Sometimes I Look for the Love of My Life When I Pee … Illustrations by Odara Rumbol

Art, Mental Health, Motivational

Inspirational, motivational illustrations that make it just a little bit easier to be a woman.

Odara Rumbol is a 28-year-old multidisciplinary artist, currently focusing on illustration. London born but also half Brazilian, she has been in the arts all her life and was always that kid in maths and English that was doodling, drawing intricate patterns or just some random characters. After studying art, photography and graphic design in college, she decided to study graphic design as her degree. Big mistake! Although she completed the degree and started working as a freelance designer, she wasn’t creatively fulfilled. She always needed to have other artistic hobbies to get her through. She just felt so constricted.
 

Love is Love: A self-initiated illustration, created to celebrate Pride month and the power of love.

It was only last year after going travelling for a few months that she decided to give her dreams a shot. So she started drawing and posting on Instagram and reaching out to other creative people. She credits motivational podcasts with giving her the courage to make the leap, things like The Creative Pep Talk, Women of Illustration and Meg lewis. They inspired her to believe that even though it might be hard, she could do it too! She is still on her journey but she is excited and happy to be working on projects with people and brands that she admires and building her audience on Instagram.  

Let’s break the stigma: A creation for Vush to empower women to take control of their sexuality and break the stigma surrounding female sexuality. 

What/who inspires you most artistically?

Other artists (especially when you can’t put them in a box), universal human experiences, meditating, coffee table books, galleries and thoughts and things I see on the tube. 

Inspired by @mostlysharks_ twitter quote. When I saw this quote I felt like I needed to create something surrounding it as it resonated so much with me. I’m constantly thinking about our existence and how trivial some of our worries can be. 

What/who inspires your inspirational/empowering outlook? 

All the books and podcasts I listen to. About 8 years ago I started getting into the world of self-development, psychology, philosophy and spirituality. I’d say most of the ideas I have come somewhat through something I heard, or what it made me think of, or a conversation I had with a friend discussing it. I’m a real nerd for these kinds of things. 

This one came from reading and listening to a lot of podcasts about the self and how our mind can dramatically change the way our lives play out. The stories we tell ourselves ultimately become our lives and emotions. 

Do you find the process of creating art with an inspirational message healing/cathartic yourself?

Yes, a million percent. Especially recently, most of my creations have been from things I’m dealing with myself. It feels very liberating and freeing when I create. Also, I love having a look at my feed and things I’ve created, remembering certain points and what I was feeling at the time. Sometimes I look through to re-inspire myself on certain topics like self love. 

Inspired by the growtober prompts by @lauraklinke_art. Day 15 was ‘society’, and just that week I had been dealing with some personal issues surrounding being confused as to where I stood within it. That’s when I realised I was trying to fit in a box society had created for me.

What is your starting point for your creations?

My notes on my phone. Any time I hear something I like or have a random idea, I write it down to make later. Sometimes, if I have my iPad near me, I’ll sketch it out. But most of my ideas come when I’m going on a walk, taking the tube, in the shower, etc. The shower one is pretty hard, but I usually just run out and try and write it on a piece of paper. My desk is always full of random notes and ideas. 

Created after my legs were going numb as I was doing exactly this and thinking how weird it would be if I matched with ‘the love of my life’; would I tell them what I was doing at the time?  

Do you have a favourite piece and why?

I really like “Not being everyone’s cup of tea means you can be your own flavour.” I created that one after journaling about how I need to accept that not everyone is going to like me. Then that phrase just popped into my head and I started creating. It felt really incredible after I had finished and so many people messaged me saying how much they loved it and had the same kind of feelings. The pieces I most like are the ones that connect with my audience the most. My goal is always to connect and make people feel a little less alone and little braver. 

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Sometimes I Look for the Love of My Life When I Pee … Illustrations by Odara Rumbol

Inspirational, motivational illustrations that make it just a little bit easier to be a woman.




2020: Locking Down My mental Health

Covid-19, Josie Quinn, Mental Health

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ post by Josie Quinn

Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up.

I remember saying, on New Year’s Eve last year, something along the lines of “2020 is going to be my year!” (Finished laughing yet?! Good). Having spent the last several years putting in a lot of work towards improving my mental health, I was determined to keep making progress. I was volunteering at an animal shelter whenever able, had joined a regular D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) game group in town, and was even cast as the Cheshire Cat in a local theatre company production. So all in all I was feeling pretty good about things for the first month or so of the year. Then March arrived.

the new york times newspaper

When lockdown first started, I’ll be the first to admit I did not cope well! My depression and anxiety seemed to be vying for my attention at all times, locked in a battle which left me constantly bouncing between two states: either I stayed in bed for days at a time, listless and crying, or I was in a state of absolute panic, terrified that the isolation was going to undo years of therapy and hard work.

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Not long into the pandemic, I caught myself, after a decade of not giving in to the urge to self-harm, looking at one of the knives in the kitchen and hearing that little voice once more, telling me how much better I would feel afterwards. Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control. More than anything, that moment of temptation scared me and made me realise just how far I could backslide if I were to give up. I needed to find ways to feel connected (and, subsequently, sane), and it turns out that my fear of regressing was exactly the fuel I needed to motivate myself to do just that.

Despite having been a member of a number of online groups for some time, with the exception of ‘liking’ the occasional post, and having attended precisely one Book Group meet-up, I had never been particularly active in any of them. The first thing I needed to do was narrow these groups down a little, in essence creating a shortlist of those which (A) didn’t have an overwhelming number of members, (B) seemed more friendly/welcoming than argumentative, and (C) where I had something in common with everyone in the group, be they LGBTQ+, cosplay enthusiasts or tabletop gamers.

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Next was practically forcing myself to start commenting on other people’s posts; even if that meant setting myself reminder alarms to do so, or drafting and rewriting the comment multiple times until I felt comfortable enough to submit it. Admittedly, there were days where my anxiety would get the better of me, and I’d rewrite a comment ten or twenty times, then delete it completely, feeling like an utter failure. But on those days where I did manage to engage with other people, it began to feel like I was really on the right track.

“A small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.”

Beginning to join actual online events and video chats was a little more daunting. In pre-covid times I’d managed to attend one meeting of a local LGBTQ+ Book Group, so when I saw that they were still meeting via Zoom it seemed the perfect place to start, and hopefully build from. Though incredibly anxious in the build-up to the first group video call, once it started I soon began to feel much calmer, and afterwards was so happy that I hadn’t talked myself out of attending.

macbook pro displaying group of people

Ever since that first online meeting, things have just snowballed in the best possible way. Not only am I still attending the (now bi-monthly, and slightly expanded) Book, Film & Music Group, but also regular online D&D and board game nights; recently I’ve even helped set up a new group and have hosted some of our online game nights.

