The Asian Equation

Do you know what’s worse than being a single woman in her 40s who lives at home with her parents, has mental health issues and an alcohol problem? A single woman in her 40s who lives at home with her parents, has mental health issues, an alcohol problem AND is Indian.

I mean when I look at my life situation it’s almost laughable. Single, never married, lives at home with her parents, unsuccessful career, ugly mental health history, ex-problem drinker gone sober, not a penny to her name…the list goes on.

I think I’ve been the talk of our sad little town since the day I brought home by first boyfriend at the age of 17, who by the way just happened to be white. Any of you who know my family now will be confused as to why this was an issue but life in our household was very different 20 odd years ago.

Anyway the details of that are irrelevant. My point is in the eyes of many I was the epitome of the black sheep. The failure. The shameful embarrassment. I often joked that if people were going to talk about me I’d give them something to talk about. I clearly didn’t think that would be the case but that bleeding universe is always listening and I obviously manifested my sad and pathetic fate.

Before I go on this has nothing to do with judgement from my parents. My Mum and Dad could not be more supportive if they tried. In the early days the choices me and my sisters made were a bit different then they would have initially hoped for. But they wanted for nothing more than our happiness so they supported us in everything.

I grew up like most people with the pressure of society weighing down heavy on shoulders. Do well at school, go to university, get a good job, get married, buy a house and give your parents some grandkids. I think we can all agree that this is a load of crap. But if you are anything like me you will have thought that but still kinda wanted it anyway. Now for me I had the added joy of being Indian. So take all of the stuff that society expects, stick brackets around them and there you have it, the Asian equation.

Now the theory behind this is two fold. Do what is expected but do it better than most. And do it the Indian way. As second generation immigrants we come from families that worked hard to give us the best start in life in a country that was not home. My parents wanted us to do well because they knew that as British Asians we would need to work that extra bit harder in order to be seen amongst our white peers. But the unspoken rules in most Indian families is to maintain your cultural traditions, go to university but come straight home after, find a respectable job and then get married to someone who is suitable, have children and don’t be the subject of any gossip. The End. This is obviously just a very short generalised version but in most cases not far from the truth.

I did not do that. I was not expected to do that. But that doesn’t mean the stigma didn’t exist. I think the worst part for me was perhaps I didn’t care what other people thought but I did care about what people may have been saying about my family; specifically my parents. There would have been rumours and gossip when me and my sisters all went off back packing on our own, when my sister married her white Australian husband, when we all moved overseas. Asian girls don’t do that sort of thing you see.

But even then my parents were proud of us. We were doing seemingly well, following what we through were our dreams and not causing too much of a nuisance. But black sheep Shaena over here decided it was time to shake things up a bit and what followed was ten years of hell for them and the rest of my family. My struggles with mental health started in my early 20s but I’d managed to keep them fairly under control. Things took a sharp turn when I was in Australia after I went through some difficult shit that my head and heart just couldn’t cope with. From that day on and for the next 8 years things were not pretty.

I’ve talked about my suicide attempts, hospital admissions, alcohol abuse before. I don’t hide away from it, I see no use in that. It may seem I talk about everything like it’s no big deal. It of course is. It’s a huge deal but I also know that it is way more common than you might think. Sometimes when we find ourselves drowning we think we are so far out at sea we can’t be saved. We don’t see the lifelines, in fact in some cases we don’t want to see them. We are drowning and we just think it might be easier to stop treading water, give in and sink.

You might be reading this thinking surely didn’t have it that bad. I didn’t. I know that, but when you are in the middle of all your failures, bad decisions, mistakes; feeling alone and insignificant, it is one hell of a horrible place. You can’t see past any of it and the voices inside your head won’t let you forget about. You spend the entire time trying to numb the pain and shut out the noise. It’s a bloody tiring past time I tell you.

The stigma around mental health however hard we try to erase it, still exists. More than we like to admit. Yes we talk about it more openly, but that doesn’t mean some people just don’t get it. And sadly, in Asian culture it’s still very much a taboo subject. I don’t know the exact reasons why but I think like most things not spoken about in our culture it comes down to shame. For a long time I’ve never really understood this but I realised today it’s always about one thing. Your marriage material rating.

I don’t think people would admit to it in this day and age but one of the biggest priorities in Asian culture is marriage. As a female that means you should ideally have the following:

• A good education;

• An aesthetically pleasing look (sorry, but it’s true!).

• A respectable family background (no skeletons).

• A good set of Indian culinary skills.

• An understanding of cultural traditions.

• A decent job.

