It’s Time For Me To Stop Admitting And Start Accepting

I have epilepsy and it’s time I accepted it. I don’t exactly hide it: pretty much everyone who knows me is aware I have it and I’m not ashamed to say it. But as I of all people should know, talking is the easy part.

 

I can say it and I can talk about it as much as you want me to, but I can’t myself accept it. Notice how I’m saying it as if my mind won’t even give it a name like if I name it I may be labelled or it may actually be a real thing that actually affects me. I can accept the word being associated with me, but not the thing itself and even less the idea that I have to make lifestyle changes to accommodate for the consequences of having it. As a result I have gotten pretty used to failing, and thus have lost my confidence and any sense of what I want to achieve.

 

I didn’t even notice I was having difficulty dealing with it until now. During school my focus became survival and any notion of dealing with having epilepsy was put aside into the later pile. And it (just) worked. I did not get what I wanted, but I left school with 4 A levels. So, why couldn’t I always put dealing with epilepsy in the later pile?

 

I can’t seem to anything, that’s why: University, no; full time job, no; partying like the rest of the 20year old population, no. The only thing I can do successfully for a long period of time is nothing, but who wants that? Every time I try something I seem to end up failing and feeling like a whole load of idiot; like I’m the old me being lazy or pathetic and using my epilepsy as an excuse. But it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason.

It’s not that I can’t do things (at this point in my head my primary school teachers congregate and chant “there’s no such thing as can’t”), it’s that I don’t have any sense of my limits due to my inability to swallow my pride and create a realistic framework of short-term possibilities. I therefore I feel I can’t achieve anything, when really the problem is I’m trying to achieve unrealistic goals. In my head I am still that 16 year old who dreamt of going to Cambridge and becoming a political speechwriter. That girl could work day and night just because she wanted to and she had the determination to achieve her goals. This girl has both the will and determination, but she has less of a capacity to work such hours.

 

People only tend to see the tonic-clonic seizures, the ones you associate with Hollywood epilepsy. But there is a lot more that goes on and is less understood. There’s the petit mal (eg déjà vu, absences, auras etc.), possible knock on illnesses such as migraines, or side effects of medication such as fatigue or memory loss. There are also, of course, mental effects such as lowered self-esteem and panic attacks. For the record all of the above I have suffered, or still suffer from.

I am starting to realise that it is my epilepsy, not me, that has been the hurdle tripping me up at each open door. Well actually, no. More precisely it’s a combination because it is also my attitude towards the whole matter. A year ago any suggestion of me becoming t-total I laughed at and I saw it as patronising to suggest I did part time work at first instead of plunging into a fully fledged career. As my doctor says some things we can’t help, but others we can. I wanted to battle epilepsy not work with it towards success; I was prepared for a fight, I just chose the wrong one. This lack of acceptance has fogged my mind more than my medication. It has left me in a helpless rut, dug deeper because time and time again I have had to quit impulsive decisions that were in reality desperate attempts to keep life as it was before.

 

So. I’ve learnt the hard way. I have epilepsy and because of that I am (for now) physically and mentally suited to achieving smaller goals, which will in time amount to no less achievement. I do not regret this past year; in fact I have a lot to thank my stubborn ruddy mindedness for, getting me so lost. But lost I have been and it is clear now that my end goal(s) do not have to, and should not change. It is my plan of action in the meantime that does. I have to be able to crawl before I can walk.

 

But as I said before, the talking is the easy part….

 

 

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It’s Time For Me To Stop Admitting And Start Accepting

The Out of Date Issue of Class Struggles On

We are all snobs, in some way. We all have preferences, that is only nature. But living in a supposedly civilised society we should learn to draw the line between preferences and prejudices. Most notably in this country prejudices have been based on class (and gender). That however is a problem of old and as we moved into the 21st century we should have lowered our noses and removed any chips off our shoulders. So far I have seen that this has not happened and, typical Brits, we are stuck in a place where we can conveniently and effectively (falsely) blame others for any of our misfortune or dissatisfaction. It is a twisted way of making us feel better about ourselves. It is not constructive and restricts the social freedom we are so desperate to embrace.

Class has always been an issue for me. It has always confused me that people would wish to create a them and us separation and in doing so create conflict; a bit like the alliance system pre-WW1. In the past year, even though I am the only woman in the kitchen at work, I have found that any illusion of a class division has caused me more grief than the quite clear gender division.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to be born into a family that has acted a springboard for potential success in whatever field I chose. However my family has somewhat been stuck in a higher class that my ancestors belonged to, one which we do not. One which is associated with more affluence and therefore a greater capacity to do nothing (even an obligation to). Furthermore it has surrounded me with snobbery directed at others who follow different paths, considered to be of a lower class.