Somehow I have made more friends in the last six months than in the previous six years, and my diary is fuller now than it was before lockdown and social distancing began.

So maybe 2020 isn’t going to be the year of glowing progress I hoped it would, and that’s okay. In all honesty, I’m a little proud that I managed to make any headway whatsoever considering all that has happened in the world this year; a small step forward is better than any in the wrong direction.

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

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Pride, Love and the Power of Self-Acceptance

By Louise Clare Dalton: “Yes, for almost twenty-four years I was ashamed, I denied myself queer love and the joy of living my truth, but I’m here now. How great is that? I’M HERE! And I’m so proud of my journey.”

2020: Locking Down My mental Health

By Josie Quinn: “Addiction is sneaky like that; it reminds you of the brief rush you felt, not the days and weeks of regret and shame after, and definitely not the years of help and work it took to get to a stage where it finally felt under control.”

Celebrating Female Desire … Art by Paola Rossi

Art, Mental Health

This month’s featured art celebrates the free expression of love and passion between women while exploring the conflict between our inner darkness and light … Meet Peruvian-Italian artist Paola Rossi.

I am a non-heterosexual, sensitive person that has struggled through depression and TOC during my 20s. Having these characteristics, I have looked for ways to be more emotionally balanced and have found relief in many artforms and things such as meditation. I have created art since I was a child, often linked to surrealism because of my imaginative personality, but not limited to that, since I have also connected to other art styles, like abstract and figurative works. I have oftentimes tried to create artworks as original and authentic as I can, works that emotionally and visually impact the viewer. My creations are about the feelings that impact me the most, and I approach them using diverse mediums, ranging from traditional to contemporary, often mixing them to have more possibilities of expression.

Two women who have accepted their sexuality, freely enjoying sex and feeling intense pleasure due to that. Made in an experimental, playful manner using a handmade drawing I created, photographed and digitally edited with a mobile app and computer program.

What inspires you most as an artist?

I am inspired by feelings, especially the ones that I have lived more intensely, such as non-heterosexual desire, heartbreak, depression and the will to emotionally heal and become more balanced. Said in a more academic way, my works are related to Freud’s psychological theory on Eros and Thanatos. According to him, all of us have a life and death drive that are indispensable, exist in everything we do and are in constant conflict. Eros is life, vitality, dynamism, the will to survive, the search for pleasure, sex, sexuality, union and the wish to generate deeper, more complex relationships with oneself and others. Conversely, Thanatos, seeks one’s own death and tries to satisfy aggressive impulses directly and indirectly to oneself and others. It manifests in many ways, for example, in anger, denial, unhealthy behaviour, the absence of action or connection with the world, giving up under difficult circumstances, loss of hope and depression. So, I have created artworks on Eros and Thanatos, inspired by my own identity as a non-heterosexual person, someone who has identified as a woman and a man simultaneously (non-binary), that has had a strong Thanatos expressed in depression and TOC and that has found a therapeutic recourse in art.

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What medium satisfies you the most?

Nowadays, I don’t have a preferred medium. I use whatever medium I am most drawn to in the moment for the specific project I am working on. Over the years, I have noticed, I tend to have a period where I use a certain medium in an individual and traditional manner, followed by another period of a lot of experimentation, where I mix several mediums in ways I haven’t done before. As if it were a cycle. During my experimental phase, I often take my traditional works and rework them, using my curiosity, play and spontaneity to create something new. In my creative process, I use mind, body and soul. Parts of the process are done from a more rational side, planning things, making maps, lists, etc. I mainly connect directly with my emotions, impulses, spontaneity, playfulness and curiosity. I also use my body, sensations and explore movements and actions with it, training and taking care of it in the process. Some of the mediums I use are painting, drawing, photography, circus, contemporary dance, theatre, lights and shadows, mobile phone apps, computer software and video.

Photo by Paola Rossi on October 22, 2019. Image may contain: one or more people.
An experimental self-portrait from the years I first begun to work with my own body in artworks. Made in a playful manner, using a wig, a phone and an app to edit the image.

What would you most like to express through your work?

Art as the free expression of the soul and as a means of emotional wellbeing.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently in the creation process of a year-long, experimental project that will result in a video performance that expresses what I have felt during quarantine. The final video will combine the vast experimental work I have done this year on diverse mediums adapted to the house, such as: circus, contemporary dance, theatre, scenography, lights and shadows, painting, drawing (sometimes including writing), photo, sound, video, mobile apps, and computer programs. My conscious intentions with this work is to do something unconventional and experimental that combines my previous knowledge of different arts, especially those that I have been most passionate about whilst growing up, like painting, drawing and circus, with the new knowledge I have been acquiring through this year’s process. It is a way of expanding myself, pushing myself further than I have previously done. It is a creative process that includes mind, body and soul, involves very planned things, but also very spontaneous actions, and it even has an amount of unpredictable to it. This artwork is connected to mental health care, since the creation process has helped me feel better by liberating the emotions. It also involves exploring and registering the therapeutic qualities of art and sharing what I learn through social media and eventually in my thesis. It is my hope that I create strong images which impact visually and emotionally and which others can relate to. I also wish to connect with the public by showing the creation process in my Instagram. The final work will be published later this year through all my social media accounts.

 

Photo by Paola Rossi on September 07, 2019.
My own erotic drive showed in an oil painting. Painted in a more rational, traditional, manner than the other images here.

How are you received as a woman who paints naked women?

I have been very lucky, and I am grateful for the positive reception I have been having. When I first started doing nude and erotic lgbtq+ works in university, there was a lot of excitement in several of my peers. I started out doing very explicit and surrealistic images, so they caught a lot of attention. I was applauded for doing something taboo and unconventional in a very traditional society. Some people have told me that they think I am brave for being open about my sexuality and representing it in my works. They support what I do since it is linked to the acceptance of one’s own sexuality in a country that is generally not very open or accepting on these matters. When I started posting my works on social media, whilst still at university, I was invited to radio and tv interviews, as well as group exhibitions in other cities within my country and internationally, to places like the MAREA, which is a Latin-American Museum of erotic art, in Colombia. So, thankfully doing lgbtq+ works, which is something I am very passionate about, has opened doors for me. But above all, I think I am lucky and grateful for having such an accepting family that supports me.

Photo by Paola Rossi on December 24, 2018.
A very fast, impulsive drawing made as a way to sublimate desire.

How does your own sexuality influence your work?

My sexuality has been the main influence of many of my works. I have often represented my non-heterosexual desire, fantasies and experiences. It is my relationship with my own sexuality, the acceptance of it and the feelings and experiences that arise from it that oftentimes motivate me to create.

