Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Extraordinary Life

The Extraordinary Life

Photo Credit -
My name is Diana. My parents are from Afghanistan. I was born on 7th February 1997. I was born six months premature and as soon as I was born I had breathing difficulties, the doctor or nurse told my parents I could not breathe but they said they would give me three days. If I did not breathe or be able to revive in those three days, then, unfortunately, that’s it. Nevertheless, I was a fighter and fortunately, I started breathing on the third day and this all because of the Almighty, my beloved mother and family. Yet still, my legs were very similar to penguin legs and my head was too big, but my mother massaged my legs day and night as well as gave medicine to me for my head, so it can be a normal sized head. She did this despite being sick (asthma) herself. Thus, today if I’m walking with legs that are straight and no longer like a penguin and have an average sized head it is all thanks to my loving and exceptional strong mother.  I love her dearly; she has done a lot for me which I’m forever grateful for and shall never forget despite her being ill.  

I’m a confident, bubbly individual with a strong mindset, positive attitude and a loving soul who just wants the best in life and to be able to leave behind an inspirational legacy on a global standard. I’m immensely passionate about acting and journalism especially feature writing, broadcasting and editing. Additionally, I enjoy reading novels and watching movies, mainly Bollywood and maybe Afghani. I’m blessed with two older siblings - both brothers. They both are blessed with normal appearances unlike myself. I’ve done all my schooling and education in the historical yet beautiful city of London. From Infant (Wembley Infant School) to University – London College of Communication Aka University of the Arts London and now a journalism graduate with experience. Although at first teachers were reluctant to provide me with a normal education as they believed I was going to be a danger to the pupils due to my physical appearance. They thought a special needs school was a better place for me instead.  Nevertheless, my mum fought for me. She informed them that I'm simply short but yet mentally stable and once they actually observed that with their own eyes I was enrolled in a normal educational system after all.  All throughout my educational years, I’ve been fortunate with fine understanding friends who have accepted my uniqueness and have just been supportive as well as friendly and caring.

I was born with Achondroplasia. It means I have a short posture – below average. I don’t mind being that way because I have been gifted with a lot more greatness in life. Although it does sometimes get to me and can be tough to live with yet still I have always been strong and learned to live with it. People in the street just stare at me and even ask about my unique appearance. I don’t mind when they do such things as they are bound to ask since it’s rare to see people with this kind of appearance. To those who have Achondroplasia or any kind of uniqueness that gets acknowledged as being different from the world and involves being faced with hardships at times I would like to just say be strong, don’t give up; you can be anything you want in the future, enjoy your life, NEVER lose hope and keep smiling. 😉  

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Joys of Life without Alcohol

Featured Image provided by Donato Pirolo on Flickr via Creative Commons
A few friends and an atmosphere of chit chat and laughter. Chilling out and letting off some steam with a glass in hand. Enjoying the company with the occasional sip. The sip that soon turns into gulps with the aid of a bottle. Day and night, the glass in hand or the bottle in sight, every drop, a drop of destruction or ‘broken dreams’. Something, a redeemed recovered alcoholic, Jean Pierre understands brutally well but can still be unimmune to. Studies have found that alcohol has more ties to negative impacts than positive ones.

Drinking is not the most celebrated or encouraged, concerning health and addiction. Reportedly, 10.8 million adults are drinking at a level likely to pose a risk to their health. It may be fashionable in the west, though for alcoholics like Jean Pierre sobriety is the greatest intoxication. “Today I find a way of living where I’m satisfied with myself. When you come back from a dark place you enjoy everything because I’ve been to some very dark, very very very dark place”, he admitted, recalling his traumatic moments.

Alcohol can be very dominating. Making one believe every happiness lies within a bottle. Seeing solution and comfort in the product instead of family and loved ones. “I drank on a daily basis, what I felt to be enough alcohol to survive. The pursuit of money, was always high on my list of priorities when drinking. I thought that, without it, happiness would be difficult to find,” says George, a member of the Alcoholic Anonymous, an international mutual aid fellowship that helps alcoholics to gain sobriety.

