Mindfulness Liverpool

Where: Mindfulness Liverpool Studios, floor 4, The Gostins Building, 36-38 Hanover Street L1 4LN

How much: £5 per class

Yoga Dave is one of my favourite people. I didn’t believe in yoga – if I was going to exercise, I was going to suffer as much as possible at the gym in front of attractive people who do squats for fun. But Dave seemed nice, and I was curious about what could make a person so nice, so I gave it a go anyway.

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A crazy thing happened at my first class – I enjoyed myself. I didn’t feel ridiculous for being the least bendy person and needing to stop constantly. He understood that everybody was at their own level, even if yours was collapsed on the floor. The last 20 minutes were dedicated to meditation/nap time, and I was overcome with peace walking home.

The studio is warm and cozy, the exercise gentle (especially if you collapse before your 45 second pose is up). I have taken a couple of friends along or recommended it to others, and every single one has said how lovely Dave is. He is exactly what I imagine an enlightened being to be like and his good vibes are infectious.

I remember a day I was RAGING before class, and as someone with serious anger issues, I forced myself, just this once, to wait until after class before taking it out on someone. I was so grateful to Dave – partly thanks to his guidance, partly because he is a really calming influence – I managed to accept my thoughts and let them go. He has this knack of reminding you that no matter what’s going on, all that really matters is you’re still breathing. He’s playful and always has this massive grin, and tells you to smile, and you end up actually wanting to smile.

Classes are drop in, which I particularly like; if you just want to go once a month to get your head straight, that’s fine.

I’ve got myself stuck in a rut lately and stopped attending, but I miss Dave and the way the sessions make me feel. They bring me back to base, like I can carry on after all, and his regular little Facebook encouragements are wise and make me think.

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I’ve also given Mindfulness Tuesdays a go, where attendees can get comfortable in chairs or on a yoga mat/blanket/cushion on the floor. ‘Each session looks at a different topic or theme related to mindfulness – always fresh and interesting but still with a strong focus on the foundational practices’. I didn’t know this, because I made the mistake of going for my trusty blanket and falling asleep. The thought of being alone with my thoughts scares me, but others I know have said the sessions are brilliant; there’s someone in particular I’ve seen a beautiful change in, so I’m thinking of giving it another go.

More than any recommendation, though, what speaks the most for Dave is his desire to make sessions as accessible as possible. He regularly welcomes people to these sessions for free or for a concessionary amount, so if you can’t afford to pay for any reason but would still like to come you’re encouraged to contact him and book a place (mindfulnessliverpool@outlook.com).

Dave currently teaches Mindfulness for several different organisations, including Tom Harrison House, a specialist facility providing addiction treatment exclusively to military veterans, reservists, emergency personnel, and their families. He teaches several different kinds of yoga, including Yoga for People with Limited Mobility (Good Guy Dave).

Anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you to go along for just one session as I truly believe you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Font

I’ve been going to the Font since my very first week in Liverpool six years ago, when my student halls were right next door (the ones which used to be a maternity hospital where John Lennon was born so there were always tourists lurking outside). Just behind the Everyman, it’s mostly full of students from next door or Liverpool Uni (boo hiss).

We would crawl in at 3pm after a big night for the breakfast they thoughtfully kept up all afternoon, and I still stand by it being the best hangover cure in the city. The manager still remembers me chewing his ear off covered in UV paint and legless on my way somewhere dazzlingly fun and hip.

I remember my parents making me keep a rape alarm as a fresher, which was attached to my key. A friend was fiddling to work out what it was and set the thing off during the football, a deafening shriek which every single football fan noticed with annoyance when we couldn’t turn it off.

What makes the Font boss is its massive cocktail menu (my favourite is the strawberries and cream), many of which are just £2. I have also never had bad food there. I’ll usually go for the chicken Ceasar wraps (£3.75) and a pile of curly fries (£1.50).

The menu is extensive, the quality consistently good. I’ve never thought the beef burgers were much cop though, so maybe veer away from those.

There are also some nice-sounding salads – not that I would ever choose a salad – like stilton, apple and smoked bacon, or goats cheese and walnut. The potato skin special is awesome and available as a sharer.

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Brie, cranberry & bacon sandwich – didn’t have time to construct an arty photo because food.

There are several consoles and arcade games, the jewel in the crown being Mario Kart on a huge protector screen and it’s FREE! You can race while you wait, although the service is so quick you’re probably better off waiting ’til the drinks are in. This is a great place to chill out with pals, or even for a laid-back date (and if you’re in halls, your place is only next door! Boom).

