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“2020 is going to be a GREAT Year”

Hello! What you all been up to?

Not much?

Yeah… Me? Oh, I’ve been a bit quiet, stuck in the house.

Its Mental Health Awareness Week?! Jesus Christ, already? Hasn’t every week Mental Health Awareness Week since before lockdown?

Messing aside, I haven’t written because I’ve been ridiculous busy. Ridiculous. Work, research, two kids, being extremely depressed at points and frickin’ CORONAVIRUS. I try to write to clear my mind when I’m down but like everybody in the whole world right now, I’m going through all sorts of mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, stress, worries about someone I know catching this bloody virus or suddenly dying. Luckily we need to use the extra time we have, (I know for some it isn’t free time) to sort everything that you have control of and throw the bad stuff in the bin. Get rid of it. Make it do one.

I know you’re doing what you can to look after yourselves. Right now, it’ll be normal to feel miserable and sack off doing the thing you wanted to do, or hobby you wanted to start and replace that time with a Netflix binge with a massive pizza (GOD I wish I could do that.). I’m not opposed to smashing a full box of apple pies in a day, but no matter how many times I tell Chloe it makes me feel better, in reality, I know that my epic six-pack is slowly disappearing under a mountain of chub. What I actually mean is looking after yourself in a HEALTHY way.

Exercise is always a great way to keep the mind fresh and full of good hormones. You don’t have to become the new Arnold Schwarzenegger, you just need to walk, or a short run if you haven’t for a while. Add in some press-ups and sit-ups if you haven’t done any for a while. We have a lot more time on our hands and it will be very easy to find yourself in a cycle of depression where we’re not looking after out brains as well as our bodies. It is incredibly hard though, no doubt.

I know it is harder than ever to keep it together, with daily updates making everything ridiculously confusing and death toll numbers increasing, we need to try new things to keep the brain on your side. We can’t see our friends and family. Some people can’t see their partners. When you’re depressed you can easily, and I mean very easily feel that even though you miss people, nobody misses you.

Yep. That’s me too.

But you have to believe that there is someone, desperate to see you again. Whether it be parents, family, friends, lovers, the barman in your local pub, your trainer at the gym, your Dungeons & Dragons team, your nieces and nephews. Someone out there is missing you very, very much. You just need to keep safe and wait until we can see them again.

It is a scary time, and God knows how long it’ll last but keep going, use your head and keep patient.

Stay safe and take care it is all you can do, champions.

x

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It is Time to Talk About Anti-Gypsyism in Politics.

It’s time to talk about anti-Gypsyism in politics.

Brexit and Boris can do one for a minute, as this week’s hot topic is anti-Semitism. You would think there’s an election looming, wouldn’t you? 

It is now time to include anti-Gypsyism within the conversation of racism and discrimination within politics. Not just a single party, but for all parties. Political parties have allowed Councillors and MPs to use ‘Parliamentary Privilege’ to describe Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in the most toxic of manners and there is no outrage, nobody held accountable for their comments or the harm they can do and honestly, nobody seems to care.

Below are some examples of what I mean:

A few years ago, a Councillor Alan Mellins said this in a meeting on how to speed up the eviction process for an unauthorised site:

You would have thought that this violence-inciting rhetoric would have lessened due to severe punishments by now, right?

Nah.

April 2019, Councillor Bob Murray said in an online conversation about an unauthorised encampment in his area, (WHICH IS TWENTY MINUTES FROM MY HOUSE), his input was that ‘Hitler had the right idea’ about Gypsies, Roma and Travellers and asked if anybody had “any gas canisters”. (This is currently under investigation of hacking claims) 

Paul Beresford (I won’t call him ‘Sir’, for obvious reasons), again, in April 2019 called GRT people currently travelling a ‘disease’.

I complained to the Conservative complaints department about these comments and as it was during a debate in the House of Commons, Beresford has ‘Parliamentary Privilege’ and I was informed by the investigating officer that the Code of Conduct states: 

“In no way should anything in this code interfere with an elected representative carrying out his or her duties and exercising his or her judgement in relation to his or her work…” 

…and my complaint was then flat out dismissed.

I then got this reply from Mr Speaker’s Office:

Subject to the rules of order in debate, Members may state whatever they think fit in debate, however offensive it may be to the feelings or injurious to the character, of individuals, and they are protected by this privilege from any action for libel, as well as from any other question or molestation”.

Whilst there is a ready acknowledgement that Members’ freedom of speech should be used responsibly, it is basic to that freedom that it should not be curtailed by the Speaker, unless there has been some breach of the House’s own rules.

Shot down there too, unfortunately.

So now where do I go following my complaints, here in July, as Councillor Phillip Owen, labels GRT people as a ‘biblical plague’ during a meeting on a horse fair, which he deemed to be “imposed on the local community.” (Shout out to the Councillor who left and called the comments “disgusting”).

Now, I (like any person with morals) applaud any person who fights for equality and welcome any change in policy which supports diverse communities. The spotlight on racism and discrimination should be talked about across the board. It just frustrates me that racism within politics is only used a political weapon. It seems, much like how Brexit is all we ever talk about, anti-Semitism is currently as a tool to damage the reputation of a political party, rather than being highlighted for the life-threatening issue that is truly is.

Anyone that knows me is fully aware I’m not one to just moan about things like this. I’ve taken action on all of the above, made formal complaints, followed the protocol, yet due to ‘Parliamentary Privilege’, it seems these politicians who spotlight their views of discrimination or racism are untouchable. My local MP did submit a very powerful letter to Mr Speaker, highlighting that “were these remarks made about any other ethnic group there would quite rightly be calls for the remarks to be withdrawn”. We all know that Mr Tami MP is right! This is why we need to be highlighting ALL forms of discrimination. We should never choose to talk about one form of discrimination and racism instead of, just because the media is pushing it into our faces 24/7, but we need to highlight and speak about racism that different communities suffer across the board. Especially within politics… Love it or hate it, it impacts your life every day.

Now, according to Nolan’s ‘Principles of Public Life’, ‘accountability’ and ‘leadership’ are key to being a public figure in our community. Why then, when it comes to challenging the racist rhetoric against Travellers, Roma and Gypsies, do these principles not apply? 

It makes me laugh when I read the social media comments on articles about Travellers and Gypsies, sometimes easily reaching into the 100’s, saying that “they’re untouchable”, or “above the law”, going as far as to cull, or execute us, when actually, it seems that our elected representatives can normalise the perception that we are a disease, or that “Hitler had the right idea”. What happens next? 

People get hurt, or killed is what happens. Johnny Delaney’s murderers told the police that they killed Delaney as “he was only a Gypsy”. This mentality towards has not gone away, and is in fact, worsening and making the UK a very dangerous place to be, due to the people in power who are supposed to facilitate a better life for all of their constituents, allowing these racist views to become public, go unopposed and unpunished..

I refuse to give up my fight for equality but how do we ever hope to build communities which accept the GRT community when our decision makers can be so blatantly racist, it is widely accepted and they can’t be held to account? 

So yes, let’s celebrate the steps forward in tackling anti-Semitism but also let us not forget the discrimination that Muslims face, LGBTQI+ groups face, and let us finally introduce to the conversation anti-Gypsyism and tackle the racism and discrimination that stares us right in the face daily.

Anyways, thanks again for readying and have a good weekend!

Martin

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Oooh, Heaven is a Place with Yurts

This post was put on pause for a little bit as I’ve been in the worst low patch I’ve ever been in. Times where I would be able to shake off an involuntary voice, or image isn’t working any longer. The internal arguments against self-harm and stuff that I would never do, began to fail, and those voices became extremely strong impulses. I don’t think I’ve ever been signed off from work like this, but it gave me a chance to reflect back on my visit to Cledan Valley. Which feels like the actual first time I’ve felt human for years and the last time I’ve been happy.

There has rarely been a time in the past few years where I’ve felt completely peaceful, and I mean nothing at all worrying, or stressing me out; my depression isn’t at the forefront of my mind and even my visions and voices have done one for a while so I could enjoy the moment with my family.

