8 Steps to healing by Vanisha May

My 8 steps for healing.

It’s funny, when I think about the person that I was one year ago, it’s as if I’m thinking about someone that I used to know very well. And six months ago, I had never felt so lost and far away from everything that I thought I was. But today, when I look in the mirror I see someone going through growth and change, and I’m really grateful and excited to know that I’m becoming someone different. But the change and growth can be super scary, extremely personal and uncomfortable too. Piecing together the parts of your life that have caused pain and hurt whilst trying to understand how to make peace with it all can be overwhelming and messy. It’s easy to bury it all under a rock, but I’ll tell you now that it will come back to haunt you one day. Embracing the vulnerability and finding ways to overcome all the heaviness in your heart is brave, and the most honest thing you can do for yourself and your life. And trust me, it will all be worth it.

 

So, in classic Vin style, I’ve been doing lots of research, reading and self-therapy, and here are my 8 steps for healing;

  1. Conversation

This sounds simple but talking about what you’re going through is really difficult and brave. You’re probably thinking that people don’t care or won’t understand, but it’s usually quite the opposite and extremely crucial for you. You have to talk about what you’re going through because it helps bring understanding, different views and even answers for you and those around you It’s definitely the first and biggest step. Talk to a friend, family member, counsellor or even braver, the person who might be involved in your hurt. “Those who keep silence hurt more” – C.S. Lewis. Be honest with yourself. You got this.

  1. Be open to change and necessary pain

Sometimes things hurt and it feels like you’re stuck in a black hole that you’ll never get out of. To heal and grow, you have to get to the root of the problem and you might dig deep into things that you thought you’d got rid of and buried. But this is great. Those who experience pain more, experience growth more and love more. Be open to feelings of sadness and hurt for that means you can see it and understand it, and know that you’ll get through it. Life never gives us anything we can’t handle.

  1. Welcome your ghosts then wave them goodbye

Understand that without darkness, there’d be no light. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. People and experiences can cause both pain and happiness. And understand that just like you, things grow and change and nothing ever stays the same. So, make a note on paper or in your head of the things causing you pain and the lessons you think you learnt. That ghost that is ruining your present should be left in your past. You experienced it, you learnt from it and now make peace with it. Let it all go.

  1. Surround yourself with love and joy

Basically stop engaging in negativity and remove yourself from anything that threatens to disrupt your peace. Humans need other humans so, find your people and love them hard. Do things that you love, with the good people that you love and choose positivity and happiness every goddamn day. Because you deserve it and you can have it.

  1. Mindfulness

Live completely in the now and practise mindfulness. If you’re not sure what that even means then do some research in google! But basically pay attention to every single thought and feeling you may have, and just accept it all with no bad or good judgements. There are exercises you can practise that help get rid of anxieties and help balance your mind. Meditation, breathing exercises and appreciation all help. Check out this little list here and try it https://www.developgoodhabits.com/mindfulness-exercises/

  1. Invent and invest

You are the main character in your life ALWAYS. Take a second away from all that energy you give to other people and focus on you. What do you want from life? Who are you? And what do you love? Be creative, explore every option and find your meaning in life. Then bloody go for it! You can be whoever you want to be right now. Invent yourself and invest in yourself.

  1. Do good to feel good

This is a straight forward step and really helps you move away from your comfort zone as well as literally helping yourself and others. Doing good really does make you feel good. So do something good today, for someone else, without reason or agenda. Not only will you feel of use and happier, but karma will love you and bring you more good.

  1. Healthy body = healthy mind

This is so important! Everyone’s on their vegan or veggie tings, and the “hey let’s juice all our foods and lift weights with joe wicks” stages, but there is some sense in it all and it’s great to see so many people eating clean and binning society’s disgusting habits of fast food and dangerous health risks. Eating well and exercising really does lead to a healthier life and mind. I personally love Pilates and have really enjoyed HIIT too, try new classes and see what works for you. Aim for ya 5-a-day too, it’s not a myth, but will genuinely make a difference. There’s so much online – ideas, recipes, weekly routines. Just go for it all.

 

And, that’s it lovers! Below is a little reading list that I’ve put together, check them out. And of course, everyone is different and you’ll find your own ways through whatever it is you might be feeling. But growth is great! It means that you’re changing, developing and not stuck in the same person that you have been. You’re learning and accepting things don’t stay the same, including yourself. Love the flow of life and embrace every growth you experience. This will be the first of many! Enjoy it.