When I decided to leave university after one term my Mum’s face resembled a ghost and she began a mission to get me to stay. I had already disappointed her enough by not applying to Cambridge, but this – at first – was too much for her to swallow.

Eventually she gave in (I’m more stubborn than a mule) and I got a job as a chef. One thing remained the same – the “them and us” culture. However I was no longer considered part of the “us camp” and I would now become victim to inverse snobbery. I have been sarcastically named “Princess Sophie”, repeatedly asked whether I have horses and told to “ask Daddy” if I need something. One of the first things one of the chefs said to me was “at least you’ll be able to throw delicious dinners for friends when you’re a city lawyer”. A comment that didn’t exactly make me feel welcome on my first day. Moreover it turns out that that chef lives in Belgravia, which suggests he isn’t exactly struggling to get by. It is his East London accent and evident working class upbringing that saves him from abuse. Thus this prejudice is all a product of my colleagues’ assumptions that my “proper” accent and not having had a full time job by the age of 20 makes me a spoilt rich kid who deserves to take the brunt of any chip they have on their shoulders. The truth is I am neither rich nor a spoilt brat.

And don’t think my parents’ friends have been 100% supportive either. I have had looks at shock at the fact I’m not at university. I make sure I mention the fact I was at a top 4 university, which I chose to leave, to ensure they know I’m not stupid and that my original intention had been to follow the path they deem suitable. To both groups of people I say that I’m not sure working in a kitchen is what I want to do for the rest of my life as I know they all think it’s not the place for a woman like me to build their career.

To say the truth: no I’m not 100% I want to work in a kitchen all my life. But I do want to stick with the food industry. I love cooking; and the teamwork, adrenaline rush and active nature of chef life really appeals to me. Yes there is the well known problem of women struggling to make it in the kitchen environment. However it is also the snobbery from all angles of society that has made it at times a hostile place. I cannot pretend I have been mistreated at work, or constantly bullied for my accent or lifestyle. My employers and collegues have been very good to me and are training me well. I am even beginning to feel like one of them. However I do not feel wholly like one of the team due to their consistent insistence to remind me that (in their minds) I am in some way different to them.

It’s a modern problem, a child of the age old British class system, born through the age of class movement. Of course I advocate movement within society, but why is it only acceptable to celebrate people of the working class gaining success in an area associated with another class: from someone being the first in their family to go to university to Kate Middleton marrying royalty. In fact why is that celebrated at all? Celebration makes such events a big deal, which in turn deepens class distinction and segregated individuals.

As we saw with the Civil Rights Movement in America “separate but equal” does not break boundaries, but entrenches them. The same applies to class. I am not putting class issues in the UK and race issues in America on a par, but simply using this extreme example to show that the idea of crearing cultural isotopes does not make for a united or free society.

To add to this, class no longer correlates with affluence in this country and that needs to be recognised. It correlates with nothing of substance and has instead become a facade of the bitter and the proud; to falsely legitimise blaming others for any dissatisfactions they may have with their own life. Another example of such a defence mechanism would be when an atheist has an argument with a Christian about religion and the Christian were to defend themselves by saying they “have faith”. It is impossible for the atheist to dispute them. It is the ultimate conversation stopper and a builds a brick wall between the two sides. Yet the Christian has not acted rationally and has defended their position with only superficial legitimacy. In doing so they have also made the Atheist feel vulnerable and unequal. This is similar to the use of class in an argument; they are both blanket terms used by the ignorant to defend themselves.

If I was really a spoilt rich kid I wouldn’t have gone out and got myself a job. Yes I’ve had many an opportunity, a great education (both academic and culinary), and have met some great people who have given me advice for success. But that does not make me lazy or less worth my colleagues time. Moreover these opportunities are no replacement for real skill and experience. Money is not needed and indeed cannot buy: grit, determination, or natural talent.

We should stop dwelling on a problem two or three generations out of date. In the meantime we it should be recognised that we are all snobs – and inverse snobbery is just as destructive. I am proud of where I come from and will never disrespect my upbringing. That’s not where the problem lies (if it is not overdone). The problem lies with judging, disrespecting and excluding others because they grew up with different priorities, expectations and opportunities. And it should be stopped. Now.

The Out of Date Issue of Class Struggles On