Surviving week one as a Journalism student…

My morning walk to Journalism school involves boats! 

”So I’ve been a youth worker for two years, what other challenge can I throw at myself? I know I’ll become a Journalist.” And so the rest followed…

If you’d told me two years ago, that I’d be starting a Second Masters in Magazine Journalism, I’d probably have told you to ‘piss off’ or words to similar affect, I would never have imagined that this is what I would be doing, right now at this stage in my life, but here I am after week one of training as a magazine journalist, and I absolutely love it. Hands down, this is one of the best decisions I have ever made, even better than deciding to go to India- and that’s saying something.

As someone who’s taken a bit longer to fit in than others, I’ve finally found somewhere I can really belong- it’s only taken 27 years. After week one I have new friends, a new place I can travel to without getting terribly lost and a whole new world. As cheesy as finding a ‘whole new world’ sounds.  Journalism training is fast paced, varied, practical and exciting. In the last week I’ve learned about media law, discussed the many options in the magazine industry, struggled with shorthand but then celebrated when I remembered how to write ‘the’ and learned how to use a video camera. I’ve understood the importance of curiosity, how to find new ideas, how to re-develop old ideas and what not to do when being a lone video journalist (don’t go and meet a group of armed pirates off the coast of Africa at midnight, was the example) I’ve also heard stories about getting journalistic pieces, methods to follow when reporting court cases or hostile situations, interviews that could go wrong and learned that you need to constantly think about new stories to write everyday. This is all in-between dealing with the arrival of two new kittens, who really are going to get me through this degree (but mental health & animals is something for another day)

In all honesty I was terrified before I started this degree; Have I made the right decision? What if I can’t do it? Will the people be nice? Will they like me? I asked myself. Putting my innate overthinking aside, it is only natural to feel this way, when starting a new course and a pretty drastic career change. I can now tell myself (and you) that I have definitely made the right decision, I really can do it (although the shorthand is questionable), I can’t imagine a nicer group of people to train with and they go for coffees with me so I must be a little bit alright.

I’ve decided to blog about my Journalism training, as a method of reflection for myself but also as an easy way to document how I’m doing for those who are interested. This is going to be one of the most intensive years of my life, but probably the most exciting and thought provoking…

Posted in Useful links | 2 Comments

Planning a future

Recently it was A level results day, ten years since I picked up my As levels and 9 years on from my A level results day in 2007- the day when I learned that despite almost messing up sixth form, I still somehow managed to get into university. Now, my younger sister, 10 years since I made that journey into school to pick up results has done the same, so it’s a more poignant time than ever to write about A levels, working out what the hell to do with that future ahead of you and some things that I’d recommend you don’t repeat.

Back in 2005, I wandered into school to pick up the first of those brown envelopes- my GCSE’s. My predicted grades varied, as someone who struggled with Maths, science and any practical subjects, but I did well in predominantly essay based courses. This confused many teachers, because I wasn’t good at ‘everything’ and because of this, they doubted my abilities to go onto sixth form. I did well in my GCSES’s in the end, even passing Maths (albeit by one mark, but we don’t talk about that) and moved onto study four A levels as planned.

