Britain’s Media Has Built The Myth Of Boris Johnson And Now Women And People Of Colour Will Pay The Price

Britain's Media Has Built The Myth Of Boris Johnson And Now Women And People Of Colour Will Pay The Price

Press Association It’s a strange feeling, knowing that our new prime minister doesn’t see people like me as fully human. Johnson – I will not buy into his jocular, larger-than-life persona by using his first name – has a shameful track record of anti-blackness.

I was nine years old when he wrote a now infamous column describing black people as “flag-waving piccaninnies ” who “break out in watermelon smiles” when given the supposed honour of a visit from any British royal or politician. At that time, I was a long way off making peace with my Black British identity; comments like Johnson’s, so carelessly delivered, made it a struggle to reconcile the two. There is little to suggest that Johnson’s views have evolved in the years between then and now.

Johnson has repeatedly positioned black people as inferior to whites, demeaned the working class, and treated women with disrespect. Much like the 45 th president of the United States – another premier with ridiculous hair and a penchant for making racist comments – he espouses a politics that makes marginal people even more vulnerable.

Racist prime ministers are nothing new in Britain – just think of the countless politicians behind Britain colonising half the world, men who were the architects of the transatlantic slave trade. In a 2002 Spectator op-ed titled Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism , Johnson advocated recolonising the African continent, which he referred to as a “blot.”

He wrote: “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more… the best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”

During the scramble for Africa, British ships carried an estimated three million African men and women into slavery in Americas. As Professor Kehinde Andrews points out , the profit Britain made funds our national healthcare service, the education system, and even – meagre and punitive though it may be – the welfare state. It is highly unlikely that the Johnson era will oversee the payment of colonial reparations. Nor is there hope of it improving conditions for people of colour in Britain.

In her time as Home Secretary, Theresa May planted the seeds of the hostile environment for migrants and people of colour. As prime minister, she presided over austerity driven cuts that, research proves, disproportionately hit women of colour. Members of the Windrush Generation and their descendants, who have lived in Britain for decades, are being forcibly deported. Several families made homeless by the Grenfell Tower tragedy still don’t have a permanent roof over their heads. Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre oversees some of the worst human rights violations happening in modern Britain.

As May’s successor, and our third consecutive Conservative prime minister, Johnson does not represent a change for the better. With his typical flippancy, Johnson risked adding a further five years onto Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe’s wrongful imprisonment in Iran. And although Johnson apologised, the nature of his comment and the danger in which it put a woman of colour was entirely characteristic.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph last year, Johnson mocked the way Muslim women dress by comparing them to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” . That same week saw a rise in Islamophobic hate crimes across Britain: 21 Muslim women reported being subject to Islamophobic attacks. Johnson’s racist words have real and negative consequences.

What hopes can any woman of colour have about Johnson becoming prime minister when his words so regularly fan the flames of racialised, gendered violence? Of course, there will always be a token “taken on board” as apparent proof that the next prime minister is neither racist nor sexist. Priti Patel took on that position, giving Johnson a glowing write up in the Express . But the voice of one woman of colour looking for a seat at the table does not outweigh the prejudice embedded in the foundations of British society – structural power imbalances that Johnson aims to uphold.

For too long, the British media has been complicit in building the myth of Boris. Endless stories framing Johnson as a charming eccentric rather than scrutinising him as a member of Britain’s elite political class have paved the way to his premiership. But deliberately dishevelled hair and smatterings of Latin do nothing to mitigate the harm he causes. We cannot afford to dismiss racism as a “gaffe” or misogyny as a “blunder” when they are representative of Johnson’s beliefs and politics. In the words of the late, great Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Claire Heuchan is an author and essayist who blogs as Sister Outrider The Waugh Zone Tuesday July 23, 2019

Boris Johnson Ripped To Shreds By Space Expert Over Brexit Moon Landing Comparison

Bella Thorne comes out as pansexual: ‘I’m more drawn to personality’

Bella Thorne comes out as pansexual: 'I'm more drawn to personality'

Actress Bella Thorne has come out as pansexual , explaining that she is more ‘drawn to personality than gender.’

The 21-year-old former Disney child star had previously identified as bisexual.

But she told Good Morning America yesterday (22 July) she no longer considers gender or sex when looking for a partner.

While on the GMA seat, Thorne opened up about how a casual conversation with a pal about pansexuality opened her up to the idea.

She said that after someone ‘thoroughly explained what [pan] is,’ she discovered she’s ‘actually a pansexual.’

‘I didn’t know that,’ she said. ‘You like being. You like what you like. ‘Doesn’t have to be a girl or a guy, or a he or a she, or they, or this, or that.