I hardly ever do ads through this blog, some of the things that come my way doesn’t interest me at all. However, I got an email from Russ who runs a family run glamping site, named Cledan Valley. As I read through his email, he painted a great picture of how relaxing Cledan Valley is and I had to find out more. During our conversation, Russ stated that they hold an importance of reconnecting with family and unwinding to improve mental health. It sounded perfect. I was invited to stay for a couple of nights and going by his description of the site, I couldn’t refuse.

Before our arrival there, we were told by the owner, Russ, that there was no electricity, just some solar lights in each of their bell tents, tips, yurts, or huts. This sounded like heaven in the state I was in. Now, I LOVE camping, but we hadn’t been since Noah was one and that time we got stuck in a ridiculous storm, so it took ages to get Noah to want to try it again. Thankfully, he was all in when we showed him pictures of where we were staying and the things that we’d be getting up to.

After a drive of little over an hour, we arrived at Cledan Valley and found ourself int he middle of nowhere, practically. Even though we were less than five minutes drive from a local shop and a pub, we felt so far away from everything, which was appreciated as the pub locals were very excited about the Eurovision Song Contest.

We had a quick look around the site and found our digs for the weekend. Ours was the ‘Red Kite’ yurt, which overlooked most of the campsite, as well as fields of sheep behind it. It was surrounded by gorgeous views, hills, streams and woods regardless where you looked. There are seven (I think) places to stay, each had an amazing view, no matter where you stayed. I also liked that each yurt was spaced with enough distance so you feel that you were able to be alone and switch off completely but also close enough that you could be chatting with your neighbours within minutes.

As you can tell, the Red Kite is like a Tardis. It was HUGE. I’d never ‘glamped’ before but I was very, very impressed at how big the yurt was and comfortable it was inside. We had to stoop to get through the doors, which made us feel like Hobbits (yep, cool with that) but we were shocked at how spacious and how good the inside looked.

Inside was a very comfortable double bed, a bunk bed, which we now have to buy as Noah Mabli LOVED it. They also slept right through on them too. Maybe they were knackered after the fresh air and playing all day, but they didn’t call out for us at 4am. So that was bloomin’ great.

The vibe you get at Cledan Valley when you arrive is absolute peace. If you turned up there on your own, all you would hear is many varieties of birds chirping that echoed around the valley, lambs and sheep in the field next to you and the stream that runs around most of the site, including right behind the Honeymoon Yurt, giving you an even more relaxing soundtrack to wake up to. These are the sounds you hear all day at Cledan Valley and it is extremely hard to think about anything outside of this perfect bubble you’re in. It is pretty much the Head Space app, but real and all day long. How could you not relax?

We were very lucky to have a couple of dry days during our stay, which allowed us to participate in the treasure hunt that is available to do up in the communal Lodge area. This had us busy for hours and we got to explore all around the valley looking for clues for the kids, teens and adult treasure hunts. Little things like this made me realise that I was happy to put my phone away and to use it just for taking pictures.

The trail takes you around the stream, so you’re able to have a view of all of the places to stay. It also takes to you meet and feed the llamas and chickens, who are owned by Russ and his family, his beehive (which he gave us a sample of honey from – and it is 100% goodness).

Things like this really brought me down to the most relaxed state I’ve been in for years. Just being around family, just cooking food, kids playing drums made from tree trunks, making stupid noises at animals and being outdoors really made me feel carefree. I loved it and there hasn’t been a time more than now that I’ve needed it more.

What Russ and his family also do each month (that I LOVE), is run a competition to give a couple or a family who are in need of a retreat from their difficult times, be it becoming ill, losing a job or something that some peace and proper tranquillity, with a free two day stay.

Cledan Valley is a very special place and I hope to get back there very soon, (when this RAIN ACTUALLY STOPS). For now I hope you check them out:

Their website: https://cledanvalley.co.uk/

Their Tripadvisor: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g552055-d657005-Reviews-Cledan_Valley-Carno_Powys_Wales.html

Their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cledanvalley/

Their Twitter: https://twitter.com/cledanvalley

Thanks again and go and book some time away for you and your mind ❤

Martin x

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No, Criminals Do Not Give *ME or my Family* a Bad Name.

Words are powerful things. Some of us live by this statement, some people aren’t even aware of how powerful their words can be.  

Words can make us feel good, make us smile, make us laugh and also inspire us to do great things. However, we also know that they can hurt us, make us sad, make us cry and cause damage that can’t be undone.

There is one statement that I feel is doing something even worse than the above.

For those who don’t know much about me, I work as an advocate for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, and I’ve come across a lot of people who aren’t afraid to let me know about their racist views about us.

(Warning – I’ve typed ‘horse’ loads here, soz).

In North Wales this week, I watched on in horror as a woman from South Wales made it a personal crusade to harass and intimidate Traveller families who live in North Wales in order to find and bully a Traveller man to sell her a horse that belonged to him. There was a video that went viral that showed the animal distressed and people were concerned for its health, rightfully so. It was later updated that the RSPCA and North Wales Police were happy with the animal’s welfare and were not removing the animal from the owner. (PSA – To make it clear, if anybody mistreats an animal and the authorities take it away, I am ALL FOR IT), however, it also isn’t acceptable at all to assemble a vigilante group to racially profile people from a distinctive ethnicity, to incite them to go into a site in a mob-style and then stalk their sites with the sole purpose to TAKE A FUCKING HORSE FROM THEM.

So here is where this gets pretty nasty. The ringleader (still rallying people from her self-funded horse sanctuary in South Wales) called on as many people as she could to drive around and search for this horse, leading people on a racially-profiled witch-hunt looking for sites in the area. Her videos are getting thousands of viewers, where she gave the names and details owners, (so much for data protection laws, eh?), incorrect information leading her group to other sites. These videos had thousands of shares, so you can imagine the kinds of things that were said on social media, (all of which have been sent to the police). Throughout Friday night, fifty people who met up and ‘protested’ in a retail car park at 11pm as this is where the Travellers had been parked up, (rather than the RSPCA themselves) they dispersed and drove around until 4am looking for sites as far as Prestatyn, (about 30 minutes drive from where they started).

Whilst down there, I spoke with police and a group of young guys who usually chill in that car park with their souped-up cars, but as one of them had a van, a number of these protesters said that they were a group of Gypsies, ran up to the van to open the doors as they believed that they heard a pony in the back of it. They all then posted pictures in a social media message group of each site that they were parked up by and not one person mentioned concerns about the safety of the innocent families and children who were going about their business and had no idea what was happening in the area.

A local Traveller told me they were concerned for their families safety and worried these ‘protestors’ would be turning up at their door in the middle of the night.

Currently, members of the group have now accused my little brother of having horse just because he’s been ‘identified’ as GRT in the Flintshire area. Seriously.

Individuals tried to post in the group to challenge the racism and encourage the group to question their actions. These posts weren’t approved. Anyone that commented on posts challenging racism or their actions were removed from the group and deleted whilst comments such as “I have a gun”, “Travellers should be burnt”, they should be “hung” all remained (these are just a very small amount of the disturbing comments).

Earlier, I mentioned about one statement that is starting to make me question its real use:

“This person/these people are giving all Gypsies and Travellers a bad name”

The more I think about whenever I have heard of this line being used, (aside from it being used in a negative tone, in 100% of the time… obviously), the angrier I get when I start to pick it apart and look at the hypocrisy behind it.

There are estimated 300,000 GRT people in the UK, 1,443 of that number are in prison. This leaves over 83,000 non-GRT people in prison the UK, (April 2019). To make the number even smaller, the percentage of the UK GRT community in prison (as of Oct, 2018) is 0.481%. Yet why, in 2019 are people stating that people who cause anti-social incidents give the whole community a bad name. Has this ever been said about the majority ethnicity? I mean, by the same logic, do I worry that all English people are bad because of the actions of Jimmy Saville, Harold Shipman, Gary Glitter? Do the actions of bad give anybody else a bad name, or is that just us?

I believe that statement is to justify the oppressive mentality that each person who uses that sentence has, and are happy to continue using in order to keep the GRT community oppressed. I looked at the group in question and there a many GRT people having to justify themselves because or reading that line “all Travellers”, or “bad people are giving you and your family a bad name”.

