13 Reasons Why – my review

’13 Reasons Why’ came to my attention via social media. Twitter seemed full of it and that intrigued me because there was a clear divide of opinions. So it became my next Netflix watch and now that I have finished it, I also feel very torn. I haven’t fully digested it all and taken time to sit and think about how it’s made me feel hence why I am just sitting and typing and hoping that by writing about it, I will get rid of the feeling of unease it has left me with.

The premiss of the show is that a high school girl named Hannah Baker commits suicide but before doing so, she leaves tapes explaining the reasons why she has done so.  We are told the story through the character of Clay who struggles with the idea of listening to the tapes and it takes him an age to get through them because he feels so uncomfortable about Hannah’s story as it unfolds and hampers his coming to terms with her death.  This is something I felt I had in common with Clay – it wasn’t a series I felt I wanted to binge because each episode revealed a reason why this 17-year-old killed herself and that didn’t sit well with me. I needed to digest each episode and the issues it brought to the forefront.

Suicide is something I don’t have any experience of. Yes, dark thoughts have been a real issue for me of late but not to that extent. Yes, I’m taking anti depressants but not for the reason of suicide. Yet watching this programme, it portrays just how easily impressionable, vulnerable teens can be led to that state of mind where there seems like no way out. There’s nowhere left to turn, the feeling of emptiness is overwhelming to the point of no return. The show, in my opinion, is very well acted. It’s sewn together faultlessly to show the web of teenage life and how simple acts can lead onto bigger issues. We have to take care of the words that leave our mouths because we don’t know what other people are going through. When I was little the rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” were relayed a few times but actually, that is so far from the truth. We don’t know what struggles people have or what their emotional state is. Simple, harmful, throw away words that leave our mouths in a matter of seconds can stick to the recipient for hours, days, months…years even and make a chink in their armour that is irreparable.

Every year as a teacher I have done a simple PSHE activity about how words can hurt each other and how we can’t take them back. The children start in small groups with a paper plate, a tube of toothpaste and some cocktail sticks. They love the activity – getting to squeeze out every last drop on the toothpaste onto the plate. And then when I ask them to replace ALL of the paste back into the tubes using only the cocktail sticks, it’s fun to watch their little faces, full of concentration and determination which soon turn into frustration and sadness when they realise they can’t do it. This is when I get them to imagine the tube of toothpaste is their mouth and the squeezing out of the paste are their words. The reality of it is we can’t get that toothpaste back in the tube, just like we cannot take back and erase the words we speak, once they are out the damage is done. A simple yet effective activity that I love and will always use.

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One of the reasons I wasn’t sure about the show was because a massive part of me agrees with some of the twitter comments about how this programme could be a trigger for those who are dealing with suicidal thoughts and who have dealt with/are dealing with abuse. ‘Stranger Things’ actress Shannon Purser tweeted:  “I would advise against watching 13 Reasons Why if you currently struggle with suicidal thoughts or self harm/have undergone sexual assault. There are some very graphic scenes in there that could easily trigger painful memories and feelings. Please protect yourselves.”  And I wholeheartedly agree.

But this doesn’t mean others shouldn’t watch. The shows main message for me is how many people miss Hannah. How much people around her care for her and love her, value her and miss her. It shows what she is now not a part of and will never be able to be again. It gives the message that if you are in this dark place to stop and look around, really look around and look for the goodness in your life – people, things, experiences and put your reason for living into them. Find reasons to live not reasons not to. Although I also know this is much much easier said than done.

It highlights the fact that we need to speak up about issues of mental health and abuse – it tackles rape and suicide very graphically. This is another part I still struggle with, probably because they are the scenes that stay with you because they are so graphic. I don’t know whether that is absolutely necessary because both issues are dealt with so well through the script but I see why they were included. It’s the rawness, the total open honesty of the show that hasn’t been done before to my knowledge – it tackles these issues in full view for us to see. So yes it is horrific, uncomfortable, upsetting viewing but it is needed in order to tell Hannah’s full story, for us to understand what she went through and to understand what led her to her ultimate death. And through that we can see how the people around her are led to realise how they played a part in it all – demonstrating again how delicate and thoughtful we should be to our friends, colleagues, acquaintances…people we pass on the street. The shows writer has responded to criticism about these scenes and why they were included and when I read them I understood the importance of their inclusion:

“It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all. In AA, they call it playing the tape: encouraging alcoholics to really think through in detail the exact sequence of events that will occur after relapse. It’s the same thing with suicide. To play the tape through is to see the ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all – it’s a screaming, agonising, horror. We wanted to tell that story truthfully. And as difficult as it is to watch, it should be difficult to watch. If we make it easy to watch, then we’re selling goods that we didn’t want to sell.”