Before redemption, Jean Pierre felt the same. His whole life revolved around liquor, heavily blinding him to see the real joys of life and value it. “People didn’t abandon me. I pushed them away because of all my drinking. The drinking was more important than anything else”, he says. It resulted in him straining his relationship with his former girlfriend to eventually being alone and abandoned. She couldn’t tolerate the constant boozing and bear life with someone who did not know their limitations and spirals out of control. A relationship he forever lost and could not rekindle. “Every human being likes to have a companionship…their own family. You got nothing. You lose everything”, Jean Pierre openly expresses, regarding the negative effect of alcoholism on his personal relationships. According to Alcoholics Anonymous, there are alcoholics that may hide their drinking from their colleagues and their families.

“People can become physically dependent on alcohol if they drink very heavily over a long period of time”, explains Maddy Lawson, Communications Manager of Alcohol Research, an independent charity which deals with alcohol-related harm. The redeemed alkie claims his alcoholism is a phenomenon of craving, not being able to be satisfied with a limited amount or acknowledge when it is suitable to stop. “I can never quench my thirst because it makes me feel better and makes me feel good”, he admits.

He firmly believes it is an illness, an alcoholic experiencing such a state could be a sick person that needs help.  Unfortunately, society fails to understand the severity of alcoholism and how difficult it is to fight it. “Alcohol is a disease. You got it and that is a disease but people don’t see, don’t understand”, Jean Pierre says.

The office administrator drank for 30 years, from the tender age of 14 until becoming a 44-year-old man. Now, twelve years of constant sobriety and Jean Pierre could not be happier, especially when it prevents him from hitting the absolute low again. From Park Lane, living the most lavish lifestyle, having the best of everything to being excluded from society and living in a hard-cold pavement, bench and doorway. The one aspect he will never forget and most significantly does not want to relive at any cost.  “I never wanted to end up on a park bench. Alcohol cost me to live on a street. People look at me and spit on me. When I sleep in the doorway some young drunks people piss on me”, he says. "I used to wear Armani suit. I used to eat in the best restaurant, here in London, in France, in Miami, in Los Angeles.”

It was the extreme level of Alcohol consumption and not being able to have some self-control that took its toll and put Jean Pierre in a critical position. He was heavily blinded by alcohol, not knowing right from wrong, becoming wild and uncontainable. Losing almost everything worthy and significant as well as loved ones. “I have a drink and I feel good. The problem is it makes me feel good for the first, second and third drinks. Then after that, I become disgusting”, he admitted. “The landlord kicked me out because I slapped a woman on the backside. Because I start to swear.” During his unpleasant phase of endless drinking, Jean Pierre was a proud owner of a restaurant as well as a restaurant manager and a chef. He lost it all due to alcoholism. "I never wanted to lose a job. I wanted to have a job where I will receive my paycheck but not P45 before my paycheck", he says.

There have been alcoholics who have attempted a free liquor lifestyle, not giving into temptation or at least tried to control it. “I was amazed at how difficult it was to stop completely. The longest I ever managed was three weeks without a drink”, explained Kevin, one of the members of the Alcoholic Anonymous. “The next time I tried to stop I found I couldn’t stop at all.” Some have even suffered a certain type of condition in the process. “On a few occasions when I had tried I suffered badly with DT’s. My best attempt was in December 2000. I stopped drinking early in the month and had a bad case of DT’s”, recalled George.

Charities dealing with Alcohol issues inform that having a blip can be off-putting and people should not be judgmental or dismissive of those that do have setbacks as the setback alone can make one feel bad enough. “The important thing is not to write someone off because they’ve started drinking again”, states Maddy Lawson.

For Jean Pierre, it’s the fear of not being able to stop consumption as well as the haunting memories of hitting rock bottom that has sustained him to not even have one blip. “If I had one, it is game over. An alcoholic must have a complete abstinence. If I start I never know when I’m able to finish. When I drink I lose control, I do a lot of things and blackout, I don’t remember the next day”, the recovered individual admittingly said. “So, I don’t want to go there because it’s very dark”, he continued.

Surprisingly, for someone who once sought immense comfort in liquor, the process of giving up was not too challenging either. It may have been hard but nothing tormenting. Jean Pierre genuinely believes it’s all about having a desire and wanting it to happen. “Everything in life we do need to start with a desire. There’s a lot of people who make it seem difficult for themselves. But I didn’t”, he says confidently.  I’ve got a desire, I make the decision, I put in action and now I’ve got the results.”

