Stop flaunting your sexuality

Why is there a need to validate our sexuality in this day and age? Why is there even a need to come out at all? Why can’t we just love who we want to love, be with whoever we want to be with? Why is it assumed that we’re all born heterosexual, with young girls being told that one day they’ll find their Prince; oblivious to the fact that for some it might actually be a Princess? Because it’s 2016 Ireland, and although people think we’ve made leaps and bounds since the Yes vote in the marriage referendum, we haven’t come that far yet.

We understand what it means to be straight, and we understand what it means to be gay. For decades we’ve been campaigning for gay rights, proclaiming that gay people were born this way and were not able to change their sexuality. Eventually, people began to accept that others were gay. They did not entirely understand it, but they got their head around the concept. Then along came bisexuality; people were finally comfortable coming out and admitting that they were attracted to more than one sex. There are many different sexualities out there, and it’s up to each individual to find onelesbian that fits their preference (or they may choose not to label themselves at all). We’re now aware that heterosexuality isn’t as “normal” as we once thought, so why is there still a need to say, “I’m gay.”?

After the success of the marriage referendum, some may think that the process of coming out is way too dramatized. That it shouldn’t be a case of proclaiming, “Look at me, I’m different!” When really, nobody actually cares and you’re not that different at all. It seems that now, if you come out people are thinking “What’s the fuss about?” Because it’s just another gay, bisexual or queer person. We know so many of them now, and that’s amazing. Coming out should not be dramatic, nobody wants it to be. But for many people, it is.

As much as we like to tell ourselves that the world is a kind, loving and accepting place, sometimes it just isn’t. Yes, people have become more accepting of the LGBTQ community since the marriage referendum, but we still have a long way to go. People seem to forget that, although our generation are overwhelmingly accepting, some of the older generation are still alive, kicking and not too happy about same-sex relationships. There are parents out there with a “not on my doorstep” attitude, and small town syndrome is still prevalent all over the country.

When young people come out these days, it can still be dramatic. They go into it knowing that they could lose some of their best friends and closest family members, and for some of them, they do. You might think it’s not that big of a deal because your family voted Yes in the marriage referendum, but for some people coming out, it’s a huge deal. And granted that it all goes well, that your family say they still love you and your friends couldn’t care less: if you’ve waited 23 years to come out and you’re finally comfortable with your sexuality, it’s a big thing. You should be able to celebrate that without complaints that you’re making a fuss.

There have head shaking and sighs about LGBTQ people throwing their gayness in your face since the beginning of time. What started with “I don’t mind gays, but I hate when they flaunt it” has turned to the likes of “I’m not judging you because you’re gay, I’m judging you know because you’re talking abolesbian3ut it on social media” as time has gone by. And what that boils down to is this; you are flaunting your non heterosexual sexuality by coming out and being visible. By having a presence, and letting people know that, “Hello, I’m Laura. I’m 26, I’m a nurse, and I’m gay.”

Ask an LGBTQ person about why they make such a big deal out of their same-sex relationship and you’ll get the same answer as you would from any heterosexual couple. When you’re in a relationship with somebody, they become a big part of your life. You’re proud of the person they are, you want to show them off and show others that you are together. It’s normal.

It’s not about flaunting anything. It’s wanting to show affection to your partner, to let them know that you appreciate and care about them. It’s about kissing them goodbye outside of the car, rather than hiding away inside. It’s about being comfortable holding your partners hand in public, just because you want to be close to them. It’s not a statement, and it shouldn’t be.closet

Ideally, we would love to live in a world where nobody had a problem with the LGBTQ community. But unfortunately, we’re not quite there yet. This is why people still feel the need to “come out”, to label themselves and this is why sometimes the process is still quite dramatic. We don’t want it to be, but in reality, it is. And until there comes a time where we have complete acceptance of the LGBTQ community, some feel that they have to ensure they are visible. That they can say, we’re here; we are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, pansexual, and whatever else. They still have to remind people that they exist.

The generation below us need to see that LBGT people are here, that LBGT people are visible, and most importantly that LGBT people are normal. They need to have someone to relate to, whether it’s a family friend or a famous Youtuber that they can identify with. With visibility comes the breaking of stereotypes, like the camp gay man and the big butch lesbian. It can only get better from here, but we have to be patient.