It’s okay to not be okay, but don’t be not okay alone. Friends and family are there through good, bad and ugly and to support and help you. And if you don’t feel you have friends or family that can do that, there are helplines and organisations who are. Suicide should never be the only option left for any human being.

Samaritans: 116 123

Papyrus (supporting teens and young adults with suicidal thoughts): 0800 068 4141 

Rape crisis: 0800 802 9999

Victim support: 0808 168 9111

I’m not going to recommend this show, not because I don’t think people should watch it, I do. But it’s a show people need to decide whether to watch or not on their own. It is an 18 certificate for a reason.

Sorry for the heaviness of this blog but the show just brought up a lot of thoughts about issues I hadn’t ever really truly considered before and I wanted to get it out there because they shouldn’t be taboo subjects, they need to be talked about so people don’t feel so alone. If anything, the show has brought these issues to the forefront, and whether you agree with it or not, people are talking about it and that equals awareness and that can never be a bad thing.

This has been a tough blog for me to write because I know there will be some people who have watched the show/have opinions on it who will agree with my thoughts but there will be some who really oppose them – let’s just remember the premise of the show here and not leave any nasty comments – everyone is entitled to an opinion and discussions are welcomed but only if they are kept nice and peoples own thoughts aren’t judged.

#hairlesshannah

Catching some zzzzz’s

Sleep.

When you think about that word, what does it mean to you? Is it a thing of beauty, does it conjure up images of an inviting bed made up with the softest, fluffiest pillows and prettiest of covers beckoning you to snuggle down and rest and recuperate? Or does it simply mean a thing that you need and have to do in order to function for the next day?

Do you need a certain amount of it in order to feel human and happy?  What is your minimum amount that will allow you to be human and not become a monster when anyone dares to talk to you?! Are you a late nighter or a 10pm-er? Do you enjoy a lazy lay in or are you an early riser? Is sleep a thing just for nights, do you revel in a cheeky little nap or have you trained yourself in the art of power naps? Do you need to set an alarm or is your body conditioned to your work schedule?

Does sleep bring you a release? A place to be you, to be quiet and thoughtful, to dream and escape? Is sleep and your bed a place you welcome when you return from a holiday or can you sleep anywhere?

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Sleep, for most, comes naturally. Our body clocks know when we need it and how long for. Our bodies are very clever like that, it knows when we need more or when we can possibly cope with less. That is, until our bodies’ works against us and that leads to some very tricky situations as I have been learning. Sleep has become much more of a nightmare for me since becoming ill. Having researched more it is very clear that many ME CFS sufferers have this same problem; the feeling of overwhelming fatigue is there all the time, the ease to nap during the day out of necessity unlike in the university days when a nap just helped you for the upcoming night. Yet when it comes to the evening and the night-time, sleep seems to evaporate. Our bodies pain sensors kick into overdrive and sleep gets further and further from our reach.

I have never had issues with sleep before, I’ve always needed between 7-8 hours and that has always suited me well. But now, insomnia/painsomnia is in my vocabulary and it sucks. No one can really explain why this happens but it clearly does. As with the rest of the research with ME CFS, there isn’t enough of it to explain all of the side effects and symptoms. I guess it’s almost like when people say you’re overtired or you’ve had too much sleep and your body gets confused. But with my body, I can’t sleep because the pain intensifies and I simply can’t get comfy…even with my pregnancy pillow! I have tried sleeping tablets which to be honest worked a little but not enough and in any case, I can’t stay on them as they are addictive. I have started using herbal remedies but they just don’t seem to match up to the discomfort and insomnia.  I do manage to get some sleep when my body literally crashes but it is always broken and it is never deep, restful or refreshing.