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  • The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama
  • Everything I know about love, Dolly Alderton
  • You can heal your life, Louise Hay
  • Becoming: Sex, second chances and figuring out who the hell I am, Laura Jane Williams

Katherine’s story for International Women’s Day 2018

 

For International Women’s Day, we celebrate the women who have helped shape our past, those who fight for our future, and those who press for present day progress. At Misión México, we recognise and celebrate the women behind the scenes, the women who fill our home with love, life and hope, the woman who started it all and the young women that are still rising. This real-life story is dedicated to all of the work that is achieved thanks to these women and the work of Misión México, and to one woman in particular, Katherine. This is her story.

 

Who is Katherine?

A story that is important, unique and inspiring for all individuals, especially those from difficult backgrounds and especially for women like Katherine. Katherine is from Tapachula in Chiapas, one of the poorest regions of Mexico. Like many others, Katherine and her family had little options. As a teenager, Katherine’s education came under threat when it was felt that her joining the workforce would be more beneficial for her family, financially and because the importance of education for females was misunderstood.

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Second chances

Luckily, a teacher at school recognised her talents and helped support Katherine by seeking out ways for her to not only continue her studies, but to make plans for higher education. This is where Misión México comes in! Misión México is a refuge for children that provides education, safety and opportunity whilst bringing love, life and hope back into their lives. Katherine joined our Misión Mexico family as a teenager where she was supported financially, emotionally and practically so she was able to continue her studies and move forward to Prepa. Every year she would finish amongst the top n her class, and along with her grades, Katherine’s confidence and self-belief flourished too.

 

Katherine’s dream

As her confidence and knowledge grew, so did her dreams. Katherine wanted to go to university, study medicine and become a doctor so that she could give back to the people of Mexico and help the poorer communities. How incredible is that?

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Breaking the cycle of poverty

The incredible twist to this story is the ripple that her education caused. Founders of Misión México. Pam and Alan Skuse helped Katherine maintain a healthy relationship with her biological family whilst naturally becoming her second Mum and Dad. At Katherine’s prepa graduation, Katherine’s biological and new-found Mum sat side by side and watched her stand on stage, receive her higher education certificate (one of the top on the class) and prepared for her next step – medical school. Katherine’s mum turned to Pam and said “I am so thankful you, Alan and Mision Mexico came into my family’s life. You have shown me that girls in Tapachula can get an education and how important that is. You have helped my daughter achieve her dream and shown me that all my daughters should dream”.

You can read Pam and Alan’s graduation letter to Katherine here…

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Where is Katherine today?

A few years ago Katherine returned to live with her biological family so that she could support and encourage her sisters to remain in school and focus on their education, but would often return to Misión Mexico to visit her second family and to help, inspire and tutor other children in our home.

Thanks to support from donations and education sponsors, Misión México is able to continue to financially support Katherine’s dreams and was also able to support her family’s education. Katherine´s Education Sponsor, Susan has been sponsoring Katherine throughout her medical degree, and it’s thanks to people like Susan that we can continue our mission. You can read Katherine´s heartfelt letter to Susan here; 

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Katherine graduated university in December 2017, remaining one of the top students in her class. She is currently completing an internship in a San Cristobel hospital, and continues to be supported by Misión Mexico and her sponsor, Susan through our Adult Independent Program scholarship.

Katherine’s mum, who never believed that a female in Tapachula needed an education, returned to school part time and is studying her own secondary qualifications.

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How can you help?

Katherine and her family have made incredible steps that are changing their lives. But so many women and children will never receive these opportunities. Mexico itself is a dangerous place to be a woman, where every day roughly six women are murdered in gender-related cases. 781 million adults are illiterate worldwide, two-thirds of these are women. And although girls are achieving higher academic rates at school in many countries, many will not complete their education fully, many will end up working in unpaid labour at home and with their family, and many will not receive the same wages as their male colleagues.

  • You can get involved by becoming an Education Sponsor for one of our girls, or by sending donations today! Contact events@lovelifehope.com for more information.
  • Volunteer! Run projects! And visit us in Tapachula! We’re currently recruiting for April 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com
  • Follow, share and support us on social media

https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/

https://twitter.com/mision_mexico

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

 

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Life beyond Misión México

Preparing young adults for life beyond Misión Mexico…

Our #1 goal at Misión Mexico is to provide the option of shelter and on-going education for all of the children that walk through our doors. We aim to help break the cycle of poverty that exists for 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico, by providing opportunity, chances and choices for our young people, which includes our final program, YTP. Our Youth Transition Program (YTP) focuses on supporting our young people at Misión Mexico through the transition into adulthood, independent living and higher education.