Why should I be ashamed of who I am because of the actions of somebody I don’t know?!

The caption above is an example of a story shared today (21/4) and it leaves me with a very angry taste in my mouth. Why should I, or any good Traveller in Cardiff be ashamed? Are good people in Wales tainted because of the disgusting things Ian Watkins did, (don’t Google it if you don’t know, it is vile). Of course not! That wouldn’t be normal. Why do people lose all common sense why talking about GRT communities? The only people who should be ashamed are the individuals and it happens by proxy, (unfortunately), their immediate family. Not some random Traveller hundreds of miles away. Do not do the stupid thing and assume we know every Traveller or Gypsy in the country and therefore are accountable for the actions of somebody that we don’t know, because we are not.

I’m asking all people to stop allowing non-GRT to throw their issues with people that we don’t know onto us. Challenge those people who tell you that somebody, 300 miles away, that you don’t know is giving you a bad name. They are wrong and we have to end that mentality. The only person who should have a bad name, is the individual in question. Nobody else. I mean, I’m pretty sure nobody from Cambridgeshire has a bad name because of Oliver Cromwell… do they?

Words are a very powerful thing, we need to use ours to be even regarded as humans to non-GRT people, not that I care for what people think, I care for the safety of GRT people in the future.

#GypsyLivesMatter

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Get Talking

For a few weeks now, I’ve felt the need to write and talk to whoever is reading. I’ve been up and down in a BIG way. CBD oil is working brilliantly, but sometimes there are days when I feel like nothing in the world will work. Then I feel hopeless. That’s why I don’t write every week, because focussing on depression isn’t a nice thing, and fortunately I’m not depressed every week just in time to write a new blog. I couldn’t live like that. However, to everybody who has read some entries and reacted to them, (or not), people being there to just send me some positivity or asking if “I’m alright”, I appreciate that I am able to talk about how down I’ve been, or how crap my mental health is. Being able to do that and listening to you has saved my life in more ways than you can imagine.

Unfortunately, as I’ve talked about in previous posts, suicide is rife within the GRT community. Just after Christmas, I found out that a fellow activist had passed away over Christmas. I didn’t know them personally but admired their passion for equality when I worked with them. I understood the burden that they carried and pressures, discrimination and hostility they must have faced from people from all sides of the political arena. The sad thing was when I first found out they had passed away, my first thought was that I hoped that they didn’t take their own life as they were only young. It hit me really hard when I realised that when I hear of a GRT person’s death, the first thing I think of is suicide. I mean, I was RELIVED to hear this person died of natural causes. That is how often I hear of a person’s suicide.

When the numbers and stats tell you that suicide is the biggest killer of GRT people, these days it is hard not to believe it. That is a horrible thing.

So, this Thursday is ‘Time to Talk Day‘ and the message is simple.

Talking about your mental health is important. Whatever way you do it. Even if it is just letting your friends and family know that they can talk to you when they’re going through hard times with their mental health, or challenging the stigma and perception that people struggling with mental illness are ‘weak’ or should just ‘get out more’. The world has become more open and supportive, so keep it going for you and yours and it honestly can save a life.

It has mine.

Take care of each other x

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Happy CBD, To Me!

As you know I write a lot about my depression, for a blog named ‘Learning to Dad’ it has become the focal point of the blog. I mean, writing about my kids is lovely. I found, however, that writing about what goes in on my head helped me more than I ever thought it could. I needed that to learn how to be a parent and more importantly to feel human.

For Gypsies, Travellers and Romani people, depression and other mental illnesses are kept hidden and not spoken of. We have to deal with daily racism and I am on constant defence when I walk into a shop, pub, cinema, or anywhere another Traveller is in. I mean, when places like Next and ASDA have sessions on ‘how to spot a Traveller’ during your work induction, (yep I had to sit there and listen on how staff must be vigilant and stalk them through the store, as we all “were richer than everybody else because they all steal”. I know, right?) it makes it hard to trust anywhere I walk in to and you’re not going to have the best mental state are you? Another story for another time.

Anyway, I found that when I began talking about mental health so many people spoke with me about it, and also spoke about it like it wasn’t shameful to try to understand what is going on in their body and mind. It was something I didn’t anticipate at all. They asked questions and felt good that they weren’t alone. This is what we all need to do, to help others from falling into a dark place.

Throughout my blogs, I’ve always been graphically honest about where I was at, how I was feeling and what I was going through at the time. Recently, I was in one of the lowest places I’ve ever been in. I battled with horrible things I had to listen to in my head, see, or think things that I had to fight, multiple times a day. It drained me and left me angry, agitated and horrible to be around. My prescription tablets weren’t working and the GP offered blood tests to find out I have low levels of vitamin B12. Thankfully, my wife had had enough and made me search for an alternative way to manage my mental health, (and ultimately, my physical health).

A few people had asked me what I thought about CBD (Cannabidiol – the compound extracted from a cannabis plant. Not to be mistaken for the ‘party time’ compound, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is what gets you high), even though I had never tried it. Then more stories of frankly, life-changing stories for people with severe physical illnesses appeared and I was sold on at least trying it.

So off I went and to a vape shop, and I pick up a little bottle of ‘Global Green CBD‘ oil.  Again, this isn’t an ad and I know *nothing* about any brand at all, didn’t do any research, I just went and picked up the first brand that the shopkeeper told me about and away I went.

An hour or two after the first use, I felt my brain actually relax. I felt it ease up, stop feeling like it was strapped to an electric chair and for the first time in months, it wasn’t full of frustration or anger. It was just calm. It was lovely. When I fully explained to my wife how I felt, I nearly cried. I was happy to sit an explain to her what was going on and how I’d felt, without the usual need to dodge questions and want to escape. My mood became more positive because my mind wasn’t on an intense, defensive mode, and I slept so much better. I normally need an hour to wind my brain down of all the thoughts it has, then I usually manage a really light sleep. This time, I could still wake up and see to my two kids, but I felt back to sleep quickly and deeply.

This was just the first day.

Over the course of the week taking CBD oil two or three times a day I had found that,

  • My focus had increased on every aspect, my work became manageable, (I have a very intense job, advocating for people from the GRT community, and also protecting and promoting our rights to councils and areas around North Wales – so a day’s work can MASH MY HEAD),
  • I was thinking of ideas on how to play with the kids, and where we can go when normally I’d hope my wife would take them out and I’d be left alone.
  • I wasn’t as anxious as I usually am with anything trivial.
  • My ideas became better thought out and executed, due to my confidence levels increasing to how they were before I had an anxiety/stress attack that left me paralysed. I was able to focus and deliver what I needed to do and CBD oil, although not a magic elixir, is doing something that I have needed for the past decade or so. 
  • I also play in a band and have written music in the past, and this past week was the first week where I wanted to write music. I found that I’ve focused on teaching myself piano, rather than play games until 1am and then go sleep when I ‘escaped’ enough. 

I began to post on my Instagram and Facebook about my experiences with my chosen CBD oil, (on a purely experiential basis, no payments/offers or anything. A strictly ‘no ad’ review) and the responses and interest I had were overwhelming. People were intrigued by the results I was writing about and wanted to know more, to the point where people were willing to give it a go!

Game changer.

In my personal opinion, I really hope those of you that are reading do try CBD oil if you are seeking alternative treatment. Over the course of the 7-10 days, it has without a doubt made me feel as I did when I was younger, calmer, more rational, more focused, less anxious, the ‘low points’ of depression aren’t as extreme, migraines and pains I would have at least once a week haven’t happened and my sleep is much, MUCH better.

All in all, I am fully on board with using CBD, (I mean, my older relatives absolutely love it!) and instead of the usual six-weekly appointment with the doctor, I’ll be free to order, or pick up a bottle when I need it, and with my experience so far, it has definitely been money well spent. 

Thanks for reading, and I hope whatever you try, works for you! Let me know the oils that you use and tell me your experiences, please!

Martin
Learning to Dad.