‘It’s literally you like personality. You just like being.’

The dancer added: ‘[It] doesn’t really matter what’s going on. If I just like it, I like it.’

Thorne also opened up about penning a book, ‘Life of a Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray.’

She then cited that, moving onwards, she wants to focus simply on ‘being happy.’ When did Bella Thorne first come out as queer?

Throne came out as bisexual initially in 2016 when she was 18.

Fans have speculated about Thorne’s sexual orientation after pictures of her kissing another girl showed up online.

The Amityville: The Awakening star then replied ‘yes’ when a fan popped the question: ‘Are you bisexual?’ See also

The bisexual actor and model says her images had been hacked and she was being threatened – but she has now reported the person to authorities

Tan France asks Pete Davidson about BDE and his response is priceless

Tan France asks Pete Davidson about BDE and his response is priceless

Pete Davidson and Tan France | Photo: YouTube You’d hardly call Pete Davidson the shy and retiring type. But the SNL star displayed played it pretty coy when questioned by Tan France about his BDE in a recent video.

The guys discussed the BDE concept (which stands for ‘big d*ck energy’) on the latest episode of Tan’s show Dressing Funny.

After Queer Eye star Tan brings up Pete’s association with the term, the comic pulls a face and says ‘Oh god…’

When Tan asks ‘it doesn’t give you a point of pride?’ Pete modestly replies: ‘No. It’s embarrassing’. ‘I guess it’s better that it’s not the other way around’

Pushed by Tan, Pete furthermore continues: ‘I guess it’s better that it’s not the other way around. I’m complaining about awesome things. Good problems, Tan! Good fucking problems!’

Tan then puts Pete in a ‘different version of a sweatpant’, warning him they’ll ‘highlight that…’ The style guru then picks out a pink shirt for Ariana’s ex, adding; ‘This is meant to be my version of Pete!’

Watch the video above. See also

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Boris Johnson named UK’s new Prime Minister: What this means for LGBTIs

Boris Johnson named UK's new Prime Minister: What this means for LGBTIs

Photo: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency, Wikimedia Commons Boris Johnson has been elected as the 77th Prime Minister of the UK today (24 July).

He beat his opponent, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, to succeed Theresa May who announced her resignation last month.

The former mayor of London (2008-2016) was declared as PM at the Queen Elizabeth II Center in central London.

He takes the leadership of the Conservative Party after a vote of around 160,000 members with an 87% voter turnout.

Hunt scored 46,656 votes. Johnson won with 92,153.

But as Brexit’s 31 October deadline looms, many LGBTI people are wondering what exactly a Boris Johnson premiership will mean for them. What does this mean for LGBTIs?

It means the new PM is one who has referred to gay men as ‘bumboys’ in a column for the Telegraph and once compared marriage equality to bestiality in his book in the 2000s.

Furthermore, his hardcore support of Brexit will, according to research conducted by Gay Star News , prove disastrous for queer folk.

His voting history for LGBTI people is near to non-existent, too, according to records . ‘I will continue to champion LGBT+ equality’

However, there are signs his attitudes have changed in recent years.

When LGBT+ Conservatives asked the then potential PM what his plan is for LGBTI rights earlier this year, he said: ‘If I am lucky enough to be elected Conservative leader, I pledge that my administration will not consider [LGBTI issues] as “job done.”

‘I will continue to champion LGBT+ equality, get tough on hate crime, and ensure that we break down barriers to a fairer society.’

In 2016, Johnson claimed leading the EU would be good for LGBT rights – an opinion that many pushing for a second referendum disagree with | Picture: YouTube

Moreover, he pledged to ‘ensure trans rights are protected.’ And to knuckle down on LGBTI-inclusive education in the wake of protests .

He also said he will ‘work closely’ with LGBT+ Conservatives in policy-making. ‘We have work to do!’

LGBT+ Conservative chairman Colm Howard-Lloyd told Gay Star News how he looks forward to working with Johnson. But there are caveats.

‘As Mayor [of London], Boris funded pride and banned anti-gay tube ads.

‘In parliament, he backed same-sex marriage, and as Foreign Secretary, encouraged UK embassies to fly the rainbow flag, and had robust discussions with Commonwealth colleagues on progress needed.

‘However as a journalist he used some distinctly hurtful and unhelpful language , and that has dented the confidence of many in the LGBT community.

‘I expect him to address that at an early opportunity.

‘During the leadership race Boris made a number of commitments via LGBT+ Conservatives.