Photo by Paola Rossi on November 28, 2017.
I was exploring composition possibilities from photographs I had taken, and enjoyed the idea of an almost infinite perspective and two women posing in a sensual manner.

All artwork © Paola Rossi

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Sex, Drugs and Cowpunk! Lucy’s Story

“I wanted to be able to say, ‘Girls can do it too. We’re on the road, we’re in a band. Of course we drink, of course we take drugs, of course we go with groupies. We can do it too.’ I was always very fierce in that we shouldn’t be excluded because of our gender.” Lucy Edwards from The Well Oiled Sisters

Celebrating Female Desire … Art by Paola Rossi

This month’s featured art celebrates the free expression of love and passion between women while exploring the conflict between our inner darkness and light … Meet Peruvian-Italian artist Paola Rossi.

Random Thoughts: Unexpected Guests

Janine Norris, Lesbian, Mental Health

By Janine Norris

We picked up Marjorie and she wriggled and fell. Straight on the floor. On her back. She squeaked, struggled to get up and eventually disappeared into a box. We were shocked. She was obviously badly hurt and we didn’t know what to do.

Rather like Bilbo Baggins at the beginning of The Hobbit (but not on such a grand scale), the start of Lockdown brought about some unexpected guests. The ‘guests’ were the school Guinea Pigs, Mary and Marjorie.

Nobody else working in the school could take them home for Lockdown, so I immediately jumped at the chance. It’s common knowledge that my girlfriend and I much prefer the company of animals than people, so our home was the perfect choice.

Marjorie

I had to dismantle the ‘run’ that the students had made for the girls for it to fit in the back of the car. I struggled with the hutch, carrying it by myself and, finding super human strength from somewhere (generally stubbornness and determination), I managed to get everything in the car. The pigs travelled in style in a cat carrier in the passenger-side footwell.

On arrival home, I carefully unloaded the precious cargo and struggled down the side path to the back garden. Could I have asked my girlfriend for help? Yes, but she wasn’t expecting visitors!

Once I had settled the girls in their hutch with bedding, fresh vegetables and salad, I called my girlfriend, Mel, who was still working at her desk in the house.

She came into the garden, a little unsure of what was in store – she hates surprises. I explained that nobody else could take the guinea pigs home, so I had offered to look after them. I rattled on and on about how I would look after them and she wouldn’t have to do anything so that I took responsibility. After all, on this occasion, I hadn’t consulted her on the matter. We usually make important decisions together, but this was an emergency. Nobody was allowed back on the school site after today and the pigs needed a home.

I introduced Mel to ‘Hairy’ Mary and Marjorie. She asked if she could hold one. I handed her Mary. A huge grin appeared on her face and she said, ‘I feel like I’m eight years old again and I’ve been chosen to look after the school guinea pigs for the summer holidays.’

And that is where my story begins.

Life in Lockdown for Mel and I threatened to be rather difficult. Mel has worked from home, alone, for the last twenty years. She is a Business Management Consultant working mainly with land-based businesses, mainly farms and farmers, so when she isn’t working at home, she’s out and about, in the middle of nowhere, advising farmers on how best to move forward with their businesses.


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As schools closed suddenly, there I was, sitting in the opposite corner of the lounge at a desk of my own, having no idea how I was going to cope. I’m not a desk worker. I’m a fidget. Similarities with some of my students with ADHD are prevalent in my personality. Mel is calm, professional and totally focused on her work. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, it was better than either of us ever imagined: We no longer had to make excuses for not going out, we enjoyed each other’s company approximately 99% of the time, we learnt new things about each other, and we became interested in each other’s work. I was astounded at how knowledgeable Mel was when it came to advising farmers via Zoom, and she finally got to see me teaching and interacting with the students I had talked so much about.

However, what actually made Lockdown more memorable was the presence of Mary and Marjorie. We had no real idea of a guinea pig’s needs, so Mel researched everything we needed to know. We took advice from people we knew who had had (or still had) guinea pigs, and the girls began to thrive.

We also began to thrive. Our mornings began with a dog walk by the river, then coffee sitting in the garden watching the pigs explore their new items (boxes, tunnels, food, etc.) we had placed in their run each day. It was a peaceful time.

On the third Thursday of Lockdown we went into the garden to put the pigs to bed for the night. We picked up Marjorie and she wriggled and fell. Straight on the floor. On her back. She squeaked, struggled to get up and eventually disappeared into a box. We were shocked. She was obviously badly hurt and we didn’t know what to do.

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The next morning, we put the girls in their run, and Marjorie was moving but dragging her back legs behind her. This, for us, was a heart-breaking sight. We booked an appointment at the vet. When we arrived, we had to wait in the carpark for the vet to come out and take Marjorie inside. He returned with painkillers and suggested we wait a week to see what happened.

We decided to put them both to bed as normal and see how she was the next morning. Needless to say, we went to bed that evening sobbing. We had grown so fond of the girls and the guilt we felt was immense.

Our ‘Unexpected Guests’ have become a huge part of our lives and our daily routine, along with the dogs and the horses, and they have certainly had a huge effect on my mental health throughout the Pandemic.

By Sunday, it looked as though Marjorie was deteriorating. She couldn’t keep herself clean, so we were bathing her with cotton wool and warm water. She was still eating and moving about, but we were concerned about her quality of life.

On Monday morning, I opened the hutch door and she had clearly not moved all night. She was dirty and sorrowful looking. I made the decision to phone the vet and book her in to be put to sleep that afternoon.

The tears Mel and I cried over that little girl were huge.

In my usual fashion, at lunchtime, I left my desk and popped into the garden for some fresh air and outdoor stimulation. Something told me to look at the pigs. As I looked in the run, Marjorie was running around, playing, her back legs dragging behind her, but she looked much brighter. I cancelled her vet appointment. She lived to fight another day.

Mary

There were a couple more close calls, but she still seemed happy in herself and was eating. Eventually, we booked in to see the ‘Exotic Animal Vet’ (who knew guinea pigs were Exotic Animals?). She took her away, examined her and returned, saying she definitely had feeling in her legs and toes (as she had moved her legs when she pinched her toes). She couldn’t feel any broken bones, so really wanted us to give her a bit more time. She explained that if she was no better within the next month, we were to go back and she would reassess her quality of life. This vet actually said, ‘Don’t give up on her just yet.’

We took her home and began doing very small exercises with her back legs each morning and evening. Over the next couple of weeks, she began ‘paddling’ one of her back legs, and a few days later, did the same with the other.

Approximately a month after seeing that vet, Marjorie was 95% back to normal!