In 2007, now 18 I was there again, with a brown envelope but faced with almost failing some A levels- as someone who was predicted A’s and B’s but came out with a couple of E’s, I was embarrassed, upset and confused. I was probably at one of the best places possible to get these results, being away at Folkworks Youth Summer school in Durham, and surrounded by friends was what I needed at the time. I hadn’t done as well as I could have, or was certainly capable of achieving- and felt that I had really let myself down. The truth being that I still got a place at university to study History and Politics, so I couldn’t complain too much- and I didn’t. When I returned to Folkworks after collecting my results, people asked how I’d done- and I just told them I had got into uni, they didn’t need to know about the E’s that behind closed doors I was devastated by. I remember one girl, who’s birthday was on results day, getting four A’s and being featured in the local paper, with her birthday balloons and a big grin on her face. I was slightly envious, and made to feel that my results weren’t good enough and didn’t deserve to be applauded- I still got into my first choice of uni, so in the grand scheme of things shutting up and just getting on with it was probably the best strategy. I hadn’t considered then, that everything I’d done, experienced in life and achieved  wasn’t recorded in this brown envelope and certainly didn’t compare to those who were good at everything, who the teachers seemed to love. Winning a writing competition and travelling to Slovakia is something that no one in my year had done- but I had ticked off my list by the time I was 17. I was able to write for England, and to write well- my personal statement was the size of a short story, something that isn’t useful in the context of keeping to a specific number of characters, but useful in many other ways. I also learned very early on to stand up for myself and those around me, developing an innate sense of justice and fairness- something others are often scared to do, but a skill that has always come naturally to me, and as I’ve grown up I’ve developed more tactful ways of being heard. My favourite moment was aged 15 when I piped up ‘I can speak for myself thank you very much’ during an SEN review meeting, after being asked if I wanted an advocate to ‘fight my corner’ as it was so clearly put.

The two years of A levels were probably one of the hardest of my life, I basically went off the rails- not in the sense of partying every night, although I sometimes wish I had done as that would have been more fun, but that I basically just stopped, and my brain became full of stuff that wasn’t conducive to sitting four A levels. I remember writing in a diary that I hadn’t achieved everything I wanted to achieve by 18, I wish I knew what this was, because going on a rampage of self pity wasn’t healthy or useful to anyone. My difficulties with AS’s and an upsetting A level music performance when I was torn apart- made me work out that throughout my life and in the world of work I was going to struggle, even with my fiddle playing- the one thing that had kept my mental health up, someone could pick out flaws, and this made me feel quite down. I’d picked up on people’s lower expectations throughout my life, and when I saw a less than helpful careers adviser, who told me that I wouldn’t be able to do an English degree, because I had taken A level language and not literature- my plans were crushed, although now I realise that he couldn’t speak anymore rubbish if he tried.

Looking back on my years in education, I wish that I’d worked harder during those crucial two years at sixth form and listened to myself more than others around me, but I also know that my A level results didn’t stop me doing what I do now. similarly I could have got a 2:1 or even a first degree, if by second year I hadn’t just stopped too  (I can’t think of a better way to describe it) -but it certainly hasn’t held me back. If there’s one bit of advice I’d give to 18 year old’s holding that brown envelope and wondering what the hell to do with their future, is to do what you enjoy and can do well, I’ve never been highly paid but I love what I do, I’ve developed the skills needed in the job market now that I’ve worked for a few years and met people who have helped me to do that. I’ve also been very clear about things that I’ll find difficult or even impossible to do with my employers. I know I’m fortunate to work for such a supportive organisation, and not everyone is as lucky as me- but what I will say is these exam results are only the start of what you can do, and that people and plans often change- but it’s also okay to feel what you feel now,  people will tell you that a piece of paper doesn’t matter, but I know that it does, it did to me and it will to you. It’s important to have that time to be the most difficult person to be around if you weren’t as happy as you could be with results. I was devastated with my A levels at first, but then I realised that there’s more to me than my two E’s and two C’s…



Posted in Occassions | Leave a comment

Recognising lovely Valerie!

A few Fridays ago, the shortlist for the National Diversity Awards was announced on social media, awards that until accidentally coming across on Twitter I hadn’t heard of. After reading through the award categories- I knew that there was one person who stood out from everyone I knew and I had to nominate her for an award. I nominated Valerie Ender for the life time achiever award, my youth worker as a teenager, who has had more impact on my life than anyone. I knew, that for all she’s done for young people across the borough of Gateshead, Valerie needed to be recognised. I wanted others to know about the valuable sanctuary that Gateshead Youth Council provides for young people, how important youth services are in general and how proud I am now to call Valerie a friend.