I want to be neutral but despite the emotional attachment I genuinely can’t fault this place, other than the ladies toilets never ever being flushed for some reason. The place has a real youth hostel vibe with its cozy sofas and cool music (from the Stone Roses to the Pixies, I even follow their whopping playlist on Spotify), which is great unless you’re no longer a youth (sob).

 

Disordered

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This is an extended version of a piece written a couple of years ago for Cosmopolitan’s website and Liverpool’s Writing on the Wall festival, can’t find the polished 500 word version. Cringing reading it over now but I hope it’s informative and helps someone.

Your knowledge of BPD, or Borderline Personality Disorder, from popular culture most likely extends to the infamous portrayal of Alex Forrest from Fatal Attraction, a film which first coined the term “Bunny Boiler”. Although bunnies make me sneeze (if you can’t pet em, may as well eat ’em), and the cooking in my kitchen extends to food poisoning after nights out because I just can’t decide if it’s pale pink or white, watching the film felt like a slap in the face. I wanted to hug Alex because I could feel her pain; I know how you feel, they all think you’re a terrible person but I know you’re hurting. I will never deny that I’ve done bad things, but please read my story before calling me “crazy”.  

Some believe in love at first sight. They just “knew”. Well, I just knew there was something wrong with me. I clearly remember my second year at university huddled beneath the desk in my student accommodation, hysterical because a boyfriend hadn’t texted back. He lived in the building next door. I’d cut myself and gotten drunk. I don’t remember much, other than clearly thinking, Something is wrong. I need help. I really am emotionally unstable.

BPD is a mood disorder characterized by a dysregulation of emotions. Marsha Linehan perfectly describes it as, ‘People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.’ Although invisible, this emotional equivalent can make day to day life terrifying. A first visit to a boyfriend’s house can turn me into a nervous wreck, terrified in case there’s a poster of a girl on the wall because she’ll make me feel ugly and I’ll go home and cry myself to sleep because although he’ll love me for me, he’ll be falling asleep looking at a girl with boobs the size of fishbowls. A similar metaphor to describe BPD which I particularly like is that of an open wound, except the wound doesn’t heal the same as a regular person’s. Every time you’re reminded of what hurt you – for example, a film featuring that girl off the poster – the pain hurts the same as the first time. Every reminder is like pouring salt into the wound over and over. I’m already terrified of getting married and have seriously considered never going through with it because the idea of a potential stripper at the stag do is too much. No matter how much you reason with yourself, nothing makes you feel better, and you can’t talk yourself out of feeling  crazy.

Let me explain it a little more simply. To you, mild irritation because mum made fajitas for dinner when you’d been craving lasagne all day but neglected to tell her any of this, can equate to irrational fury. Happy times can be so few and far between that they can be mistaken for euphoria.

Here is my own analogy to help explain my personal experience of BPD: Imagine standing at the edge of a cliff. You jump. You fall and fall into a pit of depression. Just as you’re about to hit rock bottom and try to top yourself, you hit a trampoline. You soar high into the sky. It’s euphoric. Life is amazing! Let’s go out! I am so HAPPY! …And then the cycle restarts.

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I have a schizophrenic friend with a tendency to stop taking his medication at regular intervals. I never understood why he would stop taking something that benefitted his condition. This particular friend genuinely thinks he’s Jesus, though, so taking that away probably doesn’t feel great. Everything changed when I got put on medication, one being an antipsychotic drug. This particular drug, quetiapine, has made life a lot easier for me. But they also, especially for the first few month, made me feel dead. I was like a zombie, going through the motions but unable to feel. I was sad inside, but I couldn’t cry no matter how badly I needed to. I developed a cycle: take meds for a month, run out of pills, not be able to get an appointment until next week, become steadily more erratic and unstable. It’s hard to tell how much is genuine and how much is panic at running out of your security blanket when you’re taking such strong meds. I would continue the cycle once I’d realized Oh, that’s what they do. But the cycle is addictive, alternating between relief at feeling nothing and frustration because you’re unable to feel.

