Moral Self Defence with La Cher

Depression and anxiety make your world small. Taking even the tiniest step forward can feel impossible. If you are lucky you will have people around you who can help you take those steps to get out of your emotional pit. Sometimes all it takes is little inspirations to help you move along.

So far my 2019 has been full of pits, pits full of shit that I keep getting tripped into. With every fall I have felt angrier and more pessimistic. There is only so much shit a person can shovel before giving up becomes a pretty tempting offer.

When you are in the shit pit, and have been in it for a wee while, it is easy to feel like ‘maybe this shit pit is the one I’ll never get out of’ or even ‘hey it’s a shit pit but it’s not the shittiest pit I’ve ever been in’.  The antithesis to this kind of thinking is a martial-arts badass. 

Luckily for me I found find myself at a self-defence class run by La Cher. Two days before, I had been in another shit pit thanks to a bout of sepsis (a consequence of another shit pit I don’t have time to get into here!) which landed me in hospital. I had very legitimate reasons not to go to this class, I was still really unwell and I was sleeping a solid 14 hours a day, so maybe a self-defence class wasn’t the best idea.  I’d like to say I was motivated by some higher purpose but it was a combination of having paid and wanting to know how to wrestle people to the ground.

It was far from what I expected. The class was not just physical self-defence but La Cher went into ways to protect yourself from verbal attacks, from yourself as well as twats on the street. It was a room full of women of all ages and I left not only knowing how to get myself out of a strangle hold but also feeling very inspired. I hadn’t written anything in so long but I’d found someone who I knew I had to write about.

I met with La Cher to find out more about her tips for getting yourself out of shit pits.

  • Find the right tools for you

The only thing that works is you, therapists can give you tools but they don’t make it right.  I went to a therapist and I was like “the only thing I want you to do is erase a memory from my mind, that is all that I need you to do” and she was like well I can’t do that but you can re-programme your mind.

You are the only who can make yourself happy, you are the only one you can dig yourself out of hell, out of depression. You are the only one who can have the confidence to say you are amazing. Someone can tell me all day long “you inspire me, you are amazing” but if I don’t believe that too, it doesn’t mean anything.  It comes from within us, nobody does it except us.

Facebook used to be my newspaper, so I realised I had to fill my newsfeed with happiness. I stopped watching the news, because the news 90% of the time they just want to talk about negative things and that isn’t what the world is.  I started creating positive messages around me, it’s one tool, one tool doesn’t work alone you have to use other tools. I used post-its, I started sticking them everywhere so I would see them in the morning, in the mirror and I’d see the messages.

  • Reflect

We need to start from the inside out. The mirror became my friend, I hated the mirror at first but what really helped me was talking to myself. Looking into my eyes in the mirror, if you can’t look at yourself… that is you! If you can’t love yourself how can you expect other people to love you. So, I had to start loving myself first, so what did I do? I had to dig back to when came that I thought I was hopeless. What happened to me?’ When I was a kid I was so vibrant I had so much energy. What happened that I felt worthless? I had to go back and that’s when I went back to a time when I was violated.

I want to show women that this happened to me too and you are going to be ok. Everything will be ok. When I did the self-reflecting, I had to apologise to that little girl, because for so long I blamed her, I told her she deserved it, I was so mad at her and I had to apologise and let her know that I forgave her. We have to forgive whoever we blamed in the past. That is the only way you can get past it, it is the only way you can cleanse yourself.

Recently, I went through something again and I almost took myself back two years. I had to grab hold of myself, I took myself away, I needed to get myself back. I just spoke to myself in the mirror and meditated like morning, afternoon and evening and I spoke to one of my girlfriends. She gave me some advice. I didn’t take her advice but just being able to talk about it made me feel good. Eventually, I did the right thing that I was supposed to do. I still go through that today but I know how to get myself through it so much quicker.

If it keeps coming back up, you never learned your lesson. If you don’t want something to keep coming back up you have to learn from it. You have ask yourself ‘what can I get from this? How can I benefit from this?’ and that’s how you push forward. You have to go through it to get through it.

  • You have to fight

A lot of people look at me like she is this strong female like I am just built strong but the strongest people come from so much adversity that they had. My whole vision is to unite and empower women, to say we are ok, we are enough, we can trust each other, its ok to talk about stuff, its ok to be vulnerable.

I went to a therapist, that didn’t help, my mum took me to a doctor for medication and that didn’t work. It wasn’t until a situation three years ago that I got out of, everyone was so worried about me but none of it worked until I realised, I think it was a Tuesday, I woke up and I thought “no more’.