As much as we all want coming out to be a thing of the past, we need to respect that for some people it’s still a huge deal. Until it’s a thing of the past, the LGBTQ community will still feel the need to validate their sexuality. Because once upon a time, they had somebody they looked up to and thought, “He/she is just like me.” Maybe they want to help somebody too.


To feel something

Three minutes had gone by, I know because I’d been staring at my watch. Three minutes of awkward, stiff cuddling that just didn’t feel right. Three minutes of one-sided chit chat about college. “Well then, I’m gonna head home,” He said, picking his keys and passport up off the floor and swishing his hair back and forth, “I’ll see you again.” He flashed a smile and gave a quick nod and out the door he went. I sat up on the edge of the bed, and all I could think was, “Hopefully not.”

I sat there for a while that day, I wanted to give myself time to think. I was sick of this; the same old, same old. For the first time in a long time, I actually stopped and asked myself, what do you feel?



The lack of emotion was frightening of course, but it wasn’t something I was unfamiliar with. I just chose not to notice it, I thought I could go on without it having an impact on my life. It did.

I thought this emotionless, rock of a human was just who I was. For a long time, I thought I wasn’t capable of feeling anything at all. “It’s probably just my anxiety,” I thought, or “Maybe I could be depressed.” Possibly, but no. I just wasn’t being true to myself.

Maybe I should have realised that I couldn’t keep up this act of content, but if you act out the same scene for long enough, you sometimes forget it isn’t real. It becomes a part of you, an alien part maybe, but you stop questioning it. You just start to accept it, or at least try to.

I asked myself what it was that I really wanted that day, and was mildly shocked and partly upset at my brain’s initial response. That first thought led to another, which led to another, and another. About something I’d always known to be there, but always known I could suppress. There was no suppressing it anymore.

From a very young age, I’d told myself, “This is not something you can entertain.” But something inside of me changed that day. I was sick of hiding. I was sick of being afraid. I was sick of battling with myself. I just wanted to feel something, anything, again.

I stopped doing what I felt like I should do, and started doing what I wanted to do. I stopped trying to be what people expected of me, instead focusing on being the real me. I won’t lie, there were times where I backtracked. Many “I can’t do this” moments, and I wasn’t the only one getting hurt this time.

But every time I tried to stop myself, I got more and more drawn in. There was always something pulling me back. What was it? I was unsure. I was unsure of everything, in a short few weeks it felt as though my whole life was being turned upside down. And one day, I realised what it was.



“In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality..”

Many of us expressed frustration today, as Mick Wallace’s bill on abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities failed to get the support it needed from TD’s. As somebody who is a strong believer that we need to repeal the 8th amendment, I was frustrated too; until I really began to think about it.

“In the case of a fatal foetal abnormality” is simply not enough. It means that women are still not allowed to decide what will happen to their body, in the case of a crisis pregnancy. If this bill was to be passed, it would raise so many more questions; how fatal does a fatal foetal abnormality have to be before it’s deemed acceptable to terminate the pregnancy? Who gets to decide on this, and how? What type of abnormalities would fall into this category? With the state of Ireland’s medical system, most women would be almost full-term by the time the doctors had decided if her foetus had a chance of survival. And what about the women who are told, “Sorry, we’re not sure if your baby’s disease is fatal or not. You’ll have to carry on with your pregnancy and see.” How is that fair? And then there’s the women whose babies will be diagnosed with conditions that mean they will have no quality of life. Do they not deserve to abort their pregnancy if they choose to? “In the case of..” is just not a sustainable option.

It’s like when people say that abortions should only be available in the case of rape. Do they realise how long a court case can take? These things can take months, sometimes years. By the time somebody was convicted of rape, a child would already be born. And what if they were found not guilty of rape, but guilty of sexual assault? Where do we draw the line? In the case of repealing the 8th amendment, there is no drawing the line. It has to be all or nothing.

The decision on whether or not abortion should be made available in Ireland is in the hands of the Dáil. 78% of these people are men, who will never know what it’s like to fall pregnant. A vast majority of these people are stable in their finances and careers, and probably in their relationships too. This vast majority don’t know what it feels like to go through a crisis pregnancy, where you end up pregnant when you simply don’t want to be.