I was eventually given an antidepressant to help alleviate my mood. I’ve  always been sceptical of anti-depressants because I don’t believe you can’t force happiness. It’s obviously a situation in one’s life causing unhappiness so surely it’s more logical to identify the problem and work on creating a better environment. However, I figured that if I was already taking drugs I didn’t want to be on that I may as well do things properly and take whatever they wanted to give me. Although I’m aware that it could be a placebo effect, I was determined that anti-depressants did not work…but after some time I began to feel better. Not really better, in my heart, but, I did start to feel better even though I was very conscious of it being artificially so. I was still sad, but not as cripplingly so. It became easier to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

Sometimes I wonder if BPD even exists. What if it’s just an excuse for me to act like an arsehole that a co-arsehole invented one Christmas when he chucked a bowl of sprouts across the room in a rage but then felt guilty because the sprouts hadn’t done anything to him, it wasn’t their fault they were ugly and stank and tasted rank? But I know it’s real. It was real the Valentine’s Day my boyfriend found me on the bathroom floor, hysterical and bleeding. A symptom of BPD is disassociation, which sounds like a convenient excuse to act like a lunatic and deny all knowledge afterwards, but as a result I can’t remember much from the hours leading up to the incident. All I remember is my tears, the blood, and his tears, as the rose petals and treasure hunt clues sprawled around the bedroom lay rejected. I have no excuse for my behaviour, but I would do anything to have known about my BPD back then. It’s a memory that haunts me, makes me afraid to go to bed because I’ll be alone with my memories and guilt.

One day I’ll think, I AM good! I AM enough! I can like what I see in the mirror and be happy, but then a passing comment from a male pal – ‘Mate, did you see how hot that girl was?’ – can make me fall to pieces again. I don’t care that I looked nice five minutes ago; now, all that’s important is that I was probably given up for adoption by a bell-nosed monkey because even a parent can’t love a kid with a honker like that, and it doesn’t matter that I have pretty eyes because everybody will be too busy noticing my monkey nose and hippo hips and teeny tiny tits.

I always thought I wanted to know what was wrong with me,tThat having a name for what was wrong would give me peace. But it’s a double-edged sword. Before, I could convince myself I was just a short-tempered bitch and could change whenever I wanted. But now, along with relief, it’s a burden. Even the name Borderline Personality Disorder is depressing. My body isn’t the problem, but my personality, the thing which makes me me – like I only have half a personality – so where’s the other half? Did Baby Jesus forget one half and give it to my friend Jack the schizophrenic who has several?

BPD sufferers also have a crippling fear of abandonment, so naturally this mainly affects relationships with those we’re closest to. You’d think it would make us clingy, but the funny thing is, we get so terrified of losing someone that we’ll do everything we can to push them away. We’ll be cruel, saying we hate and never liked them because it’s better than admitting how much we care, how much the thought of losing them terrifies us. Deep down, we want them to argue and say they care enough to stay. For me, this happens every time. They say they like being kept on their toes and that they’ll stay. But they leave. You’re devastated but at the same time know you deserve this pain because you brought it on yourself. The cycle is addictive. It’s as if I want to sabotage my own chance of happiness because then the power is in my hands, and the devastation proves I can still feel something, the medication hasn’t killed my brain cells. I need reassurance that feeling is a real thing, that I haven’t just made it up, the way if you stare at a word long enough it seems like random words strung together that don’t really mean anything.

It’s fair to say I can be clingy, whether the perception of abandonment is real or imagined. There’s no distinction in my mind when I’m in a bad place. The other week I’d had a fight with me dad the previous night and he was late from work, it was dark, I don’t like the dark at the best of times, when I go downstairs in the middle of the night to use the loo I have to turn all the lights on even though I know they’ll wake people, not because I’m worried I’ll get a drop of wee on the toilet seat when I’m getting up because sometimes when you wipe you miss a bit, but in case there’s a rapist hiding behind the door who’s into water sports. As I was saying, I don’t like the dark, if dad’s home late and it’s dark outside, that’s a bad enough omen for me. ‘Mum. Mum. MUM! Why isn’t he back? Call him and find out where he is. Did he pick up? Why not? Do you think he’s crashed? It’s hard to see whilst driving in the dark, I hate driving in the dark, sometimes when I’m driving in the dark I forget to turn on my headlights…’ So, I’m a little clingy. Like a limpet.  If I’d killed him myself it would be bearable, but since nobody had asked my permission I was in a fit of panic.

Another symptom is impulsivity. It can come in many forms, most commonly inappropriate tirades of abuse towards loved ones. Personally, I felt anxious and often suicidal, and booked a trip to Thailand at the last minute. I knew nothing about the place, even the gist of where it was on a map.  At this time I was depressed after the breakdown of a relationship to the person I thought was the love of my life. Without really thinking it through I booked a skydive. I didn’t even want to jump out of a plane, never had. But I clung onto the idea. I needed a “project”. I would convince myself of irrational things like If I jump out of a plane, he’ll love me again. I would point-blank refuse to think beyond the skydive. The adrenaline rush afterwards was immense. That year I got back into climbing, joining my university’s society. I would climb to the top of the bouldering wall and jump off, despite it hurting my ankle many times.  I just wanted to feel anything that wasn’t rejection.