I’ve been through a lot of shit, I don’t need to go back there, I am powerful I am strong. People might call it cocky it doesn’t matter. We have to fight every day to focus on the positive, even if that means telling myself “you are the best bitch”. I know if I allow it, I can get sucked back.

A lot of people look at me like she is a strong female like I am just built strong but the strongest people come from so much adversity that they have had.”

I’m still amazed by La Cher’s emotional strength and motivation to stay mentally well. I can’t thank her enough for sitting down with me to tell me more about her work. She has reframed recovery and wellness for me as a process of getting your mind to a place of power not just treading water.

So if you are lucky enough to identify as a woman and be near or in London La Cher is hosting another event on Sunday May 12th in Brixton, more details can be found here, come down and meet her and other like-minded ladies!

You can also find her on all the usual social medias!

https://www.facebook.com/pg/badassladyl/posts/

@sadisticcoach

https://sadisticcoach.co.uk/

Autobiography in Five Chapters Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost…

I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit

My eyes are open; I know where I am;

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Self-Care on a Budget

At one of the lowest points in my mental health I was also really poor. I could barely afford to pay my rent every month, I’d take loans from friends to cover the difference, I would search my room for change to pay the bus to get to work. I had very little and the little I did have went on coping mechanisms which didn’t help me overcome the deep depression I was in.

I didn’t see it at the time but the deprivation I was experiencing in terms of my finances was having a big impact on my ability to feel deserving of self-care. Deprivation comes in many forms; love, food, finances, opportunity. Not having what you need or want, especially from a young age, can have a really negative impact on your outlook and ability to look after yourself. The deprivation I experienced as a child made me believe I didn’t deserve good things. I wasn’t good enough to deserve love or comfort or to achieve. Everything I had was always tainted.  But not believing I deserved those things didn’t stop me needing them. Psychologically everyone needs to be comforted and loved, by others, and by themselves. But having no money was a real barrier to getting the things I needed, my negative coping mechanism worked to silence my needs and desires but strengthened my feelings of worthlessness.

It would take years for me to allow myself to have good things. When I did “treat myself” I always punished myself later or felt hugely guilty for spending what I had on something frivolous. As frustrating as it is to hear when you are at your lowest, it takes time, it takes repetition, you need to remind yourself that no matter how terrible you think you are – you deserve to be loved and comforted.

Finding those comforting things is much harder when you have no money because you have to think creatively as to how to do it and when you’re depressed your creativity isn’t all that high! But remember continuing to beat yourself up and avoid the things that will make you happy doesn’t help it just perpetuates it! You feel awful, you can’t afford to do anything nice, you feel worse, you beat yourself up for not having saved/being able to get a better paid job/ being able to get over it, it’s a pretty shitty place to be.

The first and easiest (but scariest) self-care on a budget tip is… tell someone.

I was always telling people I had no money, they knew I lived in a nasty cheap flat but they didn’t know I was having panic attacks. They didn’t realise I was feeling so wretched that I was suicidal.

Self-care is about looking after yourself and a key step in looking after yourself is letting other people know you are struggling to do it alone. It isn’t easy to tell people you know and you might want to call a helpline like the Samaritans or your GP. Whether you call a stranger, your parent or your doctor, tell yourself this is you looking after yourself. This is self-care, it might not feel like a treat and it won’t change how you feel immediately but it is a really important step.

I still hate talking to my doctor about my mental health but I know after all the therapy and opportunities to try new more positive coping mechanisms it’s an important part of self-care. As is telling people. I didn’t want people to know because I didn’t want to be pitied but really I deprived the people who loved me the chance to do something nice for me which could have helped me.

Do something silly

Being depressed really, really sucks. Your self-esteem is non-existent and being around people, at least for me, made me so anxious I felt exhausted after it. Depression and anxiety have a physical effect on you, it affects your nervous system, your muscles tense up and your immune system takes a hit too!

When you’re in a real crisis going to the gym, jogging or even just walking round the park can be too much. So just find a way to move your body which makes you smile, dance to a song that you like, try doing a forward roll again, do finger painting! Just consciously use your body in a way that makes you happy. Whether for five minutes or fifty just move around, you don’t have to leave your room. Just move around and if your confident and have the space maybe find a youtube video.

If you have an idea of something to cheer you up try and add it into your routine, dance for five minutes while brushing your teeth? It will help to ease the stress in your body which will have a knock-on effect on your mood.