For me, this was a miracle. The resilience shown by this tiny creature was out of this world. Needless to say, the girls are very special to us. They are going to stay with us for the rest of their lives, and they continue to give us so much pleasure and happiness.

Marjorie has doubled in weight and is definitely the pig in charge; Mary doesn’t mind, as long as there’s food around.

Our ‘Unexpected Guests’ have become a huge part of our lives and our daily routine, along with the dogs and the horses, and they have certainly had a huge effect on my mental health throughout the Pandemic.

The power of guinea pigs is incredible. However, don’t agree to have them as pets until you’ve researched thoroughly. Their intelligence, curiosity and dietary needs are far more complex than people realise.

We will have Guinea Pigs for ever.

Janine was born in Leeds in 1970 to working-class parents, the middle of 3 children. She graduated from Teacher Training College in Lincoln in 1993 and has taught in Norfolk and Suffolk ever since. janinenorris70@wordpress.com

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Women Are More Likely to be Bi, Right?

By Louise Clare Dalton … “Society (a male-dominated society, where men are predominantly in positions of power) will allow women to exist outside the binary because it suits the needs of men. Although this is undoubtedly a form of oppression, it can also make it easier for women to openly identify as bisexual.”

Trans in Lockdown: We Will Always Be There For You

By Wendy Cole: “I woke. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong. Where was she? Where was Wendy? With all the movements of the wrong body, I made it to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. The face was virtually unrecognisable. Slightly bearded; tired, woeful eyes and … unarguably … male.”

Confessions of a Lesbian Cliché … The U-Haul!

By Kirsten Leah: “U-hauling is up there with plaid shirts and undercuts as one of the oldest lesbian tropes in the book. As someone who’s done it with no less than four different partners, I put my hands up and admit to being an absolute card-carrying cliché.”

Surviving Abuse: Finding My Strength in Breaking My Silence

Josie Quinn, Mental Health, Surviving Abuse

A ‘Chronically Fabulous’ Post

By Josie Quinn

Content Warning: Domestic abuse, sexual assault

The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

My experiences of domestic abuse and sexual violence are something I never thought I would write about; for a long time it was something I didn’t think I would even speak about. After all, I was away from my abusive ex-partner (whom I will refer to simply as he/him from this point on for anonymity), so shouldn’t everything feel okay again now? Then, after a few years of denial, and probably one too many cocktails, I spilled the whole sordid story to a close friend. I’d been afraid that no-one would understand, that I would be judged for staying in such a toxic environment for such a long time, but she empathised completely, even sharing her own experiences of domestic abuse with me. Our conversation lasted for hours, and wasn’t the awful, shameful confession I’d been dreading; instead it felt like a catharsis. Suddenly, I was not alone.

The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

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Many years after the end of the abusive relationship, I was still suffering from flashbacks and night terrors, as well as having panic attacks when I saw anyone who resembled my ex-partner. When I finally spoke to a mental health professional about everything, and they told me I was suffering from PTSD, I nearly laughed! “Surely PTSD is only for serious trauma, like people who have served in the military or been violently attacked?” But when they broke it all down for me, the last fog of denial finally lifted: just because the sexual assaults happened within a relationship did not make them any less traumatic, nor any less a violation of consent. This was not something I would be able to just push through without help.

Suffolk Wellbeing were able to provide me with a course of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation & Reprocessing) and, being the science nerd that I am, I thoroughly researched the treatment first! As well as finding it fascinating, I also found it helped my understanding of PTSD. Basically sometimes, when trauma is experienced, the brain is unable to process this information properly into long-term memory. This means that when something triggers a memory of the traumatic incident, the brain responds as if it were happening now, rather than in the past. EMDR uses rapid eye movement to try to assist the brain in processing the trauma into long-term memory, emulating REM sleep where this would usually occur naturally.

Following on from that, I was enrolled in the Freedom Programme, a 12-week course for survivors of domestic abuse, which is run by Lighthouse Women’s Aid (a fantastic charity, and brilliant resource for people who are either currently in a domestic abuse situation or who have left but are still feeling affected). It taught me all the different, subtle ways in which an abusive partner exerts control, how they can make us feel like we are going insane, or that we have no choice but to stay with them. The programme also allowed me to speak openly with other survivors, and to realise that there is no weakness in not being able to cope alone, in needing help. 

At the time, I had somehow managed to convince myself it wasn’t really happening. After I finally left, I was disgusted with myself, ashamed that I had stayed so long, allowed these things to happen. Now I’m just angry; he manipulated me, gas-lighted me, controlled me. And the words I still can’t say aloud, even after a decade: he raped me and sexually assaulted me. I’ve been told by my current counsellor that my anger is a step in the right direction, as I’m now finally putting the blame where it belongs.


So I know I have a way left to go before I reach a stage of acceptance. Even saying or hearing the word ‘rape’ still makes me feel nauseous. But thanks to a lot of work, EMDR treatment, and the support of Lighthouse Women’s Aid, as well as my family and friends, I can finally say these words aloud: “I am not a victim; I am a survivor. And it was not my fault.” Perhaps most importantly, I now actually believe them.

Lighthouse Women’s Aid provides advice & support for women in Suffolk who are experiencing, or have experienced, domestic abuse: www.lighthousewa.org.uk or call (01473) 228270

24hr Freephone National Domestic Abuse helpline: 0808 2000 247

National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 999 5428

Josie Quinn (she/her) is in her early thirties. She is a proud bisexual, disabled wheelchair-user and self-professed total geek! She worked as a Legal Executive before becoming too ‘Chronically Fabulous’ to continue, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Osteoporosis, CFS, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD. In her spare time she’s an avid reader (sci-fi, fantasy & graphic novels especially), amateur cosplayer and burgeoning tattoo addict. Twitter.com/Bendy_NotBroken … Instagram.com/BendyNotBroken

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Surviving Abuse: Finding My Strength in Breaking My Silence

By Josie Quinn: “The more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised just how prevalent domestic abuse is in the UK. Most of the people I spoke to had some personal experience of violence, abuse or sexual assault in a previous relationship. According to the ONS, nearly 1 in 3 women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.”

Random Thoughts: Unexpected Guests

By Janine Norris: “We picked up Marjorie and she wriggled and fell. Straight on the floor. On her back. She squeaked, struggled to get up and eventually disappeared into a box. We were shocked. She was obviously badly hurt and we didn’t know what to do.”

Hayley the Happy Lezzer – Fingering After Dark

By Hayley Sherman: “I run downstairs for the butter, WD40, an organ grinder and eventually the fire brigade and trash the whole room trying to wrestle it off her while she miraculously stays asleep.”

