Equilibrium Magazine for Mental Health & Wellbeing, Issue 67

Page 1

ISSUE 67, 2019

• Organ Transplant • Stigma in the South Asian Community • OCD: A Linguist’s Perspective • The North Yorkshire Moors Railway


Equilibrium Patron Dr Liz Miller Mind Champion, 2008.

Image: Pixabay/ Free-photos

What Equilibrium means to me‌. WEB ALERTS If you know anyone who would like to be on our mailing list to get the magazine four times a year (no spam!), please email: equilibriumteam@hotmail. co.uk (www.haringey.gov.uk/ equilibrium).

Equilibrium is devised, created and produced by . students with experience of the mental health system.

Photo copyright remains with all individual artists and Equilibrium. All rights reserved, 2011.

I enjoyed writing a short article for the mental health magazine Equilibrium based on my personal experience of having a mental illness for the last 20 years. The office environment and people were all friendly and gave support on tap, especially when you got stuck for ideas or needed technical help using the computer. The other contributors present all shared a mental health history, so gelled well together, and we were made to feel very welcome. Norman I found Equilibrium at a crucial point, where I found an open door to try a new healing form of writing and expression. Honest, happy, healthy. One thing I have to say, I go at my own pace and learn little lessons on computers, in art and writing, communicating, and ultimately a chance to get some self-confidence and self-esteem back after being belittled and degraded and abused. I found the open light of Equilibrium at the end of a dark tunnel of life. Equilibrium gives me a purpose. Thank you. Blessings. Richard The magazine means a lot to me for the reason that it allows me to write about various aspects of mental health and wellbeing. This is one of the only places where you can talk about this sticky matter and issues surrounding wellbeing. Working here also allows me to meet like-minded people who are passionate about talking about their experiences of their conditions. Seeing these issues being published spreads information on mental health, and other topics, even further. Devzilla Equilibrium has been a fantastic form of expression for me. I have the choice to write about what I want and I can put my ideas into practice. I have been with Equilibrium since 2007, and I never run out of ideas of things to write about. I have enjoyed writing articles and reviews about plays, books and galleries. The Equilibrium team has changed from time to time, but we still manage to produce four copies of the magazine a year. Angela


EDITORIAL Hello, Equilibrium readers. I hope you all had a relaxing Christmas and are looking forward to a prosperous 2019. As always, we have a varied and exciting issue for you to sink your teeth into. Among these contributions, we have pieces by Elvis Coimbra Gomes, Sophia H Garner and Sarah Burns, all of whom are sharing their research and their experiences with Equilibrium for the first time. We also have pieces from some of our more regular contributors, including poetry from Astharte De Los Santos and an article by Dev Chatterjea on mental health in the South Asian community. I would like to thank our wonderful writers for taking the time to share their insights, and I hope you enjoy reading what they have to offer in this issue. Namaste. Emily, Editor

DISCLAIMER Equilibrium is produced by students. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly forbidden without the prior permission of the Equilibrium team. Products, articles and services advertised in this publication do not necessarily carry the endorsement of Equilibrium or any of our partners. Any material that has been reprinted is, as far as we know, in the public domain. If you have any concerns about anything printed within Equilibrium, please contact the team via the email below. Equilibrium is published and circulated electronically four times a year to a database of subscribers; if you do not wish to receive Equilibrium or have received it by mistake, please email unsubscribe to equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk

THE TEAM Facilitator/Editor: Emily Sherris Students: Dev, Nigel, Richard Graphic Designer: Anthony J. Parke

CONTACT US Equilibrium, Clarendon Recovery College, Clarendon Road, London, N8 ODJ. 0208 489 4860, equilibriumteam@hotmail.co.uk.

CONTRIBUTIONS Wanted: contributions to Equilibrium! Please email us with your news, views, poems, photos and articles. Anonymity guaranteed if required.



Summer/ Issue 38

Coming to terms with the gift of an organ transplant Sarah Burns


etween April 2017 and March this

nearly five thousand of whom were

year, there were over five thousand

renal patients, so the average wait for a

transplants; of those, the largest number

kidney is three years and can often be

- over three thousand - were kidneys.

longer still. In the case of renal patients,

Behind each of these are a multitude

that can mean time spent on dialysis.

of stories: the family who in their darkest

Inevitably, the patient’s world becomes

hour agreed to donate their loved

smaller, and alongside the procedure

one’s organs; the person who selflessly

itself and the limits on daily life, there

chose to help someone in need; the

are also restrictions on what a patient

patient who got that longed-for call to

can eat or drink: dairy is often out, the

say that they would be getting that life-

chocolate treat can be forbidden, and

changing surgery.

even certain fruits and vegetables can end up off the menu. Thanks to the

Mine became one of these stories

generosity of my relative, I avoided this

in January 2018, when I received a

altogether, but, anecdotally, I have

kidney transplant. As I approach my

heard that patients can take around

first “kidney-versary”, I can now see

a year to get used to this new regime.

three key stages that have had various

When I faced the prospect of it, I was

impacts on my emotional and mental

more frightened of this, and the impact


it would have on my life, than of an operation.