The focus is to empower these young people in a bid to break the cycle of poverty and abuse, and further create confident, competent young adults and positive role models who can successfully live independently.” – Luke, YTP Coordinator

A History of YTP

  1. Rewind back to 2014 when YTP was first piloted with our first female transition house! Four of our young ladies, aged 19-22 years old, moved into the house with our full-time YTP coordinator and mentor. With the support of the coordinator, our young adults develop skills such as independent and practical living, health and nutrition, positive role modelling, financial planning and budgeting, and practical support sourcing employment. Personal development is also a critical element of the program which aims to improve confidence, interpersonal and negotiation skills, and self-motivation.
  2. The next exciting branch of YTP was our youth cooking program and girls’ youth groups, which were implemented for our children aged 13 years and over. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent and life skills, whilst residing at our main refuge.
  3. 18 months later, the program extended to include our first male transition house and boys’ youth groups!
  4. After four years, 9 of our young adults have moved through our two transition houses and into independent living with 7 more currently living in our YTP today!

Why is YTP so important?

YTP brings opportunity and support for those first tricky years of adulthood as they leave our main family home at 18 years old. Some of you may be thinking that it’s kind of unnecessary and comparing it to your own lives, however life in Tapachula is extremely different and difficult, and our young adults would not have as many opportunities or choices if it wasn’t for Misión Mexico and programs such as YTP. YTP enables our young adults to have the opportunity to grow and reach their full potential, transitioning them to independent living whilst allowing them to continue with their higher education and offering multiple avenues and choices for their futures.

  • In developing, low-income countries, like Mexico, every additional year of education can increase a person’s future income by an average of 10%.
  • 6 million Mexican children and adolescents dropped out of school in 2012, to join the second largest child labour force in Latin America. These young people probably had very limed choices. This labour force includes children who have traded classrooms and pencils for their families, farming and crime. This labour force included some of our own children at Misión Mexico.
  • In 2012, 21.2 million children and adolescents in Mexico were living in poverty, with more than six million children aged 3-17 out of school. The lack of formal education in childhood often limits the available opportunities and choices in adulthood, which in turn continues the cycle of poverty and crime.

Where are they now?

We have seen some great successes with our young adults who have transitioned through YTP and into independent living! We’re excited to say that we’ve had our first ever female university graduate who quickly secured full-time employment and recently received her first promotion (amazing)! Whilst four are living independently whilst continuing with their higher education and university degrees. We’ve celebrated marriages, first homes, full-time employment, and a number of our YTP young adults are even putting their life skills to use whilst exploring the big wide world outside of Tapachula! YTP has truly been life-changing.

The Future of YTP

There are currently 20 young people living in the main Misión Mexico house in addition to the 6 young adults living in our two gendered transition houses. Over 70% of Misión Mexico youth are involved in some aspect of the YTP as our program starts from 13 years old. At this age, we begin the preparation phase which helps identify the strategies and actions necessary to develop their independent skills through cooking and small group classes. Currently 23% of the current household are over 18 years old and within the next three years, 58% of them will be over 18 years old which means that YTP is essential and growing rapidly!

Our goal at Misión México is to provide support, love, options and choice to all the children that come into our home. Not all our young adults choose the root of university, higher education or even YTP living, and instead choose to follow other paths beyond their lives at Mision Mexico. But, that’s what this is ultimately all about; choice.

YTP is one of our most vital and ever-expanding programs, and we wouldn’t be anywhere without your help. We are so grateful for the years of support, love and hope that you’ve shown to us and can’t wait to continue the journey for our next bunch of YTP-ers over the coming years!

Make some small choices today!

  • For as little as $10 per month you can become one of our Youth Transition Program Sponsors and help our young adults become the best they can be! You can email events@lovelifehope.com if you’re interested in becoming a YTP sponsors
  • Volunteer! We’re currently recruiting for April 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com!
  • Share this blog and our #YTPWednesdays campaigns via below…
  • You can follow and support our social media by clicking these links…
  • https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/
  • https://twitter.com/mision_mexico
  • https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

We can’t wait to meet you all!

Vanisha

With big help from Luke Owen, Melissa Biggerstaff and Founder, Pamela Skuse

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Reads and resources:

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/kids-at-work-there-are-3-6-million-in-mexico/

http://www.aljazeera.com/blogs/americas/2016/01/mexico-child-labour-perils-lost-education-160127055528295.html

https://probdes.iiec.unam.mx/en/revistas/v45n178/body/v45n178a5_1.php

Mental health and me.

Part One

Love me when i least deserve it, because that’s when i need it the most – unknown

It’s taken me months to come to terms with my life and who I am right now, and it’s taken weeks to write this in a way that I’m okay with.

