Ethical Tweeting? Part 2


IMG_3536OK, so I just wrote a whole bunch of waffle and deleted it. Let me try that again and go straight to the point: How do I personally choose who I follow? I am very purposeful about finding great people to follow, so first I check out those who are following me, they get first look in, and secondly I search all kinds of interesting topics and hashtags. I want diversity and realistic and people who are keeping it real rather than any one box, or sticking only to the “popular”. There are a lot of bright newbies out there I have no doubt. So here are my criteria for whether I click that “follow” button:

  • Do they look interesting? I like this one because it has no boundaries. I like interesting people and just about anyone real and congruent can fit this category. I am always looking for people “outside the square” or who have fallen between the cracks somewhat. Something does need to draw me in, but there are no limits to what that could be.
  • Do they “look” real? There was one girl who followed me with thousands of followers since January but only 2 tweets ever within 5 minutes of her signing up. Call me stupid, but she doesn’t look real to me, and really, it doesn’t matter if she is real or not, I am not going to learn a single thing from her, or be encouraged by anything that she says or does because it is all silence… So nope, if they don’t look real then I don’t click.
  • Who do they follow? Last week as I was looking through potential people to follow I checked out someone who by most measures looked really interesting. But when I looked at who he follows, while he was a male, the page of followers were almost exclusively female, young, with a spattering of cleavages and pouted mouths through the list. In many ways I think that we are who we follow, who we support, who we care about, and who we want to see. This guy appeared (and I am open to the fact that I am wrong) to enjoy that kind of genre and that is great for them. But it just isn’t my kind of tribe.
  • Are they “Keeping it real”? That person in the last example had a twitter feed that was all about wholesomeness, yet this was not reflected in who he follows, and as you know, I am not about incongruent masks or double standards. I want variety in who I follow, but I need them to be proud of who they are, regardless of who or what that is.
  • Who do we have in common as followers? Now that I am building communities for myself and getting to know people, increasingly as I “check someone out” as a potential to follow, I am noticing that some of them already have a bunch of people who I already know and follow, following them. Sometimes that is enough for me. Because of the respect that I have for many of the people I follow, having 10 of them already following someone is a pretty good recommendation for me. If I am too tight on my criteria then how will I ever find the fabulous people who are outside of the boxes that I build for myself?
  • Numbers mean little to me. I am not drawn to people because of massive follows, but I wont say no on that basis either. We are all at different places in our Twitter journey. The other day I followed three people with less than 20 friends and only a few tweets. This is because I myself was brand new only a month ago and a whole bunch of people took a chance on me, whether by choice, accident, or whatever, they gave me the chance to prove myself. I want to do the same for others. Now to be clear, they all appear to belong to one of my tribes or another. They are either Chronic illness … writers, bloggers, memoirists… or a bunch of other things that I find appealing. It doesn’t mean that I will stay following them forever, if they become inactive, uninteresting to the extreme, or become spam in any way then that doesn’t really work for me. But I’d love to give them a chance…
  • I also check through those that I follow on a regular basis. I am obviously not always right and social media is a great place for all kinds of bad people to hide. So for me follows aren’t set in concrete and if I follow someone based on the best knowledge that I have at the time, it is always good to double check that choice a few weeks later…

(Here is part one of my ethical twitter thoughts)

My blog on all things writing my story and my book is here, my blog on all things EDS (my genetic condition) and all things Chronic Champions are here, And all things arty and creative are here. I’m on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest too.

3: Self Care is not following a script…

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.58.44 PMThis one is really simple. There is very much a formula around the space of implementing self care; knowing when to self care, what works for us personally, and sometimes even needing to methodically implement it. Paradoxically however, the worse shape I am in the more I need self care, but also the less my brain is helping me to do the right thing. A formulaic approach to self care really helps me in that I have taught myself to know what helps in theory and to just do it. To trust the process and go with it. And it nearly always works.

But sadly there isn’t a script on working out what our self care needs are. There isn’t list of things that work for everyone and nor is there a list of trick questions to tick, which will then spit out the answers at the other end. Self care is extremely personal and trial and error with a deliberate mind appeared to be what worked for me. I painstakingly “stumbled” upon the things that worked for me, ….slowly over many years. They seem so simple now, but my brain had never searched my soul for answers to what I needed before, so it didn’t know where to look and my soul did not know how to tell me or my brain what it’s needs were.