‘I look forward to working closely with the new Prime Minister and his team. We have work to do!’ ‘He’s sometimes been supportive’

‘Boris Johnson has a mixed voting record on LGBT+ equality,’ said Peter Tatchell, director of the human rights organization, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

‘He’s sometimes been supportive and other times he’s abstained. His past insulting utterances count against him

‘As an MP, he voted to repeal Section 28 in 2003 and to introduce civil partnerships in 2004.

‘He backed same-sex marriage long before many other MPs. But there is no indication that he has any commitment to remedying the remaining injustices faced by LGBT+ people.’ How did we get here?

After 17 hustings, interviews, and two head-to-head television debates across two months, Johnson’s campaign trail was a bumpy one.

It’s one that has included an endorsement from US president Donald Trump , and a bizarre moment when he punched the air with a vacuum-packed smoked herring. Just this picture alone beautifully portrays how our nation has descended into a Monty Python sketch. — Mike Galsworthy (@mikegalsworthy) July 18, 2019 While critics have rained in on his bumbling performances as both mayor of London and as foreign secretary, supporters have been drawn in by his charm and his hard-line view on Brexit.

An issue which has quickly emerged as the biggest peacetime crisis facing the nation.

He has promised to, deal or no-deal, see that the UK withdraws out of the European Union by the end of October.

This is despite many arguing that such a hurtling crash from the bloc would be disastrous economically and politically.

‘We are going to unite this country and take it forward,’ he said in his acceptance speech.

‘The campaign is over, and the work begins.’ Many ministers will now step-down

Yet uniting his own party may prove difficult.

Johnson’s promotion to premiership will cause many Conservative ministers to resign altogether.

For example, chancellor Philip Hammond said on Sunday (21 July) he would step-down upon Johnson’s step-up.

The finance chief for Theresa May’s cabinet has consistently warned about the economic rupture of Brexit. Making he and the Treasury department unpopular among Brexiteers. I resigned as Foreign Office minister this morning. Here is my letter to the Prime Minister. — Sir Alan Duncan MP (@AlanDuncanMP) July 22, 2019 And on Monday, Foreign Office minister and openly gay MP Alan Duncan resigned ahead of today’s result being announced.

Meanwhile Anne Milton also resigned as minister of state for skills and apprenticeships ahead of the leadership results today.

In addition, current cabinet ministers including business secretary Greg Clark and justice secretary David Gauke are expected to resign. Why are some voters annoyed?

Around 99% of eligible voters were not able to have a say in whether Johnson or his opponent, Jeremy Hunt, would lead their country.

Only 160,000 members of the Conservative Party were able to vote. This is because the governing party directly elects the PM.

The postal vote ended at 5pm on Monday.

This meant that many felt shut out from the process. With the average eligible Conservative voter being male, white, around 57 years old, and pro-Brexit, according to data analysis .

Source: EURef2 / What UK Thinks

Furthermore, in the latest What U.K. Thinks: Poll of Polls , an average of the six most recent polls on Brexit, Britain is as evenly divided now as it was three years ago. See also

Russian LGBT Activist Killed After Being Listed on ‘Saw’-Inspired Gay Hunting Site

Russian LGBT Activist Killed After Being Listed on ‘Saw’-Inspired Gay Hunting Site

Yelena Grigoryeva Dinar Idrisov / Facebook A prominent Russian LGBT activist who had been featured on a blocked website that encourages people to “hunt down” sexual minorities has been killed in St. Petersburg.

The website, inspired by the “Saw” horror film franchise and which encourages visitors to track down and assault people believed to be LGBT, was blocked in Russia last week.

To view this media, you need an HTML5 capable device or download the Adobe Flash player. Yelena Grigoryeva Dinar Idrisov / Facebook Yelena Grigoriyeva was found with multiple stab wounds and signs of strangulation near her home over the weekend, fellow activists said on social media.

“She has recently fallen victim to violence and had often been threatened with murder,” fellow activist Dinar Idrisov wrote on Facebook on Monday.

“A reminder: Yelena was listed on the homophobic ‘Saw’ website which has long threatened LGBT activists across the country,” photojournalist Georgy Markov wrote .

Grigoriyeva had been stabbed at least eight times, the St. Petersburg news website reported . A suspect in her killing was reported to have been detained.

Grigoriyeva had maintained an active stance on a range of issues, according to the Mediazona news website. It reported that over the past year she had been detained at rallies against torture and the Chechen-Ingush land swap, as well as at LGBT protests.

Rights activists say violent homophobic attacks have become more frequent since Russia banned “homosexual propaganda” toward minors in 2013. Recent polling suggested that Russian attitudes toward equal rights for LGBT people were at a 14-year high.