The first is the wait itself. As of March this year, there were over six thousand people active on the transplant list,


Secondly, there is the vital call and the operation itself. I remember mine


like it was yesterday: being at work,

was having my operation alongside

only hearing the words “possible”

people who had waited years more

and “match”, assuming the news was

than me. Calling my relative for the

bad and swearing loudly when I was

first time after my operation was one

corrected! For most patients, they

of the hardest things I’ve done - crying

don’t get warning. Of those three

after saying “thank you”, which, in the

thousand transplants between April

circumstances, felt utterly inadequate.

2017 and March 2018, only around

Time has made this better for me.

nine hundred were from live donors and would have been planned. But

Finally, there’s the recovery and

where a deceased donor is the source,

the return to normal. All transplant

the patient is told over the phone not

patients face the same routine in

to eat or drink anything and to get to

the first few weeks and months: early

the hospital as quickly as possible. Life

attendance at a clinic for a blood

has to come to a halt in that moment.

test; a wait to see the nurse to check

Instead, I had a two-month heads-

blood pressure and weight; and then a

up, but not being on dialysis brought

further wait to see the doctor, by which

an unexpected mental hurdle: a rare

time test results are back and can be

warning in advance of illness to come.

discussed. Initially, this happens three times a week. My life that had once

The guilt is acute; in my case, it was

revolved around work and socialising

knowing that my loved one would

was suddenly all about my health,

have to spend the rest of their life

and I was unable to talk about much

with one kidney because of me; but

else. My diet was restricted while the

how could I take a deceased donor

kidney got used to its new home, and,

kidney when I had this opportunity

alongside new and ever-changing

available? How could I potentially

medications, I needed to drink at

take an organ that someone else

least three litres of water a day. This

could have had, someone who was

was easily the toughest part of the

in desperate need and didn’t have

whole process. The expectations are

the offer of a live donation? Also, I

high, and so as each new change


Summer/ Issue 38

is implemented, it can be crushing.

so limited - choices I previously made

Even one of my doctors said to me,

easily can become overwhelming,

it’s perfectly normal to wish that the

but I’m hoping that, as with everything

kidney had never been transplanted,

else, this will improve with time. And

and that it could be taken back out.

there is the continued worry of how

I certainly thought that more than

long my kidney will last. The average


“life” of a deceased donor kidney is around fifteen years, and from a live

The typical routine is that a patient

donation it can be around twenty. But

is in hospital for five days after surgery,

clearly that can vary considerably. It

can drive after four weeks and can

can often be daunting to think about

return to work after three months. But

how to use the time with my kidney

I faced several complications that

so that if it does start to fail, I can say

often led to my being readmitted

I’ve achieved all I wanted to, and I’ve

to hospital. I started my medical

followed all the advice I received, so

leave from work with plans for what I

I can be sure I’ve done everything I

would do with all that time at home

can to maintain it.

- suffice to say, the most I achieved was completing box sets. As patients,

But while going about our

we assume that the kidney gets

now normal lives and taking the

“plugged in” and works pretty much

immunosuppressants we need to

straightaway. This is a very rare

maintain our physical health, we


transplant patients will continue to face challenges to maintain

Nearly a year on and life for me

our mental health. But given the

is back to normal: I returned to work

dramatic impact it can have, it is

in mid-April, started driving again in

hardly surprising that many transplant

early June, and am slowly but surely

patients refer to their new organ as

rebuilding my social life. But even

their “gift”, and throughout all these

now, the new mental challenge is

trials, we owe it to our donors, and

returning to a richer life after it was

ourselves, to make the most of it.




Image: Comfreak/ Pixabay

Darkness Liv Johannesson

Suddenly it’s just there, the black empty hole that pierces through my heart, growing in darkness and pain. Slowly, my mind mellows. My focus centres round the pain and blackness. Snap out of it! Snap out of it! But my mind will not. No matter how hard I try to fight it, my mind will not focus, my body will not move. Minutes turn to hours, the sun becomes the moon. I climb into bed, exhausting myself. I pray that tomorrow the pain will go away. I know it will not, but the darkness will. An elusive illusion that I heal.



Summer/ Issue 38

Sophia H Garner

When I was twelve, my world was shattered.