Trans in Lockdown: We Will Always Be There For You

Mental Health, Transgender, Wendy Cole

By Wendy Cole

don't give up. You are not alone, you matter signage on metal fence

“I woke. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong. Where was she? Where was Wendy? With all the movements of the wrong body, I made it to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. The face was virtually unrecognisable. Slightly bearded; tired, woeful eyes and … unarguably … male.”

For this blog, I start at the end; showing that despite the events, this does have a happy ending.

…due to the support from my friends, I was able to walk confidently into town, my head held high, looking directly into the eyes of those would-be detractors. I was delighted to be greeted by an older lady on my way there, and a cis-gendered male on my way home. They both surprised me, wishing me – a trans lady – a happy day.

I am Miss Sassy again.

Yet trying to write this blog, a callously blank page stares back. As I take up my pen, all those thoughts, feelings, images swirl into turmoil like the very Hellespont. Though Byron swam across that whirlpool, I found myself drowning; overcome by these thoughts.

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It was cast to me, the lifeline; and against all odds, I grasped at it. (The lifeline was the notes I had been creating for this blog). These notes were the remarks of my friends. By their strength, it assuaged all panic attacks and freed me to write.

25th August 2020; 5:00 a.m.

I woke. Something was wrong. Something was seriously wrong. Where was she? Where was Wendy? With all the movements of the wrong body, I made it to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. The face was virtually unrecognisable. Slightly bearded; tired, woeful eyes and … unarguably …

Male.

“What I do remember, apart from the constant need to cry, was that none of my body was mine. So difficult to explain.”

I did not even notice the slight but noticeable scratch across my temples, nor feel the slightly-pained contusion until much later.

I sat back onto the bed; in tears. I was distraught. Where is she? Where is Wendy? Why do I not feel her anymore? How do I get her back?

Well, that is it. I am male and male for the rest of my life.

Though I dressed, I felt so uncomfortable and odd. I have very few clothes that people would describe as male. I did not go in search of them; partially, in the state I was in, I had no idea where they were; partially, maybe, to bring Wendy back.

man hugging his knee statue

I could not shave; I could not apply make-up (an art that I greatly enjoyed and a moment of blissful mindfulness to centre myself each day).

I honestly have little to no recollection of that day (just that I was rarely sleeping) or the entire seven days to come; nor how I had hit my head.

It is scientifically formulated that we know just one third of the ocean (that is the great majority of this planet). By comparison, we know and think we understand only a tiny fraction of the brain, the human mind.
The most likely reason that I remember very little is the brain protecting me. Until I re-read the comments from my friends, I truly feared writing this blog and reliving that week of hell would expose me to endless panic attacks.

What I do remember, apart from the constant need to cry, was that none of my body was mine. So difficult to explain.

Imagine you had decided to spend a long time moving in only robotic actions. Once you stop after a long period you might notice that even a tiny movement feels to you alien, robotic still. So it was with me; except each movement deplored me by its maleness.

Check out Poetry this month by the incredible Zelly Lisanework

I cannot explain why, but I reached out (not something I do when in the darkness of depression) to my friends via Social Media (again, something I do not greatly use).
“Two nights no sleep, and I do NOT feel Wendy any more.”
This was my first message.

M.: “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
“No, I am okay. All I feel is male. It’s horrible.”
R.G.: “I’m sorry it’s hitting you so hard. Dysphoria is a horrible thing … you are just as valid a woman as any other, and I see you as such. We’re here for you x.”

That was as if R.G. had located and pressed my reset button. I had no idea I was suffering dysphoria. Yes, I have experienced it before; never like this; never an entire week!

When you are in the forest, you just cannot see it for the trees. R.G. does not realise how indebted I am to him for making me realise what I was suffering. It may have taken me an entire week for my brain to re-boot and go through its virus scan, checking all systems, but where would I be now if he had not intervened and pressed that switch?

All I know is that, at some time that week, I very nearly put all my clothes in the fire.

What is dysphoria? M. “…everybody has different stories, different feelings, but we are still ourselves. … my will power knows that I cannot do this, because I realise I am more feminine than I realise…”

“Thank-you all … as you said, gender dysphoria and allowing that to sink in, I … am feeling more secure. Cannot say I feel exactly female, but less male … grateful you are there to help. Feel kind of foolish.”

Foolish, or not, this is the raison d’être of this blog. In lockdown, as you know, I had recently gone through the first anniversary of my father’s death. To recall him is to recall me: a boy. Recently, I unconsciously had my gender bombarded by hate crimes. Lockdown had caused me to consciously face these on my own. Wendy fled for safety.

R.H. “…days where I wake up feeling like my assigned birth gender… Being uncomfortable in that thought is dysphoria … means I am trans which means I am valid … we don’t realise how big of a knock-on effect to our mental health … until it’s too late … we subconsciously know it will hurt us and do it anyway, which is a form of self-harm. You have not failed by accidentally triggering yourself … it can take a long time to unpick that stuff so we can look after ourselves … Well done on reaching out …”

Wendy Cole spent four years in banking, thirteen years as a teacher and seven as a deputy head, before working for the government, but the real her is a poet, photographer, historian and chef. Kylie, Daniel Craig and Wendy have the same thing in common … they were born in the same year!

Read all Of Wendy’s Trans in Lockdown posts

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Welcome to Women Like Us

“We are all so different and, sadly, this divides us at times. I’m not sure why that should be when we’re united by so many common challenges. Maybe reading about each other’s lives without judgment will help to bring us together. L+G+B+T+Q+any other queer letter that you want to throw in, all in it together.”

Growing Up Hated … Shona’s Story

“I’ve been hated for my skin colour, for my sexuality, for my mental health, things I can’t change. People are going to hate me whatever, so I might as well be who I am. I don’t care what people think anymore.”

Growing Up Hated … Shona’s Story

Black Lives Matter, Discrimination, Growing Pains, Mental Health, Pansexuality

I’ve been hated for my skin colour, for my sexuality, for my mental health, things I can’t change. People are going to hate me whatever, so I might as well be who I am. I don’t care what people think anymore.”

Shona Van Hassen grew up around her uncle’s circus, sometimes travelling the country with this unique, ragtag community. She loved the life from the beginning, and would eventually become a stilt-walker and trapeze artist, before finding her niche as a fire-poi and burlesque dancer, as well as a Black Lives Matter activist. As a child, she was just soaking it all up: the colour, the costumes, the music and, most of all, the amazing people; including her mother—who ran away to London to become a punk and often performed as a clown in the circus—and those they lived with, from performers to prostitutes and dominatrixes. Her non-judgemental attitude now and the generous, open way that she lives her life, her experimental performance style, even her sexuality, are greatly influenced by this early exposure to truly original people living in the margins, but she has been even more profoundly shaped by the challenges that she has faced and the strength it has taken to overcome them.