Perimenopause: What To Expect During The Final Years Of Your Periods

Perimenopause: What To Expect During The Final Years Of Your Periods

You’re boiling, irritable – and, yes, you still have your period. Welcome to the perimenopause, where you’ll have mood swings, hot flushes and other symptoms of menopause, but with regular monthly bleeding, too.

It’s a condition that can occur years before the menopause, and is relatively rarely discussed. “There is still so little awareness of perimenopause,” says Rachel Lankester, creator of The Mutton Club – an online magazine and community empowering women over 40.

Even if women are aware of perimenopause, they’re often unaware of when to expect it. “When women do know about it, they don’t seem to know when it can start and are often not expecting changes to start until their mid-50s,” notes Lankester. “For most women, menopause is over by then.” Menopause is technically the term used to describe when a woman’s periods have completely stopped for a year or longer. In comparison, perimenopause is the name given to the transition women experience before the menopause, explains Dr Alex Eskander, consultant gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre.

“During this time, the level of oestrogen in the body fluctuates, and due to this, many women experience hot flushes, reduced sex drive, anxiety, vaginal dryness, problems with sleep and mood swings,” he explains.

Perimenopause can last for just a few months or can continue for years, and people experience it at different ages: it usually begins in your 40s, but some women can experience symptoms as early as their mid-30s.

“This can happen when the ovaries cease producing normal levels of oestrogen – otherwise known as premature ovarian failure,” Dr Eskander explains.

This can be caused by a number of conditions, including chromosomal abnormalities, autoimmune disease and some infections like malaria. It can also be caused by cancer treatment like radiotherapy or chemotherapy, and can run in families, he adds.

At first, your periods may not change during perimenopause, which is why many women don’t recognise symptoms like mood swings and sleeping problems until further down the line.

Women’s periods decrease at different rates, explains Joan Pitkin, a retired consultant gynaecologist and trustee of the British Menopause Society . However, for most women, they’ll experience their periods gradually getting lighter and more spaced apart.

“Periods may be every three to four months or only one or two per year,” she says. “I have had some women who have been bleed-free for up to 10 months and have thrown away sanitary protection, only to be caught out and have regular monthly bleeds for the next five months.”

Sometimes, women with spaced out periods can have a very heavy flow with flooding, which is called Perimenopausal Dysfunctional Bleeding (DUB).

It’s important to check with your doctor if you experience heavy flow to make sure you understand its cause. “It is a mistake to assume this heavy bleeding is [necessarily] hormone-related as cancer of the uterus can occur in the late 40s and does not only present with post-menopausal bleeding,” she says. “Unexplained heavy bleeds should always be investigated.”

Contraception is a “grey area” of perimenopause, says Pitkin. The Family Planning Association (FPA) advises women over 50 to wait until they have been period-free for a year before stopping contraception. If you’re under 50, the advice is to wait until you’ve been bleed-free for two years.

“This is because conception only requires one rogue ovulation,” Pitkin explains. “Stories of women who were told they were menopausal and then found out they were pregnant are not infrequent.”

Depending on your individual symptoms and overall health, some women may be advised to take a low dose 20ug contraceptive pill by their doctor.

“The pill would provide regular bleeds, contraceptive cover and synthetic oestrogen, which would control sweats and flushes, though hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is more effective for this and bone protection,” says Pitkin.

Women who are not advised to take the pill by their GP should stick to another form of contraception, such as condoms, to avoid pregnancy. Even post-menopause, women should consider this to avoid STIs. What Does It Feel Like To Experience?

Every woman’s experience of perimenopause is different. While for some, symptoms can have a negative impact on day-to-day life, Lankester didn’t notice any symptoms until a fertility test confirmed she’d reached menopause aged 41.

“At first it was pretty devastating as I’d been trying for another child. I also felt catapulted into middle age,” she says. “But with time and some reflection I eventually realised I had bought into all the negative narratives around menopause and midlife in general. I was still the vibrant woman I’d always been and perimenopause/menopause didn’t change that at all.”

She believes many women fear perimenopause because of lack of knowledge “and also because in the west we worship youth”.

“When perimenopause kicks in women can be very concerned about what it means and what the impact on them will be,” she says. “But only one-third women have a difficult experience with perimenopause/menopause. For many women, it isn’t a problem at all.”

Women who are struggling with symptoms associated with permimenopause should visit their GP, who will be able to recommend the best course of treatment. This may be the contraceptive pill, or it may be hormone replacement therapy (HRT), of which there are many different types – it comes in tablets, skin patches, gels and vaginal creams, pessaries or rings.

Lifestyle changes such as exercising more and committing to meditation or mindfulness may also help when it comes to coping with symptoms including mood swings and sleeping problems.