Enough of this talk of, “in the case of a fatal foetal abnormality” or “in the case of rape”. What about in the case of when a woman simply does not want to be pregnant? We seem to be skimming over the fact that unwanted pregnancies happen on a daily basis. What about the girls who are still in school, and want to experience a regular transition into adult life? What about the college students, who struggle to make enough money to look after themselves, let alone a child? What about the woman who already has four young children, and does not have the energy or financial means to raise another? What about these normal, everyday women? Do they not deserve a safe, legal abortion too?

“If they didn’t want to get pregnant, they should have used protection.” Moan the pro-lifers. Did you know that condoms sometimes break? Pills don’t always work? The implant isn’t fool-proof? And even if you didn’t use protection, it doesn’t make you a bad person. Uneducated about safe sex, maybe, but it doesn’t make you any less entitled to a safe, legal abortion than anyone else.

Recently I spoke to a doctor, and she asked if I had any plans for future contraception. I told her that I’d been researching the coil, and she said “Are you sure you’d want the coil? You seem very nervous.” And my response, “Well, a pregnancy would make me even more nervous.” It made me think, what would I do if I got pregnant at my age? My anxiety would sky rocket. I’d probably go mad. I’d be making myself physically sick with worry. But because of my own personal circumstances in life, I wouldn’t have an abortion. However I’d like to have the option to, and I’d like if other women were allowed to make that choice themselves based on their own personal circumstances. I respect that these women are able to make the best choice for themselves.

Until you’ve taken a pregnancy test while shaking, alone in a bathroom, or you’ve watched a friend burst into tears as a red cross appears on her pregnancy test, or you’ve seen a family member debate in despair about whether or not they can truly afford to have another child. You’ll never really understand what it feels like. You’ll never know the torment that these women go through, and it happens more often than we think. I’m sure the vast majority of us know somebody who’s had to go to abroad for an abortion, because our country is too backward to provide them here. Abortions need to be made available in Ireland, and it has to be all or nothing. There can be
no ifs, buts or maybes when it comes to such a serious repealissue.

Just Friends

Writing doesn’t help me to evaluate or figure out my problems. You’d think it would, since I’m training to be a journalist and all, but really that’s not the case. I’ve known this since I started writing about my life ten years ago, when I kept a diary full of all the things that were bothering me. But it didn’t stop me from attempting to silence my thoughts with a pen and paper again last week.

Here in the University of Limerick, we have what’s known as the Living Bridge, I lived right beside it last year. The seats along the side are severely uncomfortable and often soaking wet, but at night time it lights up in a rainbow of colours. There’s something about sitting on that bridge that always manages to calm me down, and clear my head, I spent a lot of time there last year. I think it’s the sound of the water, it reminds me of home.

I hadn’t been there for a while. In fact, I hadn’t been there since this time last year. But last week I felt the urge to go back, I thought I needed something. I thought maybe it was space or fresh air, but I really wasn’t sure. I just felt like sitting there might help me feel better. Unfortunately for me though, it didn’t. This event ended in me scribbling down my thoughts on a piece of paper, ripping it out of my diary and throwing it in a ball on the floor. However I proceeded to pick this piece of paper up; if anyone read what I’d written they’d probably laugh hysterically and plus, I’m not a litter bug.

The realisation that came over me that day is that for once in my life, I’m not looking for a solution to my problem; I’m trying to figure out how to best deal with the solution I’ve been given. As a journalist, you’re trained to always ask more questions, to seek better answers, to always look for more. On top of that, my anxiety always has me exploring other avenues, even if I don’t want to. I can never just “be”.

What’s worse than not knowing where you stand, is knowing exactly where you stand and not being able to do anything about it. I was under the allusion for a long time that I was made of stone, but after challenging this I learned that it really wasn’t the case. The thing that always got me through the rocky periods was the idea that I was in control of my own happiness. Even when I was feeling down, I was in control and I could fix this. When I let somebody else put a smile on my face and make me laugh, I’d let my guard down; I didn’t know that I’d find it so hard to deal with the consequences.