As a tiny child she was a tomboy, always playing in the mud and climbing trees, so when people first started to call her dirty, she innocently thought this was what they meant. She had no idea that they were referring to her skin colour. “I remember a little girl coming up to me when I was maybe three or four, licking her finger and trying to rub my colour off,” she says. “Her mum pulled her away and said, ‘Sorry, she’s never seen a black person before. She thinks you’re dirty.’” She was so young that she was able to shrug it off, but it was racism within her own family that was the most damaging. “When I was born, my dad said, ‘She’s not mine.’ My mum had to literally explain race to him.” Her white dad had lucked out two years earlier with the birth of her sister, who was white-passing, with curly, blonde hair and green eyes. Shona looked more like her mother, although she didn’t know just how varied her ethnicity was until she sat her mum down when she was sixteen and asked, “Right, what am I?” Her mum drew her a diagram, unlocking the secrets of her blasian features. She was so different to her dad that the police stopped him in the street more than once when she was tiny to make sure he hadn’t stolen her.

“As soon as you start treating black people or LGBTQ people as equal, that’s when people get threatened that we’re taking power away from them. In a way we are because we’re taking their superiority and privilege away. It’s what happens when you’re conditioned to look down on people.”

When her grandma also started calling her dirty, she was still too young to understand why, but her subsequent acts of cruelty were undeniable. “I always had a split lip when I stayed with her,” she says. “She’d push me down the steps of the caravan. Wherever there were steps, I’d get pushed down them. No one really questioned it because I was always running around. And I’d lose weight because she would take the things I liked off my plate and give me less food or things I couldn’t eat. She wouldn’t let me have water when I was hot. I just thought she was cruel. It never really computed until I was much older what it was about. She’d make me have the first bath when it was stupidly hot, and I’d come out bright red, and then my sister would go in when it had cooled down. She’d tell me, ‘Yours is the kind of filth you can’t wash off.’” Eventually, Shona started faking sickness to get out of seeing her grandma and stopped going altogether when she was ten.

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The one person that treated the sisters equally was her mum, but this presented problems of its own. “Because my sister was conditioned to be better than me, by my dad and grandma, she didn’t understand how lucky she was. She’d say, ‘You’re Mum’s favourite.’ It’s like, ‘No, we’re just getting treated equally. You’re just not used to that.’ Which is what’s happening in the world. As soon as you start treating black people or LGBTQ people as equal, that’s when people get threatened that we’re taking power away from them. In a way we are because we’re taking their superiority and privilege away. It’s what happens when you’re conditioned to look down on people.

Watching her sister go through life more smoothly than she was able was definitely difficult, especially as the two were abandoned in the flat together for most of their teenage years after their mother, Shona’s lifeline, became trapped in an abusive relationship. Her sister was academically gifted, while Shona was rebellious, creative and out there, with colourful hair and tattoos even as a young teenager. She would steal food to survive, and vodka, and subsequently developed alcohol and self-harm issues. “I was hanging around with a group of misfits, problem kids like me,” she says. “We’d get drunk and stoned together and crash at each other’s houses, and my sister was pissed so she’d lock me out. I slept in the garage a lot. But I don’t blame her. She was raised to hate me.”

At the same time, she was also being bullied at school: called fat, ugly, monkey, dirty and told to go back to her own country, as well as being singled out for her sexuality. “I had come out as bisexual, before I knew what pansexual was,” she says. “Actually, I didn’t really come out. I just never really wasn’t. I was just the weird one in year seven who had a girlfriend. All the girls at school thought I fancied them or thought I wanted to see them naked in PE.”

White beauty was also a pressure, and she would fantasise about bleaching her skin and cutting her curves off, pushing her towards bulimia and anorexia. “I remember hating myself because I wasn’t like my friends. I ended up starving myself for years. And I still wasn’t good enough. Growing up, there was no one like me in the media, just token black people, no one to show that there was nothing wrong with the way I looked. I felt so ugly.”

Life spiralled further when she was sexually assaulted by a boyfriend and ended up staring into a rough sea one night, contemplating suicide, desperate for the pain to end. Her mum’s boyfriend had thrown a bottle of vodka at her, told her to kill herself and sent her off into the night with no shoes. “I thought people might think it was a drunken accident, so it wouldn’t affect my family,” she says. “If I could make it look like an accident, it would be okay. That was all I cared about. I just didn’t want to be here anymore. Everything hurt so much.” Thankfully a friend found her, took her in, gave her fresh clothes and they curled up together, in a daze, staring at Scary Movie 2, safe for the moment, but she knew she needed help and eventually reached out to a counsellor. Opening up about her past experiences helped, but she was still living it—the self-hatred, the bullying, the shitty homelife, the feelings of suicide. How do you change how you feel when everything around you has stayed the same?

And then, at sixteen, things really did begin to change. “I went to hospital because they thought I might have cancer,” she says. The scare proved to be without grounds, but the experience shook her. “That day I saw someone jump in front of a train and I saw a kid dying of cancer. It was the shock I needed. I saw myself as going from one to the other. I kind of didn’t want to die anymore, but I still felt like I was dying. It was like this weird depression. My brain was still saying that I didn’t deserve to live, but now I wanted to. That’s when I really started to focus on my mental health, take tablets, and try to heal.”

“People get confused when you don’t fit a stereotype. They like to put you into boxes. Like my ex’s family, who were like something from ‘Get Out’. They actually drew a pie chart of my ethnicity and would question me all the time. They made me feel like such a hood rat.”

It was her relationships with her ‘misfit’ friends that helped her to begin this process. “All of my friends were so messed up at the time with their own shit, and I was trying to help them because I’ve been through a lot in my life. People would come to me for advice, and I started seeing things from their point of view. It was a slow process, but when you’re giving advice, you realise how you should be feeling about yourself. And then I started to stand up for people being bullied because of their colour. So I went from ‘I hate my skin colour’ to ‘fuck you! This person is beautiful. We are beautiful. You can hate me for my colour, but I love me for my colour.’ So it was definitely a transition in my late teens. Like, I’m brown, get over it. My blackness was not the issue. It was the racists and the bullies who obviously have deep-rooted issues of their own.” From there, Shona went from accepting who she was to revelling in it, leaving her free to express herself as creatively as she wanted to. “You get to a point where you’re beat down so much for who you are that it gives you permission to be anything. I’ve been hated for my skin colour, for my sexuality, for my mental health, things I can’t change. People are going to hate me whatever, so I might as well be who I am. I don’t care what people think anymore.”