These are just a few of the things that are taken into consideration. There are more of course and the importance of these will vary amongst families and communities. I am lucky, my family are more concerned with ‘is this person the right fit for you?’, and not ‘is this person the right fit for us?’ This does not however take away from the fact that in my culture this is what people look at and think about even if they don’t want to admit it.

So back to mental health; well I don’t think mentally unstable bodes well for matrimonial purposes. You might think I’m over reacting but I kid you not, if someone is known to have mental health issues they are looked upon as a bit crazy and no one wants that in the family because they will be the talk of the town. So that’s one black mark against me. And the drinking? Well, it’s not prohibited but it’s certainly not ideal if you’re a big party animal. Females drink, but mostly they do this discreetly and stick to lady like drinks. So to have a drinking problem well, that’s not just a black mark against my name, nah that’s just my name painted over in tar!

Thing is I don’t care about all this stuff. I’m not looking for a nice Indian family to marry into. I’m not looking for any family to marry into at all. In fact, it was the looking for things that triggered the mental health and alcohol issues. Looking to fit in (in a general sense), looking for acceptance, looking for love and looking for happiness. Looking for things outside of yourself leads is futile. It’s taken me a while and a shit tonne of pain and heartache (not just my own) to realise this. If you feel like something is missing, like there’s something more to find then stop for a minute and look inside yourself. There are lots of ways to do this and I have tried many of them. However this is not the post to discuss that. This is about me and my reign as Stigma Queen.

STIGMA (noun) – A mark disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.

Who decided what is a disgrace and what isn’t? Who decided that not having a successful career, being unmarried by 40, not having kids, still living at home, who decided this was a disgrace? Who had the audacity to decide that mental illness, addiction, debt and the like is a disgrace? Clearly this is not the fault of a single person; instead its years and years of people’s opinions as to what is acceptable and what is not. It is also the result of a ‘them and us’ mentality, which we know is still very prevalent today.

This subject area is so big that I don’t know where it starts and ends. For me it started at a very young age. And it has gone on for too long. But it ends here and it ends now. Because for every black mark against my name is a story. A story, a lesson learned and a path forged. But it’s my story, my lesson and a path on my frickin journey so the rest of my community and the rest of the world can think whatever the f*ck they want.

A week of firsts

Last Monday I got up at the glorious time of 4am, packed up the car and set off for a week in sunny Scotland. Yes, sunny! We didn’t have a single drop of rain the entire week! Also we being, me and my parents. It was to be a week of firsts; my first sober holiday, my first sober birthday and my first long distance drive in over a year.

So, how was it? In a word; perfect. I honestly have nothing whatsoever to moan about. I wouldn’t change any of it…well except for maybe the amount of cake I ate. But what’s a birthday week without three kinds of cake hey? Gym workouts will be resuming tomorrow!

Aside from the stunning cottage we stayed in (Boltholecottage – highly recommend) the week was spent in the most beautiful of surroundings. We were literally staying at the top off what I can only describe as a very steep dirt track and there didn’t seem to be anything around us except fields and sheep. We didn’t do much while we were there. Seriously, we really didn’t. We went out for lunch a few times in nearby towns and I went for a walk one of the afternoons. That was it. The rest of the time was sat relaxing in front of the log fire and just enjoying our time together. And you know what? It was perfect.

My birthday lunch was a slightly fancy affair as we dined in the Clubhouse at Gleneagles golf resort. Funnily enough though as lovely as that meal was our other two lunches were just as good if not a bit better and I got to wear my converse and hoody, so you know…comfort over everything. 🤷🏽‍♀️😂

A few years ago I always imagined I’d be on holiday for my 40th. Somewhere sunny, a wine glass next to me for most of the day that mysteriously never found itself empty. With friends or if I couldnt find any friends, on my own. For the last few birthdays I am ashamed to admit that I did whatever I could to not spend too much of my birthday with my parents. Why? So I could drink as much as I wanted to without the glaring eyes of disappointment and judgment. Sad, isn’t it?

It was around April that I knew this time sobriety was not a phase. I thought about my birthday and how I would celebrate the big 4-0. The thought of not being able to drink did not bother me as much as I had thought it would. I had accepted that an alcohol free life was what lay ahead so if I’m honest I didn’t really make any big plans. At the time I did not foresee that the pandemic was still going to be playing such a part in our daily lives so I just thought I would do something low key with my friends or maybe just hang out with my parents.

Then sometime in June we were discussing holidays and how we’d had such a nice week at my friend’s caravan in Abersoch last year. My Dad started talking about how he really enjoyed previous visits to Scotland and had always wanted to go back; only now he didn’t think he was capable of doing such a long drive. So I said to him, ‘why don’t we go and I can drive?’. Nothing was set in stone and the subject just faded into the background for a few weeks until my Mum asked me if I had thought about what I wanted to do for my birthday. With us only just coming out of lockdown I told her I wasn’t too bothered about it and we could do something just the three of us. So she suggested that we look at going to Scotland for it if that was something I would like to do. Well, obviously I loved the idea and wasted no time at all in finding accommodation for us.