P.S -Not an ad: In reply to those asking where I got my oil, you can order from the ‘Global Green CBD’ site here: https://www.globalgreencbd.co.uk/

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Alpha Males are Dead.

Yep, you read that right.

Gone are the days when being popular and ‘cool’ makes it perfectly fine for you to do what you like with whomever you want. Gone are the days when being

There are no more excuses.

The Brett Kavanaugh scenario will create such a massive change, so much that even though he was voted into his Supreme Justice role, young men around the world who saw how entitled he believed he was, to the point where he belittled the women asking him questions. Even his face displayed to the world how disgusted he was that he was even there.

It was as if the ’13 Reasons Why’ writers knew about this story and based Bryce Walker on him. Saying that… there are many, many more cases like Dr Ford’s around the world, and hopefully, they will be stronger than ever to prevent the Kavanaugh’s’ in the world to prosper.

So yeah, the alpha males are dead. After everything that has gone on in the world, with entitled men thinking they can get away with anything, imagine chatting to a guy in Weatherspoons who would genuinely believe that he was an alpha male?!

In this day and age, and even more so in the future, absolutely nobody will have time for that. I don’t think I would be able to put up with the stench of entitlement and a want for somebody to actually like him.

Poor alpha males. Dying out like a shit religion. Only to be replaced by men who are aware that women are actual human beings and taking back some overdue power.

Tonight, instead of trying to sleep, I am forced awake by my brain raging at every single thing that is shit in the world, which is vividly flowing through my head and into my eyes like absolute torture. I’m am giving myself cramps in the head by tensing and fighting every image that I’m forced to see in there right now. Hopefully writing about it will help me sleep. It is my birth on the 12th, feeling rested would be the best gift ever.

As it is World Mental Health Day soon, I should be writing about that, but you’re honestly going to read millions of tweets, blogs and social media posts saying the exact same things. I thought I’d empty my mind with a thing that was angering it.

You will read a million people tell you to talk about your mental health, and please do, as you may get help before you get to where I am at, and that is the constant argument with yourself asking “what the point” is of being alive, (something which does my head in every single day, as I’m actually very afraid of dying or losing what I have in life), that, and then seeing all the horrible things that I can’t do anything about.

Anyway, have a good Halloween, (stupid holiday), and take care.

Martin x

P.S  I kind of robbed the title from a band named ‘Alpha Male Tea Party’ who you should lend your ears to, (they don’t sing so you don’t have to concentrate much).

 

 

 

 

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Grow;ng UP (Traveller’s Voice Magazine Article).

You get to a point in your life as you’re growing up and start to think about life as an adult, how you’re going to have to live and act, (especially for our community), you can’t help but imagining what that looks like. What did it look like to you? Did you get married young, and you’re both always happy with each other? Did you have loads of money in the bank, new trailers, houses or cars? Are you surrounded by Crown Derby all over the place, warning the children to stay away from it, (like me and my brothers and sisters were, for fear of God himself), or do you see yourself having your own site, living near your family?

As I was growing up, I had in my head that to have a happy family and a ‘happy life’, you went on holidays and bought a house, worked hard and gave your wages to your wife. Nothing unusual there, then. That’s what I thought ‘a happy life’ was, and for most people who don’t go through depression and anxiety, it probably is.

I’m in the middle of buying my first house. I also have a gorgeous family, not only that, they are funny, smart, creative and supportive through any mad ideas we have, and the inevitable highs and lows that we face in life. I don’t want for much, either I’m easily pleased or boring but I’m happy with the little things I have, like playing music, sports and nights with the family. I like my job and the people I work with too. All is GOOD.

So why am I more depressed than I’ve ever been, when I’m doing all the things that I imagined made people happy when I was a teenager?

I have no idea. I don’t think I ever will. When people say that they are “living with depression”, they really mean it. It is part of your life, not just a temporary thing that you can shake off. Never has fresh air, or just being to ‘just be happy’ cured depression and it never will. In fact, it makes people miserable. It does me anyway. I’d love to be happier, I should be happier with the things I have in my life. But there are days when I’d rather something bad happen to me, rather than meet someone for work, or play a gig because I’m worried I’d mess up and ruin everything. The featured picture sums me up perfectly. I am surrounded by a room full of carnage, people dancing to music I’ve written, but my face says it all.

No, telling people to ‘cheer up’ definitely isn’t the way to help somebody you know through their depression. Being that person who cares is. Being someone who was happy to drive you to your counselling appointments and grab McDonald’s to chat and clear your head afterwards actually helps. I was lucky that I had that. Not only were my family there when I was trying to accept that this was a part of my life now, friends were there to help me understand how to work with my brain the best I could. This made me stronger, or more resilient. It gradually became easier to open-up and describe some of things that I was involuntarily seeing or thinking. Horrible thoughts that I had no control over and mood swings that would make me impossible to be around. Even when I’m in the middle of playing with my kids, I can stop for a second and desperately need to be on my own for a while.

This is where my resilience has helped me, when I would have caved in the past. Instead of getting away, I take a minute and then think about how important each memory of my children playing with their parents are. Noah is two years old and already understands that when I go to work, he won’t see me for most of the day, then he knows that when I get home he goes to bed shortly after, so he crams in as much play time as he can. That really saddens me, because some days I’m selfish and want to be alone after work, just so I can calm my brain down, so I make sure I push myself to be as patient as I possibly can, because a two year old doesn’t understand anything about chemical imbalances in the brain, they just want to play and that’s why I try (and often fail) and being my version of strong.

Being strong doesn’t mean you have to be superhuman. Just turning up to an appointment, or even making it in the first place and accepting you need support is a huge step. Taking medication is a very scary thing. I never took my anti-depressants for years because I was afraid I’d become a zombie, and what a HUGE mistake that was. Talking to people about it is another huge step, granted not everybody will know how to support you, (so don’t take it personal if some people become distant or change the subject), but these things help you strengthen yourself for the times when you’re in a dark place, and feel lonely despite being surrounded by dozens of fun and loving people. It doesn’t matter, when you’ve hit a bad spot, you’re there until it goes away. There is also a lot to learn in accepting that life as you imagined, doesn’t go that way for pretty much anybody in life and you have top adapt, and roll with what goes on in your life, and the stories that they become well into the future.

As I grew older, the nice things I dreamt about as a teenager became simpler, more realistic things. Like having good health, for me and my family and friends, being able to provide and live as comfortable as I could and just having the time to be happy, and as you go through life, you will have a clearer idea of what an actual happy life is, or what your version of a happy life is. This obviously comes with being able to take care of you and your mental health. It will be important to know and understand when you feel a rough patch is coming, and what to do to manage it best you can. You won’t always be able to stop it, and that’s ok. Your brain is a very powerful thing that will do what it wants but finding support in family and people who can recognise when you’re hitting dark patches, will help you get to a place where you’re comfortable seeking professional help, or even strong medication when nothing else seems to work. I’ve been there, and it isn’t a nice feeling admitting to yourself you need more help, but for people who are living with mental illnesses, that is how you can get from where you are now, to where you dream to be in the next however many years.

Take care of you and your brain, it can be the hardest job in the world to do, but once you’ve built up a strength to take back some control, your view of the future and how to get there will become a bit clearer.

 

 

 

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Real Mean Talk Feel;ngs.

BACK TO NORMALITY.

By that I mean WE BOUGHT A HOUSE, had a mad few months fixing up the old one, moving in and fixing up the new house, then catching up to the modern ages BY FINALLY GETTING WIFI. STRESS. FULL.

Glad you could join us here the modern ages, Martin.

I was gutted I didn’t get to write for Mental Health Week, but it was equally nice to sit and be a fan of all of the campaigns, read loads of great tweets, articles, and posts from loads of people over the world. I also was able to write for the Travellers’ Voice and Travellers’ Times upcoming editions (which you can read here and here). That’s the thing though, for me and so many people who experience not just the mental effects of a mental illness, but also the physical elements of stress, anxiety, and depression, every week is Mental Health Week.