Topics, awareness and conversation about mental illness and mental health have been slowly, but more positively, making its way into our minds, out of our mouths and spreading through the veins of our society. But growing up knowing words like ‘anxiety’ and ‘depression’ didn’t always mean they were fully understood. Although it seems we are now surrounded by our friends, family, strangers and celebs all fighting daily battles with their mental health, the battle can be easily misunderstood and still feel confusing. My experience with mental health has been messy, dark, confusing and not always something I wanted to accept. And that wasn’t even my own mental health. It’s hard to understand something that hurts, and with mental health you can hurt, and other people can hurt as a cause of your hurt. Now, as I battle my own issues, I’m understanding it more than ever.

Six months ago, I was extremely happy with myself, I was acing university, following my passion, keeping fit and healthy, living independently, working hard, and I had exciting plans and hopes for my future. Everything was great. I was the best I had ever been in my life in every way possible. Until one day, I just wasn’t.

I used to think happiness and positivity and depression and negativity were like a switch that you could turn on and off. And the use of the switch would depend on how hard you wanted it and how hard you tried. With mental health, I’ve found that it’s partly true. Except the switch is one of them stupid ones that flick back on as you leave the room and you have to go back to turn it off again but it’s constant and lasts through the night and into some days and you have no control over the stupid damaged switch. Life becomes a constant battle with the switch that never used to even cross my mind before because it was never an issue and would almost always be on happy positivity mode.

Some days feel the same as six months ago. I can still fill my days with positivity and people comment on how much I smile and brighten their day. Some days I see hope for my future and am inspired by all the good in the world, and all the good left for me to make. Some days I feel happiness because I know that one day I’ll be exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I love with someone who loves me just as much as I love them. And I won’t question or doubt anything about myself or my life because everything will be good enough.

But some days it’s hard to even fake a smile. Some days I feel so far from who I even used to be, yet alone from where I hope I’ll ever be. Some days I can’t believe how much pain has been in my life and how people keep finding new ways to hurt me. Yet alone all those hurting other people, all those other people suffering. Some days I can’t imagine working with people in crisis because how can life and the people in our world be so cruel to ever put another human in that point of crisis in the first place? Some days my brain drives me crazy. I lose complete focus, worth and love for myself and the world. Nothing ever seems good enough.

I’ve read articles after blogs after websites about how to cope, what to do, what not to do and what depression and anxiety even are. There’s poetry and quotes and helplines and chatrooms. People tell you to exercise, get out the house, talk to someone, get a good night sleep. Lol. And for those who know me and follow my IG and blogs on the reg, you’ll be laughing along with me. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Here I am, little miss positivity, spreading sunshine and love around the world and trying to save the planet, feeling the most negative ever and trying hard not to hate everything around me.

And it’s funny when people comment how you’re coping so well, like you could never tell that I was even remotely low, like how my IG looks like life goals and how it appears I’m the same person from six months ago. Because mental illness isn’t visible through a photo unless you post a picture of yourself crying in bed with the caption ‘btw i’m depressed’. And it goes to show how you never know what battle someone might be fighting.

 

My “choose happiness” and “be a seeker of everyday magic” mantra is just not so relevant right now. Sure, if you’re having a bad day it might help. But depression doesn’t seem like a bad day because depression doesn’t seem to leave. Instead, you might have good moments in your bad day. Or your day might not be particularly awful, but there are no feelings of happiness like you knew it before.

I know things will get better. And like everything in life, this is temporary. But for now, I’m learning and finding my own ways to cope through it. I’m trying to find peace, worth and love for myself. I am healing from the pain, trauma and sadness in my life. For the first time in months, I’m starting to accept these feelings and thoughts. And that it’s normal. And that it’s okay. I’m very slowly remembering the things that make me happy and trying to remind myself who I am. And even writing this, I feel relief to be talking about it. And although I’m quite used to blogging and being honest and open with what I write about, mental illness is a new topic for me. Today I’m raising awareness about my newest fight in life; mental health.

Know that mental illness is serious and varies and has tonnes of different symptoms and effects for different lengths of time and on different scales of severity. It’s a huge problem in our society with millions of sufferers. It is always important to talk about it. Self-love and self-care are important too. And realising you’re not alone and that you can recover from this is important to remember also. If you don’t have it, you’ll know someone that has it, or you’ll soon have it, or you have had it.

 

Let’s be kinder, more understanding and more loving. A mantra that can always be applied.

Vanisha

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IG: https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/?hl=en

Global bodies, sex and stories from around the world.