After that life just got busy for a few months. I had a lot going on with my business, training courses and voluntary work. And then all of a sudden holiday week came around and we were tootling along the M6 bound for Scotland.

My Dad started the drive but I took over around around Preston and drove the rest of the way. We of course stopped off a couple of time; once for breakfast and then again in Lockerbie. It wasn’t until we were a good 50 odd miles into Scottish roads that I realised I hadn’t driven for more than half an hour in almost a year. Not only that but I hadn’t been on the motorway for even longer than that AND I was now driving my parents new car. This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal and to be honest it wasn’t in the general sense. But for me it was about trusting myself behind the wheel, knowing there was no way I was over the limit and for the first time in so long I was just able to enjoy the drive.

So there you have it, my week of sober and hangover free firsts. A holiday, a birthday and a very long drive; survived and unscathed. Next up, Christmas!

Mental illness, medication and me.

Today, a friend posted on Instagram about her recent struggles and how her mental health has deteriorated enough to warrant new medication. She was already taking anti anxiety meds and how now been put on an anti-depressant of sorts; I know this because I’ve been prescribed both in the past. Anyway having only known her a short time I have seen how she’s gone from being quite guarded about her struggles with alcohol and her mental health to opening up and sharing her journey in such a brave and beautiful way.

On the flip side I was talking to another one of my new sober pals this week and she was telling me about how bad her anxiety gets. I have suffered from anxiety in the past but nowhere near as severe as this. It made me sad for her. Knowing that your thoughts can become so intrusive and debilitating that you start to believe the most ridiculous things that then impact your daily life. Anxiety is not just getting stressed and worrying, it can be so much bigger and scarier then that. When I asked her if she had seen her GP about it, she said she was worried they would think she was crazy. I didn’t like that she would even consider using those words but then I remembered how I often used to call myself crazy when I was with friends. It was a way to make light of something that was actually pretty frightening and serious.

Anyway the point of this post is to actually tell you about my experience with mental health and medication. I’ve been on and off medication for about the last 10 years or so. I’ve been on a variety of different things, mostly antidepressants, occasionally meds for my anxiety and once I was even on a lovely cocktail of stuff for my depression, panic attacks and insomnia. Over the years my thoughts on taking medication for my mental health has varied. There are times when I’ve been prescribed something and been reluctant to take it. Times when I’ve been so desperate for some sort of respite for my mind and haven’t given my prescription a second thought. Almost every time though, when I have gotten to the point of stability, when my moods are less turbulent I’ve always slowly come off what ever I was taking. I think the reasons were based on a mix of the physical affects of the medication but also the idea of having to be on them.

I have been on my current meds for a little over 2 years now. I am taking Sertraline and up until last month I was on the maximum dose. Now bearing in mind that they probably weren’t even doing what they should have been doing while I was drinking, I’ve probably only really had the full benefits for the past 6 months. Still, I made the decision last month that I wanted to start decreasing my dose with the hope that eventually I will not need them. That was until a few days ago.

Glennon Doyle was someone I hadn’t heard of until earlier this year when I saw the front cover of her new book, Untamed plastered all over instagram. At first I thought it was just another quit-lit type affair which I’m not against but doesn’t quite float my boat all that much; so I didn’t really think anything of it. But more and more people were declaring it a ‘must read’, so last week I used one of my free credits and got the audible version. The verdict: not quit-lit, but instead a compilation of stories and life lessons which I think most of us would benefit from hearing about. There was a little too much motherhood talk in there; which obviously is no bad thing but just not something I can really relate to. Some people think it’s a bit heavy on religion but that part didn’t bother me, in fact I love learning about people’s faiths because I’m a bit weird like that. Anyway the point I am trying to get to is she talks about her mental health and medication. She made a really good point in that why would we decide to stop using something that is making us feel better. Surely the point is that it’s working and to stop it would leave you at risk of suffering again. This made me think about the times I’d come off my medication after months of feeling better only to relapse and sometimes find myself in even worse of a situation.