I first met Valerie when I joined Gateshead Youth Assembly, as a shy, timid fifteen year old- with incredibly low self esteem and an anxiety disorder that I didn’t have a name for yet. I was also in denial about being Dyspraxic and going through bouts of horrendous bullying, on top of trying to be a ‘normal’ teenager, and dealing with everyone telling me who I should or shouldn’t be. I was, at this time in my life very unsure of myself and the world around me. However the first time I met Valerie, her warm smile and words of encouragement immediately had a powerful affect on me, she saw past the barriers and through to a girl who desperately wanted to be included, valued and be accepted-  so that I could participate. Everything finally started to make sense. She adopted a very caring and reassuring approach, offering an ear when I needed it, a gentle hug when things got too much or simply just a push in the right direction when I had to do something. She was always there, and Gateshead Youth Council became my second home- Valerie believed in me for one of the first times in my life, something very special for a girl with Dyspraxia who was constantly told that I wouldn’t be able to do things, or achieve academically. Whilst on a university trip, when I learned that our lecturers were going to irresponsibly force us into the middle of a riot in Paris- anyone with any common sense/understanding of Dyspraxia would understand how I felt at this point, my instinct was to give Valerie a call. She was sat at home, whilst I was in a hotel room across the channel, in floods of tears with worries about tear gas and French police. Her calm and reassuring approach made it all so much easier to deal with, despite looking back now and wondering how was that situation even allowed to carry on? Isn’t hindsight wonderful. From a different country, she was still able to reason and rationalise with me, to make a terrified Alice feel ten times better.

Valerie was different to everyone else who came before, she knew that I would get there and I was finally able to prove it when I travelled, with Valerie’s support to Slovakia after winning a writing competition. It was on this trip that I finally understood who I was for the first time, and through the tears, anxiety attacks and lack of vegetarian food- I blossomed. The one woman who has been instrumental in helping me achieve this has been Valerie Ender, coordinator of Gateshead Youth council and a brilliant youth worker and friend to everyone, who simply lets young people have a go, without being worried about being different, standing out or indeed getting it wrong. This seems miles away from the world many know at school. She really did make a difference to mine (and many others) lives and I wanted everyone to know this, so I nominated her for this award.

I am delighted that Valerie has reached the shortlist for these awards, and I am sure every young person or colleague she has ever worked with will join me in saying how much it means to them. The NDA’S are about equality, diversity and inclusion- and Valerie has really shown that this is at the heart of everything she does, by bringing young people from diverse backgrounds across Gateshead together. Diversity is the backbone to everything she did when I was a young person, and still does today- making reaching the shortlist for the life time achiever award even more special. She is one remarkable woman from Gateshead, who through her humble and passionate ways has done extraordinary and often life changing things for the young people she works with. When I got a place at University, Valerie was one of the first people I told- who seemed more over the moon than me at points, so you can probably imagine her reaction when I told her that I’d got into Durham to do a Masters. I was inspired so much by Valerie and my time spent in the Youth Council office, that I decided to study for an MA in Community and Youth work, so that I could encourage and support young people just as Valerie did for me. When I finally completed the MA, and it came around to graduating in the iconic Durham cathedral, Valerie was on the top of my list of people I wanted to be there, and I was honoured when she accepted my invitation.

I do everything I do now, because I joined Gateshead Youth assembly when I did, at a time in my life when I really needed to be accepted and understood. I am over the moon that my youth worker and friend, who was so instrumental in me becoming the young woman I am today, capable of standing up and taking the lead, with the confidence to support others in the same way as she did when I spent more time in the Youth Councils office than at home, has been shortlisted for this award.

Valerie writes:  ‘I have been incredibly lucky to work in an amazing organisation for most of my adult life. I have worked with colleagues, parents, carers and most importantly young people who are amazing, inciteful, funny compassionate, confused, overwhelmed and absolutely bloody fantastic. What you should know though, is every decent Youth Worker out there would get nominations like this. I come from a profession of people who believe desperately that people are wonderful, some just need support to achieve their potential.’

The awards take place in September in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, and I am pleased to have been a small part of getting Gateshead represented but also to finally be able to show on a national level just how lucky Gateshead and the youth work profession is to have a woman like Valerie who has shaped the lives of so many. Everyone needs a Valerie in their lives.