Have a look here for inspiration and here for more info on joyful movement

Allow yourself to have nice things

 I always told myself I couldn’t afford nice clothes or to go out anywhere so I felt trapped. I told myself it was shallow to want to spend money on gigs or clothes or a haircut but really I wasn’t allowing myself to do the things I enjoyed. Yes if you have no money you can’t go wild and buy everything you want all the time but that doesn’t mean you can’t go meet a friend and have a coffee and some cake. Budget for it and do it, you’ll feel better for not having to feel guilty and doing something nice with someone else.

For some more info on deprivation and psychology check out these podcasts for a little inspiration

https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych/4/how-to-stop-pursuing-weight-loss-with-ijeoma-oluo

https://player.fm/series/series-2372201/dr-robin-smith-the-truth-about-being-emotionally-full

If you have any tips for self-care on a budget then let me know! Always looking for new ways to look after myself!

Creativity for Self-Care

I used to volunteer in the Calais Jungle before it was destroyed in 2016. It was unlike any other place I have been, simultaneously heart breaking and magical. A group us would arrive in the Jungle with bags full of crayons, sequins and other bright shiny things to play with the children who lived there. After running activities like this for a few months, we decided to organise a day of activities for adults and children, with kites, music and arts, bringing together different groups in the Jungle.

We set up a marquee on a hot dusty day and as the musicians began to drum, curiosity drew residents of the Jungle over. We had expected the adults to be interested in the kites and music and organised face painting for the children. The adults and teenagers were interested in the music and kites but we were amazed when the older men came over to the marquee requesting flags, stars and maps to be painted on their faces and arms. They asked for glitter to be sprinkled on their finished designs. They laughed when my ‘artistic’ attempts at more complicated designs ( like a request for a portrait of Nelson Mandela!) failed and shook my hand with thanks when it was done.

There had been a lot of division between different ethnic groups in the camp in the past weeks and months, some of which turned violent, but different groups sat side by side under the marquee that day complimenting each other’s flags, asking about what they meant, smiling and laughing together.

I was exhausted by the end of the day. Everyone was. But I remember being told by another volunteer a man had come to them, broad grin painted across his face, and said he had ‘felt like a child again’, free to laugh and be silly, to disconnect from the reality of his circumstance. I was honoured to have been part of something so special.

I think about this day a lot and what it meant to the men and children I met that day. It reminds me  that even in the most trying times, when there is little positivity to be found you can find solace and joy. It isn’t always possible to find your own way out a dark place and not everyone can depend on people rocking up with a marquee and face paints to cheer them up! Still, it is worth remembering the benefit of simple things for getting you out of a slump.

Singing, painting, dancing, new friends, old friends, reconnecting with childhood joys all act to sooth the pain that comes with mental ill health or stress.  The key things to remember are:

It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, start small and expand. Some things I enjoy the most (swimming, music, dancing) have a financial cost attached or a worry (will people judge me in this swimsuit, what if make a mistake etc).  If it feels too much, find something else, give it a go and enjoy the freedom of it. Find a video online and dance with a friend in your house. Find a choir you can join for free. Whatever gets your heart beating, give it a go!

Change your environment. I love watching movies in bed. I love a lazy Sunday morning in bed with a cup of coffee. As restorative as it feels to rest like this I know it is a fine line between rest and a slump. A day in bed can become days hiding away from people. When you know you are in a slump or a depression, change your environment. Even if that means you migrate to your living room or your friend’s bedroom, mix it up and give yourself a fresh place to restore. Even better go out, do some research and find a free gig or exhibition, find a new museum to explore, find a group on MeetUp that interests you. Change it up and congratulate yourself on trying something different or picking up an old hobby.

Find company. In my darkest depressions I could barely respond to a text. I hardly ever made it out my bedroom. It’s a vicious cycle, you’re depressed because you’re lonely and isolated but you don’t have the energy to make it out. Reaching out is a key part of self-care, admitting you are struggling to people gives them the opportunity to help. If you have the confidence to meet new people great but if you don’t reach out for the safety of the people you know love you and understand. Everyone gets low and it won’t last forever but feeling supported when you do is like hot tea for a sore throat, cosy and healing.

Whatever you do for yourself, remember it won’t last and that is ok. That day in the Jungle was magical but I know it didn’t change the reality of what those people were living. I’ve stayed in touch with many of the families from that time and there were plenty of dark hours, days and weeks ahead of them. Just remember not to judge yourself because it doesn’t last, love the moments of joy and restoration you find.

Every moment can’t be beautiful but the memory of those that were will give you strength and remind you that you can overcome your dark thoughts, with the help of a little glitter or friends.