A month of un-doing

hppy-shopperSo I’m a month in, give or take a day or two and you want to know how it’s going, this ‘not buying anything’ thing, don’t you?  OK, so maybe it wasn’t top of your need to know list for today, but it’s risen to the top of my need to ‘fess list.  I could say it’s going really well.  It wouldn’t be a lie, maybe just not the whole truth.

Since the start of the year I’ve been stuck in bed a few days between colds and migraines, and I’ve only managed to get to anywhere with shops a few times. My shopping opportunities have been limited.  My resources are limited too because I’m not earning any money at the moment: automatic BIG restriction.  It’s like giving up chocolate for Lent when you don’t even like it – not much of a sacrifice.  The thing is, deciding not to buy anything new has made me more aware of how much I actually buy, full stop.  My plastic gets hit routinely, not for anything superfluous or extravagant, simply ‘everyday stuff’: the groceries, the toiletries, the consumables, those odd bits and pieces which you actually ‘need’. I ran out of parcel tape and genuinely couldn’t think of how else to get packages wrapped and sent.  Perhaps I lack imagination, but I’m probably like lots of other people, trying to do the best they can; caring and failing.

I avoided the sales.  Anyone who sent me discount emails and tried to convince me that I really needed new clothes or kitchenware or books, or whatever, has been solemnly unsubscribed from.  Despite the bombardment, I did not succumb.  It’s amazing how much of an offensive there actually is to prise our hard-earned cash from us.

I suppose a lot of us are immune by now, but why subject yourself to such attacks on your good intentions.  As everyone who is addicted to something knows, you need to remove yourself from the environment where you’re likely to encounter temptation, and whilst that might not be wholly possible 100% of the time it is do-able a lot of the time.

I’ve not been able to avoid being on line.  It’s where I hang out with people.  It’s where I engage when I’m stuck in my ‘remote and isolated hamlet’.  So I run the gauntlet of Facebook advertising and pop-ups and articles that pretend to be news, but are actually trying to sell you something.  I’m relatively savvy, although not entirely immune. We were going to make our own favours for the wedding.  Really.  It was all planned.  And then a sneaky little link came from I-know-not-where and hooked me.  So now we’ve bought our favours instead.  It’s all very kosher – a donation to a charity we believe in, a gift that can do good from the purchaser to the recipient – but still unplanned, and in many ways unnecessary. (If you think I’m being obscure here, you’re right. I don’t want any guests to know what we’re planning!)  I’m not beating myself up.  We have a budget for the wedding and I’m not including it in my ‘buy nothing new’ challenge as I don’t need any additional headaches.  As I’ve said before, lots of things are being done by friends and many would-be purchases have been avoided by borrowing, buying second-hand and making.  My point is that I’ve purchased something I didn’t have to.  Nice as it is, beneficial as it may be, it was something I didn’t need to buy.  And that’s how it happens I suppose.  We know what advertisers are like and we brush them off with a laugh, but then something good and worthy and in-line with our values pops up and we’re suckered in.

No, I’m not being overly hard on myself, but neither am I patting myself on the back.  I could definitely ‘do better’.  I might not ‘technically’ be buying anything new – the book I needed for my course was definitely second-hand – but I still have a ‘buying stuff’ wire in my head somewhere that won’t unplug.  I didn’t think this challenge would be easy, a walk-in-the-park of challenges, but I didn’t expect it to tax me greatly, given my disposition and ethics.  Taxing me is exactly what it is doing, however, as I’m thinking more about things, questioning motive, need, intent; questioning myself. I suppose that’s a good thing.  I’ve re-read my original blog, which outlined the whys and wherefores of this challenge and even after a month I think it sounds rather sanctimonious.  That’s life I suppose.  We do literally live and learn.

I’m sure there will be lots more insights over the next 11 months and I will endeavour to share some of them without being censorious or smug.  I probably don’t do ‘humble’ but I’m aiming for ‘real’ at the very least.

Feel free to comment and share your own travels in un-shopping.

See Me

See Me End Mental Health Stigma

Invisible, long term and utterly devastating.  Mental illness, in particular depression in its various forms, is still very much misunderstood.  It’s 2 years since Robin Williams died.  The news shocked and saddened me – I’ve been a life-long fan – but I shouldn’t have been surprised.  No one is immune.  Depression isn’t choosy about who it picks: actor, football player, rugby player, teacher, police, stay-at-home mum, politician – anyone can be struck down and at any stage of life.  Some depression is situational. But for many depression comes often without reason or cause.  Depression isn’t always ‘about’ something, it just ‘is’.

Some people found it hard to understand how someone privileged could take their own life.  It’s an indication of the sheer desperation and desolation that many people with depression feel.  Wealth, family, fame, none of it can insulate you from the impact.  For many people with depression it’s the ultimate action of power against a foe which you have no control over, and no way of beating.  Hopelessness leads many down the same path.

As someone who has completed Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), and spoken to people who have lost family members to depression, it is clear that the action is not cowardly or selfish, as many claim.  The act of taking one’s own life may be a desperate one, but many people genuinely feel that their loved ones would be better off without them. Such is the feeling of worthlessness that this seems like a reasonable, logical option – the only option.

High profiles deaths like that of Robin Williams have done something to raise public awareness of depression, and that’s a good thing.  Far more needs to be done however, so that this invisible and destructive illness doesn’t take as many lives, and ruin somany more.  In 2014 (the most recent figures available) there were over 6500 recorded deaths from suicide.  The highest suicide rate in the UK in 2014 was for men aged 45-49 at 26.5 per 100,000.  Suicide is the biggest killer of men between 20 and 49 , eclipsing road accidents, cancer and coronary heart disease. That’s a very scary statistic.  There’s plenty of research into cancer and lots of preventative advice about heart disease but comparatively little research and advice on depression and suicide.  It’s mainly left to charities like the Samaritans, Mind, and a host of smaller third sector organisations to raise awareness and provide advice and support.  Given the statistics, that isn’t good enough.  We have public campaigns on testicular cancer – an exclusively male killer- why not depression?  Whilst it may be true that more women are diagnosed with depression, it is also true that more women than men seek help.

See Me Scotland have had high profile campaigns to end mental health stigma but there has been no equivalent in other parts of the UK.  Isn’t it time we made a concerted effort to tackle this serious public health issue which is affecting men adversely?

In part it is a question of men feeling that they can’t talk to anyone and receiving negative responses when they do.  Being told to ‘get over it’ is a common response to depression.  Women may be more sympathetic in general, but it’s not really a ‘man thing’ to admit vulnerability, and being depressed is often seen as a weakness.  We need to get across the message that depression is an illness.  You wouldn’t tell someone to get over cancer or a broken leg, and no one with depression should be told to ‘get over it’ either.

Clearly this is a more complex issue than this brief piece can cover.  I would urge you to find out more.  Do the ASIST training so you can recognise the signs in friends, family or strangers. Find our more from the organisations mentioned here. Above all, be kind to your fellow human beings.  You never know what struggles they are going through.  Don’t assume because someone is a joker or the life and soul of the party that they are happy, that they are immune from depression.  Robin Williams was a brilliant actor, had a fantastic sense of humour and what looked like a perfect life, but he also had depression – and it killed him.

I am running a 5k as part of the Loch Ness Marathon at the end of September in support of Support in Mind Scotland, a small charity providing support to people with mental illness and their families.  If you feel you can donate something please go to my JustGiving Page. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Debbie-Mathews-Ruppenthal

Thank you for reading this.

 

Statistics courtesy of the Samaritans:

https://www.samaritans.org/about-us/our-research/facts-and-figures-about-suicide