Posted in Occassions | Leave a comment

Four years

Four years ago one of my best friends moved up to Newcastle to go to university, an addition to my life that I probably needed at the time, bringing along with her much needed laughter and happiness. As someone, who still lives at home well into my 20’s now, partly because it’s easier financially but also as it wouldn’t be fair to burden anyone I live with, with my problems- a fear that has become increasingly clear to me, having Rosa in the same city has been a real novelty. Prior to this I was used to having to get on a train if I wanted to see anyone, something that has been harder for me over recent years due to several mental health dips. I was now able to escape around to her flat for cups of tea and a change of scene when I wanted to and she would come to me when my anxiety was too bad or I couldn’t face getting on a bus. I literally, and by no exaggeration wouldn’t have been able to get through half of what I’ve dealt with over the last few years without her here. We’ve both supported each other through lots of highs and lows while she’s been in the North East, drank many cups of tea, eaten any onion rings we can find, danced at ceilidhs and had cheesy chips by the seaside. Now after four wonderful years she is moving back home to Nottingham.

We met when she was 15 and I was 19, and despite being very different, in age but also personality- we immediately clicked and became inseparable. Although we are, by definition of most people, one of the most unlikely duos ever. Our friendship has certainly blossomed and been made stronger since her move to Newcastle four years ago. I’ve refrained from saying much on social media about this, until she knew just how hard it’s going to be for me and how much I will miss her, because aside from how it makes me feel and how much I have already cried over it, she is so doing what is right for her and that’s the most important thing. And I really do support her with this decision. But now she does know, I wanted to write something.

As hard as change is for anyone, particularly if you’re Dyspraxic or you just generally get attached to the familiarity of places and people, this move simply means that we’ll both be spending a bit more time on trains than usual, and as we both have friends dispersed right across the country- this isn’t a rare occurrence. Of course it isn’t the same as having someone around the corner, who you can phone when you’ve had a bad day. I’m going to miss her terribly, and will probably find it harder than most- for reasons related to loneliness, mental health and the need for company. But I have had a brilliant four years with her up here. So if any friends fancy having me visit/meeting up for coffee to make this all easier for me, I will really appreciate it at the moment. Above all I wish Rosa all of the luck in the world with her new adventure and thought I’d leave you with some memories of our time together over the years…


There’s not many people who I would happily dress up as a man and dance around a stage with…

Posted in Occassions | 2 Comments

Panic, anxiety and being a teenager

The first time I remember experiencing anxiety (or at least when it really started to take hold) was when I was thirteen years old, at school. We were in a middle of a PE lesson, and I began to feel as if I was genuinely about to die. I struggled to see, my vision became blurry, my legs turned to jelly and all I wanted to do was disappear- I felt so ill , the hot summers day didn’t help, and in hindsight neither did being outside playing tennis. I felt sick. I wanted to lie down, before I fell over. It was horrible. It was also my first anxiety attack. When the teachers back was turned, I managed to escape and make my way, still holding onto my tennis racket, back to school. Here I turned off the lights, and lay down in the darkened room of the girls changing room, still wearing my red PE t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms. I must not have been there very long, although it felt like forever- as I assessed and catastrophized every worry in my head, my biggest being not looking like a ‘freak’ as I left the school later, would I even be able to physically get up? What would happen when the other girls got back here from the lesson? Can I hide in the toilets? What if I’m dying and the school changing rooms would be the last thing I ever see? I checked my pulse, thankfully I was still alive. Maybe I’m not going to die, but I am going blind. That must be why I feel so dizzy.