I’ll always talk about my brain and the nasty stuff I have to put up with in everyday life so that someone can see that it is fine to talk about it and get help about what is going on in their own head. Since my last post, I have been a MESS. That is obviously down to life, buying a house, kids, being an idiot and all of that. There were days when I was excited to buy a new place with someone, but then I’d be so snappy and hard to be around, to the point where I wondered why was Chloe even was chosing to do it. Those are the days where it is important to just say “Look, I’m having a shit day, please ignore me if I’m being an idiot and let me have a minunte if I walk off or ask for it”, or whatever thing you need. As always, I was lucky to have people who can notice when I’m down and were there for me to talk to when I needed it.

This time around I noticed that I had more time alone to work out how to calm myself down than before. It helped, but I don’t want that being something that is a go to response to depressed days. I found messaging close family and having the control of when to take a break from the conversation helped. I was able to type read their advice support, but then I was able to smash my head against the wall without them seeing. Win-win, I guess!

The worst day for it was in work one day, and I had to bury my head in my arms and listen to thing that came up on Youtube when I searched for “HOW TO STOP PANIC ATTACKS”. Youtube really need to look at their adverts for those videos, last thing I need when I’m melting and thinking I’m going to die is an advert for fresh salmon fillet from ASDA.

With life though, it does bring that stress that takes control over the things my brain makes me see during the day, horrible thoughts that appear with no warning, ‘needing a minute’ when I should be in the garden with my family and friends enjoying the BBQ, or Chelsea beating Man U in the FA Cup Final.You find that when it goes away, you begin to understand it how bad it actually affected you.

SO. I’m starting to feel good now that we’re all settling in somewhere again, it is nice seeing Mabli getting older and more perceptive, Noah becoming more and more funnier, and smarter, ( although I am saving the RAGING post about Noah’s new sassy attitude for the next post, don’t you worry about that), and now the move is all done, I can’t wait to be writing more again.

What I did notice whilst being online this Mental Health Week, was that the conversation was a little quiet from my community. I know Tyson Fury was vocal about mental health and the importance of speaking out about it, which is great. I hope that people can look at what he says and talk about what is going on in their lives and minds.

Speaking of strong men, I was reading this week marked 19 years since Owen Hart’s accident that saw him die in a WWF ring. Like every teenager who watched Stone Cold, The Rock and other giants beat the crap out of each other, it was different to see them on the next night’s show in tears, not showing off how big their muscles were, but how much that this loss hurt them and how much they loved this man. I was a break from the scripted rivalries, and we saw how human these ‘monsters amongst men’ were.

Years later, I stumbled upon a small tribute video from a wrestler named Mark Henry, aptly named ‘The World’s Strongest Man’.

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THE SIZE OF HIM.

“You feel the burn when you cry.
It starts to come when someone dies.
The pain you feel as your eyes swell
And the tears will up in the wells.
The burn starts to choke you up.
The words come out slow and shaken.
You close your eyes and wonder why
There is a burn when you cry.
When Owen left it felt like hands across my throat.
I couldn’t talk I couldn’t see.
The burn overwhelmed me.
My heart is heavy, this is why
You get the burn when you cry.
It digs down deep, you cannot sleep.
You toss and turn in your sheets.
Awaken with sobs and wet pillow cases.
You wander aimlessly looking to the sky.
You feel the burn when you cry.”

Mark Henry.

Here… have a tissue.

It was hard not to wipe my eyes the first time I heard Mark Henry read that poem, and also see the genuine pain he went through whilst reading it. Obviously losing someone is different to someone having a mental illness, but feelings are feelings.

Imagine not being able to say how the loss of a friend, or family member can feel like it phyiscally hurts, or even chokes you? Or just needing to tell the world how amazing a person they were, to the people who didn’t know, (or even did know!). That feeling is how it feels when you’re at the bottom, when your mind is falling apart behind your very eyes and you have nobody who will listen, or take you serious because you’re a man, and you don’t about talk things like that. You can hate the fact you have a pulse, but have no control of what you brain is making you think, or feel but can’t talk about it because you’re just not supposed to feel like that because you’re a guy, or belong to a certain group of people.

It sounds a bit dark that, doesn’t it.

Change will happen when being big, strong and macho isn’t as important as being healthy, happy and alive. One day a person talking about their depression will be seen as strong as someone with a 12 pack, no neck and a 100 fights behind them.

Feelings are feelings and real men talk about them… Just ask ‘The World’s Strongest Man’.

Mart;n ❤

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#ThankyouBrain

Another train to Cardiff, another blog idea (finally). I’ve been writing articles for magazines, which is pretty crazy. Being ‘printed’ was a bucket list entry I didn’t even know I wanted to tick off! I’ve also seen the number of blog posts and social media stuff other bloggers post on a daily basis. It’s crazy! Fair play to them though. I couldn’t blog about me and my brain that much, or I’d definitely question the point of doing anything at all.

Anyway – first update. The Vuelio blog awards were awesome! Loads of fun, an incredible comedian in Ellie Taylor, who destroyed us, and loads free wine, which RUINED Chloe. She decided to sleep in our suitcase that night. She’s too cool for a bed. and very cool people and ‘talent’ to meet.

Secondly, Vuelio has featured ‘Learning to Dad’ in their Top 10 UK Mental Health blogs! Happy Christmas to me! ❤

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YEAH!

So yeah, that’s cool, isn’t it? I’m an ‘influencer’… Awesome.

Anyway – most of the time in these blog posts, I sit and I focus on all of the bad stuff that happens in my head, but I’ve never really sat back and thought about the good things that have happened because of my poor brain.

So yeah, basically all year I’ve been a dick to my brain. Now I’m saying sorry.

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Just look at her.

Back when I saw Chloe for the first time, I could have had someone else’s brain in my skull, giving me the WORST ideas on how to approach and talk to her. I could now be single, but I’m not. Instead, my brain is charming and smooth as hell and I ended up making a family with this beautiful person.

If you’ve ever popped over to my Instagram, you’d see that I do have a lot of good things to look forward to coming home to. Noah being crazy with my (now ruined) guitars, he and Riley and their love-hate relationship with food and toy balls. It isn’t a portrayal of ‘look at my perfect family’, there isn’t any such thing, but now I look at it as a letter to myself to appreciate who and what I have in my life.

I’m also very, very lucky to have the musical experiences I did. I managed to do Radio 1 Live Lounge sessions, tour the country, do sessions at Abbey  Road, confuse the hell out of Zane Lowe enough to tell the nation they should love the track as am “an Irish Traveller from a fighting family”.

True story.

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Just popping out for a pint.

I was surrounded by people who I’d love to tour with again, but I have memories of hundreds of people singing the lyrics my brain came up with and having fun with us, just to enjoy ideas that I wrote down.

And I do take for granted the ideas  I get and the buzz of it when that stupid idea ends up being a blog, or a song or something funny to post.

I know that this post has pretty much been me blowing smoke up my own ass for a while, but there’s something about heavy snow and fresh starts. So, for Christmas this year, I’m going to stop being so hard on my brain. Because of it, I have a load of memories that I can laugh and smile about, and no matter what you offered me, I would never change them. and whatever happens in the future.

I hope that when you’re feeling stressed, or crap and low, that you can take a step back, and appreciate where you and your brain are now, and everything you’ve done in your life and more importantly, where you’ll get up to in the future.

I hope you enjoy Christmas and New Year! If I don’t post before then, I hope you all get a good haul. I have kids now, so a bottle of Jack Daniels will be the equivalent to a Lottery win.

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“Wow! You’re Clean for a Gypsy.”

HELLO! I’ve had a week away from thinking about anything last week because it was my birthday and I was pretty busy doing everything aside from enjoying it.

Except on Saturday, I became 78% Jägermeister on Saturday and I’m not sure I’ve sobered up yet.