The problems haven’t completely disappeared, but support has helped with the self-harming and addiction issues. “It never really goes away and the temptation’s still there, but it’s not something I’m in anymore,” she says, and she is now better equipped to deal with the challenges of being a black, pansexual woman. “I’ve met people who say they just don’t find black people attractive. I always challenge them and when you dig deeper, it’s not the skin colour they don’t like but the perception of black people in the media, online, in films. On the other hand, I’ve had people tell me that I’m so exotic, fetishizing my skin colour. I’m like, I’m not a fruit!

“Being pansexual and black is hard,” she continues, “because the two communities don’t click. Everyone assumes that I’m straight because I’m brown, because you don’t see many black women who are into girls. And then there’s what a lesbian or bi- or pansexual should look like. If you’re black and gay, you have to be boyish to show that you’re not straight. People get confused when you don’t fit a stereotype. They like to put you into boxes. Like my ex’s family, who were like something from ‘Get Out’. They actually drew a pie chart of my ethnicity and would question me all the time. They made me feel like such a hood rat. Every day there was something about my race, my colour – it was crazy. They knew more about my life than I did, and then they’d say they didn’t really know me. They literally knew everything about me, but they still didn’t know me because I didn’t fit into this box. People do it all the time with black people and LGBTQ people. They need to categorise them.

“When it comes to sexuality, I just see myself as human – I don’t care what a person has in their pants; why should it matter? – but at the same time I feel alienated towards the whole humanity thing. It’s like, do you identify as a man, woman, they, them, he, her? I’m none of it. Call me what you like. I don’t care. It literally doesn’t mean anything to me. On the spectrum, I would definitely put myself outside the situation. Humanity is like me looking in rather than being a part of it. Because I’ve always been told that I’m different, I don’t feel a part of it. I’m fine with that now. I met someone who felt exactly the same after a show recently and felt instantly connected. Yes, another alien!”

These days, Shona’s life is calmer than it has ever been, with a stable homelife and an improved relationship with her sister. “Now, we love each other. We don’t have to get along, but if I’m sad I’ll go to her. She’s there for me.” Central to her life is campaigning for equality and educating others about her experiences. She says, “The issue that faces every person of colour is the feeling of not being equal, the feeling of being not good enough, that there’s something wrong with us. We need to teach each other and our children that we are good enough, we have a right to live and not just (emphasise just!) survive, that we are beautiful and we are loved. The world can be an unequal place, but we need to stand up against inequality and hate, and we, no matter what your skin colour, background, sexuality or mental health status, are all worthy. Every one of us matters. We must stand up against those who try to keep us down, lift up the most vulnerable, and make a stand against inequality wherever it may be.”

At the suggestion that her life so far has been unique, incredible and extraordinary, as a fire-eating, ex-circus-performing, burlesque dancer who has overcome so much and now stands up for the rights of others through the BLM movement, she says, “Really? I think I’m quite boring. People tell me about going on holiday with their family and I’m like, ‘On holiday with your family? No! That’s crazy!’. So much of life is about perspective!

By Hayley Sherman

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An Afternoon in Primark Changed My Life: Joni’s Story

“It touched other aspects of my life for years to come: finding work was difficult because I was so searchable. Nobody wanted ‘that angry transwoman’ working for them. Read More

BLOG POST: But .. How do you really Know You’re Bi?

It’s this same logic that leads some to think that bisexual people in heterosexual relationships have flipped on their straight switch, and are now no longer bi. Or that when a bi person enters into same-sex relationship, they are now gay. For some reason we’ve been conditioned to believe that the person we’re currently sleeping with is in direct correlation to our sexuality. Honeys, that ain’t it. I assure you.” Read More

BLOG POST: Coming Out All Over Again.

I was a proud, confident, bisexual woman, with every future stage of my life and career meticulously planned. At that time I had no idea that a few years later I would have to come out all over again, as someone with disabilities.” Read More

Random Thoughts: This is Not a Diary … Cursed!

Growing Pains, Janine Norris, Lesbian, Mental Health

By Janine Norris

So, ok, I’m ginger! There, I said it. I can deal with that. However, a test of my strength of (sensitive, ginger) character hit hard when I also realised I was gay. Come on! How unfair did this seem at the time?

I was born cursed.

“Cursed with what?” I hear you ask.

Well, let me tell you. I was born cursed with the ginger gene! To many of you reading this now, you may feel this is a dramatic over-exaggeration of my hair colour. Some of you may be ‘ginger’ and love it. However, growing up ginger in the 70s was no easy task.

When I say ‘ginger’ I mean ginger. Not ‘Strawberry Blonde’, not ‘sandy,’ but actual ORANGE. On top of this, there were 3 of us. Me, my younger sister and my older brother. All orange!

As kids, we would be out and about with our parents, shopping, on holiday, whatever. Wherever we went we would be stared at. I mean, literally, people would stop and stare at the 3 of us. In today’s context we would be chart-topping superstars as part of ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack; we could all sing!

It wasn’t just the staring either. People would touch us. Touch our hair. Without permission. I’ve heard pregnant women say similar about strangers thinking they have the right to touch the ‘baby belly’; people they don’t know walking up to them and stroking their bump even in this day and age.

A colleague of mine has recently had cancer and lost all of her hair. She said that one of the most uncomfortable and almost distressing parts was when her hair began to grow back and people would stroke her ‘stubble.’ Generally people she knew, but some outside of the family.

I suppose the ‘Curse of Ginger’ could have caused me a lot more trouble. There were not so many gingers about in those days and many of our ‘community’ were bullied for their hair colour. On reflection, the targets of bullying were mainly boys with a ginger chip on their shoulder, so they would attack first in order to defend themselves. This did not usually turn out well.

My brother and I were both quite placid and easy going, so there was no real need for us to be singled out and bullied for our hair colour. I mean yes, there was the usual name calling—‘Duracell,’ ‘Carrot top,’ ‘Ginger nut,’ etc.—but I was never bothered by it. My sister was a totally different character, so nobody in their right mind was going to have a pop at her!

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An observation I have made about the ‘Ginger Curse’ is that, generally, if you are ginger, you hate it; if you are not ginger, you love it and want to be ginger.

Redheads (a polite way to say ‘Ginger’) are apparently the rarest ‘breed’ of the human population with only between 1 and 2 per cent natural gingers. Research has been taking place for years into the ginger gene. In the year 2000 it was discovered that the ‘mutation’ of a particular gene (MC1R/MCIR) causes gingerness and its unique characteristics.

Here we go again! Such negative connotations into the ginger gene—mutation! Come on! What about ‘Transformation,’ ‘Revolution,’ ‘Metamorphosis?’ These are all far more complimentary than ‘Mutation’. As it is, our gingerness causes us to be more sensitive than the rest of the world’s population (scientifically only physically more sensitive, but who knows, it could have an effect on our mental and emotional sensitivity too?)