At this point it hadn’t crossed my mind that what I was feeling was anxiety, and that it was all completely ‘normal.’ Maybe not normal in the sense that everything was okay, because it certainly wasn’t okay and if I’m honest felt bloody awful. But in the sense that anxiety is something that millions of us feel and experience everyday, and that I was just joining this community whose minds are more complicated than meets the eye. I didn’t know this yet, or that 1 in 4 of us will feel like this at some stage in our life, so there will, most likely in that very PE class, be people just like me. We just didn’t talk about it, and as teenage girls were more concerned about being ‘liked’ and ‘popular’ than recognising our mental health. I of course was neither, so opening up about any mental health difficulties would have made me even more of an outcast. Being known as the clumsy, hippy, vegetarian was quite enough- I didn’t want to be seen as the crazy girl as well. Shortly after those periods of rumination, my teacher must have been alerted to the fact that I was missing, as the school nurse appeared in the changing rooms looking for me. By this point I had calmed down considerably, but still felt incredibly spaced out and in no way ready to engage in conversation with anyone. Despite this, she made me gather up my belongings, and go with her still dressed in my school PE kit down the corridor to the nurses room. Whilst I was here, I burst into tears- it finally all became too much. I remember her giving me a glass of water and a leaflet about bullying- It baffles me why she thought this was necessary, I had been bullied most of my life, it wasn’t new and sadly over time had become part of the norm- a leaflet telling me about anxiety disorders and that I wasn’t really a freak- would have probably been more useful.

Since that moment, my life has been consumed by worry, fear, anxiety and depression. I’d worry that every time we went out in the car that we’d have a fatal car crash- or worse that mum just wouldn’t come home from work one day. When not long ago, my family were in a real-life car accident, without me in it- I understandably was in bits. I worried like most girls my age that I would get fat- but unlike most people to combat this fear I became vegan and cut more out of my diet than is healthy for a growing teenager to do, subsequently making myself ill and almost requiring hospital treatment if I didn’t put a stop to my veganism when I did. Every headache- I had a brain tumour, and every time my breathing sounded ‘funny’ it was definitely a heart attack. I panicked whenever I heard a slight argument at home and to this day still worry about my friends at levels that aren’t healthy. I once watched a documentary about someone who had glaucoma and for months was convinced that it was happening to me too and that I was going blind. These irrational thoughts, seemed perfectly rational to me, but they were also terrifying. I’m just pleased I was a teenager over a decade ago, and not now- current news stories would have surely sent a teenage girls anxiety that didn’t have any strategies into overdrive. The biggest news story during the height of my anxiety was the Iraq war, I remember sitting down in the middle of a road on an anti war protest being terrified of world war three breaking out, sometimes it would probably have been better for my mental health if I wasn’t so politically aware. It would probably be best for most of us if we didn’t know that the news exists some days coming to think of it. After experiencing a couple of anxiety attacks in a local shopping centre, I avoided going there for two years, I would rather stay at home in my room where I felt safe- much like most teenagers, except I was hiding in my room because I felt anxious, not because I was a stroppy teenage girl (although I was that too.) I started to wear baggy clothes so that I could hide away- the less attention that was on me the better, I concluded. Anything that interests most girls completely bypassed me, and my attempt at maintaining friendships let alone relationships hit an all time low, it takes a lot of empathy and understanding to get to know me I have since worked out and for people to see past the girl who is ‘hard work.’ I felt trapped with my thoughts, the only interests that stayed with me were music and campaigning about absolutely everything, animal rights, anti-nestle, global warming, anti war- you name it, I was there (in my baggy jumper.)

More recently I have become terrified of being unable to swallow and choking on my food, this probably stems from my TMJD- a very real physical condition related to my jaw. As a result I only feel comfortable eating in front of people I trust and have cut out so much from my diet, that I have decided I can’t swallow- despite numerous trips to the doctor, all concluding that there definitely isn’t anything physical going on and that it is in fact all in my mind. In a similar way I have worried about going completely deaf because of water getting into my ears when I’m swimming, so for months I removed swimming from my life- despite it being the one form of exercise that was actually really positive for my mental health. I’m also unable to go anywhere without a bottle of water, almost as if I’m convinced other people’s houses and pubs don’t have running water, but I am just scared that without my bottle of water to calm me down- my anxiety will appear more angrier than ever. Although seeing all of the above written down, does make me wince at how absurd it all seems- it’s the truth, and very few of us talk about exactly what anxiety means and looks like. In some ways I’m lucky to have grown up when I did- pre social media, anxiety ‘listicles’ and when almost everyone talks about being anxious as though it is some kind of craze, being a bit worried or nervous is very different to dealing with an anxiety disorder, in the same way that having a clean house is very different to suffering from OCD. In some ways, today mental health is glorified by the media as being ‘cool’, but I can tell you that it is anything but cool.