I had this idea in my head that I’d end up falling in love with the next guy who so much as looked at me. This definitely was not the case, and I’m not sure if it’s a positive or negative thing. Two weeks ago, I had a guy kiss me on the forehead for the first time in a long time. And honestly, all I felt like doing was head-butting him. Sorry. I thought I’d have turned into a huge ball of feelings, when really I’m the opposite, I couldn’t care less. I keep making comparisons and although I want to stop, I can’t.

I’m guessing that people are sick of me talking about this, and that’s why I’ve finally succumbed to writing down my thoughts. I know that writing never helped me to solve my problems, but maybe it can help me accept the solution. This world is alien to me, I’m not used to feeling this way or being in these situations, I don’t know what to do with this. It’s hard to stay friends with somebody you feel something for, when you know that they don’t feel the same way.

I only began to think of this a few days ago when my housemate said to me, “It must be really hard for you to stay friends with him.” That’s the first time I actually stopped and thought, “Yes, this is really difficult.” But when you’re that attracted to somebodies personality, you don’t want to cut ties. So you stop what you were doing before somebody gets hurt and you end up ruining your friendship. I wasn’t meant to be hurting now; believe me, I’m beating myself up over it.

I know that you can’t change somebodies mind about you, or change how they feel about you, and I haven’t tried to. I tried to silently deal with the solution I’m faced with all semester, in the hope that eventually, any thoughts or feelings I had would vanish. They haven’t, and this has been a struggle for me.

You start every week with a “fuck it” attitude, and by two o’clock on Tuesday you’ve gotten a snapchat that makes your face light up. Being greeted with a smile, a hug and a kiss on the cheek shouldn’t affect you, but it does. It’s hard being in the same nightclub as somebody you feel something towards, knowing they’re with somebody else and you’re just, there. It’s just a feeling of inadequacy really, because you know they could have you if they wanted you, but they don’t. There’s nothing you can do, because you’re just friends.

My housemates question the other day really made me wonder why I continued to maintain this friendship when it was so hard for me, and as this semester draws to a close I’m wondering what to do next. In one sense, I’m happy that I’ll be moving to Manchester for a few months. I’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, and focus on other things. I can’t help but wonder if my mind will still be wandering elsewhere though.

There’s a part of me that wants to cut things off completely, but I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work. I could just quit while I’m ahead, but as I said, I’m curious. I always have more questions to the answers I’m provided with, I want to figure out why I invest my time in these things. I can never just “be”.

So you want to start weightlifting?

I don’t look like the kind of girl who lifts heavy weights, in fact, I probably don’t look like the kind of girl who goes to the gym at all. But – plot twist alert – I make sure I get to the gym four or five times a week. Why? I love weightlifting.

Weight lifting is perfect for those of us who don’t enjoy cardio (so that’s pretty much all of us). I started weight training about seven months ago, and only plucked up the courage to lift heavy weights (squatting, deadlifting etc.) about two months ago. I started because although I’d lost weight through running, my body was… Not looking the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t toned, I had zero muscle, and I still felt kind of like a blob if I’weights1m honest. I followed lots of fitness accounts on Instagram, and all these girls had the bodies I wanted (check out Georgia Hickey for an Irish example, her figure is on point). What did they all have in common? They lifted weights, so I said I’d try it out too.

Although I started using machines like the leg press, I was still afraid to head over to the free weights section of the gym. A lot of the time it’s a male dominated area, and I was really intimidated by it. Even though I’d wanted to learn how to squat for months, I was afraid of trying it out and looking like an idiot. But now that I know what I’m doing on “the other side”, I’m kicking myself for not starting sooner. So for any of you girls thinking about using the free weights section, I’d say to just go for it. Here are my tips for getting started and not feeling like the most awkward person in Europe while doing so.
My first piece of advice is to research before you step foot in the gym. Take note of the exercises you want to do, find out which muscles they help to build up, and learn how to use the machines. My favourite method of research is Youtube, and my workouts come from a compilation of Jen Heward, Robin Gallant and Nikki Blakketter’s videos. I have three workouts planned for myself: legs, arms and shoulders, and back, chest and core. Write a list of the exercises you want to do for each of these groups and bring it to the gym with you; you can always tell that somebody is a beginner if they’re standing around looking confused about what to do next. Your list will keep you focused, and with all your research you’ll know exactly what you’re doing.