One thing I want to make clear is that I’m not someone who would opt for medication if there are other options. The idea of filling my body with chemicals I know very little about doesn’t bode well with me. And don’t worry the irony of that statement isn’t lost on me, I clearly didn’t include alcohol in that category for many years. But I live in different times now and having removed one of the biggest toxins from my life I am much more cautious about the other things that go into my body. So I am very much open to healing of a different nature and undergo regular reiki therapy courtesy of my lovely Dad and I practice meditation. And of course there’s what I believe to be one of the best medicines out there; the art of conversation. Therapy is in my opinion underrated and should be considered by everyone whether they think they need it or not. I think people would be pleasantly surprised by the benefits of talking to someone about their life, even if just to use the other person as a sounding board.

Basically what I think I’m trying to say is that don’t see medication as too much of a big deal when it comes to mental health. If you have tried alternatives and have seen little improvement then just be open to the idea. At least go and talk to the GP about it. They can’t force you to take anything and even I on many occasions have come home with a prescription and never had the medication dispensed because I’ve decided against it. So whilst I don’t think my mental health has ever been this good I have decided that I will stay on my lower dose for the time being…and possibly forever. Because right now, that coupled with the other things I do seems to be working really well. So I see no reason to change it.

Vulnerability is…

“ She threw away all of her masks and put on her soul” ~ anon

Being open and honest is something a lot of people struggle with. Vulnerability is not for the faint hearted. It’s scary AF but what I’ve realised is that without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in certain situations we are always going to be holding back. Not being who we really are.

The need to be seen is increasing all of the time. People want to be noticed, want their voices heard, their wins to be applauded, and their pain and suffering to at least be acknowledged if not understood. The whole world is screaming ‘but what about me?’. Has it always been like this or is it that we are all so busy in our own lives to even notice what’s going on around us?

Vulnerability probably means something different to everyone. For me it’s opening myself up to hurt and ridicule. Which sounds bloody ridiculous because on some level I consider myself an open book. But I also think that comes from years of therapy and my empathic need to help others. As a child I was very much the opposite, no one knew what was going on in my head. In fact, I was so shy I barely spoke. Go figure!

Now I share a lot. On my social media, through my blog and with friends. And yeah it’s personal stuff and some people don’t understand why I feel the need to do this. Am I over sharing? Is it attention seeking? Or am I just trying to be real? To be honest, I hadn’t thought that much about it until this week when I was listening to my new audio book, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (obsessed!). The whole book is about vulnerability; what it is to be vulnerable, the ways in which it shows up and it’s necessity.

Do we really need to bare all? Well of course we bloody don’t. Everyone has the right to be as private as they like and people don’t need (or want) to hear all about your dirty secrets. But if you want people to really know you, I’m afraid you’re going to have to open up a bit. But being vulnerable is more then just opening up. Being vulnerable is going for your dream job knowing that there’s a chance you might not get it. Telling your best friend that you want to be more then friends without knowing if they feel the same. It’s telling people you no longer drink alcohol because you mostly drank to drown out the demons screaming in your head and those demons were getting louder and required more drowning out as time went on. All of these things are you putting yourself out there, letting yourself be seen but knowing that the potential to get hurt, disappointment, judged or worse…dismissed is there.

So how do you know what to open up about and what not to? I think it comes down to knowing why. What’s the purpose behind you sharing? Is it to help others? To improve your life? Of course you can share what ever you like but that doesn’t mean you are being vulnerable. You need courage to be vulnerable so if you’re just sharing something and it’s not affecting you emotionally I’d say you’re probably just trying to seek attention. And I’m not saying that’s bad because there are times when we need to be grabbing peoples attention. But that’s not vulnerability.

I think vulnerability also comes from caring a lot about what it is you’re doing or how you are showing up. For me this blog is me being vulnerable. I love to write, I think my written word is more powerful than when I talk on video for example. I try to write about things I think people will relate to, things that make people feel less alone in the world. While at the same time just simply writing about my thoughts and experiences. The truth is I’d love to write professionally but the thought terrifies me and I’d have to step even further into the vulnerability arena to find out if I’m good enough…and I’m not ready to do that just yet!

Basically I think vulnerability is taking a leap into uncertainty. It’s baring your soul not knowing how it will be received. It can be the biggest and best game changer ever. Or could leave you so badly bruised you recoil once more. All I know is that despite me having spent so much of my life recoiling I know that I have to keep trying and putting myself back out there because if I don’t, well I may as well just stay in bed for the rest of my life. And I just don’t think there’s enough on Netflix for me to maintain that kind of lifestyle, you know?

Em-proud

Yes it’s a word. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Okay don’t, it’s clearly not a word but I couldn’t decide between proud and empowered so I went with both.

I can’t remember the last time I felt genuinely proud of myself. Not just an ‘I did good’ or pat on the back type proud. But a fuck yeah, bring a tear to your own eye proud. I think maybe when I got my last ‘proper’ job there may have been a little internal jump for joy but not like this.

