On Pride

June is pride month – a month-long celebration of everything LGBT – and today is exactly one year from when I came out.

I thought I would reflect on that but, here’s the thing… I’m not sure I’m properly “out” – if there even is such a state of being. (I’ve heard other LGBTQA+ people talk about how you don’t come out just once, but lots of times, as you meet and interact with new people.)

My “coming out” was in the form of the blog post I linked above. It’s a disjointed, rambly thing that I hope got my point across, but I’m not 100% convinced that it did.

At the time, I was incredibly nervous to post it. It felt monumental for me, and it was (purely for the fact of how I felt about it), but looking back at it now, I’m not sure it was clear enough. The detail I go into about my religious upbringing accounts for that.

Putting the “I’m pansexual” declaration up on my blog was, as well as being terrifying, a very liberating experience for myself. Perhaps only for myself, though. Outside of people who have read it, I’m not sure anyone knows about my sexual orientation. I’m fairly certain my family don’t, hence me wondering if I am indeed truly out.

Part of me feels like it doesn’t matter if people know or not – in a sense, it does, while in other ways it doesn’t matter at all. Like, why should who I find attractive matter to anyone? Especially since I’m in a secure, monogamous relationship. Relatively speaking, it’s a small part of who I am.

Yet I know the importance of representation. I’m sure there are young (and old!) gay and lesbian people out there who haven’t been able to tell people about their identity, who find heart in stories of other’s bravery. And I think it’s important to stand up and be counted as a member of the community. It’s important for the people who run the country to be aware of how vast the community is so they’re better able to represent it.

Regardless of who knows and who doesn’t and whether that matters or not, I can only speak of my own personal experience and feelings on the matter. One thing I can say objectively is that, no less than two years ago, the idea of attending a pride parade filled me with a sense of dread, whereas now I actually know what it means to have pride in that aspect of myself. For me, love won.

Readings at the Belfast Book Festival 2017

With this year’s Belfast Book Festival in full swing, I’m sure you’ve seen event news all over social media. It’s been fabulous, and I’m here to add to the deluge!

I’ve been to two events so far – the Tools for Solidarity poetry competition awards ceremony (in which I received a booklet with one of my poems in) and the Poetry NI annual slam (which I entered).

Two events still to come that I’m involved with are the Crescent Writers Read event on Wednesday (which is FREE!) and the Women Aloud NI readathon and mass reading on Saturday (the range and magnitude of which I’m very excited about).

Also on Saturday, the wonderful Claire Savage launches her first book – Magical Masquerade. I’m planning to get to that, too.

On Book to Movie Adaptions

I’m not a particularly fast reader. Maybe that’s down to my dyslexia, maybe not, but whatever the reason, the fact stands. Books over 300 pages make me nervous because I know they’ll likely take me forever to get though.

Now, that said, I just finished The Girl on the Train. I finished it in like three days, and it’s 400 pages. So, it’s fair to say I loved it. Fantasic page-turner and highly accessible. It got five stars from me.

Originally, I started reading it in way back in October last year. I devoured the first section (thirty or so pages) and was instantly gripped. I loved the writing even more then than I did when I restarted it a couple of days ago.

But why did I stop and take several months to go back to it? You might be wondering. Well, put simply, I watched the movie adaption.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the movie adaption. It gripped me, too. And I thought it would, which is why I chose to go see it. Some people refuse to see adaptions before reading the book they’re based on, and I understand why, but not me.

Experience has taught me that if I see the movie after I read the book, I will hate the film. The casting will be completely unpalatable because of how I’ve imagined the characters in my head, and I won’t be able to get past it. I know a lot of people have the reverse reaction, but reading the book after seeing the movie has never proved to be a problem for me before.

In fact, when I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower after seeing the film I actually think knowing the story in advance improved my experience. If I hadn’t known where the story was headed, I may have felt bored and frustrated with the slow start.

Anyway, back to the Girl on the Train. As I’ve already said, I enjoyed the movie and loved the book. So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not really a problem, exactly, it’s just that, for the first time, I felt that knowing all the twists and turns in advance did dull the experience for me, if only a little. I still loved it, but I think I could have loved it more. And yes, I probably would have disliked the movie had I not watched it first, but perhaps my heightened enjoyment of the book would have been worth that sacrifice.

Writing Through the Night

It’s 6.27am. I haven’t slept yet and, at this point, it’s unlikely that I will sleep before I head out to my last creative writing class for the [academic] year. I’m considering walking into the city centre instead of taking a bus. It’s the kind of mood I’m in.

One of the reasons I’m still up, aside from being an insomniac/nocturnal and having a criminally early class, is that I was writing a short story that’s been playing on my mind/heart for a while. It’s inspired by a conversation that happened in my aforementioned writing class. And it’s a story that, I think, could be developed further. It’s one that I’m tempted to turn into a short stage play. One that I’m considering having sequels to. I don’t know yet, and that’s okay. It’s not the point of the blog post.