So last week was ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ and to continue the trend, this week is ‘Hate Crime Awareness Week‘. What is ‘hate crime’? Click here to learn more. For anyone who knows me or has read any recent posts, you’ll know that I believe that hate crime/discrimination/prejudice is directly linked the mental health issues found in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. GRT children learn at a young age that a lot of people won’t like them because they are different. I first realised this in primary school in London, where I’d be embarrassed to get a dropped off in a pick-up truck, (I’ve no idea why, I was a charmer and had like five girlfriends before I was 10 years old, #ladykiller) but I was. I first realised the extent of how we were disliked, whilst watching my dad play in a pool team that visited different pubs each week for their league matches, and most of those weeks when they were playing away, landlords and bouncers wouldn’t let my dad and I in. The team had to argue that he had done nothing wrong as was there to play pool. We’d be watched, and sometimes kicked out as soon as my dad played his match. All of those pubs in London always had the huge “NO DOGS or NO TRAVELLERS ALLOWED (*BECAUSE I’M A RACIST IDIOT)” sign, and I always thought we were breaking a law by entering these pubs, just turns out those landlords were.

So, anyway, let me point you back to the post title, “You Look Very Clean for a Gypsy” for a second. I would love to know where your own minds take you when you read that quote. For those who are still curious, let me blow your minds.

Three years ago, my wife and I had the idea to start a charity to help Gypsies, Roma and Travellers with things like advocacy, advice and basic skills try to have a more significant relationship with their councils and MPs. So off my wife and I went to an organisation that supports start-ups to meet an officer from a well known charity, who would be able to help with starting up this idea. The meeting was what you would expect at a professional meeting, up until he asked me how our idea would relevant and link in with the community the charity was aimed for. I told him that I am an Irish Traveller, and I also have ties with the local community and have lived in the area for over a decade or so.

So, are you ready for this bit?

He just looked at me and said, “You look very clean for a gypsy”.

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You what, mate?

As you probably could imagine, I was busy re-attaching my jaw back to my face and trying not to jump over the table and throw him in the bin.

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Get in there, you fool.


Note: 
I was intending for this post to be on the lighter side, but it had to have a change of direction as I received a call from someone asking if the police would do anything about a 15-year-old who was shouting at their kids, (aged between 5-9) that they are “smelly gypsies and they should f*** off back to their caravan” in front of the children’s friends.

Yep, we know people don’t like us. We read, see or hear about it every day in a million different ways. But when young children hear things like this before they can even understand the differences that people in the world have, how can we be expected to even want to integrate with people like that scumbag teenager and the people they learned this mentality from and the other adults that influence their societal views? Why would we even want to?

I’m glad you can see my point.

I firmly believe that scenarios like this can have an effect on children’s anxieties, worries and things that develop into mental health issues and a negative outlook on the society they live in. How could it not, when teenagers feel they are able to racially abuse a child as young as five years old.

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One of many horrible findings from a recent YouGov poll.

This then asks questions of all people fighting for equality, the feminists, the LGBT equality groups and the other ‘social justice warriors’ who are allowing the MPs, the TV personalities and people in everyday life to racially abuse and discriminate this protected ethnicity in every which way, quite regularly:

Why aren’t there more people fighting for Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller equal rights?
Are we not as important as other communities?
Does the fight for equality just stop at certain characteristics?

Equality will never, ever exist until all people have the same treatment as every other minority group. Our voice is the most silenced and our views are met with racial stereotyping and myths, essentially undermining any fight for equality we are trying to win. Until we have more support, more children will want to retreat to our families and communities just to get some respite from the daily vitriol and hate that goes unchallenged.

If you are being threatened or attacked because of your race/ethnicity, sexuality, disability or any other protected characteristicsplease make sure you call 999 if you are in immediate danger.

Gypsies, Roma and Irish Travellers have specialist services that you can report any hate crimes, get advice on how to report them, such as:

 

Thanks for reading, don’t stand by and let inequality grow, help out your fellow humans, whoever they may be.

Martin

P.S. *I wish it did say that. It definitely should do for all racist idiots.
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There Are Good Days And There Are Bad Days…

Week two of work is over, and Noah is still pissing on us to keep his nappy dry and Mabli laughs her head off whenever Noah is crying, which is a bit scary.

I’ll stop pretending that I’m not depressed.

TODAY I AM FUCKING MISERABLE. AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY.

My head has been completely taken over by a ‘fog’ that has come out of nowhere. No outgoing flights, everything is cancelled, no refunds. Not going to punch in some humour, because having your smile taken away almost immediately after having a good day with your family is shit. Plus I can’t think of anything funny right now and I’m sick of saying “I’m tired” whenever someone asks me how I am.

Imagine having a proper laugh with your children, feeling like a decent dad, making them laugh and all that stuff, then you get home, look at yourself in the mirror and the colours of the world get sucked into the eyes you’re looking into and you feel worthless for no reason. Kind of like #Mondays.

I have never contemplated suicide, ever. I am PETRIFIED of death. I’d happily be a vampire in The Originals and party forever. Or be an immortal Morrissey, forever making miserable SOUND SO GOOD for generations to come. No, death scares the shit out of me. I have though, tried to put myself in the shoes of those who have attempted, or committed suicide, to try and understand what they were feeling and thinking, as I’m assuming some of you have done. How low must someone be to accept that they’re going to go through with it? How down must a person feel if their family, wealth and whatever else a person may have can’t stop it? depresion026-jpg

After Chester Bennington’s suicide, that really hit me hard. The man had everything, a gorgeous family, money, adulation, loved by millions through his creativity, and it wasn’t enough. So through that reflection, I realised that I don’t get enthusiastic about many things at all. I’m in physical pain trying to give a shit about someone talking to me about religion or something during general day to day conversation.

If God really did make us in his image, he (or she) would get a very bad review on Amazon by the person he sent me out to. “DON’T TRUST THIS SELLER, SOLD ME A HUMAN THAT DOESN’T WORK AND WILL NOT GIVE ME MY MONEY BACK. AVOID.”

I obviously get excited and the warm buzz when I see my family or when I’m nearly home to see them. I cry when Mufasa dies, (who doesn’t?) but other than that? My stupid brain switched off that feeling long ago.

For those who are severely depressed, the notion of having nothing at all to look forward to in their life, for the rest of their life, is a really scary thought.

My family and closest friends have always and will keep me from reaching that degree of ‘darkness’, but it can make you sad trying to understand just what people with depression have to think through from day to day. I am fortunate that I have never gotten to the place that, unfortunately, other people have.

Earlier this week, it was great to see Ben Bennett off of ‘Gypsy Kids’ given a huge platform to talk about his experiences with racism and discrimination in schools and communities. His story is easily a template for hundreds of us when we were children, and even worse so nowadays. This leads to bullying and discrimination, violence and self-defense and unfortunately, protecting yourself and your family gets you branded a “thug”. It is a nasty vicious cycle. Pretty much like every Liverpool FC game this season. We are taught how to box for the reason that we need to look after ourselves and our family, we also have a competitive nature that makes boxing addictive.

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Something that I have thought about since looking at Mind UK’s statistic of 1 in 4 people has mental health issues, is that a lot of the UK population aren’t included in that sample, but also even more of the Gypsy, Roma & Traveller community wouldn’t be either. Now linking this to another statistic that GRT males are six times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the UK population, and females seven times more likely, how would the “1 in 4” change if we take that into account, and also the fact that GRT young people have the same pressures that other young people have, (appearance, reputation, ‘fitting in etc), but also have to prepare themselves for daily racism and discrimination from teachers, students and other institutions and the communities they live in. Then having to react to having race and ethnicity challenged, despite legislation and policy that protects us. Then after that, having to deal with violence coming your way. Like when police set their dogs on a person without provocation, or Johnny Delaney, who was murdered “because he was a Gypsy”.  My kids will have to know how to protect themselves if this attitude is still accepted, which I am fearful it may be.

My own brain shit probably could have originated from going through this as I grew up, but depression was only something you heard of when talking about suicide. I’ve had people walking out of a pub announcing out loud, “I’m not drinking here, there are gyppos on the pool table” to a reception of the whole pub who turned to laugh at us. We were a group of two 16-year-olds, and our 14-year-old brothers just playing some pool, watching some football. We did follow that guy into another pub and challenged him, (not like the videos you see on Facebook), but through conversation. No macho story here, I shit myself. The guy was a very, very tall, fat man, who had to crane his neck like a dinosaur would have so he could shove his face into mine as I asked him if he would not say stuff like that again, as there was no need for it, and if adults were there, we wouldn’t know what would have happened but we definitely know who was getting the blame.