Yesterday marked 6 months since I last had an alcoholic beverage. Before that I was the lush of the group (the boozy kind not the fancy kind). Not that I was really part of any groups per se, more just the one who was always first at the bar, cracking open the first bottle or the first to finish her drink in most social situations. Those who knew me well though knew that I drank not just for merriment, but mostly because I was sad. The self loathing, you’re a piece of shit kinda sad.

For me, sobriety was always lurking; in my mind and in the hopes of others. Did I think I’d get to six months? Actually, yeah I didn’t think that would be a problem. What has surprised me is how easy and stress free I’ve found it. Now I’m not one for complacency and I know that sobriety becomes more challenging when you actually leave the house and surround yourself with ‘normal’ drinkers. This is not something I’ve actively avoided but lockdown has obviously made socialising difficult. And most of my good friends don’t live local to me. But in an effort to not become a hermit I need to find some sober people to hang out with.

So em-proud moment number 2! I joined a group called Bee Sober and I’m now the Ambassador for my local area which means I pretty much get to start my own group of likeminded ex-lushes and you know, do sober stuff together. I’m really excited about it, mostly because it means I’m getting braver. I’m feeling confident enough to say ‘yeah, I can do that’. I’m taking the lead on something because I want to and know I am capable. Look at me go! And it doesn’t stop there either!

Em-proud moment number 3! What do you do when the toxic energy in your life is coming from a source that encourages the removal of toxic vibes? You remove it of course. I stepped away from something big in my business last week. It was something I was led to believe I needed and wouldn’t succeed without. But as time went on I started to realise it was holding me back and having a detrimental affect on my business mindset. So I dug deep, found my empowerment spray, gave myself a quick spritz, got the backing of my coach (I’m still learning ok?!) and I waved goodbye to the toxicity. And wow did it feel good. So of course I was clearly buzzing and as the 6 month anniversary was rolling in I decided to take a few more big steps.

I’ve been toying with an idea for a few months now. Its something that has only come about because of my Arbonne business, my sobriety and from the massive personal growth spurt I’ve had. I’ve been through a lot of shit. I’m not trying to compete with anyone else and their shit, I just know mine pushed me to my limits on several occasions. And despite the attempts to give up on this one life I have, I’m still here. And not only here but I’m now not taking anymore shit. Or at least I’m trying not to. And that shit includes outside pressures, expectations, energy stealers, all that kind of BS that messes with your head. AND so for my em-proud moment number 4, I’m going to help the Shaena’s of the world, the lost souls who thought they’d done everything right only to end up hopeless and confused. I’m going to help women like me find their way, live life on their own terms and not take any shit. I’m going to make them em-proud!!! Although first I have to go do a course which starts in a few weeks, but yay me!

And yay to me being em-proud.

But I thought you were doing better?

So did I, so did I…

And I am, but doesn’t mean I don’t feel the not so good days. And now I really feel them. Like intensely. Without alcohol I feel everything.

This weekend something felt off. I didn’t start my day as I usually do. There was no meditating, no connecting with my higher self and no visualising a beach or a meadow. I figured one day ‘off’ wouldn’t hurt, except that it’s not something I need to take a day off from because I enjoy doing it so that was definitely a massive faux pas on my part.

So my day continued, I felt deeply un-zen like but Disney’s Aladdin was on TV so it wasn’t all that bad. After I’d finished my magic carpet ride I decided to pick up a drawing project I’d started when I was in India. When lockdown started I couldn’t get the art supplies (posh paper) I needed so I put it to one side and just assumed I’d find my wanna be artist vibe again at some point. Turns out some point was Saturday.

It was a pleasant couple of hours because the rents were in another room and I was blasting some killer tunes; and by killer I mean the likes of Carly Simon (you’re so vain) and The Boss (Badlands). I know, I know I have THE best taste in music. Born in the wrong decade possibly, but still!

It was my turn to cook dinner on Saturday so I made a start early because I quite like having the kitchen to myself. Nothing fancy, just a roast chicken dinner and a vegetable pie for my Dad. But I never keep things simple and of course had to make the pie from scratch (pastry included) and have proper roasties. We are not the traditional Sunday roast type people so on the odd occasion we do make a roast dinner we tend to go a bit overboard for a midweek (or in this case a Saturday night) dinner. So anyway, I cooked, we ate and then we retired to the drawing room and finished the evening with cigars and a single malt. Obviously not, in fact I think I barely sat around before I decided to go up to bed.

Having not meditated in the morning and with my head still in a bit of a funk I decided I’d give it another go. I’d also read something about a lion and gate being very significant in the astrology realm so I found something fitting on YouTube and closed my eyes and went on my search for the lion and the gate. For those who are interested this is the guided meditation I followed Lions Gate, I found the experience quite incredible actually so give it a try if it’s your thing.