I just wanted to say that, in times like these when I don’t have the time or energy to write much, writing is still what I come back to. It’s still what I love.

Perhaps it’s cliche, but I feel like there are so many stories in me. I want to write them all. And not even in the way of overworking myself that I’ve previously written about. I just mean that I am certain that telling stories – whether by poems, or plays, or novels – is what I want to devote my life to, ultimately. (Well, that and love, but that’s a different blog post.)

It is one of my sincerest goals to be considered prolific – to get as much down on paper in my lifetime as humanly possible. I don’t know if I’ve said that before or not, but it’s 6.38am and that’s what I’m thinking about.

Bands I Have Seen Live

The recent ‘Guess Which of these Ten Bands I Haven’t Seen Live‘ meme got me looking back at all the bands and solo artists I have had the privilege of listening to in person. Here is my list, so far:

  • 5ive
  • 911
  • Aerosmith
  • Alter Bridge
  • Atomic Kitten
  • Avenged Sevenfold
  • B*witched
  • Bowling for Soup
  • Crazytown
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Honeyz
  • Kings of Leon
  • Liberty X
  • Linkin Park
  • The Offspring
  • The Script
  • The Undertones
  • The Vaccines
  • Within Temptation

I actually think I might be missing some from that – it’s been a while – but it’s accurate for the most part. A pretty mixed bag, I would say.

On Not Being Able to Function

In the spirit of mental health awareness week, I wanted to write a post about how my brain has [not] been working lately, in the hopes of starting a discussion and minimising the stigma attached to such topics.

I had been planning to write a reading and writing update, first, though. I’ve been planning that post since January, but I especially wanted to push forward with it now since A. it’s been FOUR(!) months in coming and B. I wanted a break from the heavy topics I’ve been discussing on this blog recently.

The thing is, I am so stressed out I haven’t been able to push ahead and just finish it. I know logically that it’s such a simple thing, but it’s like I’ve got a mental block when it comes to even thinking about work.

As you’ll probably be able to tell from the posts I shared at the end of last year/start of this year, my mind has been all over the place. I’ve been trying to rest and breathe and work through that but, honestly, the issues are still not fully resolved.

I don’t know where burnout from client work ends and burnout from being a carer begins, they are inextricably linked at this point, but I do know I simply can’t keep the client work up. I feel awful about having agreed to take on projects that I now don’t have the time or headspace to complete, but I think I’m going to have to face facts and tell my clients where I’m at. I’ve been avoiding it. Been avoiding so much, and it’s only been making me feel worse. I just feel panicked, like I need to escape from everything RIGHT NOW or else.

Today I unpublished my business Facebook page and I’ve redirected my business website over here to this author site. I’m doing everything I can to just get by with my sanity intact.

To those of you reading this who think I’m being overdramatic, maybe I am. I often doubt myself when it comes to these things. But even if I’m not drowning, it certainly feels like it.

Update on ‘The Situation’

To everyone who has shared and commented on my previous blog post, I want to give you many, many thanks. Steve and I really appreciate the love and support we’ve had from everyone.

I thought I should probably give a bit of an update on how things are now. I know not that much time has passed, but there have been a few developments.

Some of you asked if we have a representative to help us through everything and yes, we do. Although our appeal against Steve’s DLA decision was unsuccessful, our representative has told us that we still can challenge the decision at a higher level, so we have formally requested more details on that.

Regarding our claim for ESA, we now have a tribunal date and are in the process of preparing for that, having met with Steve’s GP today.

The past week has maybe been one of the hardest yet, as Steve’s health has suffered more due to stress and I’ve also started feeling burnt out again. We’re just trying to get through one day at a time and all of the kind messages we’ve had has really helped. I cannot emphasise that enough.

To answer another question we’ve received a lot, I don’t think there is anything else anyone can do to help us at this stage (other than the aforementioned well wishes). I have been toying with the idea of starting a petition to submit to the ombudsman, urging him to reconsider the DLA decision, but have been advised to hold off on that just yet. If it becomes necessary, I will share the link around and would appreciate it if people would pass it on.

A couple of local politicians have shared our plight and someone has been in contact to ask if the media can run a story. Time will tell what, if anything, will come of that. Steve is reluctant to draw attention to all this, almost, but it is important. We just hope it won’t be held against us somehow.

On a different note, I feel the need almost to proactively defend myself. I know welfare is such a contested issue and it engenders a lot of strong opinions. I would like to urge people to question things before they judge.

Maybe you’ve seen me post a status about attending the theatre in the past week, and maybe you think to yourself that it’s terrible we are pleading poverty while spending money on seemingly frivolous things. If that is what you think then to you I say that things are not as simple as all that.

