In the space of a couple of hours I was followed down the street by not one, not two, but three different men. Each of them wanted to ensure that I was very aware of the fact that they disagreed with my opinion on Brexit. One man, draped in a Union flag tried to stop me passing on the street. He was very hostile and aggressive. When I eventually managed to get past he yelled “Hey, come back here! I’m not finished speaking to you.”

A second man was holding a hand drawn sign outside the back entrance of the Bournemouth International Centre where Lib Dem Conference was being held. He was waiting to accost people. He kept yelling at me that I was undemocratic and disrespecting the will of the people. He then targeted my age. He started yelling “Hey everyone. This little girl is only 21 and wasn’t able to vote in the EU Referendum yet wants to change the outcome.” This made me laugh for three reasons. The first is that I am 26. The second is that if I was 21 I would have been 18 when the referendum happened and therefore still eligible to vote in it. The third is that he wasn’t making the point he thought he was making. He was yelling that someone who according to his bad maths was too young to vote didn’t like the outcome of the vote and wanted it changed. Meaning the will of the people only counts when it’s the will of the people who were of age to vote 3 years ago and voted the way he wanted?

A third man walked up to me and went “So you must hate Brexit? You must hate our country.” I walked away. Matt asked what he said as he hadn’t heard, so I told him. The guy then appeared by my side again – he’d followed me – and he’d said “I SAID you must not like Brexit?”. I heard you the first time mate, and weirdly it didn’t change my mind.

We currently have a Prime Minister who on one hand doesn’t know what to do with the land border in Northern Ireland, and on the other wants to build a bridge to connect NI to mainland UK meaning it’ll give the rest of the country a land border with the EU. 

Don’t get me wrong. The EU isn’t perfect. It needs modernisation. When I was campaigning for Beatrice Wishart in Shetland I spoke to fishermen who voted Leave because they’d not been able to cope with the EU regulations. We can do something about that. But the way we do something about that is by sending MEPs to the European Parliament and have them work together as politicians trying to better all of the nations involved. We don’t get change by sending Nigel Farage and his cronies in to collect a wage and not show up. It doesn’t work when we send the likes of David Cameron in with demands and coming back with “thin gruel” as Jacob Rees Mogg once put it.

We have got to the stage where we are literally risking lives in order to put something through that the government is too scared to even ask the public if it’s what they still want. They’ll prevent terminally and chronically ill people from accessing vital medication.  They’ll strip the millions of people born into the EU of their European citizenship without their consent. The longest running peace project in Europe is under threat. We need action. We don’t need Etonian egos.

No Emotional Responses, Please. We’re British.

The Great British stiff upper lip. Our Victorian stoicism. Show no weakness, admit nothing is making you uncomfortable. It’s the thing many people instantly think of when they think of Britain, and to be honest, it’s true isn’t it?

We’ve all sat on the train, straining our necks to not look at the drunk person causing a scene. We’ve got the ability to get up and move to another carriage, but we don’t. We sit there and occasionally make eye contact with another British person doing the same thing and have a nano-second of “Oh goodness I wish this would stop and I’m glad I’m not the only one.” But, we persevere. For some reason.

Ever sat in the hairdresser’s chair with the world’s worst hair cut and you’ve painted a smile on your face saying “yeah, it’s great!” pay the full price for something you hate and then cry in your car before going home?

How about when you’re out for dinner and there’s someone who has been given the wrong meal, or something doesn’t taste right, and they’ll complain to you but when the server comes to the table they shove the food in their mouth and smile through the pain instead of causing a fuss.

One I’m definitely guilty of is when someone gets your name wrong and I just go internally “Well, I guess I’m Rachel to this person now.”

And maybe there’s a time and a place for us to hold on to our British uncomfortableness. But Brexit is definitely not that time.

Brexit isn’t the cup of tea someone made you and they’ve put sugar in it when you didn’t ask for any but you’ll just drink it anyway “just to be polite”.

It’s time for a People’s Vote. It’s time for us to let go of attitude of “I didn’t ask for this but I suppose we’ll just deal with it.” Nobody voted for a wage cut. Nobody voted for a medication shortage. Nobody voted for instability for their future. A No Deal Brexit will deliver all this and more.

A People’s Vote does not undermine democracy and it does not undermine your vote. Nothing stops you from voting the same way you did previously. Use your voice because we’re lucky enough to live in a country where that’s a possibility.

Sign this petition to tell Jeremy Corbyn to back a People’s Vote. What good is an opposition that doesn’t oppose the Government?


Expecting more of ourselves than others.

One of the first things I remember thinking when I was first diagnosed was “Why me? This isn’t what was meant to happen.” It’s a thought I’ve found myself coming back to recently. It’s a thought I know others also think this when it comes to their health, whether it be physical or mental issues they suffer with.

“This isn’t what was meant to happen.”

Isn’t that just life? Isn’t life just a series of things happening that weren’t what you expected or what you laid out for yourself? My life has various different versions of what “should” have happened, and each one of them contradicts the other. I can tell you that none of those versions saw me as a recently single, nearly 25-year-old who is on a suspension from university on mental health grounds.