“Every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. Yet research shows that the majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.” -UNFPA

 

Sexual education improves the lives, dignity and knowledge for every single person in the world. Sexual education helps define healthy/unhealthy relationships, consent, safety and human rights which is vital knowledge for absolutely everyone. Right?

 

It’s no shocker that caught up in all the wrongs of the world are our young girls and women who are most at risks of HIV, aids, unwanted and unsafe pregnancies and abortions, STD’s, sexual assault and exploitation. This is especially unsurprising when 120 million girls don’t even have a basic education yet alone a sexual education.

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Travelling is amazing and opens your eyes to many differences around the world including some of my main interests such as sex in society, prostitution, trafficking and how the women and girls of the world fit into all of this. It’s apparent that sexual education, knowledge and awareness is sometimes non-existent in many countries around the world.

 

This means that some girls around the world have their monthly periods and have no idea why they’re bleeding, if it’s normal, if it’s natural and what their body is even doing. It means that for some girls they are locked in their homes during these times, stopped from going to school and forced to using unsanitary solutions in shame.

 

This means that 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone various forms of female genital mutilation without the knowledge as to why they’re being mutilated, what their rights are, and even the full knowledge of why they have genitals in the first place.

 

This means that people are unaware of their right to consent and safety and are fully exploited by people who see dollar signs all over their female flesh. This means that people visiting brothels whether they’re in Amsterdam, India or London are usually unaware or don’t care that the human being who is there to ‘give them a good time’ is more than likely to be there not out of choice, but out of force, bribery, slavery, trafficking and fully stripped from their rights, safety and voice.

 

There are approximately 20-30 million slaves in the world today. 80% of these humans are sexually exploited. 80% of these humans are women and girls. Still not shocked?

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Conversations with a friend in Peru brought to light the situation of women and contraception in the country. He explained how it’s mostly women prostitutes who are on the pill which completely took me back as a young woman on the pill herself. In the UK, most women I know are on some form of contraception and for so many different reasons. It shocked me that perhaps the knowledge and availability of contraception might not be accessible or encouraged for all females, and not just sex workers.

 

This also reminded me of my experience with a man in Indonesia who hosted me and a friend and allowed us to attend a double circumsion ceremony for two boys aged 11 and 7. The conversations that followed will always be with me. He spoke about how his wife every month has bloody clothes but was unsure why. Especially surprising as they had two children together including a daughter who had also undergone FGM. Yet, he had no knowledge about the female body, what happened at his children’s births, why his wife has bloody clothes every month, and also how sex can be for pleasure and not just for reproduction. The knowledge and tradition that he did possess was that the female genital is actually seen to be ‘unclean’ in his community and is in a much better state once cut or mutilated.

 

As a woman who has grown up in a country where sex education may be basic but still teaches all the essentials, where I freely and openly talk about my body, health, sex and sexuality with my friend, family, nurses and teachers, where my further studies have opened my eyes to the dangers surrounding the female body regarding rape, FGM, assault, and inequalities, it never crossed my mind that these girls I want to protect and the men who live beside them might not even know how to have sex, or what a period even is.

 

“If an 11-year-old girl arrives in hospital pregnant, nobody says anything,” says Alvaro Serrano, director of the region for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). “Women and girls are dying because of poor sex education.” – The Guardian

 

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It’s a pretty deep topic but further conversations with some European backpackers about their experiences with prostitutes, their ridiculous expectations and their absolute disrespect and disregard for the humans interacting with them spurred me on to further research, share my stories and help raise awareness on the importance of sexual education for everyone worldwide. Sexual education should not be based around fear, shame, religion or tradition but around health, dignity, humanity and for all those most affected, especially our women and girls. 

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What are your thoughts on sexual education? Is it helpful for young people? Are there any alternatives? Do you have any experiences that you want to share or talk about?

 

Feel free to drop me a message!

You can also follow my South American adventures on instagram @vanishamay

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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My list of used resources and helpful websites…

On menstruation:

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/periods-around-the-world

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/menstruation-themed-photo-series-artist-censored-by-instagram-says-images-are-to-demystify-taboos-10144331.html

On sex ed:

https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/international-sex-education/

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/may/20/six-best-sex-education-programmes-around-the-world

https://plan-uk.org/

http://www.unfpa.org/comprehensive-sexuality-education

https://www.bustle.com/articles/80266-5-places-around-the-world-where-sex-education-is-improving-because-comprehensive-and-progressive-programs-do

https://www.aasect.org/evolving-state-sexuality-education-around-world

On trafficking and the rest:

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-human-trafficking

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs364/en/