was happening inside my head. Bedell (2016) reported that both depression


n the last year or so, I have read

and anxiety amongst teenagers has

that the lives of young people in

increased by 70% in the past twenty-

the UK are improving, with fewer

five years. Since 2009, the number of

teenage pregnancies, less drinking,

A&E visits made by children and young

less drug taking and less smoking,

people with psychiatric conditions has

which is incredible! However, research

more than doubled. The report goes on

is uncovering a world of mental health

to state that the number of teenagers

issues that are taking hold of many

being admitted to hospital with eating

young people. I read an article in the

disorders has also doubled. Bedell’s

Independent, written by Geraldine

article contains several case studies

Bedell, which really struck a chord. “It

which all have a different stance on

is as if, rather than acting out, young

the triggers for these conditions. Triggers

people are turning in on themselves”

such as: exams, schools, parents’ sense

(Bedell, 2016). I’m not sure that

of self-worth, social pressures and

sentence could have resonated with

negative life events have all become

me any more than it did. When I look

hot topics surrounding this epidemic

back on how I was behaving, with

(Bedell, 2016). With the world beginning

the self-destruct button switched on,

to open up and realise that mental

I didn’t always lash out; I sunk into

health is an issue that needs discussing,

myself and began to cause myself

there are more and more people willing

more pain to alleviate the torture that

to talk about it. I wish to share my battle



with mental health, in the hope that

such as, “How are you doing?”, “Let’s

what I experienced and learnt can,

talk about it”, “It’s okay to be upset”,

and will, help other people who are

all of which made me want to be sick.


The crux of it was, it didn’t work. I left, crying my eyes out and feeling more

At twelve, my world should have

shut off than before.

been filled with chocolate bars, computer games, skipping ropes

A few months after I went to see

and pet cuddles. But sadly, all that

someone, my mum’s health drastically

was a bit of a distant memory, when

deteriorated, to the extent that she

an important member of my close

was hospitalised for long periods of

family decided to do a disappearing

time. This made me close off even

act. As I began to close off and my

more; I completely refused to speak to

family situation became increasingly

anyone, because I felt like I needed

worse, people began to express their

to be strong and care for my mum. I

concerns about me. Some of my family

would run home and make sure she

wanted me to speak to someone:

was okay, even if that meant I would

a counsellor, a therapist, someone

cut class a few times a week. By the

who, in my eyes, would merely offer

time I was seventeen, I had lashed out

me a box of tissues and ask me silly

and was drinking alcohol excessively.

questions. However, I finally caved and

Just before my eighteenth birthday,

went to see someone. I hadn’t cried

I was admitted to the intensive care

or even spoken about the situation,

unit at my local hospital. I began

or my feelings, with anyone since it

to make enemies with the feeling I

happened. In hindsight, this is probably

named “my dark cloud”. No matter

the reason they wanted me to see/

what was happening, it was always

speak to someone. I sat down and

there, somewhere, in the back of my

immediately wanted to leave. Phrases

head, waiting for a trigger. Sometimes,


Summer/ Issue 38

it didn’t even feel as though there was

that it would go away, whether it

a trigger; it would just strike. Like when

be in a few hours or a few weeks or

you see those storm clouds, moving

even in a month. But it would pass,

over the hill; you shut the window, lock

it would leave me. I just had to learn

the door and brace yourself for the

how to deal with the present feeling

storm. That’s what I did. I didn’t tell

of sadness. I managed to find some

anyone. I would just shut the door and

forms of escape, a relief, almost, just

sink into myself. I would either hide

while the dark cloud passed over me.

away or drink through the spells of the

I would read so many books, novels

dark cloud, and sometimes it felt like it

and stories about different people in

would never pass.

fantasy worlds and how they would run away. Each book would pull me

When I was twelve, and things

somewhere else, to a place where

began to spiral downhill, I was

I didn’t have to deal with anything,

exposed to so much distress, by

cope with my difficulties or even think

no fault of my own or anyone

about my feelings.

else’s. I just was. I saw my mum hospitalised; I learnt of horrendous,

Through the years, it felt like things

personal betrayals; and I was put

just got worse. The list of negatives in

into situations I believe, as a child,

my life just kept building: a member

I shouldn’t have had to deal with.

of my family, who I was very close

The feelings I was trying to escape

to, passed away; I had a toxic

were feelings of complete sadness

relationship; and I had a number of

that would engulf and consume me.

extremely negative interactions with

It felt as though it would never end,

the person who did the disappearing

and it was heartbreaking. I learnt to

act. I started to rely heavily on alcohol

understand that what I was feeling

when I felt down or like I wanted to

was depression. I learnt to understand

cry. The so-called dark cloud would



appear on a more regular basis. It

was rushed to hospital, and a few

got to the point where, every week,

days later I woke up in intensive

I would feel myself consumed by the

care, covered in wires and on a life

feeling of being sad. But it never felt

support machine. I was petrified, but

like a normal amount of sadness; it

I still felt numb to anything other than

felt as though my whole body was


filled with painful suffering, from my fingertips to my chest, from my

After my time in intensive care, I

head to my feet, with no escape. I

was required to meet with a mental

began to think about what it would

health psychologist every week.

be like if I wasn’t able to feel this

Again, I was not enthralled by the

sadness, what it would be like not

idea, but I decided to go into it

to be able to feel anything. I think

with an open mind. I had nothing

that’s why alcohol became such a

to lose. I was also now at, what

big part of my coping mechanism,

people kept calling, “a crisis point”,

because I could drink and not feel.

and I had to agree with them. So I

Sadly, just before my eighteenth

reluctantly went every week, with a

birthday, it all got too much. I could

tiny bit of hope that it may help. To

no longer cope with the dark cloud

my absolute shock, there were no

eating away at me. I was no longer

‘silly questions’, no ‘have a tissue’

enjoying anything, and I truly just

comments. It was all very practical,

wanted to escape. I thought I was

very to the point and matter-of-

left with no option, other than to

fact. Now, I can see how this type of

disappear. I was spending days in

therapy might not work for everyone

bed, crying, hurting myself and no

and, equally, how the session I spoke

longer wanting to face my life. I

about previously may be what


Summer/ Issue 38

works for some people. Therefore,

crucial to my mental wellbeing.