Lankester also believes it’s crucial that women are positive during this time in their lives. “We’ve dealt with our wombs all our lives and now is not the time to start fighting them. Don’t believe society’s negative narratives about menopause and being an older woman – midlife is your time to shine,” she argues.

“It’s no surprise that post menopause there are many wonderful dynamic women doing great things in their lives, once we are free of the monthly hormonal roller-coaster.”

Check For Breast Cancer By ‘Grabbing Life By The Boobs’, Charity Urges

Check For Breast Cancer By 'Grabbing Life By The Boobs', Charity Urges

It doesn’t matter who you are – CoppaFeel! wants you to “grab life by the boobs”.

The charity’s latest campaign aims to highlight the broad range of people who can get breast cancer, including young cisgender women, trans men and women , and cisgender men.

The inclusive campaign hopes to normalise breast checking across the nation, encouraging us all to check regularly, “grab on to life”, and get to know our bodies.

The film marks 10 years since CoppaFeel! was founded in by Kris Hallenga and her twin sister Maren, after Kris was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer at the age of 23. CoppaFeel! Before her diagnosis, Kris was unaware that breast cancer could affect people in their twenties and knew very little about the disease. It struck her that there was little information out there for young people and how they could be looking after themselves. So she decided to do something about it.

In the decade since Kris, Maren and the CoppaFeel! team have talked boobs with young people across the nation, from schools to uni campuses, festival fields and a whole lot in between.

Heidi Elleray was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2018 after finding a small lump. She said seeing CoppaFeel! at the university where she works meant she was” extra quick to get it checked out”, so she decided to take part in the latest film.

“I got involved in the campaign in the hope that it would help people understand that breast cancer can affect everyone, it doesn’t matter your age, gender or race, regular checking can make all the difference, and you can still rock it during treatment and come out stronger than ever,” she said. CoppaFeel! Leanne Pero, founder of Black Women Rising , who’s also involved in the campaign, said she got involved because “it’s important to represent the different ethnicities affected by breast cancer in the UK – something that often goes amiss in the mass cancer advertising campaigns nationwide.”

“Early detection of breast cancer saves lives, I’m a living example of that,” she added. “I’m all for doing whatever we can to normalise boob checking on a regular basis – it’s essential now that the number of people affected by cancer keeps rising and rising each year.”

There are no hard and fast rules around checking your breasts (or pecs) for signs of cancer – the most important thing is learning what’s normal for you, so you can identify any changes quickly and seek support.

Symptoms can include a lump, a change in shape or feel of a breast, skin changes like puckering or redness, nipple discharge, changes to the position of the nipple, or pain in a breast. For more tips and advice, visit the charity’s website.

How My Chronic Illness Showed Me Who My Real Friends Are

How My Chronic Illness Showed Me Who My Real Friends Are

It’s Monday morning, and as I slowly bob up to the surface of consciousness from the depths of sleep, I start to feel the pain. The burning sensation in my feet. The profound ache in my bones. The stiffness in each and every joint and muscle.

In a previous life, this full-body misery might have been brought on by a late Saturday night of dancing, or an extra-long Sunday bike ride to the beach. But this is my new life, and in my new life, I greet each and every morning just like this.

For a year-and-a-half, I’ve been living with chronic Lyme disease, and each day brings its own stew of symptoms, ranging from the inconvenient to the downright intolerable. I was given the diagnosis of chronic Lyme by a doctor in New York City, based on the results of a blood test conducted by the Lyme Disease Laboratory at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine. The medical community at large does not currently agree on what this diagnosis refers to, or even that such a condition exists . My particular symptoms include crippling fatigue, bone and muscle pain and a marked decrease in cognitive function. I am not a doctor, but the affliction I suffer from is very, very real.

Up until Lyme struck me down a couple of years ago, I was a healthy, thriving 30-something with energy to spare. As a freelance writer, I spent my days juggling dozens of challenging writing assignments, then blowing off work-related steam by moving my body: I ran three times a week, went to sweaty vinyasa yoga classes four times a week and criss-crossed through my Brooklyn neighborhood on my trusty hybrid bike each and every day. As an avid cook, I spent many hours in my kitchen whipping up my own personal brand of crunchy hippie food, and I regularly invited friends over for dinner to share in the spoils.