So if someone you love is struggling and can’t find how they need to self care, or is forgetting to self care, maybe ask them if they need help for sure, but don’t be too hard on them if they are struggling to fit a list of self care options, or work out what their needs are.

FAQ: Chronic vs Acute Abuse

Today’s post is a biggy. Not that there is ever anything small about abuse of any kind, but another blogger asked me a question the other day about the word Chronic and what it is. This is SUCH an important question, and the answer even more so.

All around us these days we see stories of the most traumatic and unbelievable abuse, from fathers and strangers stealing and hiding young girls in their basements for years on end, to brutal attacks and rapes. Like it or not, because it is everywhere on the news, in movies, and on the small screen, we are becoming somewhat desensitised to them. We are still horrified and we are still shocked, but the line has become blurry between what is real and what isn’t, but worse than that, is that our measure of what we think abuse is, is so extreme that we miss a different more subtle kind of abuse that is often right under our noses.

Domestic Abuse is also very much in the spotlight right now (and rightly so) and on those screens we see women with black eyes and swollen lips, purple and blue bruises and frazzled hair. The look in their eyes often speak even more deeply of the tragedy and the violence, as well as the deep emotional pain that they are in. We are shocked and horrified and look around us but don’t see anyone in our neighbourhood looking like that and so we assume that we don’t know anyone who is, or ever has been abused.

Sexual abuse is another deeply traumatic and violent act that we see on the big screen. This one in theory we know happens all around us, but we don’t like to pry or ask. 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused in one way or another, and we assume that for all of them, they are people we don’t know, and that they were physically raped.

Abuse can be at the hands of loved ones or strangers and it can take many forms. Physical and sexual abuse are the obvious, but we do hear from time to time about emotional abuse. I don’t want to take anything from these deeply tragic and abusive physical situations, but my concern in this article is for both women and men and a different kind of abuse. One that goes “unnoticed” and “non validated” sometimes even by the victim. Emotional abuse is much harder to define and capture, and because it goes hand in hand with squashing the voice of the victim, it is very hard to see or even measure the impact. For these as well as those who are more “subtly” sexually abused, there are no dark basements, no physical bumps or bruises, but the damage can, and often is, just as bad.

Let me go back a step and explain a very important concept, the difference between Chronic and Acute. We often hear these two words associated with medical things and the easiest way to explain it is to use a cough as an example. Someone with an acute cough would have a really really bad one. It may even be Pneumonia. It requires hospitalisation to treat the cough and maybe even save the patient’s life. We all get a huge fright especially the patient who is suffering tremendously.

A chronic cough on the other hand doesn’t look so bad, but it goes on and on and on. A normal cough virus (or bacteria) should last no longer than 10 days, and then if all goes well it goes away. But a cough that lingers for weeks or months or a cough that is not so bad and heals, but keeps coming back over and over again can be a sign of something  else far worse going on.

Take a different example. Say someone hit you over the head with a hammer. Hard enough to knock you out and leave you in hospital with a major head injury. That is called a brain trauma and it is a massive assault. It is called an acute trauma.

But what if someone only hit you with a rubber mallet? Not hard enough to knock you out or cause any “damage”, but they did it over and over and over again. What if every time you woke up someone hit you once on the head with this soft rubber mallet. Over time, it would still be a trauma, but a different kind of trauma, a chronic trauma. The mild bruising that occurred would never get the chance to heal, and the same spot would become tender and damaged in a different way. The bruising and healing would become stagnant and the body would not get a chance to take the damaged cells away. A blood clot could form and the person could eventually have a stoke and land up in hospital in just as bad shape as the person who was hit hard with a metal hammer that broke through their skull. This is called chronic trauma.

Much of this may seem obvious to a lot of people when looking at the outside world or the theory of abuse, but I have a huge heart for men and women who live in all kinds of chronic abuse. Bullying is a perfect example of constantly and consistently being emotionally (or even physically) hit over the head with a soft rubber mallet.