I’ve tried everything in the depths of the night to distract myself from the pain and discomfort.  I’ve tried laying there and persuading my body to rest and sleep. I’ve tried watching box sets and TV programmes, listening to music and audio books, colouring, blog writing, pacing around my room every half an hour to move my stupid aching limbs. Nothing works and that’s when the frustration kicks in, that’s when the mind starts to act against you too and the endless thoughts go round and round your brain tormenting you. It’s such a lonely, scary place to be. It’s a feeling of being trapped and not being able to escape, a feeling of the unknown. And this goes round on repeat until eventually the body can’t take it anymore and shuts down and sleep occurs. Then I’ll wake every hour or so until I make myself get up ready for another glorious day!! Our bodies and minds really are a marvellous thing but sometimes I just don’t understand them. They are meant to be wired up to help and protect us so why do they work against us at times?

Sleep is just another thing I’m having to approach differently these days and that is just how it is. It’s not nice but it’s not the end of the world –  it’s just another thing I just never appreciated enough at the time..but then who does?

Hope you all sleep well tonight, sweet dreams.

#hairlesshannah

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Mini Egg Cookie Dough Bars

So the Easter Weekend is upon us and I’m sure lots of you will be spending your long weekend/last weekend of the school holidays celebrating with chocolate, entertaining and having some fun! So here is my second Easter baking blog for you to try – super easy, fast and will make everyone happy.

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You Will Need:

  • 275g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 115g butter/stork
  • 55g granulated sugar
  • 135g light brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 270g mini eggs
  • 100g chocolate chips

 

Method:

  1. Pre heat your oven to 170 fan and prepare your 9×9 square tin by lining it with some grease proof paper ready for use later. Smash up your mini eggs in a sandwich bag using a rolling-pin – do this on a chopping board! Make sure you save a handful of whole mini eggs for decoration later on.

2.  In a bowl, mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cornflour.

3. In a larger bowl melt the butter – I did this in a glass bowl over boiling water on the hob but you could use a large saucepan.

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4. Carefully remove from the heat and put onto a heat proof mat. Add in the granulated and brown sugar and which together until you form a smooth mixture.

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5. Now pop in the egg and vanilla extract and whisk again until smooth then mix in the dry ingredients, smashed up mini eggs and chocolate chips – use a spatula for this part as the cookie dough will form and it will be thick so a whisk would probably die a death!

6. Press the cookie dough mix into the tin and when evenly distributed, pop on the whole mini eggs that you saved to decorate.

7. Place the tin into the oven for around 20-25 minutes until the top on the bake is dry to touch.

8. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool, only remove from the tin after half an hour. Once fully cool, cut into bars the size of your choosing and then you’re good to go!

 

I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend with your loved ones and that my recipes help you to entertain the little ones, please the older ones and use up whatever chocolate you may have left over!

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#hairlesshannah

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Tasty Tuesday: Chocolate Easter Bark

Today’s Tasty Tuesday is as simple as it gets! It would be brilliant for your own family to enjoy or to break up, wrap up and give as Easter gifts or as something to display at an Easter/Spring party.

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You Will Need:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • Bag of mini eggs
  • Bag of white chocolate mini eggs
  • mini fudge pieces
  • any other chocolate you fancy throwing in!

This recipe is obviously geared towards Easter but you can use whatever you want in the bark, basically, have fun with it, use dark chocolate, use all white chocolate – it’s up to you!

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Method:

  1. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper, secure it with a little dollop of melted chocolate to stop it slipping.

2. Heat a saucepan of water with a bowl balanced on top – BE CAREFUL, USE OVEN GLOVES AS THE BOWL WILL GET VERY HOT.  Melt the milk chocolate and then pour it onto the baking tray.

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3. Now melt the white chocolate and drizzle on top of the milk chocolate, use a spoon to gently mix it and create patterns.

4. Put the mini eggs into a sealed sandwich bag and crush up using a rolling-pin.

5. Now have fun popping all the different eggs, fudge pieces and sprinkles into the chocolate!

6. Place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes or into the fridge for about an hour before removing it and chopping it into your bark pieces!

And there you have it, Tasty Tuesday Chocolatey Easter Bark – yummers!

 

Enjoy!

#hairlesshannah

 

Easter gift craft

With Easter just around the corner it’s time to start thinking about how you will celebrate and what gifts you may want to give to your friends and family. Easter eggs always tend to feature highly in most households at this time of year but it is so easy to just go to a shop, choose and buy an egg…it’s always nicer when there’s a little personal touch to things. So here’s a craft that children will love but for adults too – and once you have all the resources it’s super easy.