I just want to say that relating

If I look at myself negatively, or

this experience isn’t about bad-

don’t allow myself to alleviate

mouthing any type of solution. It’s

the destructive feelings I have,

about emphasising the point that

then the consequences could be

there is not one solution that fits all,


which is what I think I learnt the hard way. I tried one solution, it didn’t work, and then I gave up. Everyone is different, and it is so important to find the right fit… like a good pair of shoes. I eventually found what worked for me, in the form of therapy and my own little solutions (reading, for instance). I was made to realise that there is so much more to live for, so much more to be passionate about, and that it is okay to be vulnerable sometimes.

I’ve learnt the hard way about self-love and how to manage yourself. It’s easy to feel consumed. It’s easy to feel like there is no way out, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. That light may not mean complete recovery, but it can mean a better future, one where you don’t feel quite so consumed. Be brave and take the first step to finding the light at the end of the tunnel. Speak to a

It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay

GP, speak to a family member or a

to feel hurt, to feel sad and to want

friend, or even just start by saying

to break down. What’s important

to yourself, “I’m going to be okay”.

is not allowing those feelings to

Try and see how amazing you are;

completely consume you. I learnt

once you see that, you’ll be able to

that how I look at myself and how

take positive steps towards making

I deal with my own feelings is so

yourself feel better.



The Vagabond Astharte De Los Santos Run, find your place, Vagabond. Have shame: you’re a disgrace, Vagabond. You make it obvious with all your pain, No one cares, because, at the end of the day, They laugh and stare. They place snares around you, Slipping bananas, So you can fall, Vagabond. Yet their cheerful smile, enticing, loud, You make them proud as you approach the crowd. Reaching acceptance, finally, oh wow! Then the same happens again and you wonder how. Because your heart is out, exposed to the world. Your cries for love reach the eternal grounds. They echo clearly, and so does your frown. Comply with your treatment,

Image: Pixabay/ Free-Photos

Yes, that’s how!


You will get them to see, Yes, they’ll know now, How normal you can be, They’ll accept you now!

Summer/ Issue 38

How many times can they hurt you, Vagabond? They don’t deserve you, Vagabond. So take your stick with bag attached, Keep looking for a place to crash. Never once looking back, Never once losing track Of the mission at hand. To impart justice, peace, through facts. To express yourself with rap on wax. Whatever your passion is, whatever your goals are, Vagabond, relax. You will do what you think. It’s just a matter of time Before they see you come forth and manifest your Divine. So keep pushing, Vagabond, don’t hide. Keep on living nonchalantly, Remember, they don’t like your kind. Vagabond.




Summer/ Issue 38

Mental Health Stigma in the South Asian Community Dev Chatterjea


ental health issues on the

had done something bad in one of their

subcontinent are still stigmatised

previous lives, and their psychological

and seen as a massive taboo, hence

condition was a punishment for that

why the subject always gets pushed

misdeed. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous,

under the carpet instead of being

but that was the mindset back then

talked about. This type of mindset still

and, to some extent, it still is. Hopefully

exists in the South Asian community

not as much, though.

here in the UK, regardless of more modern attitudes in other communities.

If a person had a mental health condition, they had to be very careful

As a person who grew up in the 80s

not to show any outward behaviour

and 90s in a South Asian community,

that highlighted their issues, both in

we were always made to understand

public and with extended and close

that mental health problems were an

family. This could be a terrible burden,

omen or a sin. Back then, the general

as they did not get that very important

view was that mental health sufferers

support from their family. The only place



for them to vent their feelings or display

the subcontinent, it was common

signs of their condition was in private,

for people to surmise that those with

e.g. their bedrooms or bathrooms.

certain mental health conditions were insane, which led to them being kept

If there was an outburst in public,

out of major decision-making. It is

rumours would spread throughout

perfectly obvious that there was a lack

the community about the incident,

of knowledge and treatment in those

which could have lead to them being


ostracised from the community and their family. The latter is more to do

If they were both from the

with family pride, known locally as

same region, psychiatrists on the

‘izzat’. There have been some cases

subcontinent would often speak to

where people have had to move

their patients as if they were part of

into supported living, because it

the family or an elder, trying to provide

was thought that their mental heath

personal or regional advice in the

condition was jeopardising their

hope that it may help. Unfortunately,

family’s future. The family may have

this has not really changed after all

suggested marriage in the hope

these years.

