friends explain to me what cosplay is and having a local comic shop I was frequent to gave me the heads up on cons that are worth starting at.

  1. How do you select a costume – do you go for ease, comfort, do you consider your body type
    I only do characters I have a connection to, body type plays into that as well but Cosplay has certainly helped me stay healthy and fit to continue doing the characters I love.
  1. Do you design and create your own costumes? And do you stay true to the source material or ‘inspired by’ designs?
    I build everything myself, it’s my favourite part of the hobby is building props. I’m very be into accuracy and staying as true as possible. I’ve also had some fun doing some funny mash up costumes too.

1931275_792656564195548_464694600028052609_n

  1. Have you ever faced any negativity while in costume or in the wider community?

Oh absolutely, it’s a very competitive hobby, even if you’re not completing in contests. Everyone wants to be the best and they’ll bring people down to do so.

  1. Have you ever faced or found yourself in an unsafe situation?

I’ve had a hand full of times I was pretty sure I was getting knocked out for what I was wearing. Usually they were people outside of cosplay who didn’t understand what I was doing and were also drinking.

  1. Tips for staying safe and having fun while in cosplay?!

Big fan of traveling in packs or pairs; The average Con goer is friendly and nice, but like in everything there’s always that weirdo who can’t handle social scenarios. Always be with friends and people you trust.

12241179_769500853177786_4076561149501673770_n

 

This shit got serious

ooO get me being all sweary from the outset! Well this blog post is personal. I just really want to put this out there.

Mental health. We are all encouraged to talk about it, but many of us don’t know how much about it, be it our own or a friend/relatives. And no one wants to be the one to ask a question.

I was writing this blog in my head on the way home this evening, bought on by things that have happened recently, and I guess I just want to put it all down. To try and help people, as a cathartic exercise, and well, you know what it is my blog and if I want to write about me, I will 🙂

So many of my friends suffer from mental illness in one form or another, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, personality disorders, manic episodes, depression, PTSD – I could, but won’t go on. You get the picture, and because one of my stronger personality traits is laziness, you can do your own research on the matter – and draw your own conclusions.

You know the Robin William’s quote, those saddest on the inside try hardest to stay positive on the outside.. it is true for me. I have recently started a new job, which an insane workload, and a massive about of pressure. It has been commented on that I manage to stay upbeat and am not showing signs of stress. Yeah, you guessed it. I am one of those people who internalise. Everything. I don’t like to let the side down, or appear unable, or give people an extra problems. There is often a maelstrom of conflicting emotions rushing around, be it stress, a manic episode, sadness – the emotions are always extreme but  i try and project a positive vibe. Of course I can do that, yes that is amazing, no I don’t mind doing that for you, no, of course you pushing me out of the way isn’t a problem. Smile, and the world smiles with you.

091

Like many people, I suffer from social anxiety, but am a people pleaser, I want to say yes to everything. I want to remain positive. I don’t want to let people down. But 2015 was an odd year, where there were plenty of good things, toward the end of the year, I found myself floundering, and had a massive anxiety attack and had to take some time out – my partner was away, and I pretty much locked myself away for 4 days. I didn’t mention it to anyone, I frankly lied about what had happened to everyone. I didn’t actually seek any help, I am sliding along a tightrope hoping that I can stay on top of it.

I haven’t admitted what happened really, to more that 3 people. Even my partner isn’t really aware of how bad it has got. Because, I don’t like admitting to weakness, and certainly when I am not sure how to deal with it. I am a logical person, and a problem solver. But where i can’t really see an end to the situation, and don’t feel talking will really help…. I have never in my life wanted to stay at home so badly. I even admitted nothing would make me happier than staying at home and looking after the cat. A stay at home cat mother is a thing, isn’t it? I sound glib, I don’t mean to be, something in side me was telling me to remove myself from a situation and someone in the grey matter, this was the solution.

I told 3 friends, together in an email – we are all close and it just … popped out in an email conversation. We don’t see each other as much as we used to – and it had gone from my constant organising and pulling together, planning to retreating a little and being unwilling – I don’t know if they noticed and I won’t ask. Cans of worms are not always made to be opened. I felt really bad when I blurted out my problems to the girls, because it is my burden, why should others have to deal with it. I ended up with private emails from all three, and I was crying – or trying not to cry because they are so supportive.

2015 was not a good year for my group of aforementioned friends, all 4 of us have gone through something. This isn’t my legitimising MH. Your mental health is important – it is important to realise when your are being stretched, when you need to take a break. Listen to your body, to your mind. Talk to people, you will find that people will be able to offer more support, advice, and experience.

I do think that we need to talk about it more. Not so everyone gets more worried about what they can and can’t say to their friends and family. I think that being more honest is healthier – it means that we can all be more understanding of our extended family, of people we meet. We all go through shit, we don’t always know how to deal with it. But having people who we can vent to, talk to, who we can admit defeat to. And something else before I sign off as I have realised how long this blog has gotten – this does not make you a weaker person. That is what it comes down to with me. I am always the first to offer help and support and the last to ask/accept. But admitting you aren’t coping, or need help, or just a break. It doesn’t detract from you as a whole. It really doesn’t.

12003_788639667906566_2629698245127441885_n