I’ve only been diagnosed a year, and I’m still only 21 years old. I can’t claim an Eat, Pray, Love transformation. But I can say that in my brighter moments I’m learning to see the merits of being a little kooky. Yeah, I blow all my money on flights and then miss my return flights because meds keep me away with the fairies and then flights that I’m not even riding back down to the ground on, but, you know, I’m kinda badass! You may not know what mood I’ll be in from one hour to the next, but you can ask me to come do anything at a moment’s notice and I’ll try anything once. I can see things such as impulsivity as a flaw, or make the decision to accept my BPD and value my personality traits.

Having BPD is hard. Right now bipolar is the “cool” disorder as many celebrities having admitted to having it. But as of yet, nobody in the public eye has confessed to having BPD despite it supposedly affecting 1-2% of the population. It’s very much a taboo subject. The internet is rife with comments such as ‘They will stalk you’ and ‘Don’t stick your dick in crazy’, and characters such as Alex Forrest only reinforce this opinion. So can you blame us for getting angry and acting out? Despite telling others about problems with good intentions, they have a tendency to store this information in their mind for a later date. Here are some of my favourites:

  • ‘If you’re going to cut yourself, at least do it properly.’
  • ‘I hope next time you cut you do the world a favour and die.’

 I constantly feel guilty for having something wrong. I was never molested as a kid. Although there were some bumps along the way, my upbringing wasn’t traumatic. There are people far worse off than me. I don’t deserve to have an excuse for being so miserable. At the same time, I feel anger and hurt that whoever’s up there chose me. During my darkest moments I rage for not having a physical ailment – people are kind if you have a broken leg and ask to sign the cast, but with BPD they can be nasty  because you often bring it on myself by treating people badly. I often wonder if I was a fluke, that I was never meant to be because all I bring to the world is hurt.

A “friend” told me, ‘If you want to change, you can.’ This opinion is so naïve and hurtful, and I struggle to comprehend this ignorance even if it comes from a good place. It’s like telling someone who has cancer that if they think healthy thoughts hard enough it will go away. Society is sympathetic towards physical illness, but mental disorders cause fear. The view is, you aren’t dying of a terrible disease so count yourself lucky, buck up and deal with it.

So there you have it. My disorder is not an excuse for me to act out, but neither is it an excuse for anyone to call me a “psycho”or “crazy”. Views on mental illness are outdated and we as a society should be ashamed of the way we treat those who are, simply put, ill. I just want acceptance. The phrase ‘eyes bigger than his mouth’ comes to mind. The world is so concerned with curing cancer and making those who’d never walk again prove their critics wrong, that for decades they’ve neglected the mind. What use is an able body if the mind is broken?

 

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The Wailers at 02 Academy

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Bit of a last minute one, but the Wailers are hitting Liverpool next week – Wednesday 25th November – to perform the album Legend in its entirety and you can’t whinge that they missed anything out. Yes, I know main man Marley died, but there are still a few dreadlocks so just pretend.  It’s an iconic reggae album, and since their formation in 1969 together with Bob Marley, the Wailers have sold in excess of 250 million albums worldwide. As well as performing with Jamaica’s best loved singer the band have played with Sting, Stevie Wonder and Carlos Santana to name a few. I got Dad tickets and he’s buzzing. Here’s the full tracklist:

  1. Is This Love
  2. No Woman, No Cry
  3. Could You Be Loved
  4. Three Little Birds
  5. Buffalo Soldier
  6. Get Up, Stand Up
  7. Stir It Up
  8. One Love/People Get Ready
  9. I Shot The Sherriff
  10. Waiting In Vain
  11. Redemption Song
  12. Satisfy My Soul
  13. Legend
  14. Jamming

See ya there.

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Unit 51, Jamaica St

5I’ve often walked past Unit 51 and thought it looked cool, then kept walking because I don’t have a beard. A lot of my creative pals are familiar with this under developed area of the city, Unit 51 being part of the Baltic Creative Campus. My other pals think it’s a bit scary, but if you wander just a couple of minutes out of the city centre away from that tacky rainbow Christmas tree you’ll find this bright, airy unit. Graffiti by independent artists is on sale across the walls (good stuff, not the kind in the Tate you have to really think really hard about). This is more somewhere for a working lunch than dinner, full of people who look like they’re mentally inventing a new colour.