that it would rid the sufferer of their mental health condition. It could also

However, there have been some

have been a statement to show that

changes within the UK’s South Asian

the person in question was perfectly

community, but mental health issues

normal, as the marriage would

are still extremely hush-hush. This is

have shown that there was nothing

possibly to do with pride or, as people

wrong with them. In some parts of

in the community would say, ‘izzat’ or


Summer/ Issue 38

‘ghar ka izzat’. Only the closest family

their treatment and future plans.

members, e.g. parents, siblings, and

This is known as ‘ghar ka maryada’.

those who work in mental health, like

Developments concerning issues like

doctors and chemists, are aware of

mental health always take a very long

the person’s condition. Maybe this

time to become acceptable within

is because if more family members

the South Asian community. Attitudes

know that someone related to them

seem to improve at a snail’s pace.

has mental health issues, then those suffering will feel even more ostracised by the family. In 2019, it is still seen as a stigma for people in the South Asian community to have, or be labelled with, mental health problems. One reason for this is that these prejudices have not been tackled like they have in other communities where more members are aware and tolerant of people with mental health issues.

Saying this, there is some hope. People with mental health problems in the South Asian community have formed a close support group of sorts, where they help each other when possible or bounce ideas off one another. This is obviously done under wraps; it is a top secret community! There have been some people from this group who have started working

One obstacle that people with

in the mental health field and are very

mental health issues will face if their

slowly eliminating the stigma related

families become aware of their

to mental health in the South Asian

conditions is that they often have

community. Hopefully, in the next ten-

to obey the family’s orders. In other

fifteen years, this stigma will not be as

words, they don’t have a say in

problematic as it is now.




Summer/ Issue 38

The North Yorkshire Moors

Railway Pt.II Ricky Writes



his article, which is about the North

1967, and the North Yorkshire Moors

Yorkshire Moors Heritage Railway

Railway Preservation Society was born.

(now a registered charity), follows on

Tom Salmon was a local individual that

from the first part in the previous issue

was keen on saving the line; he and his

of Equilibrium. This detailed the history,

wife, Erica, died just a few years ago.

geography and scenery of the line, up until it was closed by British Railways under the Beeching plan.

The new society proposed to buy six miles of track from Grosmont to the summit of the line near Fylingales Early

The Beeching plan proposed that all

Warning Station and the track bed for

rail routes to Whitby be withdrawn,

the remaining twelve miles to Pickering,

but, after a local outcry, the line from

with the idea of re-laying it when funds

Middlesborough via the Esk Valley

permitted. The price they agreed with

and Grosmont was spared and is still in

British Railways was ÂŁ42,500.

existence. Harold Wilson, in opposition, said he would save the Grosmont to

However, just days before British

Pickering line, but, when he became

Railways were due to lift the other twelve

Prime Minister, he changed his mind, and

miles of track, the North Riding County

the line was closed.

Council (the predecessor of the present North Yorkshire County Council) stepped

Rather than give up, a few local

in and bought it, and then leased it to

people held a meeting in Tom Salmon’s

the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, who

house in Ruswarp, near Whitby, in June

paid it off after a number of years.



The reason behind the County

The line was opened for public

Council’s decision to purchase was that

services on the 22nd April 1973, and

they took the enlightened view that

HRH The Duchess of Kent officially

while people were on trains looking at

opened the railway on the 1st May 1973.

the scenery, they weren’t in their cars

Passenger and visitor numbers increased

clogging up the moorland roads.

and now amount to about three hundred and fifty thousand a year. It

Membership and volunteers for

became a registered charity called the

the railway grew rapidly, and steam

North Yorkshire Moors Historical Railway

locos and a diesel multiple unit were

Trust on the 14th February 1972.

purchased. Associations were made with the Hull and Barnsley Coach Stock

In April 2007, steam services were extended to Whitby over the six miles

Preservation Group for the provision of

of British Rail (Network Rail) track

coaches and more steam locomotives.

from Grosmont, the NYMR being the

Copyright NYMR

Fund and the North Eastern Locomotive


Summer/ Issue 38

first heritage railway to get such

There are now well over five

running rights over the National Rail

hundred volunteers and a nucleus

network. They also have rights to run

of paid staff, because there are not

to Battersby over the Esk Valley line

enough volunteers.

towards Middlesbrough. Another Lottery grant is due to In the drought of 1976, a diesel

be confirmed in March 2019; stage

locomotive was hired, which saved

one was approved in June 2017.

the day due to the fire risk from steam

This is to pay for three replacement

locomotives. Everyone was surprised

bridges at Goathland, a carriage

to find there were, in fact, enthusiasts

shed at Pickering, accommodation

for diesels.

for volunteers, lineside nature management and educational

The overall roof at Pickering

facilities. The railway has started an

Station, removed by British Railways

appeal called ‘Yorkshire’s Magnificent

in 1952, was reinstated in 2011 with a

Journey’ to raise £2.5 million to help

Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and the

match the Lottery grant.

second platform at Whitby Station was reinstated in 2014. This allowed more trains to run there and more flexibility, paid with grants from the Coastal Communities Fund (money given to coastal projects from the royalties to the Crown from wind farms on the seashore), Network Rail and a local fund called Yorkshire Forward. The entire Whitby and Pickering Railway is, therefore, running again, and with steam!