Doing anything remotely relaxing at night time normally sends me off to the land of nod pretty quickly these days but on Saturday those bloody negativity gremlins started whispering in my ear didn’t they?! Little fuckers with their creepy sniggering and giggling. I needed a distraction so I consulted Amazon Prime and it came up with the goods. A very interesting documentary about the civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland. Look it up, it’s an excellent watch – An Ordinary Hero. That was another big sign that I wasn’t feeling joyful as I tend to find comfort in dark depressing documentaries or episodes of Greys Anatomy that are particular sad when I feel like shit. So I watched about an hour before eventually falling asleep.

Yesterday morning I woke up and instead of learning my lesson from the day before I again decided not to doing any of my usual morning stuff. I didn’t even journal and I really should have. Because I knew what was bothering me and I needed to get it out my head before it started to fester and grow arms and legs. But I didn’t did I? No, because I’m an idiot.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anything productive done so I opted to chill in my room, finish watching my documentary and write content for my blog. None of that happened, instead I napped. It was a good nap. My mind rested and the gremlins stopped laughing at me for a little while.

Didn’t do much for the rest of the day. Went outside for a bit to collect worms for my mums compost bin. That was fun. I like worms. Watched a bit of TV, had dinner and then sat in the conservatory with Louis and finished my art project…again with some cracking tunes. I then ended up having a good cry because, well I’m not sure to be honest. I just felt like there was this immense pressure building up in me and I needed to let it out. So I cried. It helped.

I don’t want to go into what happened that put me in such a weird headspace all weekend. What I do want to say is that even when you’re in a stronger place mentally it doesn’t take much for something or someone to make you wobble. And for anyone who has struggled with their mental health, self sabotaging thoughts and anxiety you’ll know that a wobble can spiral very quickly. And 6 months ago I definitely would have spun out, fast. I would have resorted to alcohol which would have led to more self destructive behavior and I’d be feeling ten times worse today.

So yes, just because I’m doing better doesn’t mean I don’t get knocked down or hurt. Yes I’m stronger but I’m also still a very sensitive person. And life is particularly confusing right now so try not to be a shitty person. Especially to those that don’t deserve it.

Dear alcohol

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye. Life will reward you with a new hello” ⁃ Paul Coelho

It’s been 164 days since we were last together. Feels longer doesn’t it?

I wasn’t sure whether I should write this letter. I was scared of the feelings it would bring up. They say that there is no benefit in going backwards and digging up the past and I get that now. But with you, for us, there was too much left unresolved. I just woke up one day and I didn’t want you anymore and I think you deserve to know why, so here goes.

I didn’t really even like you at first, but all of my friends did so I just thought there must be something about you. So we hung out more and more, always with other people and I guess you grew on me. In fact we had some bloody good times over the years. But I think things took a turn when we started hanging out just the two of us.

Don’t get me wrong you were there for me when nobody else was, when nobody else understood me. And I am grateful for that. But I think you played on my vulnerability and took advantage when I wasn’t in the best headspace. Maybe you didn’t mean to, I don’t know. I don’t really want to know. But in time, you took control of me in the subtlest of ways.

You see I didn’t need you. I knew that and you knew that. But yet you just kept convincing me otherwise. I was lonely and you were there. I thought I could only be myself around you, but the truth is I wasn’t me at all. With you or without you. You changed me. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. The people in my life were getting further and further away from me and now I know that it was because of you. Im not saying you did it on purpose but maybe I wouldn’t have hurt and upset so many people if we hadn’t have gotten so close.

I’m not blaming you for everything that’s happened. And I’m not even angry with you. I’m angry with me, it was all my fault. BUT you definitely didn’t help. It’s weird because you were so not good for me, you were literally destroying me even though I didn’t want to admit it. But I won’t lie, I miss you a bit. I miss the comfort you brought me. Not enough to want you back though, no way. But like I said. There were some good times.

So I guess this is goodbye. But it’s also a request. If you see me around, please don’t talk to me. Don’t even look in my direction. Because the truth is although I know I’m so much better off without you (I mean, look at me. I’m smashing life…finally! better late then never I guess) I’m not sure I could handle it. You have a way of pulling me back in and I’m not quite ready to test this new found strength of mine. Not yet anyway. So as much as it would have been nice if you could have stuck around; we both know that would just have ended in disaster. Like a HUGE fuck off, end of the world type disaster. So, please, just don’t!

We had 20 years of ups and I’m afraid too many downs. So now my friend, I need to go do the next 20+ on my own.