Physically it can mean a parent, sibling or school mate who constantly and regularly smacks you on the back of the head “in jest” each time you walk in the door. One whack can be funny, or simply “not nice”, but when you can’t ever get them to stop, it is abusive. More than that, it may look physical but it is actually emotional. For the bully it is a mild yet chronic way to remind someone who has the upper hand, over and over and over again. To constantly and consistently knock a person down a peg. It may not be about squashing them under foot, but it is a way of never allowing that person freedom to grow or branch out. It is about keeping that person trapped by fear and insecurity.

If someone who is hit over the head like that every single day complains, we tend as a society to measure that against the stories on the TV. We assure them that what they are suffering is nothing compared to “real” abuse and tell them that they should be thankful that it isn’t worse. We tend to judge their experience and diminish it, and we don’t help them to rise above it and to stand up to the “bully”. But no one likes to stand up to bullies right? …and anyway, these kinds of bullies are so subtle and because as they whack us they laugh and tell us that they love us, or scruff our hair …. No one else notices the victim’s hurt, and we all think that the bully is wonderful for saying that they love them. The victim then often feels bad, as though being hurt (emotionally or physically) is their own fault, and that they should the bully like everyone else does. And so way too often these kinds of experiences are never validated or recognised.

This chronic abuse can be emotional or it can be sexual as well. We constantly hear of rapes, multiple rapes, and the massive, life destroying impact on the victim by these massive, acute, sexual, emotional and physical traumas, and my heart absolutely breaks for the victims both at the time and forever onwards. But what if a young boy or girl was being chronically abused? What if a family member kept trying to look at and laugh at her budding breasts? What if she was mocked for not growing them fast enough or big enough for someone’s liking? What if a mother kept “accidentally” leaving the buttons of her shirt undone and wore no bra when her young son is the only one home and tries to get him to have an eye full, …then mocks him when he tries to look away? What if there is no sexual touch as such, but while watching TV many evenings a mother sits way too close to her hormonal teenage son, becomes sexually aroused and makes comments and gestures that leave him feeling ill and confused, or a father who does the same to a daughter and his breathing becomes heavy and hot on her neck? What if all these children have no words to explain their experiences and one to tell anyway? What if they are confused and degraded confused about what they are feeling anyway? What if when they try to verbalise it even to themselves they sound like they are making mountains out of molehills and so they silence themselves in fear of sounding stupid or being told that it is their fault?

In a completely different way, what of the child who is constantly mocked by her parents for the colour of her hair or the freckles on her face? What if she is mocked and blamed for being a girl instead of a boy? What if the focus was too much on the negative and not enough on the positive and that she was never equipped for the world out there? What if she is never taught skills to use her voice, to stand up for herself, to ask healthy questions, or to find her own skills and passions, … what if she doesn’t know how to healthily say no? What if her parents kept her isolated from family and friends so that there were no other influences on her life to fill in the gaps that she so desperately needed? What if she was never cared for medically and always told that she was making it up, …so no one even looked to see what was going on under the surface?

Silence and secrets, unspoken pain and confusion, youth and innocence … all these things conspire against anyone who grows up in or lives with chronic abuse; the constant hits on the head by a rubber mallet, which dull our senses and keep us in fear. For every battered face there are a dozen battered hearts and broken souls. For every rape there is a handful of sexually broken men and women who don’t understand what is going on other than that somehow it hurts like hell.

Much of that emotional abuse is mild, but psychologically a good chunk of it is actually not as subtle as it appears. But even if it is all mild, the constant whacking over the head with the emotional hammer, all through a child’s growing years, does not equip him or her for adult life. It sets paths for their future which were no where near to the God-given potential that they was born with. Patterns were set for choosing partners, building relationships, and the bruised and battered effects of abuse continue into adult life….

Unless … what if they are brave enough, and strong enough and manage to break free… to start on a decades long lonely, exhausting journey to achieve what is supposed to be the impossible, …and what if they are prepared to lose everything to get there?

First go at Prompt Writing!

Ok, so this is a first for me, normally I sit down at my laptop, my soul and fingers go for it … and I hitch along for the ride to see what happens (well not quite, but I am rarely at a loss for what to say and it seems to come quite naturally, no doubt from having a stifled “voice” most of life, it is now making up for lost time). So this is an interesting exercise for me! The idea is to see this prompt from Liz “TheWritingReader“… and write about it. I have never written anything in my life other than non fiction and from my own perspective so this is going to be very interesting and can you tell that I am putting it off as long as I can? But I want to do this, I really do. It will be a great exercise …I think.. I have NO idea what I am going to even say!