The experience of severe turmoil caused by excessive boozing has enabled Jean Pierre to truly be appreciative of life since being alcohol-free, having the control to do what the heart desires and not be stopped by a bottle. “A new freedom and a new happiness. That is life in sobriety”, he expresses with delight. “The bottle of broken dreams is no more broken dreams. Whatever I fancy and want to do that is the joy”. Cutting out alcohol has even given him the ability to value anything given, more than some other people will. “Live the same normal life and maybe better than some people who don’t appreciate what they got. Because today I’ve got the gratitude to enjoy. Because I didn’t have it at one stage”, he explains. “Alcohol took everything away from me.”

Jean Pierre is still vulnerable though and not completely resilient from liquor despite being sober and clean for twelve years. “I’m just recovered but I’m not bulletproof, I'm not cured. I’ve got some prayer, some meditation and reviewing my day. With that I’ve been put in a position of neutrality when it comes to alcohol”, he clarifies. It’s the regular treatment that has aided him to avoid having triggers otherwise he can easily be led astray.  “If I stop doing everything I need to do today and something happen in my life and I’m not spiritually fit than anything can be a trigger for me to have a drink”, he admits. “Even after years of not drinking, very few people would find it easy to avoid falling back into old habits or behaviours”, says Maddy Lawson.

Alcohol addiction or excessive drinking is not the ideal position to be in and life can indeed be beautiful and worthwhile without it. The satisfied recovered alcoholic Jean Pierre has found peace and comfort from feeling content and he will happily provide guidance to those who need it as he knows how devastating alcoholism can be and that an alcohol-free life is truly worth living. He believes that there is more to life than drinking liquor. It’s all about socializing, keeping busy and having something to do. “People will think there is only alcohol. There are other ways to escape or remove stress. Through socializing many things can be done. Everybody needs to find something they like to do in life”, he suggests.

A Life in the Day - Fashion designer & Support assistant, Sheree Robinson

A Life in the Day: the Fashion designer and Support assistant Sheree Robinson juggles between two careers and is succeeding really well. 

During the week, on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays my day starts with supporting students in London College of Communication. I support them with their physical needs: carrying their equipment or books. I also sit with students to help them plan or structure their time so that they are organized and are not falling behind in their studies as well as writing notes for those who are entitled.

I am also a fashion designer, therefore, the other two days, Wednesdays and Fridays I may go to Central Saint Martins, a  public tertiary art school, to teach students how to knit and give them guidance. Some of the time I also go to Central Saint Martins for knit work.

In the evenings I spend my time mainly on my own knitting career: most of the time I do knitting parties, in bars and clubs located on the east and west side of London. It involves setting the table, giving a demonstration and a close-up view if needed, I do them through a company called Wool and the Gang that I also freelance for.

But when I get approached to knit materials for someone then I attend fewer parties and focus on trying to get the request finished. So far I have knitted for Derek Lawlor, small companies and as fashion week is approaching I’ll be knitting for those who are involved and would want clothes made. Additionally, for my freelance work, I attend meetings at The Prince’s Trust, they are helping to support my new knit work business.

When it comes to knitting nothing is the same every week:  teaching and giving guidance in the mornings depends on which day they need me or require my assistance. There even has been moments where I have had to go to St Martins instead of attending LCC.

Attending parties again depends on whether they need me or not, if they are holding an event for me to go and help them or if I am not busy knitting clothes for someone.  Therefore I never really know what is coming next or what I'm supposed to do, all I can say it simply changes.

So as you can see I have quite a busy schedule but when I do get some free time to myself I work on my own collection, knitting clothes such as hats, jumpers and much more. My dream, my absolute dream would be to be my own boss or self-employed: working on my own clothes, knitting them and selling them to the public. Having a proper income or wage. That would be absolutely amazing!


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Migration Crisis

Migration Crisis
The illegal journey of a migrant towards Europe

She is sitting high up on a gentle comfy bed with casual yet stylish clothes surrounded by books, a table and computer with a relaxed posture and a smiley expression drawn on her face. It’s a total contrast from just a year ago when she was tolerating starvation, thirst and, the cold. Aisha Sharifi, afghan, was one of one million illegal migrants who came to Europe in 2015 to seek safety. The migration crisis became one of the top stories since 2015. “I regretted it so much because I saw the risk of death every situation”, she said, concerning the daunting experience.

