My Mind & The Serein

BTSB My Mind and Serein Cover

 

in clear skies

i walk under my umbrella

and where my cover cannot reach

the streets are bombed by the mind’s raindrops

 

as i watch the cement under attack

i can hear the seagull’s call,

the seas of mothers strolling through the market,

the whining toddlers asking for ice cream,

 

i scream

and open my eyes to a serene summer’s day

 

BTSB My mind and serein 01Serein is a meteorological phenomenon where there is rain even though the sky is clear. My mind has been serein since I was 14.

I have been forgetting myself in deep waters during a thunderstorm; but I have never been struck by lightning, I have never physically felt the storm that drags down my mood. I have grown internal rainforests out of all the nourishment my raining mind has been giving away through the years of feeling nothing but pain; or more like floating in the pain, not feeling anything but emptiness, and raindrops.

Only this spring, my rainforest cut itself down out of sheer impossibility: it could not live merely off melancholy, it needed a little sun in order to grow ingredients for the average forest. So, my forest tumbled down with drama, and one specific evening, I found myself walking in the middle of a busy street in a specific neighbourhood in Northern Helsinki. After that, I have been trying to heal the wounds the overflow of rain caused to my roots, with different experts of the field. Now, I am finally in the middle of the process of getting a diagnosis.

My rainforest’s probable bipolarity has put me in a number of difficult situations this year. How to tell my boss why I could not handle being all alone at work; how to tell my parents I, a straight A student who is always so calm and collected and full of potential, was seeing a psychiatrist; how to tell my friends why I was acting a little differently than usual. How to tell myself that I had not failed as a student, as a young adult, as a daughter, as a friend, as a human being, even though I had a mental illness?

Mental health is widely and commonly recognized in the western world as a vital part of our overall well-being. Many services are offered to employees, students, parents, anyone; getting help has been made seemingly easy. Today, there is quite a lot of public discussion on mental illnesses, and even public personas are coming out with depression, anxiety, and so on. So why is it still so hard to accept that you yourself are one of the people with a mental health problem?

First of all, getting help is not as simple and quick as it might seem to be. When you are severely challenged by a mental problem, it just might be that your sense of reality is not as clear as it used to be, and that it feels extremely effortful to take even the tiniest step towards helping yourself out of the bad situation. For me, it took a handful of good friends and both of my parents to support me and guide me towards the right path for help; and when the nurses and doctors and health centres and hospitals kept on changing, it took, again, all of my support network to keep my rainforest from sinking to hopelessness. Even then, even when having caring people around me through the numerous appointments, the help did not merely appear and cure me. I, even if lost in a thick fog of roots and leaves and mud and puddles, had to seek for it all by myself, get up in the morning, take the bus to the hospital, take the stairs to the waiting room and sit down in the clichéd psychologist’s armchair, and talk about my childhood, my relationship with my mother, and my mood shifts. These visits would leave me empty and tired and dark, and then I would have to go on with my day as if all was fine.

BTSB My mind and serein 02

Second of all, even though mental health is a popular subject nowadays and certainly not quieted down about, it is still easy to associate mental illness with a certain sense of weakness or failure. It has been estimated that even as many as every fourth person encounters mental health problems throughout their life, but there are no statistics available on how these people deal with going through these difficult times. How do they know when a certain sadness is beyond normal melancholy, how exactly do they reach out for help, to whom is it appropriate to talk about the viruses of the mind?

Why can we still not bring up a mental illness in a discussion without most participants of the conversation being uncomfortable with the topic? Why can we not tell our bosses that the reason we cannot do more than two shifts a week is that our depression takes up all our energy? Why is it acceptable to talk to anyone about injured legs and heart surgeries but not about our bipolar minds?

For almost ten years, and more actively for five months now, I have been in a rainy battle with whatever one would call what I have; depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or all that, or perhaps just the effects from being a Highly Sensitive Person; there is no knowing for sure. I cannot even say whether I want to have an exact label for what causes my rainforest to keep flooding, but what I now know is that I want help with gaining control over the rainfall, and that getting that help and staying helped is possible – well, only after surviving that tiring initial fight to make someone listen and take you seriously.

So, briefly, my plans for the summer are being put in different boxes to see if I fit the symptoms, having my psychiatrist’s phone number near in case a crisis happens, taking my new mood stabilizers that play with my brain-forest chemistry, and trying my best to get comfortable with having mental health problems and still being an accepted and able person, and still being me. I also hope that one day, when I open my eyes to a rainy day, I could feel rainy, and when I open my eyes to a sunny day, I could feel sunny; and that my rainforest would not be flooded anymore; and that I could tell my boss and friends the real reasons behind my eccentric behaviour and meandering excuses for skipping social activities; and that panic attacks would be equal to asthma attacks in conversation.