Everything about this image makes me want to go inside. It makes me want to know what is within, what stories it holds and who lived there … not who now lives there for it feels as though when I open that door the room will be physically empty. Empty but for the stories in the walls, the floors, the fire place …for I feel sure that there is a fireplace. Who lived here, cried here, made love here and fell in love here? Who hurt and who bled, who breathed their first or their last breath here? Who owned the dreams that were made, shared, won and lost?

And which outweighed the other? Was it a happy home filled with children and love, community and success, or was it a place of pain and loneliness, lost dreams and broken hearts. Did those who lived here carry their burdens heavily and drag themselves through a miserable life or where their yokes shared well and their miseries few?

In the very beginning, who painted those walls and carved those stairs?  Who added metal bars and why? What colour was that door when it was brand new? …For once upon a time that door was very much brand new, as were those stairs and walls and windows. They were someone’s dream, someone’s creation. Were they proud of what they built and bought and moved into, or was it a compromise, a “scaling down”, a rent they could barely afford which would never be theirs? Was it all they every dreamt of or was it what they had to settle for?

There is nothing left now but darkness and cold, empty walls and scratched bare floors. But each and every one of those scratches and marks, those worn through patches and shiny scuff marks, ..tells a story. A story of a person with a beating heart and a rich deep soul. A soul that belonged to a life… a life that was either well lived, badly fought for, or a mixture of happenings of both. Who won the battle for each of those souls… the devil himself or the God of Heaven and earth? Where are they all now? Where did they go, their human lives long gone, forgotten, no longer relevant … or did they live on in the memories of the generations after them. What marks did they leave on the hearts and souls of their children and grandchildren, …or did they leave no mark at all, but the scuff marks on the stairs?

An anxious Piece of Pottery

I made this bowl the other day, … (well, this is only the underglaze, those pencil lines will burn off in the kiln and the colours are all actually bright and dark). But I made it after seeing a similar quote on the Facebook page of a fellow writer, and it speaks to me on so many levels. Not just because many writers can relate to this, but also as someone who has been silenced all my life and not allowed to use my voice in any forum, writing my memoir has become a powerful way of expressing a pain that is and was extremely deep …and yet I could not explain.

As I break out of that, one of the key tools that found the cracks in my enforced emotional “prison” was 6 years ago when I started to write my story for myself. It slowly began the season in my journey to healing, that allowed me (and my psychologists) a small window into my broken damaged soul. I can write things that I cannot say, my soul speaks through the keys with words that I didn’t know I had, when I write it out and let people see it I can face it without the extreme emotions of loneliness that went with living it in real life. I feel as though when I tell my story to someone I find that I lose the ability to breath and the emotional and physical pain becomes too consuming, …but when I let my fingers and my soul connect and do their thing, I feel like my readers are holding my hand as I “go there”. and I am more able to stand back and let it happen without reliving it nearly as deeply.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still painful, and I have nightmares for a few nights and through the writing sessions themselves I frequently need to make a dash for the loo, but there is somehow a level of protection. My greatest healing comes from my writing, telling this story that I have borne for all my existence …

And so this speaks to me at the deepest of levels, it is about my pain but it also about the freedom that I am finding in getting it out! This statement is extremely validating and freeing for me, and I wanted to write it somewhere that I can always see it. But when I showed it to a couple of people, the reaction was: “what an anxious piece of pottery”! They weren’t being at all unkind, but it was a huge reminder to me that my freedom, my voice, and my pain do not speak to all people, and that I mustn’t take that personally. It is not about me, and it isn’t even a negative about them…

Ethical Tweeting? Part 1

IMG_3561Is there such a thing as “ethical social media”?

I am passionate about both truth and community. They may sound like somewhat unrelated concepts, but for me they very much go hand in hand, regardless of what our belief system is. I believe that community and belonging are at the most basic level of our needs, and I also believe that the deepest and safest relationships are created when they are born and sustained in truth. For me personally, I believe that some of the signs and badges of relational truths are Freedom of speech, Respect for each other’s voices, Empathy from each to the other, Equal measures of grace with your truth, and so on.