Now, to the food. I literally cannot think of a dreamier combination of ingredients than bacon, fig and Stilton, all bundled into a ciabatta roll. Toppings were generous, and the bacon was well done so for practically the first time ever I didn’t have to waste time trimming off the squelchy fat bits. If you follow my blog you’ll already know how much I love my blue cheese and I wasn’t disappointed with how much they packed in. The salad was a bit snazzy as well so I got to add ‘try a radish’ to my bucket list then tick it off (#culturepool). My only qualm would be that the ciabatta could have been a little fresher, but I’m not a food writer so probably wrong anyway. The meal was advertised as a bagel but I fancied ciabatta and swapped, though in hindsight it probably would have been even tastier.

At little under £6, it’s not on the cheaper side, but I would definitely go again. Alex went for the grilled halloumi, roasted red pepper and chorizo ciabatta, which was ‘v v good’.

We’d been eyeing up the sweets before even ordering, so I had a coconut Bakewell slice in the name of reviewing whilst Alex went for the sticky ginger cake, which was ‘really yummy’. It’s worth noting she is allergic to gluten and hasn’t died yet so extra points to Unit 51. The girl who baked the cakes had some boss eyeliner going on as well.

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The place caters particularly well to rabbits and vegans/hipsters, with specials including:

  • Colourful hummus and veg wraps
  • Chickpea and spinach coconut curry
  • Quinoa, lentil and bulgar wheat salad with grilled halloumi

Basically, there’s so much more to Liverpool than Jamie’s Italian and Maccies. Be brave – you might feel like a car’s gonna zoom down that quiet road and kidnap you but stop being so self absorbed oh God I’m scared – and you’ll find amazing  venues like Constellations, 24 Kitchen St, the Camp & Furnace and places I’ve still not tried yet, but will be telling you about as soon as I have the excuse to go (i.e. when I’m hungry again tomorrow).

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Pyjama Party Liverpool

Everybody loves a good pair of PJs on Christmas Eve. Well, apart from me, because it’s only in the last few months I learned that Christmas Eve PJs were a thing. The idea is simple – give a new pair to children who are homeless or in need this Christmas across Liverpool. Fresh jammies aren’t going to cure all the problems, but it’ll make the situation a little more comfortable for some kiddiewinks this Christmas.

To get involved with Pyjama Party Liverpool, just show up at a collection point like Waterstones Liverpool ONE with a brand new pair (preferably not wearing them). Go on – be a top banana.

Tokyou, Berry St

It’s been a perfect autumn day of wandering through the leaves in St James’s Cemetery, through the Baltic Triangle to the Alien Sex Club exhibition as part of Homotopia festival, then on to Tokyou to fill our bellies. I’ve only been here once and the realisation my plate was piled with tofu may as well have meant maggots, but I was in a selfless (and skint, obv) mood so to Tokyou we went.

I’ve always been a bit skeptical of Oriental restaurants because back home on Anglesey everybody had their birthday parties at a Chinese banquet and a couple of years ago the establishment got closed down because the Food Standards Agency found seagulls in the freezer.

Anyway, I realize every Scouser knows the glories of Tokyou and this post will not offer an interesting new perspective but OH MY GOD IT’S SUCH GOOD VALUE FOR MONEY.  I’m rubbish at taking photos so it doesn’t do justice to how big the portion was. I paid £3.90 for chicken and veg wok fried noodles in black bean sauce; I hate not clearing my plate but even with a man to hoover up the leftovers it couldn’t be done. El boyfriend’s crispy aromatic duck with rice was a little pricier and didn’t quite fill him up, but it was very tasty. The noodle dishes are definitely the best value, making it possible to eat out on a genuinely tight budget. You can also buy a bottle of beer for a couple quid.

I have to emphasise, you are paying for good, wholesome grub here. You sit yourself and your order is taken by a sullen waitress. Service is quick, though meals and sides come out in drips and drabs, and you’re handed the bill as soon as you’re finished – wham, bam, see you Mam.

The service lets Tokyou down, so it’s not the kind of place you feel obliged to tip (no I’m not just saying that because I’m stingy thank you very much). It’s cozy inside so the waitress with a chopstick up her arse can rain on your parade if you let her, but for that price I don’t really care.