Brought Up In Between Cultures

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15902907_1348378955226205_2118574387_oYou know how everyone has that one defining experience or key quality in themselves that they use to break the ice or start conversations? For me, it is the fact that I lived abroad when I was a kid – hence it is only appropriate that this is the topic of my first BTSB article. My childhood consisted of being practically mute in second grade because I was thrown in a school not knowing a word of English, me and my siblings drove an ATV around our house because that’s just what kids did, and we conscientiously carried baby frogs from a swimming pool back to the pond where they came from. I’ve said the words “no, Finland doesn’t have polar bears” about a dozen hundred times and friends’ birthday parties were actually massive barbeques. We took a car to a school located 300 metres away and our burglar alarm went off almost weekly. I’m a third culture kid, nice to meet you.

A third culture kid is someone who has been raised wholly or partially in a culture which is not that of their parents. My family lived in South Africa for three years and in Canada for a year when I was in primary school. In retrospect, I guess four years doesn’t seem like that long of a time, but to this day, I feel like those years have impacted me the most. Moving from country to country, I always saw my family as a special little case among others. I didn’t overanalyse anything then (as I do today), but I acknowledged the unusualness of our situation. We were aliens in an unfamiliar world – we weren’t them, but we very much tried to be. Being Finnish abroad was sometimes just plain cool: we could speak our secret language in public places and we proudly educated our peers on Finnish traditions in school projects (“we invented saunas and Father Christmas resides in Rovaniemi”). Nevertheless, over everything hung the same sense of dislocation – the knowledge that we were different.

A brilliant description of this is as follows: “a third culture kid builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any”, as described by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken in their book Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds. If this wasn’t the truest thing ever. Growing up, I never felt like I had the right to call myself South African, even less so Canadian. I was Finnish, but I didn’t even know the culture or country, not really. Summer vacations spent at our grandparents’ summer cottage in Finland didn’t give that accurate of an image of our home country. In some sense, I lived in the “bubble” of my family all the time. And as it is, I lived day to day with the knowledge that any moment my parents could sit us down and tell us we were leaving again. Yes, this kind of uncertainness may sound terribly tragic. But in all honesty, it wasn’t. I just kind of rolled with it, and it was ok.

I’m not going to get too psychological in this article, but I definitely think that living abroad as a child changes you. Personally, I would be way different, had I lived all my childhood in one place. I’ve grown a sort of tough skin and learnt to handle things very independently. After all, I was thrown in the deep end in almost everything I did, from learning a language and the ways of a country I had barely heard of before moving there. The fact that I had to constantly leave behind friends may have something to do with it too. The oldest friends I have are my siblings, the golden human beings who hung on there with me all those years. Now, I did have friends in every school I went, but as harsh as it sounds, I was subconsciously always prepared to leave them and take off again with the knowledge that chances were, I would never see them again. Yup, that does sound harsh. It probably wasn’t the healthiest habit, but I think it made things easier. Facebook friends forever though, right?

Despite everything, I loved being a nomad. By default, children experience everything more vividly and strongly, and not only that, I got to live outside of predetermined frames. I didn’t necessarily belong, but I knew I could try my limits fearlessly, whilst dissecting a culture through the eyes of a child, and developing a love towards curiosity. I love how I’ve experienced unusual things: I was once bitten by a meerkat, we’ve had monkeys steal food from our kitchen, and our school had actual houses (I was in “Pegasus”), which was just about the coolest thing ever.

I took long for me to internalize the fact that after moving to Finland, we weren’t moving again. However, since then, Helsinki has become my home and I can finally say with some confidence that I have a culture. The familiar senses of longing after change and new scenery, chronic wanderlust et cetera, they still exist. Quite recently I had to make the choice of where I wanted to study. My older sister and brother both went to universities abroad, which they probably have our third culture kid genes to thank for, and it was an intriguing option for me too. I liked the thought of a new beginning in a whole new country.

However, beyond all of this I came to understand how important it had become for me to have someplace to return. A safety net, something to come back to if all else fails. Family nearby and a human-sized city that I’ve learned to love. Starting my studies at the University of Helsinki was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had. I think that it all boils down to the fact that I have something here that I want to hold on to. I don’t know if it’s the renowned roots everyone’s talking about, the simple fact that I am Finnish or something else altogether, but for now, I just want to stay. Know this place, know who I am in it, and feel so comfortable with myself here that I can always return home.