In years to come, the link may be re-laid between Pickering and the York to Scarborough line at Malton, but it is not on the cards at the moment, as the railway has enough on its plate with maintaining and improving facilities on its existing eighteen miles.

Scenery Regarding the scenery, it varies: green fields at the north and south


ends of the line; forestry plantations in

the Barnet local group of the Youth

Newtondale Gorge; and moorland,

Hostels Association; this is a forty-mile

purple with heather out in late August,

endurance walk across the moors that

in the central section. Fylingdales Early

crosses the railway at its summit at

Warning Station can be seen at the

Fylingdales. The idea is to do the walk in

summit of the line near Fenbog Nature

twenty-four hours.

Reserve, but the famous ‘golf balls’ were replaced by a pyramid a few years ago.

Another reason was that my father’s family came from Yorkshire (Leeds), and he’d been going to the North York

Me How did I get involved with this

Moors for holidays since the late 1800s, so there was a family connection.

heritage railway, and why did I join? Several reasons, all coming together!

I joined, therefore, not just for one reason but for all those coming

I joined the Preservation Society in

together. I also, of course, liked

1969, just two years after it had been

railways. I’ve backed a winner!

formed. When I was at the Stationers’ Company’s School in Hornsey, I saw some photographs of the first steam

My Voluntary Work I was a volunteer at the start, going

loco and diesel railbuses on their way

up regularly on bank holidays and

to the line in the Railway Magazine I

other holidays, mainly by hitchhiking

used to look at in Stroud Green Library

- don’t tell Mum and Dad! Initially, I

near Harringay Station, up the road

helped with trackwork (also called

from the school. It seemed good to join

the permanent way or PW in railway

a heritage line that had just started.

terminology), which involved: digging

A friend of mine was a volunteer

holes for signals, points and signal wires;

fireman on the Ffestiniog Railway in

opening and closing level crossing

North Wales, and I thought it would

gates before they were operated

be nice to be different. I’d completed

from signal boxes, thereby saving

the Lyke Wake Walk three times with

drivers from having to get out of their


Summer/ Issue 38

engines to do it. One driver was so

or to whom they are passed, go

appreciative he gave me a lift in the

up to the North York Moors for a

cab of his diesel loco!

holiday and a ride on the line. Senior people on the railway tell me most

For many years after that, I

passengers come from the south

pushed a trolley through trains, selling

east, albeit staying on the moors, so

refreshments, and I never got tired

there’s a good chance some are

of looking at the view and scenery

visiting as a result of the leaflets I’ve

through the windows. At Easter and


early in the season, passengers used to queue up for a cup of tea or

There is an art and craft to

coffee so they could put their hands

doing the job, believe it or not, the

round something warm!

principal one of which is being on good terms with the staff at the

In more recent years, I was

different locations, as they are under

based at Levisham, the first small

no obligation whatsoever to allow

station up the line, doing anything

my timetables at their workplaces.

and everything such as gardening,

As a thank you, I give them boxes

painting, washing windows and

of chocolates at Christmas. I also


sell the railway’s raffle tickets and guidebook to people I know.

I now distribute the railway’s timetable and information leaflet at mainline and suburban stations

Last but not least… I hope you are able to go to the

around north London, various libraries

North York Moors some time for a visit

and cafes and the London Transport

and also a ride on the railway.

Museum in Covent Garden: almost three thousand five hundred a year,

You won’t be disappointed!

and I like to think that at least some of the people who pick them up,



A linguist asks: “What can obsessive-compulsive disorder tell us about society’s perception of gender, sexuality and love?” Elvis Coimbra Gomes


lthough obsessive-compulsive

things in a symmetrical way might

disorder (OCD) seems to be a

come across as a specific personality

well-known disorder, it is extremely

trait or quirky habits, this is only the

misunderstood. Most people associate

visible layer of OCD. Underneath these

OCD with an urge for cleanliness,

behaviours, there is an endless, anxiety-

symmetrical order and perfectionism.

producing whirl of illogical thinking that

While repetitively washing hands,

often leads OCD sufferers to say: “I am

turning the lights on/off or ordering

a prisoner of my thoughts…”


Summer/ Issue 38

Affecting up to 3% of the general

with cognitive-behavioural therapy

population, OCD is a debilitating

(CBT) provided by an OCD specialist.

mental health condition that some

In therapy, sufferers are exposed to

specialists understand as a reasoning

anxiety triggers and encouraged

or belief disorder that causes

to embrace the anxiety without

great anxiety. In other words, it is a

performing any compulsions, while

pathological doubt about a topic

learning how to accept their intrusive

that is extremely important to the

thoughts in a non-judgmental way.

sufferer. OCD is often characterised by repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts

As expected, OCD is usually studied

called obsessions that produce

by psychologists who aim to improve

a lot of doubt about the specific

its treatment. However, I am not a

obsessional topic (e.g. contamination,

psychologist but a doctoral researcher

perfectionism, harm). This uncertainty

in linguistics at Queen Mary University

will cause great anxiety to sufferers,

of London. As a linguist, I am interested

which compels them to perform

in how people use language in social

physical or mental rituals known as

interactions to achieve various goals.

compulsions. These acts are meant to

More specifically, I am rather interested

reduce the anxiety and ultimately stop

in how people make sense of their

the doubt. However, they will only give

mental health experiences and how

temporary relief and feed the doubt

they communicate it to others. For

with the next intrusive thought, which

instance, I might ask: “Why or when do

entraps sufferers in a vicious cycle

people say: ‘I am so OCD’? What do

of obsessive-compulsive behaviours.

they mean and want to achieve with

Although there is no magical cure, the

such a phrase?” Or I might explore the

golden standard used to treat OCD

metaphors used by OCD sufferers when

is to combine (if necessary) selective

they say, “I am bombed with thoughts”,

serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

and examine the possible implications



of such phrasing on their identity.

because she thinks some men are

Interestingly, with this microscopic lens

good-looking; or a cisgender man

on language, linguists can also learn

obsessively worries whether he is

how OCD sufferers are influenced by

transgender while remembering

certain social ideas and how these

how his mother used to dress

interact with their obsessions. For

him like a girl for fun; or a mother

instance, OCD can shed some light

might obsessively fear that she is a

on how society perceives notions of

paedophile because she touched

gender, sexuality and love.

her son’s penis when changing his nappy. It is important to underline

You might be wondering how this

that sufferers experience these

is possible. Well, OCD interestingly

fearful thoughts as ego-dystonic,

appears in many different forms. It

which means that the content of the

can latch on to any topic that has

thoughts does not align with their

strong emotional, personal, moral or

sense of self – hence why sufferers

religious significance to the sufferer.

rarely act on their thoughts. Since

As such, sufferers can experience

we live in a time where sexual

repetitive, intrusive thoughts about

minorities are righteously sensitive to

stereotypes surrounding sexuality,

any homophobic attitudes, I have

gender or romantic relationships. For

to underline the fact that obsessive

instance, a woman might interpret

fears about becoming gay have

the absence of feeling butterflies in

little to do with hostility towards the

her stomach when being around

LGBTQ+ community. The connection

her partner as a sign of not being

of such fears to OCD does also not

“truly” in love; or a heterosexual man

re-pathologise homosexuality. In fact,

might have the intrusive thought of

LGBTQ+ sufferers can also obsessively

being gay just because he is sitting

fear the idea of not being LGBTQ+.

with crossed legs; or a lesbian might

This means that such types of OCD

obsessively doubt her sexual identity

deal with a fear of losing identity or


Summer/ Issue 38

not being authentic enough, which is

but also leads to potential suicidal

informed by social ideas surrounding

ideation. Furthermore, due to the

identity categories.

taboo and stigmatising content of the thoughts, these OCD sufferers

As such, obsessions tell us more

live in secret agony for many years

about society’s expectations of

until they learn about it online

what it means to belong to a certain

and find support in online forums

identity group (e.g. man, woman, gay,

that are clustered around labels

straight, romantic partners, etc.) than

expressing their obsessional fears,

about sufferers themselves. This is what

e.g. “HOCD” (Homosexual OCD),

my research is about. I am interested

“POCD” (Paedophilia OCD),

in examining how these normative

“ROCD” (Relationship OCD), “TOCD”

ideas are reflected in the language

(Transgender OCD), etc. Although

use of people who experience OCD

some LGBTQ+ sufferers write in these

related to their sexual/gender identity

forums, no studies have included

and romantic relationships. In order

them, hence I wish to involve them in

to do this, I built a safe online forum

my research in order to expand our

where such people can interact with

understanding of how these types

each other and respond to some of

of OCD affect LGBQT+ populations.

my questions. My research will not

At the end of the day, I am not only

only enhance our understanding of

doing research about a specific group

how social ideas dynamically interfere

of OCD sufferers but also with and

with sufferers’ obsessions, but it will

for these people who are secretly

also raise awareness about these

imprisoned by their thoughts.

types of OCD. Unfortunately, ignorant therapists tragically misdiagnose such cases as sexual identity crisis,

If you would like to participate or know

internalised homophobia, gender

more about my study, you can visit my

dysphoria or paedophilia. This not


only worsens the OCD symptoms





Summer/ Issue 38

Wendy Waters Author of Catch the Moon, Mary


hen I was a child, mental illness wasn’t mentioned, especially in my

family. My severely depressed grandmother was sedated with Valium, and we all tiptoed around her silences and moods and accepted that she was “highly-strung” - a euphemism for dysfunctional. It wasn’t until my grandfather passed away that my brave grandmother checked herself into an asylum for shock therapy and emerged confident enough to take charge of her life. She died two years ago, and now I see her frustration as the prime cause of her depression. She was a very gifted woman, a talented dress designer who could have been another Coco Chanel had she been born in Paris and found a simpatico lover to support her. I remember seeing her sitting alone, staring into space. She told me later



she was considering the pros and

eight, she ran her arthritic fingers over

cons of suicide.