You Will Need:

  • Empty, clean jars of varying sizes
  • chalk paint
  • paintbrushes
  • ribbon
  • scissors
  • glue
  • Easter silhouette, vinyl, peelable glass/window stickers
  • various chocolate eggs

Method:

  1. Make sure your glass jars are clean and then choose the stickers you want to use.
  2. Put the stickers on the jars, move them around until you are happy with their position. 

    3. Now choose which colours you want to use; I went for pastel colours as I felt they were more Spring like. You will need a few coats, I started by going around the rims of the jar and then brushing down to cover the stickers and ensuring every part is coated evenly.

 

 

4. Leave to dry for around 10-15 between each coat.

5. Once dry, carefully peel off the vinyl stickers to reveal the silhouette on the jar!

 

 

6.  Fill each jar with your chosen chocolate eggs.

7. Then you can decorate as you please! I popped flowers on the lids and finished with some ribbon but you could do whatever you fancy really!

 

 

And there you have it, some beautiful little Easter jars to give as presents or use as a centrepiece for any Easter display.

Happy Friday!

#hairlesshannah

I, Hannah Green

Last week I finally got round to watching, ‘I, Daniel Blake.’ From the opening second I could feel my heart beating faster and stress filtering through my body – the scene was one of a conversation between Daniel and the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) asking the medical assessment questions. Questions which will lead to you being awarded points which then determine what benefits you are entitled to. It is scored out of 15 and the questions go something like this: “Can you lift your arm above your head? Can you walk unaided for 50 metres? Can you walk to the bottom of your garden unaided? Can you show me how you take your shoes and socks off? Can you empty your bowels frequently?

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Yes, these questions and answers override anything your doctors or specialists have advised or done and if you score less than the 15 points they tell you that you are fit for work and therefore need to apply for Job Seekers Allowance. I cannot tell you how similar Daniel’s story is to mine. I scored 0/15 on my assessment. Zero. Zilch.Nada. So as with Daniel, I had my ESA (Employment Support Allowance) taken away – which I’d never actually received in the first place may I add – and was told to make an appointment for Job Seekers.

The character of Daniel is similar to myself. He didn’t want to give up without a fight because he knew he was entitled to something and that is what we have worked and contributed for all our lives. In the end I cancelled my Job Seekers interview after yet another frustrating conversation with the DWP. I tried telling them that although I was wanting to take my case for mandatory consideration, I was not willing to waste both my own and the people at Job Seekers when I wasn’t actually able to work! This they couldn’t understand. They wanted me to turn up and get advise on how to write a CV before applying – at this point I informed her I was a teacher and knew how to write a CV, again I was told, “In order to dispute your claim Miss Green, this is what we will need to see you doing.” Well I’m sorry, but I am not doing that, I am not willing to put myself through a humiliating session, being made to feel degraded and useless. So the route I am taking is to let the DWP know that my parents will be appealing on my behalf because I no longer have the strength to deal with their red tape and bs.

I won’t give away the whole storyline of the film, but you should watch it. It challenges stereotypes at every turn and gives an insight into how people could quite easily end up homeless on the streets. If I didn’t have my family or the back up of selling my flat, what would I do then? The reality is that once my money was gone, I would be homeless. I am sure the people at the DWP are nice people who are just doing as they are told but to me they are inhumane robots who don’t care, don’t see the real people, don’t consider what medical professionals are saying about your health. They talk to you like you are below them, like a piece of dog poo they stepped in on the street, they let you hang up the phone and cry because you feel so worthless. I wonder what they would do or how they would feel in the same situation?

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There is something fundamentally wrong with our society and our benefits system. I would give anything to be able to work, if I could I’d be down applying for Job Seekers ASAP but I can’t right now and regardless of what my GP, neurologist and ME specialists say, the computer still says no because I can lift my arms high enough to put a hat on my head! I know that the majority of people on benefits do genuinely need them, but I also know there are people out there who abuse the system and get away with it and that angers me beyond belief. All I want is to receive the benefits I’m entitled to so that I can help my parents pay the bills that I’m adding to by being back at home. I want to have some money coming in so I don’t feel totally dependent. I want to be acknowledged as someone who is worth the help and support, not someone who is a scrounger.