As I grew up, after the days of that first anxiety attack in the changing rooms, I gradually began to feel more and more low. I can’t really describe it, other than being sad all of the time. My self esteem didn’t really exist and I started to self harm, because I was angry with myself for feeling this way. There was no explanation, and I would often feel anxious for no reason at all. Sometimes there was a reason though, travelling for one- being unable to escape during an anxiety attack became (and still is) my worst fear,  mental health can work in strange ways. Despite not saying much, my teenage self was very good at responding to how I felt and I used writing to express this. I’d come home and spend hours writing in a note book before bed, documenting my day, my worries and things that I longed to tell people, but felt too weird to even begin to verbalise. When I was sixteen I relied heavily on a text service for young people, this for me was a step up from writing it down- as I was starting to, for the first time in my life talk about my mental health. It was through this text service, and the youth workers behind the computer screen that encouraged me go to the doctor and access counselling for the first time. Walking into the doctors surgery to admit to everything that I had been writing down, was a big thing to do for a seventeen year old- A levels, university applications and mental health all in the same year isn’t a great place to be.

Now as an adult, my anxiety has moved on, but it is still very much there. I’ve experienced more heartache, difficulties and bereavement too, but I am finally able to talk about it, and although I still feel somewhat of a burden every time I do mention something that is getting me down- I’m not sure any of my friends don’t know about my anxiety. This is a good thing, because it’s so important to talk about our mental health. I’ve lost count of the amount of therapy I’ve had over the years, the times when I have mentioned anxiety and people have ran a mile (making me reluctant to disclose for months) and the days when getting out of the house seems as challenging as climbing a mountain. Through sharing my story about mental health (and Dyspraxia) I have met some of the most kind, caring and wonderful people who really do understand and have been there, or are there- just as I was as a thirteen year old girl scared of falling over during a PE lesson. Talking about it really does help to make you realise that you are not alone, in ways that are often difficult to describe- unless you have been there yourself. Empathy means everything.

And I hope you are able to talk about it too.


Posted in Mental health, Useful links | Leave a comment

General life reflections

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently, so much more thinking than actual doing but that’s generally the way it goes. Usually involving a bar of chocolate and some sort of appropriate music. I’m now in my late 20’s, still living at home, have a lack of ability to get to places without public transport,  long out of university and have been in my current job for almost two years. I realise there are more 20/30 somethings than ever living with parents, basically because our country is rubbish at supporting young people in every way shape and form. You only have to look at the £9,000 university tuition fees to know that. And the future has now become even more uncertain since Brexit.

A few weeks ago I read Maxine’s blog post about learning to drive, some of which echoes my feelings of being worried about getting behind the wheel, but I’m also aware that it is something that I need to try and do. ‘If not now, it’ll be never’ is something that has been going around in my head on repeat. A step towards this was being assessed to drive, that I wrote about here. My assessment was incredibly positive, it’s just finding a driving instructor who understands me and doesn’t pick up on everything I generally find harder than most, that seems to be the challenging bit. I mentioned on twitter that writing an email to potential driving instructors is like ‘applying for a job, but without the job or the making yourself sound good part.’ I have since sent that ‘I struggle with everything that will make a good driver’ email, and will hopefully follow up with a phone call later this week.