Over sensitivity to temperature changes is a definite physical symptom I suffer as a ginger. In the winter, one minute I’m fine and within a millisecond I’m shivering like a Chihuahua being forced to walk in the rain. As a ginger, I am more sensitive to pain which is why, if you visit my home, you will find enough painkillers to stock a village pharmacy. During major operations as a child I required 20 per cent more anaesthetic than the kid in the next bed and I was far more susceptible to bleeding out as blood doesn’t clot as quickly. (I remember all these details from the doctors, nurses and surgeons from my weeks at a time in hospital.)

So, ok, I’m ginger! There, I said it. I can deal with that. However, a test of my strength of (sensitive, ginger) character hit hard when I also realised I was gay. Come on! How unfair did this seem at the time? I knew I was definitely not straight when I was 15 but it wasn’t until I began my teaching career in the early 90’s amid Section 28 that I knew I was most definitely gay.

Empowering Art by Nicola Copsey … Check it our

My first true love was a senior teacher (13 years older than me) and we were together for 9 and half years. However, for all of that time, due to Section 28, due to her not wanting to upset her elderly parents, due to her not wanting to attract attention, due to parents of pupils making derogatory comments following rumours around the village where we lived, we behaved outside the home as ‘just good friends’. This most definitely took its toll on our relationship and I ended it, feeling guilty. I left with nothing.

As if this wasn’t/isn’t enough, I have battled a severe anxiety disorder which presents (when unmedicated) in a range of ways: at worst, panic attacks so debilitating I can’t function enough to even get out of bed to take a shower; at best, I have extremely tidy, alphabetically-rearranged, colour-coordinated kitchen cupboards through an attack of OCD.

I am aware of an addictive personality which is not always a negative attribute (alcohol, food, self-harm), it can also have positive influences on my life. For example, during the recent lockdown, my obsession has been with maths! For me, this has been fabulous because, as a primary-trained, non-specialist maths teacher teaching GCSE maths to excluded teenagers, I feel that, at last, I am ahead of the game.

So, the ginger curse could have been much worse for me. I haven’t ever embraced it. I have yearned for my hair to turn naturally grey for years but it’s as stubborn as I am. I am currently rocking my natural colour, which is certainly less orange than it was when I was a child, and there are definite sprinkles of grey in there, so things are looking good.

In the grand scheme of things, I am in good health, have an amazing career and a loving, generous, kind partner. Curse of Ginger? I’ve got this.

Janine was born in Leeds in 1970 to working-class parents, the middle of 3 children. She graduated from Teacher Training College in Lincoln in 1993 and has taught in Norfolk and Suffolk ever since. janinenorris70@wordpress.com

Read all of Janine’s Random Thoughts: This is not a Diary Posts

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Growing Up Hated … Shona’s Story

I’ve been hated for my skin colour, for my sexuality, for my mental health, things I can’t change. People are going to hate me whatever, so I might as well be who I am. I don’t care what people think anymore … Read More

BLOG POST: The L-Word Fantasy

“Growing up (sort of) has taught me that mates are mates, gay or straight, and that being an unbearable arsehole will leave you alone very quickly.” Read More


Who Am I, What is My Purpose? Art by Nicola Copsey

Art, Lesbian, Mental Health

It was my attempt to express all the elements of autistic sensory overload, for example light, sound and vision, to people on or off the spectrum, as many people have no idea what living with this aspect of life is like.

My name is Nicola Copsey and I am a forty-six years old artist. I was diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism/Asperger’s in 2014, following a lifetime of mental health struggles with depression and acute anxiety.

An example of my literal thinking is when I was asked if I would feature on this blog, a question that was posed to me was, “Where do you do your best thinking?” I responded, “In my head of course!” 

I have always gravitated towards technical drawing throughout school and college as I struggled with the freedom of expression in other forms of art. I never considered myself to be an artist because of this, although people said I was talented. Due to this, I have no recollection of what I class as my first creative piece of artwork. What I do remember at seven years old was attaching some of my “creative images” to a wire clothes-airer and then charging 50p to my relatives to view them.  My mum has subsequently told me “They weren’t that great!”.

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time on my own because of my conditions. This has given me the opportunity to reflect on all aspects of life. There is not one specific influence/artist that I can attribute my style towards as it’s a conglomeration of all that I’ve absorbed throughout my life.

Who am I? A visual typographical representation of the one question I constantly ask myself

After my diagnosis, I started to try and portray elements of autism and mental health in a visual way for other people on or off the spectrum to relate to and help them understand some of my struggles.

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Many of the pieces I have created are a visual representation of the struggles I have experienced within myself and continue to live with. Because of my technical background and the constraints within my autism, I have a tendency to use monochromatic colour within my pieces whilst experimenting with different art mediums. Therefore, each piece has its own individual style in the way it portrays its meaning.

I was asked, “how does being gay impact your work?”
Coming to terms with my sexuality has been another enormous mental challenge that I have and continue to deal with in addition to everything else.  It has not been overtly influential in my imagery to date but is an aspect within them. For example, my first piece was hand-drawn in pencil, ‘Who am I, what is my purpose?’ It is a visual typographical representation of the one question I constantly ask myself.

Fragmentation – Losing Control. Mental order falling into chaos.

The second image I have chosen is “Fragmentation – Losing Control” hand drawn with black pen (and a ruler for the squares!) When we are naked, we are at our most vulnerable, as portrayed by the woman falling through the black and white squares. These squares represent mental order falling into chaos with the body moving through them.

My third choice “Unclear” began with me doodling with a blue Biro. The scribblings created shading, and this developed into the final piece. It visualises the intense struggle of conflict in my head. This process of creation was unique to me, as most of my pieces are far more structured from concept to completion.

Unclear: The intense struggle of conflict in my head.

“Internal Dialogue” was my fourth choice. It is a handwritten typographical picture. There are two elements to this piece: the first is the concentric layers in a skull shape, the text representing the thoughts that swirl around in my head like a whirlpool, consuming me from the inside out.  When the image is enlarged enough you can clearly see that the second element, the whirlpool of text, is actually a multitude of quotes and thoughts that I have experienced throughout my lifetime.

Internal Dialogue: Thoughts that swirl around my head.

The final piece is a photographic montage called “Sensory Overload”. It was my attempt to express all the elements of autistic sensory overload, for example light, sound and vision, to people on or off the spectrum. As many people have no idea what living with this aspect of life is like.

Sensory Overload: Photographic Montage

I hope that by opening up to people through this blog, it will help others with their personal battles throughout life.

All artwork © Nicola Copsey 2020

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