But since contracting the stealthy, persistent Lyme bacteria from a tick bite I received in the Catskill region of New York in 2017, those activity-filled days feel like a distant dream. Instead of researching and writing articles, I lie in bed watching Netflix or listening to podcasts. Instead of running, biking and doing yoga, I manage a few gentle stretches or, if it’s a good day, a short walk around my block. Instead of cooking elaborate, multi-step meals, I chuck a bunch of ingredients into my Instant Pot and live on the leftovers for days at a time. And instead of catching up with friends over coffee, dinner or drinks, I spend almost every waking hour totally alone. “Up until Lyme struck me down a couple of years ago, I was a healthy, thriving 30-something with energy to spare.” When it became clear that my Lyme case was a serious one that would radically alter my life, limiting my abilities to work, run errands and, sometimes, to even leave the house, I expected my community of generous, in some cases lifelong friends, to rally around me, showing up at my door with healthy home-cooked food or offers to help me with my laundry and chores.

To my mind, these expectations were logical. Pre-Lyme, I was blessed by a solid group of ride-or-dies: compassionate friends like my pal since college, who generously tolerated years of freak outs related to my on-again, off-again musician hookup, and another friend whose apartment around the corner from mine was a second home where we’d regularly watch hours of PBS cooking shows and paint and collage around his huge dining room table.

I thought that these pillars of support would be there for me in my time of need. Instead, the opposite has been true: As my illness has progressed, formerly dear friends have gone absolutely MIA. Calls and texts first slowed, then stopped; even when I outright asked for favors, friends were often too absorbed in their busy, thriving lives to make time to bring me groceries or accompany me to a doctor’s appointment.

I don’t share this scenario to garner pity: My illness has allowed me to tap into deep reserves of self-reliance and inner strength that I didn’t even know I possessed. And once I got over the shocking reality of my friends’ inability to be there for me, I’ve mostly been able to make it through by drawing on my own personal fortitude.

I share my story because, through connecting with others afflicted by long-term illness, I’ve learned my experience is not at all unique. “As my illness has progressed, formerly dear friends have gone absolutely MIA.” In the chronic illness community, there’s an expression that goes, “It’s amazing how chronic illness turns friends into strangers and strangers into friends.” For me, the first part of this dictum proved true fairly early on. As my health declined and I became increasingly unable to make or keep plans with my buddies, they stopped reaching out as often, and eventually I stopped hearing from some altogether. They did not call. They did not text. They did not extend offers to help me manage an increasingly unmanageable life.

After the initial shock of having of lost access to what had been a core source of strength and support in my life, I started to contemplate what had happened, and even to reach some understanding about it. While I do believe these now-distant friends still care about me, I think it’s hard for anyone to know how to respond to such a drastic decline in health. My friends were used to the active, healthy, up-for-anything me, and they were now faced with a sick person who wasn’t improving.

In most instances of sickness, the person figures out what’s wrong, begins treatment and begins to recover. But in the case of chronic, complex diseases such as Lyme, which has many types of treatment but can in some cases leave chronic symptoms, healing can be a fraught, up-and-down process that can take years or even decades. I can imagine that for my friends, asking the question, “How are you feeling?” and continually receiving the answer of “no better” or “even worse” eventually wears them down and makes them feel bad.

If they can’t offer any suggestions for how I could feel better, then what’s left to say? Additionally, chronic Lyme is so little known and even less understood that the average healthy person just doesn’t know what the patient suffers through on a daily basis. Had I received a devastating diagnosis for a more prominent disease ― like cancer, for example ― I believe more of my friends would have a better understanding of the trials I’d be facing. “As my health declined and I became increasingly unable to make or keep plans with my buddies, they stopped reaching out as often, and eventually I stopped hearing from some altogether.” Thankfully, a few supporters have remained by my side, and by all indications, that’s where they’ll stay — no matter how long it takes me to cross the finish line of this often hellish healing journey. There’s a friend from California who calls weekly to share her latest baking projects. There’s another friend who offers to order me groceries online when I tell her I’ve been too sick to leave my house. My roommates scoop the cat litter and keep the apartment sparkling clean and never say a word about their increased household duties.

These are the people who can weather the personal discomfort they might feel when dealing with a sick person, who know how to demonstrate love and support through actions when there are no words left that can help.

As for the second part of the saying about chronic illness — that it turns strangers into friends — that one took me a little longer to figure out, but it’s no less true. For many months after becoming sick, I was resistant to my illness, each day thinking that I might just wake up from the extended nightmare and magically be back to my healthy, normal self. I refused to think of myself as “chronically ill,” and avoided Lyme communities like the plague.

But eventually, as the magnitude of my illness made itself clear, I joined the Facebook groups and also found many Lyme sufferers on Instagram. Although I haven’t met most of these people in real life, I’ve connected with a few here in the New York area, which has been a wonderful experience; they’ve become my clan.