Aisha left her beloved Afghanistan, as she was receiving threats and travelled to Pakistan, feeling anxious as it was travelling illegally. Once Aisha entered Iran her and her family got divided up into two cars and only Aisha’s car got stopped by the Iranian police. Her heart was beating rapidly. “When the Iranian police caught us I cried because they were permitted to shoot us", she recalled, calmly. She was taken into custody for three days. After paying off the Iranian police, Aisha was safely released and her nightmare continued getting worse. Her cousin also accompanied her on the trip. “It is a mistake to come through this way. But if one really need to they accept the greater risk of death with the very little chance of getting to Europe”, she said.

Aisha reached the border of Iran and Turkey at night, tired and hungry. She came across the mountains which she had to cross to get to Turkey. Reportedly two people died here of dehydration hoping to reach safety. Every step she took her feet trembled as you could just about put one foot after the other. Therefore, the chance of falling off was significant.  Witnessing 4 or 5 dead bodies lying on the mountains added to her fear. “I cried a lot when we were walking on the big mountains”, she said.

After surviving the mountains, she finally reached Turkey. Her next journey involved crossing the Aegean Sea to get to Greece. Reportedly over 800 died in the Aegean crossing from Turkey to Greece. When Aisha sat on the puffy boat her heart began racing rapidly again with a tensed expression drawn on her face as the boat was small and there was a lot of people. They all mostly feared that the boat could possibly sink or stop, chanting their prayers silently and holding their loved ones close. Unfortunately, their doubt did soon become a reality when the boat suddenly stopped in the middle of the sea. “We thought we would drown”, said Aisha.

They sought help from the police boat despite the fact that they would get arrested for 2 months as their travel was still considered illegal. “We thought rather than dying it’s better that they save us”, said Aisha. Miraculously, though, the boat started to function again as other passengers tried to fix the machine and they continued on. “We were very close to getting rescued by the police. If the machine would’ve have not started up the situation would have been much worse”, recalled Aisha. When Aisha arrived at the Island of Greece she sought asylum and stayed in a camp. Then another boat took her to the capital of Greece.

From then on she moved from country to country taking the Train and Bus until she eventually reached Germany. Her uncle was amazed that she made it to Germany. “At first I could not believe that she made it to Germany, safe and sound. The approach she took to get here was truly courageous”, he said. Now when Aisha reflects back on her journey she still feels down. “Now when I recall those moments I get upset as I faced a lot of hardship. But then again I feel extremely elated too as I have been given a chance to live a safe life in Germany”, said Aisha.  

The coffee spilt incident!

                                                         The coffee spilt incident!

A few stairs down from the workshop area there are sounds of chatter and laughter, consistent tapping of kitchen objects and the smell of rich coffee that has risen from the coffee machine,
filling up the atmosphere with its strong fragrance. It's lunch hour at the Tygon café. Students tip tapping and making their way to the long queue, eager to have a snack or a drink. One by one they wait patiently, distracting themselves with their smartphones or by interacting with their friends as the queue barely reduces and moves along. Making one in particular individual very intolerant and frustrated. “Right, that’s it. I can’t take this any longer!”

This particular individual is a student. Stood with their back fairly bend with a tired and fed up expression drawn on their face. Moving out of the queue and making their way towards the counter. But as the student almost reaches the counter they are oblivious of the person, wearing a grey hoodie, walking in their direction which results in them colliding into one another, allowing for the unthinkable to take place. In a matter of moments, the student’s chest turns red and redder. The coffee has been splattered on their top. “I’m so sorry”, said the person, looking in disbelief. “I honestly did not see you.” “You burned me!”, exclaimed the student, in a rage of anger.  The person was getting fairly worried as they did not want to get in an even deeper trouble. A staff member walks into the scene, a mop and bucket in his hand. “Look, go to the medical room”, he said. “You will be okay”. He reassured the student and then began mopping the floor.

The student made his way out and the person followed them, wanting to apologise. “Look, mate, I truly am sorry. I did not see you. Is there anything you want me to do for you?” The person really tried to make amends, but the student was having none of it. “Please just leave me alone”, pleaded the student.  “You really hurt me…actually, you scarred me!” The student walked off and the person realized there was no point in trying again. With great remorse, they took one last look at the student then walked off towards the workshop block, head hung down.