As you grow up more expectations are placed on you, at school I heard ‘so you’re going to University aren’t you?’ Once they’d finally realised that I was probably more capable than the school gave me credit for and wasn’t going to completely fail my A levels. As soon as I started university I felt the expectation to move into halls and as if I was an alien from another planet going home every night while everyone else was living the student life. The truth being, that at the time- 18 year old Alice wouldn’t have coped with the change staying in university halls would bring, despite being a slightly isolating choice, it was probably the right choice. When I was a bit older I attempted to move out to Durham for my Masters, but the university messed this up so I ended up staying put- and that’s where I’ve been ever since. When you’re nearer 30 these questions change to ‘So when are you going to settle down?’ I’d love to scream ‘Well, try being Dyspraxic for a day, then you’ll realise it isn’t always that simple.’ As much as that is also on my mind too of course. Explaining why I don’t yet drive and why I haven’t moved out isn’t something I want to discuss with everyone, so I often just use the excuse of money, which is partly true but there are of course more deeper reasons than that. My most commonly asked questions at the moment revolve around my lack of car, lack of living independently and my patchy work hours. All of which are pretty sensitive and emotive topics, hiding some even more sensitive reasons. I didn’t realise that other people’s work, car and house would become so important once you hit the wrong side of 25- but apparently it’s a thing.

I’m 27, and having exceeded everyone’s expectations in education, (a PHD isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but never say never) I need a new challenge. A challenge that will more likely be driving. A goal, something to work towards and to keep me focused on the days when I need reassurance to do the smallest of things. For years I’ve heard from so many different people that I have to move out and learn to drive- almost as if they are life or death decisions. I’ve also heard ‘Alice you’ve been to India or you’ve given speeches to rooms full of people, why can’t you do this?’ This is true, but I also realise that my anxiety can work in strange ways, I can be terrified of the phone one day but able to get a train to a new city the next. SO preaching other hard things I’ve done in the past, doesn’t always help the next hard thing feel more achievable.

This weekend I travelled down to London for the Dyspraxia Foundation AGM, just surviving London without an anxiety attack is an achievement in itself, but whilst there I got thinking and realised that my life has been moving forward at a speed that’s difficult to keep up with at times and I’m doing things now that I would never have imagined. I’ve also reached the conclusion that things, people and places that meant a lot to me before bereavement, India and university, seem to mean less to me now, and there are suddenly lots of new people in my life who I’ve met purely because I’ve come forward about my Dyspraxia and mental health. As much as I treasure my time spent involved in Woodcraft Folk (essentially a hippy, socialist youth organisation for those that don’t know), time spent at Folkworks Summer Schools and on a Youth Assembly, that have all acted as a stepping stone to where I am now- something has changed. Several friends moving away all at once, has made this feeling of ‘moving onto another time’ seem all the more real. Going to Dyspraxia conferences is always an empowering experience, if an exhausting one too, a time to meet people, chat and catch up with friends. You’re generally bombarded with information, but there is often cake to help you get through the day. Feeling ‘not alone’ is something I hear often when coming away from such events. I’m involved in The Dyspraxia Foundation Youth Focus group, so much of Saturday morning was spent discussing ideas for a youth event planned for Dyspraxia awareness week in October, and judging by everyone’s initial ideas is all very exciting.

The next day, my friends Matt, Rosie and Natalie ran/walked the British 10k in London, I am always in awe of people who take part in running events but especially those who are Dyspraxic. It takes so much (probably more than most of you realise) to face the crowds, spectators, elite runners, physical and emotional challenges to take part in events like this, especially for those of us when at school we would (metaphorically) run a mile whenever we heard the word ‘PE’ mentioned. So I really do take my hat off to anyone who is Dyspraxic and embraces events like this to raise money for charity. I’ve never really watched a big running event before, and as a spectator found the atmosphere amazing. We stood at the Dyspraxia Foundation cheering point under big Ben waiting for a glimpse of our runners who were running for the charity. It was a really iconic place to watch a run, something that I’m sure I’ll always remember and I’m so proud of my friends who made it around the course. Meeting & chatting to people who understand always means the world to me- not having to explain things and just being accepted for being Alice really is a wonderful feeling.

