Get the f*** away from me

I, like millions of others, am going to be trapped in my own home for possibly the next few months. I know I’ll be fine – you see, I am the master of self distancing and my bedroom has always been my isolation station. Perhaps this entrapment will make me start hanging out with my family downstairs – Oh wait… no, it hasn’t.

We all should have seen the virus coming. It was written in every fictional book – coincidence or not, it was still a possibility. Margaret Atwood said ‘History doesn’t repeat, it rhymes’, which is true. Here we are, obeying authoritarian orders, locked in our homes with no freedom of movement, rationing our food and slowly turning back into the selfish animals we once were. This whole thing is very dystopian; the incompetency of the current government shining through, mass hysteria, and the collapse of a rising society.

About 6 months ago, I read ‘Station 11’ by Emily St John Mandel. It described the collapse of society overnight. Billions died from a flu, and the remaining lived the rest of their lives in fear. I used to say ‘Station 11’ was exaggerated, but now I think otherwise. Eventually, when we run out of food, we’ll be scavengers. It’ll turn into sin city – stealing, killing, losing a sense of morality because all you are doing is surviving.

If you haven’t stocked up already, do so now. Help the vulnerable around you. Daily televised news from the Prime Minster won’t help you survive. Learn to ration, practice yoga, medicate. The internet will get slower, perhaps we’ll even get power cuts from time to time. Remember, this is a war. Eat cleanly, exercise and don’t lose your sense of morality. Most importantly, don’t lose hope.

Quitting caffeine for a week

Anyone who knows me will remember that I cannot start my day without a cup of tea. It cannot be made by anyone other than me in order to achieve the perfect colour and taste (2C for sure). Ive been drinking tea for about religiously for about 10 years, having between two and three cups a day. I always assumed that tea is much healthier to drink than coffee, but only recently read that in fact that tea contains more caffeine than tea, which can lead to unwanted health risks. This lead me to wonder how I would cope without my morning caffeine burst for an entire week. Here’s how it went.

Day 1 – ‘Oh God’, I thought to myself as I lay awake on my bed. It was 7.30 in the morning and I was already yearning for my daily tea and porridge. Of course my dreams came crashing down at an instant, and my only beverage was a water. At 9:3o I felt a mild headache coming on. I had heavy eyelids and not having the feeling of being completely awake. I had a driving lesson at 10:30 which couldn’t have gone worse if I tried. After my awful attempt at reverse parking into a bay, even my instructor was questioning me. I then went grocery shopping, which is usually my favourite activity of the week. Bu things took a turn when my head started throbbing – it was a not so mild headache anymore, in fact it had taken over my entire head and down my face. I couldn’t take it anymore. I took an ibuprofen which made my day more desirable again. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Day 2 – I had quite a disturbed sleep, waking up multiple times during the night which is unusual for me. I woke up feeling luggish and munched on two croissants for breakfast and an orange. As I got through the day, I started feeling more tired than I normally would, but there were no signs of a major headache like yesterdays. That was until my maths student had arrived and I spent the majority of the lesson frowning. I had a minor headache for the remainder of the day but nothing I couldn’t manage.

Day 3 – I remember reading other articles about people quitting caffeine and it mentioning that day 3 is the hardest part of the challenge. I woke up at 9:30am, much later than normal – this was probably due to my overall tiredness for the past couple of days. I made sure to keep extra hydrated throughout the day, drinking more cups of water than usual. I then headed to my aunts housewarming party where we chilled in the beaming sun for the for the entire day. Despite what the other articles said, I didn’t have a tough day at all, no tiredness or headaches. In fact I felt much more awake!

Day 4 – By the fourth day, my headaches had disappeared and I was back to my normal energetic self. That’s not to say my need for tea and gone completely, I was still craving for one sip of it. I tried having warm milk but even still it did not fully satisfy my needs.