To me, I believe that truth builds safe communities, and that safe communities foster truth. In this combination we can grow freely as human beings, we can have space to all be different, we can all be “seen”, nurtured, respected…. And I believe this of ALL forms of community. When I think about anything related to betrayal, hurt, bullying, … some of them can be connected to truth telling (done badly) and communities (functioning badly) but none of them can stand beside both truth and strong community… and I’d love yo to challenge me on that one if you can find something.

I totally understand and respect the issues with social media and that bullies can hide behind anonymity, that we need to keep “real” relationships happening instead of only relying on the internet “fake” ones, but I will deeply challenge the concept of which are fake and which are real in a few posts time. Here I simply want to focus on the concept of the depth of our most basic need for both community and truth.

And like it or not, whatever way we each use Twitter, Facebook and so on, we all use them at some level for community. This to me crosses all boundaries, both cultural and religious, and I believe that the need for community is one of the few things that I can find, that is backed up by all view points.

My Psychologist, a staunch atheist, says that it is deeply built into our DNA to belong to our own tribe or community. Deeper even than our most basic survival need for food, is our need for our tribe to survive as a whole. If it is wiped out, she says, then we will be left alone and isolated, and that isolation is the worst thing that can happen to a person, worse even than death. This rings true for me, even to the point where solitary confinement is still one of the worst tortures in prisons and armies.

From a “God perspective” I can’t find anything that contradicts these concepts either, the Bible is filled (to my knowledge) with all manner of things that all point towards building of community and truth. Jesus told us to care for the widows and orphans, that he would prepare a place for us in community in Heaven, that we are not here to judge or condemn each other. Even the old testament  stories of wars and battles, are about survival of our own communities and protecting and standing up for our own tribes.

My mission in life is to encourage, build, and restore tribes and communities (without wars let me be clear!). These concepts are the threads through and the foundations under, almost everything that I write about whether it is about my broken body, my abused and broken soul, or even on sharing my very fledgling journey on social media. I have already been battling with my gut and all that I am learning about social media, as I find a space to build my community, but to stay true to my values of truth and honesty, encouragement and integrity. In the weeks ahead I hope to explore this further and I am excited to share some of the people and places that I have found that already shine like lights in these areas. I am clearly not alone in this mission!

I’m also on TwitterFacebookInstagram and Pinterest too.

The Ultimate in “Keeping it Real”

Last night we watched the movie “What we did on our holiday“. It was the second time that I have seen it and I love it more and more. Through a brilliant and totally unpredictable story line, Billy Connolly and David Tennant at their best, and a cast of other actors who all do an amazing job (especially the children), this cleverly written British comedy, to me, is the ultimate in why we need to be “keeping it real”.

With layer upon layer upon layer of reasons, consequences, twists and turns, though hilariously funny, it is also deeply emotional with some very strong messages; Life is short, wearing masks and keeping up appearances is taxing and totally not worth it, and no one wins, least of all those who pretend the most.

Movies like this inspire me and remind me that transparency is the way to go at every level. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it, ….but bring the tissue box and be ready to laugh like you haven’t laughed in a long time!

(…and with so much Scottish blood running through my veins, that didn’t hurt the experience either …stunning scenery and so many threads running through it, up there on my all time best list).

2: Self care is not what everyone else says it is

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.58.44 PMSelf care is not simply what everyone else says it is. After I got it through my thick skull that self was not going to force me into a beauty salon, we started looking for other things.

One of my psychologists kept telling me to join a bookclub. Again, it did nothing but make me upset with him, and I after about the fourth time he suggested it I decided that if he did it again, I would tell him where to stick his suggestion (thankfully that was not necessary). I didn’t need more people in my life, I had lot of friends and colleagues and as an adult have always been a sociable person. But I had lived behind a mask of happiness all my life for no other reason that I did not have the words to express what was underneath to myself, never mind anyone else. And I desperately needed to get out from behind it.

I didn’t know how to do anything that was just for me, and when pushed to think of something the idea of meeting more people was exhausting, and I knew that I couldn’t walk into a room and say “Hi, I’m Jennifer and I am broken and scared and damaged goods, can I please be real with you?”. I’m pretty sure that I would not have been invited back again after that! I didn’t need more people I needed more ME.