Don’t be afraid of what other people think of you. I know that’s easier said than done, and I still worry that I look like an idiot, but I always remind myself of this: when I’m exercising, I’m too focused on myself to notice what anyone else is doing, and this is the same with almost everyone. If someone is looking at you, chances are they’re just trying to figure out how the hweights2ell you’re using that confusing looking machine.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so don’t be embarrassed when you’re finding it difficult to squat with just the barbell at first. And if people are at the gym to stand around staring at others, they’re clearly not there for the right reasons. I’ve dropped weights on my feet and I’ve hit my head off barbells more times than I’d care to admit, but you know what? Who cares! Everyone makes mistakes, so just keep thinking to yourself, “I’m doing this for myself, and I’m going to get strong.” To hell with what other people think.

If you’re still feeling a little intimidated, I’d recommend going to the gym at a quiet time. I’m always the first person in there at ten o’clock on Sunday mornings, because I can head straight to the squat rack and there’s no waiting around. Once you get more confident, it’ll be easier to hit the gym at 4 o’clock on Mondays.

What helped me the most when it came to lifting heavy weights was going into the free weights section with someone who was familiar with it. Although I love hitting the gym by myself, I wouldn’t have had the courage to teach myself how to squat or deadlift. But what if you don’t know anyone who uses the free weights section? Well, I didn’t either. As I said, I followed lots of people on Instagram who had an interest in fitness and weight lifting, so when I noticed that one of them used the gym at UL, I asked him to help. Luckily for me, he was more than happy to show me what I wanted to know and had the patience of a saint when I could barely balance the barbell on my shoulders. It might take two or three times before you’re comfortable going it alone, so don’t be afraid to keep asking for help. weights3

And my final tip is to be consistent. Contrary to belief, weight lifting doesn’t make you bulky without years and years of work. It takes a while for muscle to build up, but it’s so rewarding when you hit new PR’s and can lift heavier weights. Also, unlike cardio, weight lifting helps to speed up your metabolism. Even when you stop exercising, you continue to burn fat all day after a workout. And the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, so it’s a win-win situation really.

If any of you have questions about weight training feel free to ask me on Twitter @micwbu. I’m no expert, but I certainly know how scary it can be when you’re a beginner.

Mental illness is not confined to anxiety and depression

We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about anxiety and depression more, when we’re really just destigmatising anxiety and depression more, and that’s it.

I can tell you that a lot of people are going to read that sentence and think, “And?” or “What’s she talking about?” You probably thought I messed up what I was trying to say, or maybe you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that sentence. Anxiety and depression are mental health issues, right? Yes, but mental health issues are not confined to anxiety and depression.

You could argue that anxiety and depression are the more talked about illnesses because they’re the most common ones, but we don’t know just how true that is. More often than not, mood disorders that show any signs of depression, such as bipolar disorder, are put down to just that – depression. It can take years for doctors and even patients themselves to realise that there is something more to their problem.

As I said, patients can go undiagnosed for years, because they don’t really know that they have a problem. Personally, I know how that feels. I went until the age of fifteen before realising that there was something wrong with me, that this crippling anxiety I’d been feeling my whole life was not normal. Why didn’t I realise? Well, because nobody ever talked about it. Ten years ago, anxiety was still a taboo. People weren’t sure if it was a real thing, they looked down on people who had it, they didn’t understand it, and they were scared of it. And while I’m so glad that moves have been made to destigmatise anxiety and make my life that little bit easier, I can’t help but think about the people who still have a mental illness that nobody talks about. I can’t help but think about the forgotten side of mental health.

Unfortunately the likes of borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder still have a huge amount of stigma attached to them. People forget that they are a part of the group of mental illnesses, and they know little to nothing about them. Because they know nothing about them, the people who have to live with these illnesses every day are afraid to talk about them. And because they’re afraid to talk, nobody is learning.

When there’s so little information given to us about these illnesses, how are people supposed to recognise that they have a problem in the first place? Would you know the signs of borderline personality disorder if you had them? Most people wouldn’t. Oftentimes, patients are only diagnosed when their illness gets to an advanced stage, and this is what helps make up the negative stigma attached to the illness.