Day 5 – My mum came back from a long trip and asked me to make her a cup of tea. Now I was going back to my favourite cabinet in the kitchen, taking out the container with all the loose tea leaves. This was a mistake. As I opened the lid, the sweet aroma punched the air and lingered, enough for me to give in and make a cup for myself – something I don’t regret.

Even though I didn’t last the entire week, a 5 day gap after years of drinking routinely was a big challenge. Quitting had many negative effects on me such as headaches and just having an overall tiredness during the day. On the other hand, the withdrawal symptoms were not as bad as I thought they would be with only the first day being the hardest overall. In fact, without drinking tea in the mornings, I was not full after my meals and ended up snacking more often. I am certainly going back to drinking tea, unhealthy or not, but at least I know that if there was ever a shortage in tea bags, I would be fine.

Barbie’s problem

A few weeks ago when I was teaching a girl no less than 10, I saw that her pencil case was covered with prints and stickers of Disney princesses. This for me brought back moments to reminisce. I picked up the case and fingered the outlines of it. How I used to look up to all these characters, creating shrines for them in my bedroom and dressing up like them for every birthday. Momentarily, I asked the girl who her favourite was. “Belle” she said. Then I asked her least favourite expecting a villain like Scar or Ursula. “Tatiana”, she said as if it were obvious enough. I asked why. Her response instantly brought me back from my reminiscent high. “Because she’s brown.”

“Brown, but you’re brown too?”. Bearing in mind that the girl, like myself originates from South Asia. “I’m not brown, I’m white” she said almost proudly. I ended the conversation right there. The last thing I wanted was to argue with a child. Her comment angered me but more importantly I was concerned to what made her think this way. What was so wrong with us Asians that made her want to deny the fact that she was brown?

This isn’t the first time that problems have arisen with diversity in fictional characters and toys for children. Take Barbie for example; the doll was first released in 1959 where is wasn’t really a problem for all dolls being identical in skin colour, hair or having the “perfect” body. It was a huge hit with young children and parents since birthday presents had just gotten easier.

The issue relies on the fact that young girls from across the globe will have been conditioned to think that beauty only lies within a woman of white skin, blonde hair and a body shape that is impossible and unhealthy to achieve. Studies show that 40% of children are dissatisfied with the way they look after having received a Barbie doll. This comes from a variety of reasons such as body image and skin colour. Although the demographic for the Barbie is well below the age of ten, the long term consequences are much more severe. Having worries about body image at a young age is more likely to lead to having disorders with eating, social anxiety and body dysmorphia. What Mattel failed to mention is that the real life size of Barbie is frankly impossible to achieve. According to calculations, the doll would have a dress size of 2, this being far below the average dress size of an adult and extremely unhealthy.

It took almost 60 years for Barbie to have a transformation. In 2016 Mattel created dolls with several skin tones and body shapes. One size certainly does not fit all and customers were given a choice of what kind of Barbie they could have. But was it 60 years too late? Barbie’s brand image will always be of a silicon plastic doll with white skin and blonde hair and not the diversity that has recently been introduced. So for the future, children will need to be brought up with the varied dolls, potentially reducing eating disorders in teenagers and a less conditioned vision of beauty.

Barbie body image

In light of world mental health day.

My mental health story. 

NOTE: (trigger warning*) Writing this piece brought back memories that I have hidden for a long time. I tried to make my stories as light as possible hence why it may sound trivial but there is a lot more to it of which I am not yet comfortable to share. I am not diagnosed with any mental disorder and please do not try and diagnose yourself. I try to better my mental state by writing things down or turning them into art like poetry. Please speak do to someone if you are going through a tough time.

My jet black leather-leather-bound journal. I was gifted this when I turned 10 and it didn’t really have a particular use. It’s been a holiday journal, drawing book and now it plays a role as my mental health diary.