I, Daniel Blake is a very powerful film which highlights current issues in a true light, and I can say that because much of what he experiences mirrors what I have to. I have a very dear friend who is also having to fight for her sons rights, if you heard the details of their story your blood would boil on their behalf. The film should be watched by as many people as possible so that these issues are discussed – awareness can only bring positive outcomes. So watch, talk about it and take action if you feel you can. Our next step will be writing to our local MP, the injustice needs to be addressed.

I, Hannah Green feel abused by the system, but I’m afraid that as with Daniel in the film, they have chosen the wrong person and family. We will continue to fight and complain and make my voice heard..I just need to stock up on some spoons before I try again!

Just something for you to ponder on this Tuesday!

See you Friday.

#hairlesshannah

March Favourites

Spring has sprung and March is almost done! So here are my top picks from the last month.

TV and film.

How To Get Away With Murder.

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I’d heard about this series way back when I was in Dubai but never started it even though I am a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes. I have watched all of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and love them both so I was already sold when I knew this was another of her creations. However, it was also the fact that Viola Davis is the lead actress and she is just top class. I have to admit that I became a binge watcher after episode one but it saved my skin over three weeks of sleepless, painful nights and afternoons and I loved it! It was one of those box sets that kept me guessing until the end and each episode had a cliffhanger that left me needing to watch the next episode ASAP! Netflix has the first two series and the third series should be coming soon. Seriously – go watch it, Shonda I can’t work out if your’e just simply a creative genius or a seriously messed up woman who needs some counselling – either way, thank you for creating three of my favourite TV series!

This Is Us

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This has been a series that I’d heard whispers about and it caught my eye because I do love Mandy Moore! It’s been on Channel 4, there’s only one series and I have to say, it’s brilliant. It tracks the lives of a family in two different time zones, following the path of the parents and their initial relationship through to having children and then the present day which allows us to see how the family exist now. It has subtle twists and turns but echoes issues that many could relate to, it’s beautifully written, it made me laugh and cry and I can’t wait for series two to come out.

I, Daniel Blake

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Now, I’m not going to go into this too much because I’m still pondering it due to the some of the incredible correlations to my experiences with the DWP. I will be writing a blog post about it but I do urge you to watch it. You will grow to love the characters, feel their frustrations and laugh at the humour. It highlights so many issues that plague our society today and highlight stereotypes and challenge our perceptions. It’s film at it’s best and you really should watch it…it’s not a book but it would provide a great subject for a book club discussion so maybe switch it up a bit and discuss this film rather than a book this month.

Beauty

Clinique Moisture Surge

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I love this product. I was first introduced to this in an airport because it’s great to apply when flying as it does what it says on the tin and really does give your skin a moisture surge when it’s feeling dry and horrid. You can get a light version or a stronger version depending on your skin type. I have used both and honestly, I’ll never stop using it. It sinks straight into the skin but it feels wonderful, it’s just a very wet moisturiser that hydrates your skin. Love it.

Baking

Wilton Food Colouring

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I’ve been using Dr Oetker gel colouring which is fab but very expensive and doesn’t always achieve the colour required with one tube. So the discovery of Wilton has been a revelation to my baking days! You literally only need to use a toothpick to achieve bold colours, I’d advise less is more until you work out how much you need to get the colour you want. The use by date is 2019 and knowing the amount I used for one rainbow cake, it’s going to stretch and last a very long time. It’s very cost-effective so if you bake lots I’d really push you to go out and buy some or order online like I did!

Bedroom nooks

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I’ve spent a lot of time in my bedroom this month and it’s been important to make it feel relaxing and comforting. These two lamps are two of my most treasured items – the blue one has travelled all the way back with me from Egypt and the white one from Dubai, they are so beautiful and give off the most stunning light. Then I have my lovely little candle that a friend gave me and my newest addition of my little fake plant – who’d know eh?! Wilko’s came up trumps with it and I think it completes my little corner.  Spring cleaning season is here so make your rooms nice, you don’t need to spend a lot of money, you probably already have lots of bits and bobs that just need to be rearranged in order to change the outlook of your room. It’s amazing how these little things can change or help our moods – have a go and see what happens!

And there you have it, my March picks…see you on the other side of April…eek!

#hairlesshannah