So I decided to to confide my problem with a few trusted friends and the outcome (through no fault of theres) was the same as the psychologists. Everyone suggested what they find calming and soothing and they were all activity based.

  • spend time in the kitchen
  • go for a run
  • phone a friend
  • go away for the weekend
  • have your hair done
  • have your nails done

The lists were endless, but again they caused me anxiety, and made me feel more and more different, weird and strange compared to everyone else. I didn’t need a good girls night out, I cook for a large family every meal and I hated it, and my body couldn’t keep up with being on my feet in the kitchen never mind going for a run or a big night out. I have no doubt that they are great things for most other people to do, but for me I was spending too much time and energy trying to do what others do, instead of finding my own safe place and activities, but the problem was that I didn’t know where in my soul to look for it, as it had never been planted there in the first place.

1: Self Care is not the same as Pampering.


Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.58.44 PMSelf care can include pampering, but many people (like me) who did not grow up with any kind of care, (self or any other kind), it is easy to confuse the words “self care” with “pampering”. Well into my painful and confusing journey towards self care I confused these two things almost all the time, and it caused a great deal of anxiety and frustration for both my psychologists and myself.

I kept thinking that self care meant having one’s hair or nails done, with spending time on “over and above” grooming and so on… all things that are are scary and frightening for me, even though I didn’t know why or how they were so scary I just knew that for me they were.

Therefore when my psychologists talked about self care, instead of me calmly thanking them for their advice and heading off to have a facial with my best buddy, my anxiety soured even more, I felt even less understood than ever, and I became even more confused and felt even more different and isolated.


I needed to be safe and free and to find my voice, not to add more and more things in my life that scared me. Pampering for many people I am sure is a great way to self care. It combines time out, silence, massage, smells, luxury, and often a whole lot of rest. For me on the other hand (and maybe others?) it is touch that scares us, intimacy that comes too close, tense bodies that are put into the care and control of others, soothing words that are often “put on” rather than real, and an atmosphere that is foreign.

It didn’t help that because of my as yet undiagnosed EDS (Mah Eeds), the few times that I have been to any kind of beauty place, waxing burnt my skin, manicures left my fingers bleeding and ultimately infected, and the only massage I’ve ever subjected myself to, left me sore and a bone dislocated. Pampering for me simply isn’t the same thing as Self Care, even though I am sure that for many it can very much be a part of it.

What Self-care is NOT..

It is not pampering…

It is not what everyone else says it is…

It is not following a script…

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.58.44 PMIt took me a VERY long time to learn this. When I completely fell apart my psychologists would try and help me to regroup and find some safe space. But I had never know safety and so even in my head, there was no “happy place”, there was no “go-to” thing that I could do to unwind and slow down and work on anything constructive. I lived in fear and anxiety about life, people, my health and so many other things.

After weeks and weeks of questions and my completely stumped non answers, I think that eventually he believed me that I actually had no idea what self care was, and especially not for me. After numerous suggestions of joining another book club, going to a Spa, or a whole list of what “other” people think pampering was, I was become more instead of less anxious about what on earth I was supposed to do to self care.

And so instead of just going to happy places and trying out formulas, we had to start basic; … super basic. We started off by creating a safe corner in the spare room. I told my husband that it was going to be my safe space, and made sure that the blankets that I liked best were on the bed, there was a phone charger and extension to the home phone. A handful of odds and ends that I had gathered over the years that I really liked and were more about “me” rather than “us” were placed on the shelves, and anything that didn’t fit the bill was moved out.

It wasn’t an overnight process, it took weeks and even months, but we moved the bed so that the sunlight came in if it was a sunny afternoon, and I placed my baskets of knitting and books that I was reading around the room. I had no idea what to do with it, or where we were gong with this. It is was a process, …but just creating a safe space was good for me in ways that I couldn’t yet articulate or even work out, and a couple of times I actually used it out of choice rather than because I knew it was good for me. It was the beginning…

The other day I wrote on some of the major early blockages to self caring for survivors of traumatic childhoods, and as I slowly learnt over many years what I do need to self care, I first found myself coming to the conclusion that there are many things that self care is not. I’ll expand on each of those point next week.