Thank you for each and every lesson

Shaena

I am the 1%

It takes nothing to join the crowd. It takes everything to stand alone.”

– Hans F. Hansen

All my life I’ve felt like the outsider. The one in the group who didn’t quite fit. Apparently, it’s a personality trait of mine but that’s something I’ve only recently discovered. 16personalities says that as an INFP (that’s what I am) the need to be understood is strong. And conforming to the norm or to be part of the crowd, is where that feeling of ‘I don’t belong’ comes from. Because we (INFPs) are not meant to follow the crowd, we aren’t meant to fit in with the majority. We can only be our best selves if we go against the grain.

It’s starting to make so much sense to me now. Wish I’d found this out earlier, but such is life. And really, the way things were going for me I’m just glad that I saw the error of my ways before it was too late.

I often refer to myself as ‘a bit weird’ but I’m not really sure where that’s comes from. Am I weird? What even is weird? If I’m honest I think I felt the need to excuse or explain my being a little different to the norm, so ‘a bit weird’ is what I went with. But why do I even need do that? Why can’t I be happy with just being me and not having to explain myself?

Our individuality is what makes us who we are but I think society makes us feel like we need to tone down certain things. In other words, basically shaming people for who they are. And then because you are made to feel this way you start looking outside of yourself, looking to other people, so you can try and be more like them. The ‘normal’ ones. This conforming has been going on for decades…longer probably but I wouldn’t want to speak for those born before my time.

I think these days what makes it worse is that there are people out there; leaders, influencers, even people close to us who we trust; telling us to be true to ourselves. Preaching that it’s ok to be who you are, imperfections and all. But then we do things that are a little bit different and we come up against frowning faces.

For years I tried to fit in and be part of the crowd because the ones in the crowd seemed to have it together. But did they? Fuck knows. Even if they did it doesn’t mean they were my crowd. But I didn’t know that then so there I was, Shaena the square peg. And I just kept trying to plug myself into every hole that I found that wasn’t square because I just wanted to fit. I just wanted to belong.

But here’s the thing about us square pegs. We aren’t meant for ordinary. There’s nothing wrong with ordinary, don’t get me wrong. But we like to do things differently and at first it’s scary because the majority don’t understand it. They get confused by our choices, actions and beliefs. They don’t know why we keep talking to the universe, why we love spending time alone with our thoughts, why we feel so deeply and fall so hard. Why we aren’t built for office jobs, settling down or just settling full stop. And all of this is okay, they don’t understand us because they’re not our crowd.

When I tried to fit, in I felt isolated. When I tried to do the same as everyone else, I got bored. When I tried to hide my feelings, I suffered with anxiety and depression. When I spoke, I didn’t feel heard. But now I know that it’s okay. Because all these things were like little whispers telling me ‘no Shaena, that’s not you’. And I get it now, I get why.

It’s because I am the 1%.

Excite your mouth with a bit of Boucha

As you may already know, earlier this year I decided to part ways with my dear friend alcohol. This isn’t the first time I’ve abstained but I feel like this will be the last. So, with this being a permanent lifestyle change I thought I’d better give myself some cushioning for the future occasions where I actually decide to leave the house and socialise.

Alcohol free options seem to have come a long way in recent years. I did fear that J20 or a pint of something fizzy on tap would be my only options if I didn’t fancy water. But…I was pleasantly surprised by all the stuff out there. Prosecco, beer, real ale, wine and a variety of spirits ALL 0-0.5%!

I’ve not felt the need to stock up but I’ve experimented a little so I know I have options. Wine was my drink of choice most of the time, a nice crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. But I also liked me a nice Ale or G&T. Actually, who am I kidding, I’d drink most things. What I didn’t love was anything that was too sweet. I was never a Rosé kinda gal and the only cocktail I’d ever have in my hand was an espresso martini or a (strong) margarita.

So anyway, as I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram last week this popped up on someone’s story…

I saw the word refined and kombucha and I was sold. Firstly, I definitely thought of myself as a wine snob in my drinking days and I know that kombucha is meant to have a lot of health benefits with its enzymes and antioxidants so, for me it was a no brainer.

A little bit of background on Boucha. This classy beverage with a hint of boho chic (IMO), is the brainchild of Bryony Dunseith. Having given up alcohol herself in 2018, Bryony was struggling to find something to replace her love of wine that wasn’t overly processed or full of sugar. After trying Kombucha at the https://mindfuldrinkingfestival.com/ she was inspired to create a wine substitute following the kombucha process. After collaborating with experts in the field Boucha Kombucha was born.