The Survival in University

The survival in university.

The extreme pressures that the school youth face in Britain.

Photo Credit - WikiHow

It was the final year of high school for Jenny, and nothing seemed pleasant for her. She had nothing going for her in life. The school life was a constant walking nightmare. She had nothing to look forward to, no hobbies whatsoever.  Nothing. She just had emptiness taking over her life and the daunting moments of school. The torment, fright and trauma that just kept brewing and brewing. Soon enough, in a flash of a moment, the only comfort seemed to have been was the thought of an extensive amount of pills and being set free from all the anguish and agony. It has recently been reported that an eight-year-old from Jacksonville is in the process of trying to help fight issues like bullying by writing a book which is planned to get released sometime in the summer.

Ultimately, Jenny did it. She finally acted upon her suicidal thoughts. In a spur of a moment, after hurrying towards her room feeling besides herself, extremely frantic and distraught, without any tremble in her hands or a shudder in her leg. Without the rapid beat of the heart and sweat streaming down her face and not giving anything or anyone aforethought, she reached for a multiple of pills, a combination of paracetamols and pills that are originally used to cure infections. Then impulsively ingested a mouthful of them in her mouth with no ounce of remorse drawn on her face. “It got to the point where I was like I can’t do it anymore. I just made a decision, I didn’t think twice”, she recalled. Straight after, she strangely sat herself down and tried to express her thoughts and feelings through a letter to her beloved family, a final farewell. But she could not bring herself to write anything. A sense of panic and tension started to arouse instead. “I felt that there was not enough time and there was not enough paper and enough ink to put everything that I wanted down and say my goodbyes”, she said.

The feeling of hopelessness and insignificancy developed between the ages of 5-6. It grew and grew for ten long horrendous years. It slowly and steadily was withdrawing Jenny from the pleasures of school and even her own self.  “On a constant basis, I had trouble making friends and socialising. So, yes, I was a victim of bullying for a very long time. I was bullied throughout my entire education, in primary school and in secondary school”, she said admittingly, recapping back to her dreadful times. Even today, the reason for such torment and abuse still seem ambiguous to her. “Who the f*K knows why people do the things they do”, she expressed, sounding uncertain of such dreadful deeds.

Charities like ‘Megan Meier Foundation’ try to tackle issues like bullying and support those who are experiencing suicidal thoughts.  It’s an organisation built to prevent these devastating incidents from taking place and try to make the world a place where bullying and cyberbullying no longer exists. “We believe that through empowering our society to celebrate individuality and the acceptance of others, that we can work together to make a difference and create a safer and kinder world”, declared Tina Meier, the mother of the late Megan Meier and the founder of ‘Meghan Meier Foundation’.

Eventually, sixteen-year-old, Jenny just wrapped herself up in her gentle, soothing soft blanket as her body was trying to come to terms with the extreme amount of pills that she took. She sat on her bed while her tears started streaming down her cheeks. It constantly kept running down her teary face while she bizarrely started to reflect on the positive aspects of her life. “I started thinking, I would never see my grandmother again, who is very dear to me. I would never see my friends. It’s the small things you don’t really pay much attention to. I’m never going to travel, never going to do this, never going to do that”, she expressed openly.

Therefore, the feeling of guilt and remorse started to sink in as she began to realise the seriousness of her action as well as the consequences leading to it. So, with tears still flowing down her eyes she tried to seek help from her parents, and only her mother showed her some importance. “I said I’ve tried to kill myself and I asked my dad to take me to the hospital. He flat out refused to do so”, she recalled. “He just kept watching TV”. Her mother made some concoction to get her to vomit out the overdose pills then took her to the A&E in an ambulance.

Overall though, Jenny’s parents were not so supportive of their tormented daughter during her harassment phases. Instead, the only advice she was given was to deal with it by using violence. “When I was getting bullied in Primary School my mum told me if I got hit I should hit them back. For a person who I looked up to and who has more life experience than I do, that’s all they’ve given me to work on”, said Jenny. Reportedly 8-year-old Akire Williamson has featured a journal with her book, and it is in aid of those harassed individuals that are too hesitant to confide in their parents regarding their bullying issues. This journal allows them to confide in their parents without having to verbally say anything and their parents can still be aware of what’s happening and be a supportive parent for their daughter or son.