I don’t really have any ground-breaking epiphany or insightful remark to conclude this article. I feel like I just needed to think about this out loud. After all, it is something that defines me. One thing I am sure of however, is that I am eternally grateful for my culturally ambiguous roots, a childhood that I can look back at and feel proud of. Because this little “suitcase baby” conquered the world at the age of seven, ready to take on anything.

 

 

Recipe For a Great Party

a Recipe For a Great Party

First and foremost I would like to thank our very own party organizers for doing an amazing job. Last spring the future of SUB was looking rather gloomy for a while, as both of our party representatives had to resign from their posts. For a time that seemed like forever, no one showed any interest in taking upon themselves this mountain of responsibility. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two angels appeared and stepped up to the plate. The election was quick and unanimous and our organization was finally back on track. Ever since that day these two amazing girls have organized events with an iron grip and a beautiful smile on their faces, and ever since that day the members of SUB, including yours truly, have experienced unforgettable awesome events.

What many people might fail to understand is just simply how challenging organizing a great party is. It obviously takes time and money to get things right, but having those two covered is nowhere near enough. More than anything, it’s simply hard work and a lot of help is needed. Sure, there are two people in the board called ”party representatives”, but they can’t get everything done by themselves. It is not humanly possible.

Two people simply cannot organize a party for close to a hundred people in a short time. Especially things like preparing the food, decorating the place, selling tickets, taking care of the music and cleaning up afterwards (which people probably dread the most) are tasks that atleast a dozen of peole are needed for, and thankfully many fellow SUB-members regularly volunteer for these duties. I truly hope the community will stay like this for years to come.

Pitching in might not seem like such an important thing, but think about a party were help was not around and everything was organized poorly. Most of us have or atleast will attend one of those kinds of parties eventually, and it’s not going to be pretty. A sitsit with no decorations and no dj with a handful of people dancing to a song played from Youtube that crashes every 5 seconds because of the crappy mobile broadband connection might still be fun with the right people around you, but it’s not exactly something to strive for.

A lack of helping hands is a serious problem, but sometimes things go wrong simply because some aspects of the event have not been thoroughly thought of. For example, the 2011 iNMatES was an epic adventure itself, but there was one major flaw in the organization of the sitsit: everything was in Finnish. The two hosts of the night spoke only Finnish on the stage and the songs were proposed in Finnish as well. This was quite odd considering the hall was filled with English students and especially if we take into consideration the fact that there were atleast a dozen exchange students in the crowd who could barely understand a word of what was said around them.

To sum things up, I’m just really glad I can be a member of an organization that actually works together to get things done and to put together some amazing events. Amazing parties are not about drinking, not about eating, and not about dancing either. Amazing parties are about amazing people getting together to take a break from the humdrum life of the ever-so-scary adulthood.

Just When You Think Life Couldn’t Get Any Worse…

…you’re filmed on home video while instructing your mirror image how sexy you’d look while wearing a crotchless Stormtrooper outfit.

…you receive a bill to cover the expense of paper used for all your other, unsettled bills.

…you wake up after a wild night of partying naked in a neighbourhood populated by minor ethnicities, with several, very unorthodox racial slurs tattooed on your chest.

…your grief of losing the only copy of your Master’s Thesis in a computer malfunction only gets worse when you’re tried, fined and kicked out of the University for plagiarism.

…you’re forced to travel with public transportation to your own wedding, and the drunk with an inexcusably horrid body odour sitting next to you passes out and loses control of his bowel.

…a little, frail old lady robs you cold with a threatening handbag, and after reporting this to the police, they lock you up for coming up with such an outright lie.

…you get confused because you’re forced to decide between avoiding the car approaching you at break-neck speed or picking up the stack of 500€ notes that happen to lie in the middle of the lane.

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Chickens

I have a friend whose name is Larry. He’s the smartest guy I know, so filled with knowledge that it seems like he’s just a vessel through which wisdom and intelligence course through like a river of universal explanations. But Larry’s wisdom isn’t a given, because it only surfaces when he’s drunk. I have an incredible thirst for knowledge, which is why I carry a hip flask wherever I go, so that if I accidentally run into Larry someplace, he can take a swig and be my Mentor, my Socrates once again.

Let me give you an example of Larry’s power. This is a transcript of a conversation we had one night at the pub. As Larry got more and more inebriated, he got more and more in touch with cosmos, receiving a majestic inheritance of knowledge that us lesser mortals can only crave for.

ME: So, Larry, what do you think about it all?
LARRY: All what?
ME: You know, everything. What’s the answer to it all?
LARRY: Hey don’t you go Douglas Adams on me, I’m still on my first.
ME: Oh, ok.

We chatted idly about women and Pet Shop Boys, until after Larry’s third pint I felt it was time to probe the first subject again.