Every single day, I check in with these stranger-friends: We see how each other is feeling, check in on the support we’re receiving on the homefront, ask if any progress is being made with treatment or simply complain about our crushing and various symptoms. These are my people now, the only ones in my life who understand what it feels like to be tired, uncomfortable and in pain every single day.

Without them, I’d be adrift, and I know that no matter what course my illness takes, I’ll be lifelong friends with some of the people I’ve “met” as a result of it. The handful of people that have stuck by me through unimaginable hardship, I now know, are my true friends — and so are the folks that populate this community of “strangers.” I hope to meet them all IRL someday.

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After Burnout I Was Unemployed For Six Months. It Was The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me.

After Burnout I Was Unemployed For Six Months. It Was The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Me.

At the end of last year, I realised I needed a change. And when I say change, I realised that I needed to quit my job.

They don’t call it millennial burnout for nothing. Too scared to leave the world of education and do anything that might even vaguely be described as ‘adulting’, I jumped straight into an ill-advised Masters after leaving university, and stuck at it for three weeks before realising that there was nothing I wanted to do less than study for another year.

What to do instead? Travelling was out of the question. I saw how well my friends were doing, smoothly transitioning from their degrees to well-paid grad jobs in London (paying, it seemed to me, unbelievable sums) and knew what I ‘had’ to do. I couldn’t afford to fall behind; instead, I spent a frantic three months applying for jobs whilst working at my local cafe. Call it an overdeveloped sense of FOMO, call it whatever you want – all I knew was that I didn’t want to get left behind. After all, I had a degree. Surely I had to put it to some use?

So I did. After weeks of panic, I clinched a role: working in marketing, in London. I was ecstatic. That was the dream, right?

Almost two years later, I realised it wasn’t. “I knew three months in the role wasn’t for me, but I was too scared to start job-hunting again so soon… what if I wasn’t good enough to find anything better?” Perhaps it should have been obvious from the start that the job wasn’t for me. I knew that three months in, but I was too scared to start job-hunting again so soon into the role. What if employers would blacklist me for doing so? What if (thought to myself in the wee hours of the morning) I just wasn’t good enough to find anything better?

All these expectations – all the pressure I was putting on myself – mixed together to form a toxic cocktail. A slow decline in morale meant that my standard of work started to slip. Personal life got in the way. Everything began to pile up, and I started comparing myself to my friends. Thoughts started chasing each other around my head when I lay in bed, trying to sleep. How well were they doing? Why wasn’t I earning as much as they were?

Panic set in. I spent most of my free time desperately finding and applying to positions I didn’t want; the boss called me in and told me, very gently, that he was here if I needed anything, but that I needed to apply myself more. Pull my socks up and get on with it.

I agreed, and in my head, set a new goal: the date I was going to resign.

A break, I reasoned, would give me much needed time. Time to breathe; time to reassess my priorities. Time to find out what I really wanted to do with my life. And some much-needed time to recharge my batteries. I’d started having panic attacks. Who knew how much longer I could have stayed where I was?

Just before Christmas, I walked out of the world of work and into the world of unemployment. Courtesy of Vicky Jessop It’s been an eye-opener. I had next to no money and was living out of my savings, but I had that time I wanted. Those first mornings waking up and watching my flatmates leave for work, knowing I had nothing planned for my day, that was strange. But, slowly, it became normal.

And suddenly unemployment didn’t seem that scary any more.

Now I could find out more about what I actually wanted to do. I’d been so obsessed with getting a job and living the London dream that I hadn’t actually stopped to consider what I wanted to do. Now, I could apply for internships, I could do those internships, and I could fit them around any shift work that I managed to pick up: as a receptionist, as a waiter, as anything that paid.

I found out that I liked to write; so I started a blog. I read and read and read, and eventually realised that publishing might be a good career avenue to explore. I had several memorable moments working as a journalist and met quite a few childhood heroes. They were checkpoints on my CV, yes, but they were also moments that helped me realise what I enjoyed doing; what I might want to do with my life.

I could also travel. People say that taking a gap year is the best time to do that, but I’d beg to differ. I was nowhere near brave enough to travel around Europe – or, indeed, anywhere – at the age of eighteen, let alone solo. In the past six months, I’ve managed to tick off a few bucket-list destinations, and spend time with my family. And forcing myself to take a step back has given me some much-needed perspective. It’s helped me realise something that I’m still just coming to terms with: I didn’t have to compare myself to my friends in order to consider myself successful. That’s been the hardest lesson of all. “Six months on, I’m sitting down and starting to apply for jobs again. Older? Yes. Wiser? Most definitely.” Now, six months on, I’m sitting down and starting to apply for jobs again. Older? Yes. Wiser? Most definitely. It’s easy to obsess about setting foot on and progressing up the career ladder when you leave university: get a job, start grafting. We’re told from the moment we start school that success means money, and we live in a country with a competitive job market, so it’s no surprise that so many millennials suffer from burnout. In fact, 74% of us say we’re so stressed that it’s difficult to cope. Taking a step back and sideways out of that was the hardest, but best, thing I’ve ever done. It’s probably also helped me avoid a mental breakdown.