Once Jenny finally reached the hospital the doctors and nurses did all sorts of tests to figure out exactly what she had taken. They checked her blood pressure, heart rate and did a blood test too. During the whole process, Jenny seemed to have been in excessive agony. “I remember bed riding in pain as my stomach was trying to process these toxins and get them out”, she said, vividly.  The whole time her mother simply sat at a corner occupied with a novel.  “It was a very hard thing to process by myself.”, she explained. Eventually, the doctors reassured her that she would be fine. She did some damage to her organs, but she will live.

Akire Willamson, the author of Twinkle, is trying to put an end to bullying as she too was a victim once. Now she is determined to make a stand against the concept of harassment and put a stop to it by sharing her own story through the usage of fictional characters featured in her book. So, once the book is released in the summer, the readers can understand the cruelty of the situation and get inspired to not become a bully too, along with additional tips and advice to encourage and motivate them even further. “I want to inspire people to not think about what other people think about them, they can be themselves”, the young girl declared

Similarly, celebrates such as Katie Price, a television personality and glamour model, made a stand against cyber-bullying as Trolls attacked her son online with unpleasant and nasty messages in regards to his disability. She has launched a Government petition with the hope that bullying becomes a criminal offence. “This petition is an important topical issue, and I want to help bring justice to everyone who has ever suffered at the hands of trolls.”, she declared. “Help me to hammer home worldwide that bullying is unacceptable whether it’s face to face or in an online space” According to ‘London Evening Standard’, the petition has already gathered 38,300 signatures and if it succeeds in reaching to 100,00 then the petition may need to be brought to attention in parliament as a form of debate.

Jenny soon graduated from Academy at Peckham. She then entered sixth form yet still, being haunted by her high school memories. At certain points, her entire body started to shake and tears would once again come streaming down her face whenever she would hear her tormentor’s name, “I was absolutely petrified of that girl”, she said, admittingly. “Sixth form was really hard for me as it was like an adjustment period. The effects of bullying don’t just go away just because you have left the environment or the person who bullied you is not there anymore”.

Unfortunately, just like her parents, Academy school did not provide Jenny give any help and support either. They did not prevent incidents like a juice cartoon being thrown at her or from receiving verbal abuse “I don’t know if it was the case that they didn’t have the training or didn’t know how to deal with these situations.”, said Jenny. “It makes you feel insignificant like you don’t have any value.” Other young individuals in a similar situation to Jenny have encountered harsh abusement or neglection too. For instance, things like “Other people at school tell me to die” or “Everyone hates me”.

Organisations such as the “Papyrus” deal with these sorts of problems on day to day basis. Its mission is to stop the youth like Jenny from resorting to suicide over hurtful and devastating incidents and to seek guidance and advice instead. “It can be daunting for a distressed young person to know what help is available, who to approach and who are the best people to talk to”, stated Rosemary Vaux, Press office of the charity ‘PAPRYUS’. “We have a wealth of information online and this can be reassuring – to know that how you are feeling can be the same as many other young people”, she explained.

Now Jenny has gradually managed to recover and move on from those extreme dark moments of life even though the suicidal thoughts still come and go at times. “I won’t lie and say that I haven’t had them but it’s not been something that driven me to go and resort to extreme measures.”, she said, admittingly. She has sought enormous comfort and motivation from successfully being able to secure a place in university and get a 9 to 5 job as well as have the company of her supportive friends. “Makes me feel proud and worthy”, she expressed, openly. “Gives back the confidence, self-esteem and self-value. It’s these small events that helped me cope and recover on a day to day basis. Not a person or action”, she stated with great confidence. A girl who lived in Camberwell and knew Jenny from her school days was also proud of what Jenny had achieved or accomplished despite her troubles and trauma. “I’m so proud of who you are. You are a completely different person to who you were back then”, she said, while chatting with her on Facebook.

However, even though Jenny did not see any personal benefits from any of the charities or campaigns made against bullying she still applauds and appreciates the fact that people like Katie Price or 8-year-old Akire Willamson are trying to make a stand against such horrible occurrences. “That’s amazing!”, she expresses. “It’s being more aware of what is going on with the people in our lives”.