When it comes to mental health I think we end up expecting way more from ourselves than we expect from our friends and family. And that’s not because we underestimate them. It’s because we hold ourselves to an unfair, unobtainable standard because it’s us. The more we fail that standard the worse we feel, which makes us fall even shorter of that standard the next time, and so on and so forth.

This idea of “this wasn’t what was meant to happen” is not a helpful one. If we keep dwelling on that then we only do ourselves a disservice. We end up thinking “If I’d done x then this break up wouldn’t have happened” or “If only I’d worked harder even though I literally had no energy to do it then I would have got a better mark on that exam” or “If only I’d made 37 different choices when I was 16 then maybe things would be better”.

If I spoke to people the way I spoke to myself, no-one would want to be around me. And they’d be right to feel like that. Every time I sit and think “this isn’t what was meant to happen” I end up down dark paths in which everything that has ever gone wrong in my life has been my own fault, I blame myself for things I had no control over. If someone came to me with similar thoughts, which has happened in the past, I would not remotely consider blaming them. Because, hey guess what, your depression isn’t your fault. You couldn’t have done something years ago that would stop it. You aren’t weak for experiencing it. It’s ugly and it’s scary and it’s one of the worst things you can experience. The fact you have admitted to yourself that there’s a problem is amazing. If you’re getting the help you need now, that’s a great achievement. If you’re not quite ready to take that step, that’s okay too. The idea that this “wasn’t meant to happen” is meaningless. It’s happening, whether you expected it to happen or not. And, that’s okay.

At some point, I need to believe that for myself. I need to stop expecting things from me that I would never expect from anyone else. I’m getting there. And if you struggle with this too, know you’re not alone.

Time’s up.

Every time you hear “it’s political correctness gone mad” or “it never used to be like this, people are so sensitive now” when the discussion of rape, sexual assault or sexual misconduct is brought up, remember that you’re hearing people literally say is “it used to be so much easier to sexually assault people”.

It’s 2018 and I turn 25 in 3 months time and I’m bored now. I’m bored of explaining to you what consent is. I’m bored of men who think this discussion about how you conduct yourself when it comes to sex is somehow a war on masculinity. I’m bored of anyone who takes a discussion on consent as a personal attack. If someone telling you that you need to get consent for everything you do that involves another person feels like an attack on you, change your behaviour because it’s clearly wrong.

For those of you who don’t know, I had my consent taken away from me when I was a child by someone unrelated to me and thankfully someone I never have to see again. That was the first time I realised there were people in this world who will take what they want without care or concern for another person. My story is one that I’ve only ever half told and I’ll likely ever tell it in its full state, and it’s one you don’t need to know in its entirety. It should never have happened.

But then again, I should never have been dragged down an alleyway by my hair when I was 17 on my way home from a gig only for the guy to let me go and walk away laughing like it was some joke. I should never at 20 had a job interview where the interviewer kissed me and said it was “for the part” and then later call me at 3am to tell he loved me and would kill himself if I didn’t take the job and play his girlfriend. At 21 I should never have had to involve the police when a person taking my tour threatened to rape me. At 22 I should never have had the groom-to-be on a stag do taking a tour push me against a wall and have to be dragged off me by his group. At 23 I shouldn’t have needed my boss to grab a guy by his collar and throw him off me when this guy kept stroking my costume and wouldn’t stop when I told him to, several times. And last week when I was in Dublin I shouldn’t have had a semi-well known comedian send me vulgar messages repeatedly despite making it clear I wasn’t interested in him because he thought I’d sleep with him because I knew who he was. But all that happened, and the sad thing is that’s mild. There are so many people – women and men – who have much worse stories.

So when I hear of men and women taking a stand against sexual misconduct, no matter what it is. I’m incredibly in awe of the strength it takes to do that. When I hear you say “People are too sensitive” in response I hear you say that everything I’ve experienced is totally acceptable and should be allowed to continue unchecked in society.

We constantly dehumanise women when it comes to sexual assault. We say things like “This is someone’s mother, sister or daughter” as if women only exist in relation to someone else. How about don’t assault a woman because she’s a human being? How about be an adult and wait until you have the green light to go forward with anything?

How about we realise that consent means permission? When we change the word consent for permission, it’s so evident that it’s a ridiculous thing to question. Can a child give you permission to have sex with them? No. Can someone who is drunk give you permission to have sex with them? No. Can someone who is unconscious give you permission to have sex with them? No. If someone says “No” when you ask permission, does that mean anything other than no? No. If someone says “Actually, I said yes. But I’ve changed my mind” when you ask permission, does that mean continue? Funnily enough, no. Is it appropriate to just assume you have permission to touch, kiss or have sex with someone? Absolutely not.

There are likely other consent scenarios that I’ve failed to include there. So don’t assume I think that’s the definitive list of when consent – or permission – is important.

It’s 2018 and I’ve had nearly two decades of people thinking my bodily autonomy is worth less than their own wants. Time’s up.