So what is it? Well, it’s kombucha (fermented sweet green tea) with a sophisticated edge. I had my first experience yesterday and I have to say I was very impressed. Upon opening the bottle (and managing to not to let it fizz over!) the smell, or should I say aroma hit me straight away and took me right back to my village in India.

Ok, this might sound a little weird but if you’ve never heard of palm wine, it’s a drink made from the sap of certain types of palm trees. It’s something that’s quite common in countries…well, countries with palm trees. Anyway the aroma is distinctive and Boucha Kombucha smelled exactly like it. And for me this was exciting because I really like palm wine, or as we call it in Gujarat, Taadi.

The taste itself was right up my street. I’m not a wine connoisseur (despite thinking I am) so I don’t know know the right things to say in terms of description. But if I were to give it a go I’d say zesty, naturally fizzy with a soft tartness to it. It’s not like sucking on a lemon but it’s the kinda tangy that definitely tickles your taste buds.

So for taste I would give it a solid 8.5/10 but what I think gives it the extra brownie points is the fact it’s made with 100% natural ingredients, it’s organic and it’s vegan AND gluten free. And unlike so many other alternatives out there it comes in at 70 calories per bottle (500ml) thanks to it’s low sugar content.

And finally it’s for us dry drinkers! The alcohol content is 0.5% which admittedly I was unsure of at the start of my sobriety journey. But my uneducated self soon learned that an over ripe banana is likely to contain about the same amount of alcohol. So, for those who are open to alcohol ‘free’ alternatives you needn’t worry!

If like me (and Bryony) you once enjoyed a nice fine wine but are now looking for a healthy and alcohol ‘free’ alternative I definitely recommend you try Boucha Kombucha. You can get 3 bottles for £19.50 or larger cases are available. Head over to the website today to find out more and place your order.

Connect with me

“Social connection is such a basic feature of human experience that when we are deprived of it, we suffer.” ~ Leonard Mlodinow

No, I don’t mean send me a message. I mean, actually connect. Let me explain…

As a species we are not meant to live like lone wolves, we are hardwired for connection. The need to be social is in our make up. But I’m not talking social like going out with your mates on a midweek bender. No, I mean on a deeper level.

We want to be seen for we are. We want to be understood. And that only comes from a true connection, a meeting of minds or better still a meeting of souls.

When we lose someone in our life whether it’s at the end of [any kind of] relationship or saying goodbye forever it frickin hurts. Or does it? What is that feeling? We’ve all felt it at some point in our lives and we call it pain or hurt. But it’s not the same as feeling physical “my finger has fallen off” type pain is it? Turns out social pain is a thing…a real thing. So if you have to take time to heal from physical pain then why is it any different when you suffer the loss of a human connection?

Now I think there’s a whole heap of shit that needs exploring here but I want to go back to the ‘need’ rather than the ‘loss’. I think our need for connection is underestimated. I always used to think I was over reacting when I got jealous of people hanging out with friends or partners even if they were technically ‘staying in’ or ‘doing nothing’. For me, who was going home to her dog (momma loves you Louis) their none plans were still better than mine. And yes, I know it sounds pathetic. And yes, there were tiny violins everywhere. But it doesn’t take away from the fact I felt shit.

But now I know it was more than me just throwing myself a pity party. I mean, of course it was mostly that. But It was also my need as a person to have that human connection. Like we genuinely need it for health reasons, it’s been proven! It reduces anxiety, depression and low self esteem. Those who lack human connection are said to be prone to inflammation, heart problems, ageing and devastatingly, suicide.

And it’s more than just having someone to spend time with or talk to. We emanate those we connect with, consciously and subconsciously. So not only is it important to make and have connections, it’s important that we be aware of how those connections impact us.

Anyone keeping count of how many times I’ve used the word ‘connection’?

One final point on this subject which I’m now realising is HUGE is connections with a purpose. I worked 5 years in a job where I was surrounded by people all day. I made some very good friends there, but some connections weren’t as strong as I thought. But such is life. Now I’m self employed and with my business being an online one you might think connections are a scarcity. Well it’s actually the complete opposite. I may not be meeting people face to face every day but the connections I’m making are meaningful. They have depth because we are connecting over things like mental health, insecurities and sobriety. People assume that I just ‘sell products’, and you can call it that if you want. But it’s not really like that. My business is about making connections with people, getting to know them and finding out ways in which I can help them. It doesn’t always result in me selling a product and it doesn’t have to either. My aim is to help, in any way I can so if that’s just having a chat, offering suggestions or even signposting them to something else then that’s what I’ll do.

So like I said up top, connect with me. Whatever your reason I’m here to help you, listen to you, laugh with you and if you want to, put the world to rights with you! ✌🏽