Thank you to those who have been there this weekend, but also to everyone from some years ago- I’ve definitely not forgotten you x



Posted in Useful links | 1 Comment

Some thoughts post EU Ref

Some of you who read this blog may or may not know, that I have a politics degree- something that growing up (unlike many other young people my age) has always been close to my heart. I willingly watched the news, couldn’t escape from radio four even if I really wanted to and always enjoyed a good debate- even if it meant that it was me against the rest of my class, as had happened on numerous occasions.This probably resulted in my distinct lack of a consistent social group growing up and my inability to form friendships, because I was seen as that little bit different to the average fourteen/fifteen year old. When I was sixteen, I won a writing competition and the prize was to travel to Poprad in Slovakia, to take part in a European wide response to quality youth work and youth participation. Here I made friends from across Europe, and united with shared values to make Europe a more inclusive place for young people. This was a time full of happy memories and an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had if we weren’t part of the EU. Those who I met at that conference will all be in their 20’s and 30’s now, waking up and wondering what has Britain done?

I loved my time studying politics and visited the European parliament in Brussels whilst at university, one of the most interesting and fascinating experiences of my life. People often say that I should use my degree more, or at least write about it (something that apparently I’m more qualified to do than most people) but I don’t think I am though- everyone is qualified to express an opinion on politics, because it affects all of us. Something that I tell young people I work with often, that politics as confusing as it may seem to them affects everything around us, and their future. I generally refrain from discussing my political views on social media, because I don’t want to get into point scoring or slagging matches. Something that I have seen all too often, and is even more alarming since the result of the referendum. In the light of this negative atmosphere online, I’ve chosen to step away from Twitter and Facebook for a while because I find it genuinely unbearable to read. A friend of mine has written an excellent piece, highlighting the lack of a decent, reasoned debate throughout the referendum campaign. This, alongside widespread point scoring tactics and denying people the facts to make an informed choice has got us to where we are now.

I’ve struggled to find the words to articulate this blog post, it’s now midnight and I’m feeling exhausted after staying up most of the night, numb and emotionally drained. I’m also terrified for my future, your future and everyone’s future. The atmosphere that seems to have evolved online and in the real world, is even more worrying when even the closest of social groups and families have become so divided. How can we let this happen? Why have so many people woken up this morning, confused with the world and trying to make sense of a situation that shouldn’t be real? It really feels like we’re grieving. For our future. For our equality. For our rights. For our happiness.

I’m proud to be amongst the 48.1% who voted to remain- and I’m disappointment with those who saw difference as a problem and have made many people feel unwanted and excluded from a country that they grew up in or have made their home. Or voted leave as an attack on the establishment, which has resulted in us possibly getting Boris in power and a far right Tory government. I’m unsure if they saw that one coming. This alongside the rise of Trump in America makes the world a very scary and uncertain place to live in for young people today. I’m sad that some people felt that they weren’t able to vote, that they weren’t empowered enough to do so or given the tools to understand the EU referendum. Politics has to and should be accessible to all, and there are still many disenfranchised groups who feel disengaged or disillusioned with one of the most important processes that will determine everything that is to follow. I’ve seen the occasional post along the lines of ‘I’m not voting because I don’t understand it’ and people are very quick to judge, and to offer the blame game. ‘Well you’ve got no right to complain then’ I often hear in response to such statements. But I want to ask why? Why do they feel unable to vote? And what can we do to support them to exercise that right? I’m equally sad that 16 and 17 year olds couldn’t vote on something that is going to change their life forever. If all of the teenagers that I work with were able to vote, maybe I’d be writing a different blog post.

A friend posted on Facebook earlier: ”I have rarely felt this disappointed. Part of me now feels unwelcome in this country. People who voted leave may not have meant to send that message to people living here from EU countries but that is the message received.” This feeling is echoed across my Facebook and Twitter feeds and is often belittled by leave voters, describing them as ‘over exaggerating.’ and worse. One of the reasons I felt the need to distance myself from social media for a while, because I’ve found the fallout following this referendum incredibly difficult to bare and we all need to look after our own mental health and self care sometimes too.

I want to leave you with this, that perfectly puts into context exactly how this referendum has made people feel.

Posted in Politics, Youth Work | 3 Comments