Up until the age of 10, I would say that I was a very intelligent and likeable young girl. I was swimming for my local team, played a musical instrument, had lots of friends and was academically striving at school – you could say I was “perfect”, an all-rounder. The earliest memory of me breaking this character down was when all the girls in my class had started to eat a school dinner, leaving me as the only girl with a packed lunch. I was sitting on the grass, a few metres away from a large circle of boys when one shouted out to me ‘nerdy lesbian’. More awful words followed. In all fairness I didn’t know what most of them had meant so I was not bothered. 

The last year of primary school was possibly my worst. Let me give you a scenario: the girls in my class, my ‘friends’, formed a dance group and called themselves the ‘Golden Chicks’. Since I was always around them, I was appointed as their manager. I did everything they asked me to do from filling out their audition forms to spending a long time mixing their music which they could use to perform with. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me as odd when they would have sleepovers or group meetings without me. When I confronted them, the typical response would be “We’ll invite you next time” or “we’ll tell you about the meeting later”. What shattered me the most was when they used their own music to perform at the end of term assembly and had discarded mine completely. Things went from bad to worse when I was the only person in the class not to be invited to a birthday party. She kept telling me that she had forgotten to bring in my invitation and she would be sure bring it the following day. This never happened of course and it truly made me feel lonely at that moment in time. Over time, my personality changed from being bubbly and kind to angry and bitter. I was constantly jealous of everyone else being happy and enjoying their last few weeks of school. I really don’t know what came over me when I started stealing things from the sliding drawers of my classmates and put them in someone else’s drawer when nobody was looking so that they would get into trouble. Thinking about this almost a decade later, I think at first I was unintentionally bullied and isolated by my classmates. My personality before may have come across as cocky and overly passionate. The way I was treated gave me a negative attitude and turned me into a horrible person masking what I felt deep inside; having a constant urge to fit in with the people around me. 

I was accepted into a highly selective grammar school when I was 11. I went back to my old bubbly personality but my new found fear of loneliness still hung onto me. I made friends quickly, who did not judge nor tease me for being a ‘nerd’. There were times when my group of friends would make plans for the future to go to Cambridge university and live together. Then one would say “except for Thanucha obviously no offence”- meaning I was not clever enough. After this my lowest point was when I was 15/16 or so when my close-knit group of friends had cut me off completely and I had just been dumped from a year long relationship. I felt at my loneliest, I had nobody to hang out with during breaks as it was the last year of school and everyone already had their friendship groups. The place I felt safest was in the girls toilets on the far end of the school – where people don’t usually go to. The end cubicle was hidden away behind the door and was completely dark. It also had the best wifi connection so I was sorted for company. For a whole year, every lunchtime I would go to my cubicle, eat my lunch there and come out when the end of lunch bell rang. If I had work to do, librarian would let me work in the store room all because I did not want to be seen alone if front of my ex friends. Sometimes I would see them walking a few paces in front of me in the corridor which automatically made me turn around and walk the long way to my lesson. I started being late to school every morning  simply because then I wouldn’t have to do the daunting job of walking past all four of them to get to my seat in registration. During the holidays, I felt a huge sense of relief that I would no longer have to face anyone. However, I felt more and more depressed everyday. I would not shower for days at a time, there were times when I would no wear my glasses for days in a row so that essentially I would not have to see the world. I also self harmed a lot. Here is a short extract from my diary:

19th December 2015:

“Its nearly Christmas but I’m not excited as I usually am, I haven’t even bought anyone presents because I don’t care. Really, I wish my mind was more at ease, resting in peace…”

I kept my emotions between myself and my diary. I honestly don’t know how I came out of constantly feeling trapped and uneasy. If I knew how, I would say so but I don’t. I tried putting more effort into my schoolwork and fought off negative thoughts. My handwork paid off and I proved my doubters wrong. My mind is more at ease but some situations always make me feel uneasy. Like walking past a big group of people and being horrified at the fact that they might talk or laugh about you when actually most of the time they wouldn’t even notice that you’re even present. I now have a group of friends I can speak to and feel comfortable with. And as for feeling lonely, I have learned to enjoy my own company and forget about trying to impress anyone.