And now? Who knows what job I’ll get, but I do know two things: it’ll be something I want to do. It’s okay if that’s different to what my friends are doing.

And I’ll be better off for it.

Vicky Jessop is a blogger and journalist

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Sun, Sand And Sewage: Report Shows Many US Beaches Unsafe For Swimming

Sun, Sand And Sewage: Report Shows Many US Beaches Unsafe For Swimming

A new analysis details widespread bacterial contamination at US beaches, with more than half of the tested sites exceeding a federal safety threshold at least once in 2018.

The report, published Tuesday by think tanks Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group , highlights the threat that urban runoff, sewage overflows and industrial livestock operations pose to America’s shorelines and public health.

“All too often, our beaches have pollution that puts swimmers at risk,” John Rumpler, a co-author of the report and director of Environment America’s clean water program, told HuffPost. “That’s just totally unacceptable.”

Of the more than 4,500 beaches sampled in 2018, nearly 60% had potentially unsafe levels of disease-causing faecal bacteria on at least one day, according to the findings. A total of 610 sites, or approximately 13%, had elevated bacteria counts at least 25% of the days they were tested. A swimming advisory posted at Miami’s Hobie Beach in July 2016. The report analysed sampling data submitted to the National Water Quality Monitoring Council by more than 40 federal, state and local agencies, and includes sites in 29 states along the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Great Lakes and Puerto Rico.

As a benchmark, the organisations used the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Beach Action Value,” a “ precautionary ” threshold established in 2012 to help states and territories decide when to issue beach advisories or closures. A site was deemed “unsafe” for water recreation if levels of Enterococci and E. coli bacteria ― two common indicators of faecal contamination ― failed to meet the EPA standard.

The lowest success rate was in the Gulf Coast region, where 85% of sites were contaminated at least one day in 2018. Forty-eight percent of beaches tested along the East Coast saw potentially unsafe levels on at least one day, compared to 67% along the West Coast and 76% in the Great Lakes.

In Illinois, all 19 beaches that were tested failed to meet the EPA benchmark at least once in 2018, with a site at South Shore Beach in southern Chicago tallying elevated bacteria counts on 93 days. Cole Park, a bayside park in Corpus Christi, Texas, was potentially hazardous for swimming on 52 days.

Nationwide, contaminated water resulted in 871 beach closures and more than 10,000 advisories last year, according to the findings. Environment America Research & Policy Center/Frontier Group The report cites a 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Health that estimates 57 million waterborne illnesses are contracted each year in the U.S. by people swimming in contaminated water. Illnesses include diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal disorders, stomach flu, pink eye and skin rashes.

“I can’t tell you how that compares to the rest of the world,” Rumpler said. “I can tell you I think our nation can do better. Americans deserve better.” The findings, he added, show that the US has failed to achieve one of the primary goals of the Clean Water Act of 1972: to ensure that all waterways in the country are safe for swimming and recreation.

The report, the first of its kind for Environment American and Frontier Group, is similar to annual analyses previously produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC’s 2014 report found that 1 in 10 US beaches tested were unsafe for swimming .

Rumpler stressed that while some states “come out looking particularly alarming,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that their beaches are more polluted. Instead, it’s possible that agencies there are doing more extensive sampling than those in states that appear to exceed the EPA standard less frequently. What is clear, he said, is that swimmers often aren’t finding out about risky conditions until it’s too late ― if at all.

In addition to urging policymakers to take action to better inform beachgoers, including establishing systems for same-day testing and warnings, the report seeks to tackle the root of the problem. It calls for major public investments to fix old sewage systems and to build infrastructure that can absorb urban runoff, protecting and restoring wetlands, and for a moratorium on new large-scale industrial livestock operations to curb manure pollution.

“This is a problem we can solve,” Rumpler said. “Most of this beach pollution comes from runoff and sewage overflows, and by investing in smart kinds of green infrastructure we can prevent this pollution and keep our beaches safe for swimming.”

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is considering bipartisan legislation to boost funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a federal program that provides assistance to states for water infrastructure projects. And Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) introduced a bill in May that would require 20% of fund dollars to go toward “projects to address green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency improvements, or other environmentally innovative activities. ”

For state-reported water quality and beach advisory information, visit here .