There I was, looking like a 58kg Hercules, (the skinny one from the Disney movie) standing up to one of the Titans who wanted to smell my face before he ate it. To be fair to that guy, he apologised and shook my hand and said something about ‘respect’ that I didn’t hear because I was figuring out how the fuck I would fight this dude without it looking like Andre the Giant vs Mr. Bean at Wrestlemania 3. But, that conversation did mean that it didn’t happen again, (in front of us anyway).

With stories like these, that statistic from Mind UK looks like it could be a little bit lower, doesn’t it?

As many human rights campaigners have said, educating the people who are happy to discriminate and persecute will be one of the ways to change their mentality, not all I know, but I am hoping that I get to see a world where I see positive change for us before I die, but I’m not sure that I will get to see it.

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Now That is Over With…

I’ve not even thought about writing since my last post, mainly because of UNIVERSITY. After writing this I definitely felt that I had been shoving a lot of things right down in the name of ‘plodding on’. So caution – I haven’t written in a while and hopefully, it doesn’t bum you out.

My final year was pretty hard and made me sacrifice things I really loved, and my music was the main loss. After six fun, (but hard) years with Falls, we were broke and too poor to afford the push to the ‘next level’. Which was a shame, but a thing that definitely needed to happen for me to graduate, but also to prevent myself hating the three people I considered close, if not best friends. That’s not even me trying to pop a joke. I daydreamed about hurting people in my brain, through ‘daydreams’ that I have no control over. I’d laugh with them one minute, and see myself smashing my guitar in someone’s face the next. For what reason? No idea. Probably because Ben wouldn’t stop for a McDonald’s at 3am and I had to hold a wee wee in. I know, right? What a dick.

A funny thing happened during that conversation where I told the guys I was ‘done’. I told them that I needed to really work on the last six months of my degree, otherwise I’d have a massive debt for a degree that I may have failed because of stress of touring and other distractions. I also said that I couldn’t carry on, in case we have more babies. That night, after I told Chloe about what I feared was a rash decision, she told me that she was pregnant with Mabli, who is now here and she is very beautiful. Things like that let you know that you made the right decision. My magical, psychic #GypsyPowers never fail me.

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Mabli is now two months old, (or thereabouts) and I’ve not thought about writing as firstly, I’m not a stay at home dad anymore, well, from 11th Sept I’ll be working with a charity to provide advocacy for GRT communities around North Wales. Secondly, thinking about writing with any form of correct punctuation instead of, “cloooooo my belly is sore and I have a ouchy tum tum 😦 xox”, made me want to dive headfirst into a wall. Thirdly, and most notably, I think that my brain sank back into a patch of being a pill-zombie again, plodding along trying to keep two kids and my wife happy, whilst ‘I’ am watching from inside the shell, not really caring until I’m allowed to be reckless and stupid. I also get angry at things that I shouldn’t, and haven’t in the past and only realise it upon reflection. I hate that I don’t see it all the time so I can shut that shit down and stop from pissing people off, or embarrassing myself. I also haven’t left auto pilot for a long, long time. I’m constantly ready to jump to stop Noah do something stupid like, stand barefoot in dog shit, or be ready to change the weird ‘Donald Trump kills the Mexicans’ episode of Peppa Pig that some weird, fucking idiot decided to sit in his stupid bedroom and then have the great idea to let other humans see it.

That is just being a parent I guess, but trying to force yourself into burying your head into things you don’t even like isn’t part of what’s ‘normal’. ‘Me time’ is exactly that. I lose interest in everything I enjoy. At the time I could being having a GREAT TIME, but running parallel is my stupid brain trying to bum out the vibe. It’s like having the really annoying person you avoid on a night out trapped in your head. You’d love to punch him, but you’d really regret it in the morning.

I sound like I’m really miserable. I’m actually not. I’m relying on writing to clear my brain which now feels like it belongs to somebody else. This isn’t the same brain I had ten years ago when being ‘down and depressed’ was realising you were in a shit relationship, and when you were finally single, you could do anything. Maybe as I get older and turn into the person I think a dad of two should be, I have to learn and get to know how ‘he’ works and accept some aspects of life are different. You’d never know that from a chat with me, as sarcasm and humour are masks I use regularly because I like seeing people laugh. But then Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell (to name but two ‘high profile’ people to recently leave) were able to bring happines on a global scale throigh their music and sometimes, it sadly isn’t enough. I guess being awake at 1am on Sunday makes you think of these things. I can’t wait to drink whisky again.

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“The thing I love about writing is that by the end of whatever the heck I was going about before, I find things I need to understand for the future ahead.”
Me, right now.

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I know I feel down sometimes. I am not alone in this, nobody should feel that way. I am lucky that I don’t notice it because I’m laughing at Noah throughout the day, or spending time avoiding projectile vomit, or trying to make Mabli laugh with One Direction songs. I am fortunate that I see light in my future when others don’t, or haven’t. I am lucky to have a two year old spark of life who makes me laugh at 5:58am and makes my heart melt right before he drifts off, singing songs in his sleep. And now I get to be excited for what he and Mabli will get up to together to make Chloe and I laugh in the months to come, and in the years that precede that, I hope they will help me understand myself, as we try to help them understand who they are and who they want to be.

Thanks for stopping by, I promise I won’t leave it so long next time.

 

I am a proud Irish Traveller.

I am a proud Irish Traveller.

Even though it shouldn’t have, it’s taken me a long time to be comfortable enough to say it anywhere and everywhere without that internal ‘ping’ of worry that there will be some stupid comment where people think they know about my culture but they really don’t, or just the standard racism or discrimination that usually follows.

I have always been proud to be an Irish Traveller, but only in the ‘right’ circumstances, or company, I get to truly be at ease and not worry about it. Having a few drinks with the boys, catching up with family, totally a proud Traveller.

Any other scenario… It’s very different and the defences are up. Times like queuing to get into a bar, social media when a site is parked up locally, or at a job interview.

I recently attended an event where a fellow GRT academic described his journey as ‘coming out’ as GRT. This really hit home with me, as I have never heard that term used about GRT people in the context of hiding who we are to survive in society. We know it is a term used mostly for the LGBT+ community, however the elements of ‘coming out’ are the same.

GRT kids as young as 5 or 6 try to hide their accents in school as they are aware that we’re not socially accepted. They probably don’t fully understand racism or discrimination yet, but they understand survival and what to do to limit bullying. Both GRT and LGBT+ have that conflict of wanting to live life who they are, but not to be persecuted for it. Nobody deserves to be.

It’s a powerful statement, that aptly captures the feeling of fear, insecurity and apprehension that comes every time you reveal yourself as GRT. It’s not a one time thing, every time you meet someone new it’s a new conversation, sometimes relevant, sometimes not but the fear of being judged and discriminated against is always there.

At a BAME event, as the only white individual, I was told that white privilege must extend to me as the colour of my skin is something I can hide behind. The irony of that is why would I let white privilege extend to me, when the ‘white’ class/system has persecuted and discriminated us and still do daily?

GRT people don’t do Stockholm Syndrome, so let me take this opportunity to negate this argument.

White privilege does not extend to a 5 year old attending school for the first time, who instinctively knows to change their accent in order to avoid discrimination.

I’ve been there many times.

White privilege does not extend to the individual who does not tick the ‘Gypsy, Roma or Traveller’ or even the person who would like to, but can’t tick the ‘Showman’ or the other denominations under the GRT ‘umbrella’. GRT people are very likely to not tick those boxes on a job application as they’re unlikely to get an interview.

I’ve been there many times.

White privilege does not extend to the individual who was stopped by the police 5 times in one evening as their car was registered to a Traveller site.

I’ve been there many times.