As hard as things have been, it’s a fight to find positive things in our lives to focus on and keep us going. It’s vitally important now more than ever to make the most out of the good days.

We may have little money and an uncertain future but, to paraphrase something Churchill once said, if we stop investing in the good things in life, then what are we even fighting for?

I Miss My Husband

Just a couple of months after I met my partner, I went away for a week to do some voluntary work. 

During that week, I joked about being “halfless”, which is to say, missing my other half. The thing is, it wasn’t a joke. We both knew pretty much right away where our relationship was headed. We were just at the right stage in our lives and those lives slotted together naturally very well. 

Steve has changed my life and, in a lot of ways, I couldn’t be happier. In one way, though, we really struggle. 

For those who know us personally, you’ll know that Steve is sick and unable to work. I don’t think most people really understand just how sick that is, however. He spends most of his day asleep, exhausted from seizures, fluctuating blood levels, and mental health issues. The hours he is awake, he has no energy, no motivation, and now, very limited government help. 

Since moving in together, I have become Steve’s carer, making sure he eats and takes his numerous medications besides a ton of other seemingly insignificant things that add up to constitute a full-time job. 

To do this, I have cut back on my client work and am now only doing a couple of hours a week towards being self-employed. I do this gladly because I love Steve and I don’t resent a moment of it. I’ve had to get better at recognising when I’m becoming burnt out and finding a way around it. 

But back to the government help thing. Last week Steve had a tribunal in which he appealed a DLA decision that said he didn’t need care. We went together and explained in person to a room of six people his needs. 

And they upheld the decision. They consider him not in need of care or the financial help to provide it. 

It took a year for us to reach that point and to say we’re devastated is an understatement. 

Three days before our wedding, we heard that Steve was losing his ESA (a different kind of benefit that we use for all kinds of crazy things like food and electricity). So we then began a second round of the appeals process. 

It took them over a month to decide to pay us while that process is ongoing, meaning we had to use money we received as wedding gifts to allow us to live. 

The stress has been unbelievable, and it’s not over as we wait for the ESA tribunal date to be decided. Part of me doesn’t want it to come, because we have no backup plan for if it fails. There is no possible way we could have a backup plan, as the (reduced!) amount they are currently giving us doesn’t allow any spare money that could go into savings. 

Meanwhile, my awesome, lovely husband is forced by stress into ever increasingly bad health and I miss him. I love him to bits, and we spend a great deal of the day side by side, with me awake and him out of it. 

As things are, he isn’t able to focus on getting better. 

Not wanting to end on quite such a bleak note, I want to instil within you the importance of voting out the cruel, uncaring government who has put Steve and so many other thousands of people in this position. 

Further details here

The Thing About Buffy

When I was in my formative years – fourteen, fifteen, sixteen; probably before that, if I could remember – I was a lot of things: frustrated, depressed, creative, hopeful, and incredibly, incredibly lonely.

High School was hell, home was… not a place I would actually define as a ‘home.’ But I found that music helped, some, and the creativity and hope kept me thinking that if I could just make it to eighteen I could go wherever I wanted and be and do anything.

The day to day, though… that was tough. I’m not going to go into it and I’m not going to try and pretend that I had it hardest. But it was still tough. Hardness was my reality.

I closed myself off, repressed the pre-teen years, and become someone who, frankly, wasn’t very nice in return. Someone who literally didn’t understand what being nice meant. Again, I’m not saying I was a bully who tortured small animals and wished death upon children, but life was hard and so was I.

And then there was Buffy – this innocuous little TV show about teenagers living on a Hellmouth. A TV show that had layers, and pain, character development that was mind blowing and just so many things that, amongst all the vampires and demons, were just so damn real.

The show dealt with sex and relationships, domestic abuse, betrayal and, yes, death. Everything in between. The scary and the funny and the dramatic and the exciting and the gross.

And the thing is, it made me – broken teenager on the verge of suicide me – it made me feel things. It made me feel all of the things I’ve already mentioned and a million besides. It connected with me, and I was obsessed. I was mocked for it – still am, sometimes (screw you, Steph!) – but I didn’t care. I’d found my thing and it mattered to me more than anything.

That thing is now twenty years old and still touching lives. How freaking crazy is that? THAT is what I aim for in my art. And that is what I am forever thankful to Joss Whedon for.

Aloud All This Week

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2017 – which is tomorrow: Wednesday 8th March – Women Aloud NI have once again put together a fantastic program of events. Below are just the ones I’m involved with, with many more listed on their website.

Feel free to come along – both men and women are welcome to join the audience.

Wednesday 8th:

Saturday 11th:

  • A Reading on the Train to Dublin! – 8am Enterprise Service leaving Belfast Central
  • Readathon at the Irish Writers’ Centre (this one isn’t open to the public)
  • Mass Reading – Outside the Irish Writers’ Centre, 3.30pm (please flock to this one if you can, it should be quite impressive!)