“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.

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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

 

When now is just a bad time

The rain is pelting down against your bedroom window and you’re lying in bed, watching the last of the romantic comedies you’re yet to see on Netflix. It’s -10 degrees in your badly insulated, slightly damp student house but you don’t care. Why? Because you’re cuddled up with your latest beau, the one you’re hoping is your knight in shining armour. Unrealistic? Probably, but a girl can dream.badtiming3

It’s been a while now since you started seeing each other, and you’re starting to wonder where you stand. Is he seeing other girls? Does he like me as much as I like him? Does he want me to be his girlfriend? Well, the best way to get answers to your questions is to start by asking them. But sometimes these answers can leave more questions to be answered.

Some awkward, beating around the bush type questions are asked. What you’re really trying to say is, “Are you looking for a relationship?” Cue plenty of long pauses, awkward silences and there’s definitely a disappointed look on someone’s face. Eventually there’s an explanation as to why you’re not getting the response you’d expected, “Now is just a bad time.” Great, thanks for that one. But is there ever a good time?

badtiming2I feel like any time I’ve been in a relationship, it’s ended because of bad timing. Any time I’d consider getting serious with someone it’s always the same, the whole “Now is just a bad time” excuse yet again. When I was 15, it was bad timing because I was too young for something serious. When I was 17, it was bad timing because I had more important things to concentrate on, like my leaving cert. When I was 18, I was going into my first year of college and everyone told me it was silly to be tied down. And now? I’ll hopefully be heading to Manchester on Erasmus in September. And after that, well I’m God only knows where in the country for my work placement. After college I’ll want to travel or do something a little exciting with my life, and who’d want to be tied down for that? Am I ever going to have “time” for a relationship? How do people make time for these things? Teach me your ways, please.

When is the right time for a relationship? Because I’m pretty sure when you’re 26 or 27 and you’ve done majority of those fun things you’d always wanted to do, it’s a little late to start searching for your soulmate. Our parents and grandparents met each other at our age, yet now all we want to do in our late teens and early twenties is be single. Life is changing and there’s more and more emphasis being put on being a tough, independent and strong-minded person; there’s this perception that a relationship will eliminate that from your life. We’re being encouraged that while you’re young, you’re better off being alone.badtiming

But what if we keep turning people down because we’re too busy to commit? Mr or Mrs Right could be standing there on your doorstep and you’re like sorry kid, I want to visit Japan and there’s no room for you to come with me. My fear right now is that I’ll end up 35 years old, still single, and thinking about the one that got away when I was 21. The life of an overthinker, eh?

Anyways, the moral of the story is that I’m going to stop using “Now is just a bad time” as an excuse to end, or even just fail to continue something. Because I’m a big paranoid overthinker and I don’t want to miss out on something just because I was “busy”. Yep, I’ve certainly changed my tune compared to this time last year. But I guess if you like somebody enough, then timing shouldn’t be an issue anyways. Lets just hope that the man of my dreams isn’t too busy for me, wherever the hell he is.

The February Blues

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I knew February would be a rocky month for me, it has been for the last couple of years. February doesn’t like me, and I despise it just as much, but as low as I feel I’m not letting it get the better of me. I started to notice the changes in myself a few weeks ago. I didn’t feel like going out, I just wanted to sleep all the time, I wasn’t eating properly and I just didn’t feel happy. And that’s scary for me, because I knew just how bad my mental health was capable of getting again. But this time I’m taking control of my own happiness, I’m not letting my mental health deteriorate.

The problem with taking control of your mental health is that a lot of the time, we leave it too late. We fail to recognise the signs that we’re falling down a slippery slope and by the time we realise, it’s too hard to get back up. We feel like we’re stuck in a bottomless hole, and it’s impossible to get out. So many people don’t seek medical help until they’re really bad, which is why it’s so important to help yourself from the get go. This time, I’ve been trying really hard to make myself feel better.

I’ve been leaving the house, even when I really don’t want to. I’m still going to all my lectures, because I know that skipping class makes me anxious and that’s what I want to avoid. When I skip a class, I don’t know what’s going on in the next class, which makes me anxious to go to that one too. It’s easier to just get up off my ass and prevent that happening in the first place. I’m making sure I see my friends, and I’m trying to go out and have as much fun as I normally would. The latter isn’t working out too well at the moment, but hey, I’m working on it, there’s always room for improvement.

I’ve been keeping myself really, really busy. I have a tendency to spend my spare time lying in bed, overthinking, but I’m not letting myself do that this time. I have a to-do list on my phone of all the things I should have done over the last week, but let go over my head. I’m currently ticking away at those and the shorter the list gets, the better I feel knowing I’m getting things done. Plus, it gets me out of bed and into the library, doing something productive with my life.

If I could, I’d be working my ass off in the gym at the moment. After walking 22 kilometres in the pouring rain in Amsterdam, I have a chest infection that’s caused me to very nearly cough up a lung about five times now. So yeah, I’m taking a break from the gym until I get better, which isn’t doing much for my mental health at the moment. But next week I’m going to get back into it, because I know it’s the one thing that always makes me feel better.

As with all illnesses, prevention rather than cure is key when it comes to mental health. I know that my anxiety is going to get bad again if I let it, but I’m taking small steps to ensure that doesn’t happen. Just because you’re starting to feel down again, doesn’t mean you’ll spiral into a deep depression once more. Just because you’re feeling anxious, doesn’t mean you’ll be too scared to leave your house in two weeks time. Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, and it’s all about doing the best you can to make yourself feel okay again. Remember that no matter how bad things are, they always get better.