Being able to hide behind the colour of your skin is not a blessing at all, it is yet another barrier to overcome before we find equality. Hiding who you are, something you are very proud to be, in such huge aspects of our lives is a massive pressure and we can’t ignore the impact this has on our mental health. We are a proud community. Yet, we remain fearful of discrimination and rightly so. Things are changing, more and more people are ‘coming out’, as GRT, revealing themselves to their bosses, their doctors, their colleagues, still people and professionals deem it acceptable to continue to oppress those who are strong enough to ‘come out’.

Since writing openly and speaking about life as an Irish Traveller, my life has changed in many ways. I am more aware of my mental health and where the issues stem from. It is still a constant battle but this new-found awareness is a positive step forward in addressing my anxiety and depression. I no longer feel the need to hide who I am, I am openly proud and confident to speak about my ethnicity. Unfortunately, this pride and confidence does not give me immunity to discrimination and racism.

Not long ago I was at a point where exhaustion hit me, I had a completely burnt out, fighting for equality, when discrimination and racism is endless, it is relentless.

At one of my lowest points, when I considered giving up, I found out I had been shortlisted for the ‘National Diversity Awards’. To this day, I am still completely overwhelmed by the nominations and being shortlisted for such a prestigious award. It also shows me that our voices, issues, and stories are being heard. Regardless what happens, I hope that people are reassured that we are celebrated and hopefully much more in the future.

Thank you NDA for the huge reminder that my voice is being heard, that simply by being openly proud of who I am and talking about GRT issues changes can and will be made.

Living behind a mask isn’t easy, it isn’t a privilege. It is time we tell the world who are and that we are proud.

Optimism & Mental Health Awareness Week.

The sun is out and I’m on another train to another meeting about another instance a discrimination and racism towards my ethnicity.

It is also Mental Health Awareness Week this week and I’ve read some many great blogs, which I understand so much. So I *should* be sick to the teeth of reading and relating to the horrible and miserable things that people are saying, (especially after the hate speech and disgusting racial abuse mentioned in my last post – RE The Horse Vigalante Squad), although I’m not.

I’m actually optimistic.

I understand that mental illnesses bring about some horrible experiences for thosewhose lives have been changed by their mental illness. There are also those who don’t suffer from depression or anxiety, who have to watch their loved ones go through some major changes… Some people have to witness their family go through much worse.

But, I’m still optimistic.

More and more people are talking about their mental health. Establishments and institutions are promoting the notion of just being there for your loved ones if they are going through some nasty stuff. The message online is clearer than ever, there are people you can reach out to if you need to talk.

More than ever, people are willing to listen. That’s why I’m optimistic.

People can have happy and busy lives. Many people are massively successful and don’t always succumb to ending their story early. More and more people who are talking and listening are saving lives more than they know.

There will be many posts like mine this week, and all of us are saying the same thing. If you need to talk, we’re ready to listen.

Anyway! I hope you’re all enjoying the sun. I am! This weekend I am off to spend time at a glampsite called Cledan Valley who provide time away from the world in their incredible yurts, wagons and lodges, surrounded by nature, animals and NO WiFi. For me and my mental health, I cannot wait to get there and clear my mind and get back to myself.

Take care of yourselves!

Mart;n

Traveller’s Voice Magazine – Mental Health.

Below is an article that was written for the awesome Traveller’s Voice Magazine, go check them out here – http://www.travellersvoice.ie/!

“Traveller men are 6.6 times more likely to kill themselves than the rest of the general population, and women are 7 times more likely to do take their lives.

Did you know that?

As horrible as that is to read, especially for Gypsies, Romani and Traveller (GRT) people (and anybody else for that matter), it is very true, and very sad. For that number to drop, we need to change how we look at mental health illnesses and the sooner, the better. As some readers will know, GRT men do not talk about our mental health. This is because we live in a community where men are only allowed to be ‘hardy’ and ‘manly’. I believe this is changing. Tyson Fury recently posted a video talking about mental health and how important it is to speak out about it. I mean, if the undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World can open up about his mental health issues, then surely more of us should feel safe and comfortable to do so.

I do understand why people do bury it. It’s easier to push it to the back of your mind due to the fear of being seen as weak, or sick and on the road to addiction or suicide. Then, we have to deal with people talking about us, and our families worrying about us, and they also have to worry what will be said in a pub one night, which could cause arguments and drama for no need.

When I was first told by my doctor that I had depression, stress and anxiety, which came after spending a year of trying to get into university and ended up with me paralysed in my bed, my wife convinced me that I had to recover properly and not to just ‘get on with it’. I told my doctor about the thoughts that I couldn’t control, how I felt up and down like there was a switch someone was playing with, how I went from someone who could play a show in front of more than 1000 people to someone who couldn’t make a phone call for work. I told him everything.

Rightly so, my GP gave me all sorts of tablets, I was worried that I’d be sectioned after I told him what was going on with me, but they were brilliant. They talked to me and told me that I was not alone. The medication I take now helps me, other ones they gave me left me a complete write-off but once I found the right tablets for me, I am feeling close to how I was years ago. I still have my days where I am a nightmare to be around and the tablets can make it worse, (no, that isn’t a good excuse when I’m doing my wife’s head in, trust me, I’ve tried it). They helped me more than I thought they could.

When I first booked to see a counsellor, I had no idea what to look for until my doctor gave me options and referred me. Now, if my doctor was temporary, or just didn’t care, I wouldn’t have gone to that session. Looking for professional help online left me confused, I didn’t know if I’d be wasting their time and there was nothing at all, (that I could find) that did anything that made GRT people feel welcome to go there, or have someone available who would understand what we’re about. I think that is one of the biggest reasons that GRT men and women don’t want to see a counsellor, there aren’t many people that truly understand us.

Saying that, once I completed my sessions I definitely felt better, and have I gone again since. Being able to have someone to listen to you and give you their knowledge on what it is that is happening in your head, and give you techniques to help manage the times that seem too much. I still use them today. Without them my brain would have melted, now I am to relax my mind and stop it from feeling like it is racing 200 miles per hour. I mean, their job is to sit there and listen to some horrible stuff, all day. Getting it out of your head and knowing people aren’t going to treat you differently, is massive when you need support.

For us to start to open up, and in the long run get better and understand how to manage whatever our mental illness may be, we have to change how we look at speaking to councillors. They are there to help, not to judge you, or how our culture lives, and they can’t repeat anything you say back to anyone outside of the room, so your business will stay private.

What I think is more important, is that we have to change how we think about our own people who are suffering, and how they have to suffer in silence because people might talk about them behind their backs. Some of you reading will know that the GRT community are very, very loyal and passionate about our families, but it can also be quite a judgemental community to be part of! If we want the suicide numbers to go down, we need to make our own feel that they can talk about their problems. And all it takes is us letting people who need to talk, that they can chat with you over a cup of tea. That’s where someone’s recovery can start. It is that simple.

Depression as we know does not discriminate. MIND tell us that 1 in 4 people have a mental illness, now I’d like to bet that not many GRT people were involved in their survey, and if we were, that number would be a lot higher, and the fact that we are 6 or 7 times more likely to commit suicide says that we need to treat our mental illness as we do our physical problems. I know most families will talk about headaches, illnesses and all sorts of physical health problems we have, (like me when I’m dying with the flu), or rally round a family member when they really need help, but when I told my family about my mental health problems, and even more so when I started writing about it, I was asked to watch what I said to avoid people talking, or thinking that I am sick. I know my family obviously want me to be alright, but they tip-toe around conversations about depression, even now.

Until we begin to think and talk about mental health problems the same we do about general health, we can’t move forward. By making this shift about the way we think and talk, hopefully, people won’t be so afraid to speak openly, and more importantly, seek help when needed.

I can only hope that the people I speak to about my own mental health problems, will be able to offer their time and patience to them. I feel like I didn’t have that except from my wife and her family, and it meant the world. People with depression do not look miserable, or messy, or lock themselves away. They smile and laugh, and dress like everyone else does. Look at the musicians we’ve lost recently. They had money to last them forever, they played music to hundreds and thousands every year, they laughed and joked in their videos with family and friends, but in the end, it couldn’t stop them from taking their lives.

It is time for us to think differently about depression and other mental health issues. It is time to be there for each other and it may be a simple chat and a cup of tea that can help someone you know and love.”