her violin and asked me if I thought it was too late for her to resume her

Grandmother number two

glorious career. I was fifteen and

had been a world-class violinist,

dreaming of my own fame as an

whose career in London was cut

actress, so I told her, “It’s never too

short. A brilliant woman whose

late.” It was, of course, but I couldn’t

parents scraped her fare and

bear the truth any more than she

accommodation together and sent


her to Europe to study with master violinist Ysayë. And how she shone.

For some people, the fire within

I have been reading programs from

is too hot to douse. We are wired

London dated 1922-1936. After

differently. Both of my grandmothers

graduating, she played in private

had the sacré feu or ‘scared fire’,

salons and was first violin in orchestras

and it consumed them. I have two

and concerts. Then it all stopped.

brothers: one who is content with a

I found a letter from her mother

normal life and another who is on

begging her to come home in 1936,

fire to save the world. He’s a scientist

as war was almost certain. She could

and inventor who has worked for

return to Europe when it was over.

thirty years on a project that will help

She never did. When it was over, the

save the environment and reduce

devastation was so profound it took

global warming. I cheer for him, and

decades to recover. Back home,

I understand him because, like me,

in Australia, she was invited to play

he has Asperger’s. I recognise the

second violin in the Sydney Symphony

symptoms (or attributes, depending

Orchestra. She did it only once.

on who’s judging). I now believe

Before she died at the age of ninety-

that both my grandmothers had


Summer/ Issue 38

Asperger’s based on their singular

in my mind; difficulty conversing in

passions, highly-sensitive responses to

a normal way, i.e. either talking too

life and the fire that burned them alive.

much or too little, fixating on my own areas of expertise and unable to

I don’t regard Asperger’s as an illness. I regard it as a gift. Asperger’s people have much to offer. They are passionate, informed and eager to share their knowledge. Often frustrated by a lack of opportunity, we are

understand “lightweight” conversations or small talk; staring at people for uncomfortable lengths of time or completely unable to meet their eyes, desperate to escape their company,

looking for ways to express ourselves,

and many more mutual traits, not to

and once we find them, we hold tight,

mention the bouts of severe depression

because the yearning for expression

or extreme elation that profoundly

never goes away.

impacted on everyday life.

It was grandmother number one who first suspected that I had a psychological dysfunction similar to hers. I was fourteen when depression settled into my personality. I was diagnosed with bipolar. I never accepted that diagnoses,

I am now quite comfortable accepting that I have Asperger’s and endure a revolving door cycle of depression/elation/calm. I’ve developed coping mechanisms and know the depression will pass.

and it wasn’t until I met people with Asperger’s that I recognised my own

I’d like to share with you a poem I

personality traits: sensitive to certain

wrote about my experience of growing

sounds; highly aware of music, with

up with Asperger’s

a propensity to loop musical phrases


(continued on next page).


Dark space, safe place, In here, I am voice and echo, The sound of a friend. In the playground, on a bench, a child sits alone, Seemingly unaware of the chosen ones who play in groups, find safety in numbers. But the child is watching, observing how sunlight turns their hair to gold, nettled haloes. The child is listening to the laughter that warps the fabric of her silence into rhythm. The cat-tailed wind that winds around her, as if she were a lamp post, Arranges her loneliness into music that ignites the tangled wires in her brain. And suddenly, marvellous melodies illuminate her dark space, safe place, Become voice and echo, The sound of a friend, And she laughs for joy. The chosen ones stop their game, snigger at the child who laughs at nothing. “You are mad,” hisses Sally of the golden hair when they pass on the stairs. Locked-up mad? Or funny mad like her Uncle Joe, who talks to plants? In the classroom, the teacher is hiding sentences inside each other like Matryoshka dolls, Each one less visible than the last. “Sandwiches,” he says mid-tone, and the word shimmers. Sand-witches? She had heard of Good Witches and Bad Witches and Wicked Witches But never Sand-witches. Where do they live?


Summer/ Issue 38

By the sea or in deserts? She asks the teacher, and the chosen ones snigger. “Lunch, dear,” says the teacher patiently. Sally of the golden hair hisses, “You are mad.” And the child retreats to her dark space, safe place, Seeking voice and echo, The sound of a friend. That weekend her mother takes her to the countryside for a picnic, And she notices, in a field of gold, a single purple flower. “Your Uncle Joe would tell that flower it’s OK to be different,” says her mother. “Is it mad?” she asks. “No, just different.” A purple flower in a golden field, all alone. Only by day, says the music, not at night, under cover of dark, For who sees differences in that dark space, safe place, Where the moon is voice and echo, The sound of a friend?



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