Giving yourself credit.

As is so often with my posts I’ve been listening to Fall Out Boy and that triggers my want to write. 

In their song ‘Champion’ they have a line that says “If I can live through this, I can do anything.” It made me think about how much I’ve done in the last 6 years. If you’re an avid reader of this blog or you know me personally you know the last 6 years or so have been rough. Leaving school with subpar qualifications and a nasty breakup seemed to be what opened the gates on what was to become one hell of a rollercoaster. 
I ended up on a handful of different medications, each one a rung on the rope ladder extending down into the pit I’d fallen into. But it wasn’t enough. I ended up in crisis counselling with a counsellor untrained to deal with my specific issues. In my sessions with her I’d learned what I’d put down to being a shy person were actually panic attacks. In those sessions I learned that the brain can suppress horrific events. Those sessions ended with her saying “I’m sorry but I’m not trained to deal with sexual abuse victims.”

That word rang in my head. Victim. It stuck in my throat, choking me when I tried to speak out. Who wants to associate with damaged goods? It was around that time my aunt Jennifer passed away and I felt the cycle starting again. 

I muddled on. I got into NHS psychiatric sessions which were starting to help. And then a family friend was arrested and jailed for over 600 counts of child pornography. At that point the rope ladder began to snag and seem to lower me again, despite the effort in climbing that far. 

I got into university and my psychiatric counselling ended and I was passed to student services. Where, in creating my personal learning plan, they detailed my sexual assault and made it a document any of my lecturers could access. A lecturer then told me I needed to fight harder as a woman with my life experiences to be taken seriously. Unprompted. At the end of semester one of my first year of university my uncle Graham died and I checked out mentally, and sometimes it still feels like I’m waiting to check back in. 
My second year came and went and everything seemed to be on an even keel. I was doing well. Life was “normal” for once. If such a term exists. 

Then third year happened and all my exam provisions were removed. I almost failed because I had my arrangements changed and was not told until walking into the room and had no time to prepare. Then I was diagnosed with endometriosis and PCOS. Both conditions that limit your fertility significantly. Mid 2nd semester my dog died and then within a matter of weeks my uncle Chris died.

The rope ladder seemed not to be getting any shorter. It would sway and seem unstable. It would get caught and twist. It made it feel like I wasn’t meant to be climbing it.

The last few weeks before I enter my final year have been weird. I’ve had my diagnosis removed and left with chronic pain and no answer. I’ve been anxious. I’ve cried for no reason more times than I can count.

But in all this time, on the ladder, I never dared look down. For what reason, I’m not sure. But when I did, I noticed that I’d been focussing on not being out of the pit yet. When I looked I noticed that the bed of pity and despair and depression and self hatred that I lived in is nothing but a tiny dot, almost undetectable. I haven’t resorted to self harm in nearly 5 of the last 6 years, despite wanting to on countless occasions.

So what I’m saying is give yourself credit. Any small accomplishment is a win. So take it as one. Recovery isn’t a magic “Boom, you’re cured.” It’s tiny little steps that seem insignificant. But when you look back on 6 years of them, it’s a huge distance covered.

And if I can live through this? Well I can do anything. 

Hi. You’re being sexist.

Over the last few days, since Jo Swinson announced that she will not be standing for leader of the Liberal Democrats (since Tim Farron resigned and that’s a whole other blog post in itself) the sexism from party members has really started to surface.

And unfortunately, from what I’m seeing, the majority to be coming from those who call themselves feminists.

There has been disappointment directed at Jo Swinson for not running because we need a female leader. Almost as if her gender matters more to these critics than her skills, intellect, abilities and characteristics. This is sexism.

There have been calls for her to reconsider her position or suggestions that people will write-in her name on the ballot paper. Almost as if these critics don’t accept the decision she has made herself and think they can make a better decision for her than she can. This is sexism.

The anger at her for not wanting to lead the party after having just been re-elected after the SNP unseating her in 2015 doesn’t make sense either. She’s got to readjust to this way of life and is suddenly being hounded with tweets and facebook messages and emails telling her she *must* stand. Because we say so. Because the Liberal Democrats have never had a female leader and she just so happens to have the right gender identity and parliamentary experience, regardless of the fact she doesn’t want to do it. Attempting to force a woman to do something against her wishes is sexist, please stop it. 

Layla Moran wasn’t even on people’s radars for leader until Jo Swinson ruled herself out. That speaks volumes to me. We have people with such internalised misogyny that we think we can force women to do things because it’s what we want them to do.

Jo Swinson, Layla Moran, Christine Jardine and Wera Hobhouse are all intelligent, talented, skilled MPs who will work wonders for their constituencies. They are not your token female leadership candidate.

By all means, support these ladies if you feel they’d be great leaders and I think they all could be. But supporting them means accepting their decisions. Accepting they know best. Accepting that their decision is the correct one. Accepting that women are people in their own rights and have no obligation on them to do something just because of their gender.

Do you really want to be responsible for forcing a woman into a role you know she doesn’t want?