ME: So, Larry, what do you think about it all?
LARRY: Methinks… I think… Yeknow… Chickens.
ME: Umm. Chickens?
LARRY: Chickens.
ME: Like the little white birds that make good curry?
LARRY: Chickens.
ME: (silent).

I knew that this was big. Larry didn’t want to elaborate his poultry-centric view of the universe, so I dropped the subject and waited until we had downed two vodka shots and a jar of smoked almonds.

ME: Chickens, huh?
LARRY: Thazzright, cheechee-chickens.
ME: But how’s chickens the answer to everysi… evertim… thingamall?
LARRY: They’s, they’s, they’s good food. Good food is top impertance.
ME: So’s, like, the meaning of everything is getting well fed?
LARRY: No, you twat. No. No. Chickens is good food, nutrich… nutmeg… nutritious. But the secret isn’t in gastrononomonopoly.
ME: So what’s the secret then?
LARRY: (silent).

We were both pretty drunk by now, so I decided not to drink another drop in order to remember the grand answer the following day. But I made sure that the drinks kept a-coming to Larry. By now I was really enchanted by Larry’s oneness with the universe and the insight on chickens he and William Carlos Williams alone shared. Larry was almost out of the game, so I had to be quick and precise with my inquiries.

ME: Tell me, Larry, why chickens?
LARRY: I’ll tell ya, I will, I’ll tell ya, I will.
ME: (polite pause).
LARRY: Chickens iz, chick chick chickenz. And beavers. Yah, beavers.
ME: Beavers?!
LARRY: Haw haw haw, beavers! And dams. Damn dams.
ME: So, chickens and beavers?
LARRY: (fast asleep).

So I missed my golden opportunity. I felt betrayed. I’d have change my opinion about Larry’s so-called wisdom, if he hadn’t, very uncharacteristically, e-mailed me the next afternoon. Here’s the e-mail:

Dear Simo,
I’m sorry for bailing out on you yesterday, but I guess alcohol got the best of me again. I feel indebted to you for cleaning the vomit out of my mouth and calling a taxi. Too bad I couldn’t remember where I lived, so me and the taxi driver just roamed around town looking for “a house with windows”, which was the best I could remember about my building.

Anyway, remember chickens? I’ll tell you about chickens. And beavers. And dams.

A little brown beaver was building a dam for his family. He had been going about it for months, carefully choosing the right sized twigs and branches and placing them in an orderly fashion in the middle of the stream. He was tired, but he had to finish the dam before high tide hit the river. The she-beaver approached him during one of his coffee breaks (of course, beavers don’t drink coffee, but the applications of a coffee break are universal in the animal kingdom).

SHE-BEAVER: Honey, why aren’t you working? The water level is already rising.
HE-BEAVER: Why do I even bother? I mean, I just want to know the reason to it all, I’m sure building a dam won’t mean a damn in the river of time.
SHE-BEAVER: The reason to it all? What’s with the metaphysics, love?
HE-BEAVER: What is the purpose of this all? I mean, I build this dam, then next spring we move out, find a new river, and I start to build another dam. It’s not very fulfilling.
SHE-BEAVER: But darling, we’re not chickens. They alone have the answer.
HE-BEAVER: Do you know the answer?
SHE-BEAVER: Well, I can make an educated guess.
HE-BEAVER: Do share, my beautiful furball.
SHE-BEAVER: When you kill a chicken, either by cutting off its head or just breaking its neck, it keeps on running.
HE-BEAVER: Ah, hence the saying: “Run around like a headless chicken.”
SHE-BEAVER: Exactly. A chicken’s brain only regulates its body functions, leaving its limbic system intact thus giving the illusion of life. As soon as you become one with the knowledge of a chicken’s post-mortem afflictions, you too, my dear, will be one with everything.
HE-BEAVER: So you’re saying our lot in life is to work like we’re already dead?
SHE-BEAVER: Exactly. Now get to it, or I’ll have to try the chicken treatment on you.
HE-BEAVER: Yes, honey.

And that, my dear friend, is the answer to it all. Chickens. They don’t need money. They don’t need education. They don’t need to ponder the morality of their choices. They don’t need a public transportation system. They can live a full life, knowing that once they die, they’ll still be a contribution to the machinations of the world.

We should all learn from chickens. Why spend our time worrying about the doing-that, howareyou and all other intricacies of society? Once we adopt the chicken mode of thought, we will truly be one with the universe.

Yours sincerely,
Larry.

PS. Could you sport me 800 euros to soothe an enraged taxi driver who’s got my keys as collateral for the twelve hour unpaid odyssey last night?

Chickens. The simplistic beauty of it all struck me like a ten ton sledgehammer would strike a quail egg, if it ever had the chance.

Chickens.

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