And that’s not the only thing that creates negative portrayals of mental illness. Patricia R. Owen conducted a study on the portrayals of schizophrenia by entertainment media, and in this study of more than 40 movies (released between 1990 and 2010) she discovered that over 80% of characters who were schizophrenic showed violent behaviour, and almost a third displayed suicidal behaviour. This portrayal that people with schizophrenia are dangerous is wrong, and it’s having a detrimental effect on sufferers who are afraid to speak out for fear of having this label slapped on them.

People have a fear of the unknown, but we can help them with that. By speaking out more about the less commonly known mental illnesses, we can break the stigma attached to them and help sufferers feel more at ease when talking about them. We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about depression and anxiety more, but we need to speak more about mental illness as a whole. We can’t keep leaving certain issues out because we’re afraid of the unknown.


Opportunity is the bird that never perches

My problem in life is that I want to have it all, it always has been and probably always will be. I want to be the best, I want to work the hardest, I want to get the best results. And the problem here? The reason that I’m writing this blog post? Well I’ve strived to be the best, I’ve worked really hard and I’ve gotten some pretty good results. I had a bit of a dilemma, where all my trying had paid off BUT… I was being offered everything that I wanted, all at once.

A big part of my course is our work placement, I’ll be doing a six month stint from January to June next year to get some hands on experience in the world of Journalism. A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany, the God’s had spoken and I’d decided what I wanted to with my life. I was adamant I’d pursue a career in broadcast journalism, be it television or even radio presenting. I contacted a local radio station and, shocker alert, they were happy to take me on for the full six months. So everything was going smoothly for me, and then there was a spanner thrown into the works…

Back in September I’d decided I wanted to try news writing. There’s just something appealing about being a news writer, you know? Those women on RTÉ really look like they have their shit together – smart, sensible, admirable. Believe it or not, I want to be sensible someday too. I talked to a newspaper back home who said they’d be happy to take me on, but as per usual I wanted that little bit more. I knew the Limerick Leader was a fantastic placement down here, it’s probably one of the best ones available. So I applied, thinking nothing of it really. I thought to myself, “Sure all I write about is boys that don’t like me, I can’t be good enough for news.”opportunity

I had that same thought the night before the interview, but a friend reassured me that if I wasn’t good enough for the job, I wouldn’t be getting interviewed in the first place. And for some reason, that really helped, because heading into that room I wasn’t one bit nervous. Yes me, the Queen of anxiety, not one bit nervous about my first ever job interview. I’m still a bit puzzled about that one. Anyways, I’m assuming my confidence that came from God-knows-where shone through, because I got offered the placement straight away. Shocked? Me too.

Then the doubt started to kick in. What if I’m not good enough for news? But SHIT I’ve already decided I want to do radio? What am I going to DO? So I stopped and thought about it. Fuck it, I’m going to do both.

opp2You have to seize all the opportunities that come your way, because some of them won’t come around twice. Yes, broadcast media is where I can see myself in the future, but why limit myself to entertainment? Why not get a good foundation in news writing, and give myself the option to work in radio news? The Limerick Leader is a placement that I just can’t pass up on, after hearing all the previous students who’ve worked there ranting and raving about it. But I’m not giving up on radio either. I’m hoping and praying that I can switch my placement to summer time (Yes, I want to give up even more of my time to work for free) so that I can leave college with the skills I need to get into broadcast journalism.

Of course I’m still worried about news writing, it’s me, and it’d be odd if I wasn’t worried. But it’s a challenge for me, and it’s something I’ve never really touched on bar a few assignments here and there. I’m excited to push myself, to write about new things and to learn the tricks of the trade. I know that I can be whoever I want to be, I can do whatever I want to with this career. I want to give myself the best opportunity to get a good job when I leave college, and I’m picking up as many skills as possible to ensure that happens.

My problem in life is that I want to have it all. But, why let that be a problem? Be the best, work the hardest, and get the best results. You can do it all if you really want to.

“Opportunities will come and go, but if you do nothing about them, so will you.”     — Richie Norton