A friendly reminder that addiction has no bounds

I’m sat on my bed, just six days after I returned home from University, only this time, it’s for good. My bedroom fills me with many emotions. Perhaps the most prominent is that of anxiety. An uneasy ‘vibe’ that puts me in an undesirable position uncontrollably reminiscing about all of the things that have happened in this one room. The door doesn’t close, there’s stains on the carpet, the curtains hang jagged, the floor creaks as soon as a hair falls onto it; but all these characteristics complete the bedroom… My bedroom.

Most peoples’ bedrooms are their safe havens. Their sanctuaries. But since coming home, I have come to realise that this bedroom will never – and can never – be my safe haven. For safe haven implies it’s a place of security and of safety.

My whole life I have had to warn off my friends, new and old, to what may be housed below, unbeknown to me. It’s a roll of the dice. One day could be good, another bad. But not every bad day leads to a half full glass on the side-table or a hidden stash of empty bottles. It’s a guessing game; except one cannot take any risks.

Better to be safe than sorry, as they say.

I wrote something for my university on this subject. ‘When home is the most dangerous place,’ it’s titled. Normally I write things to help other people (if possible) but that specific post was to assist me; mentally.

You see, our civilisation is plagued with a complex and divergent relationship with alcohol. We wince at heavy drinkers, mock those who ‘can’t handle their drink,’ ridicule the alcoholics, question those who ‘don’t drink at all’ and have brainwashed each other into believing a drink can alter our self-confidence.

Years ago, addiction would only refer to psychoactive substances absorbed into the blood, temporarily changing the chemical balance of the brain like alcohol, drugs etc. But today there’s a psychological dependency that can cause the same trauma like that of gambling, sex and exercise. Yet our perceptions of addicts are still stuck at the stereotyped washed up heroin-fuelled rock star or stereotyped alcoholic found on the streets of your local town centre. But addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t have a stereotype. It can blind sight anyone regardless of fame, wealth or hierarchy. To assume you are safe from any kind of addiction, is naïve. Immunity is unlikely.

More people than you know will have their own experience of addiction. First hand or not, it’s still a cause for concern. I was twelve when my father was diagnosed with alcoholism. Throughout high school I was distant. In a world of my own. Because instead of looking at what was in front of me, my mind was too busy questioning and somewhat preparing [myself] for what I could be going home to. No twelve year old should have to come face to face with another version of their relative or friend for that matter. No child should ever be subjected to that. Why? Because it causes more unseen damage than people know. Anxiety? Yes. EDNOS? Yes. Chronic stress? Yes. All before I reached 22-years-old.

I refuse to sit here and let another child go through what I have; without an increase of help. Because the worst part of addiction, is that no matter what happens, no matter what is said or what is done, the person with the addiction is different to the person without. Meaning, the person who drinks and the person who doesn’t, are different. The person who takes drugs and the person who doesn’t, are different. The person who gambles and the person who doesn’t, are different. The person who spends hours in the gym shedding calories is different to the person who doesn’t exercise. They just share the same body. Its two personalities squished into one brain, one body. Like it’s been hijacked. And sometimes one is more powerful than the other; but that doesn’t mean the loved one should be left to fend for themselves. Because the addiction does not, and should not, define who they are.

I know how hard it can be. To not want the life you have. To want the easy way out. To wish they didn’t suffer with what they do. To wake up with a different life. Your head fights against itself, rationale thoughts disappear and you succumb to the belief that it is your fault. But it isn’t. It isn’t anyone’s fault. My mum always tells me “we have difficult moments in our lives because we are strong enough to overcome them.” Ten years seems like an eternity and that number will only rise. But if it wasn’t for any of my past experiences, I wouldn’t be the person I am today – and I like the person I have grown to be.

To any daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, cousins, friends;

One day you will wake up in the morning and be truly happy.

One day you will believe in yourself and your abilities.

One day you will find the strength and comfort to tell someone of your past.

One day you will stop crying.

One day you will put yourself first and not feel guilty.

One day you will realise you have no limits.

One day you will be able to enjoy peace and quiet and the silence won’t be deafening.

One day you will believe that you are worth it.

One day you will learn to love yourself.

One day you will stop living inside of your head.

One day you will stop worrying.

One day you will find the happiness you crave.

One day you will be in control.

One day you will have a bedroom to be proud of.

Please visit http://www.nacoa.org.uk/ and make a difference to a child’s life. Every little helps. Thank you.

Let’s discuss: Grid Girls

Last month I read an article on ‘being a woman who loves racing.’ It was beautifully written; as if every subconscious thought I have ever had, had been written down and compiled in a way that would educate others in understanding the way a moderate gender-gap works. This gender-gap is not substantial, but it is prominent. It was prominent enough to warrant David Coulthard in stating his beliefs of women racers, or should I say lack of. Prominent enough for the former Formula 1 driver to say women aren’t as brutal as men because of their ‘mothering gene.’ (I dare him to direct that comment at Nicola Adams and see what happens.) It was prominent enough for Bernie Ecclestone to claim “women racers wouldn’t be taken seriously,” and for Sir Stirling Moss to voice his two cents.

We are not defined by gender. We are not defined by our age, or by our skin colour. We are not defined by where we come from, or what we believe in. We are not defined by the way that we look at the world, or for how we treat it. We are human. Humans with goals and ambitions, just as anyone else. And there’s a way to talk to other humans and a way to respect other humans; that undermining their ability, is factually wrong.

This argument is not about racers, however. That argument ended once we stopped asking if and started asking when; enter Tatiana Calderon, Sophia Floresch, Jamie Chadwick, Simona de Silvestro and Marta Garcia. When, could be sooner than you think.

The reason I mentioned the previous article, is because it sparked an attack on Motorsport.com to remove a photo album titled ‘Paddock Beauties.’ I don’t have a problem with grid girls. I can admire an attractive person, regardless of their gender. In fact, if I looked like – or had the body to be – a grid girl, then I would be one. Why not? The problem I had with this album is it did not just have grid girls, it had engineers, team personnel, circuit administrators and all sorts. As I said, I can appreciate an attractive person. I’m sure after seeing themselves in an album titled ‘Paddock Beauties’ they were flattered; but unlike grid girls, these girls haven’t signed up to a job to be judged aesthetically. So I agree with the notion to take them out, especially when the likes of Adrian Newey and Chase Carey feature in the generic albums; are they not ‘Paddock Beauties’ or what people believe ‘Paddock Beauties’ to be? Why does beauty, in this case, have to be gender specific?

All over twitter it spread; both the article and the petition. It went ‘viral’ as they say, and it did so within reason. Albeit (in my opinion) marginal reason. Grid girls are outdated. They are old-fashioned. Is there a need for them? Perhaps not. But is it any different from the girls in tight lycra at boxing matches or walk-on girls at darts tournaments, or how about the ‘flower girls’ at the Olympics? Sport is a spectacle. It is entertainment as well as a competition. It is important to cater to both areas or it becomes flat. Football is an exception because it’s fuelled by fierce rivalry and ‘hooliganism.’ Formula 1 however, has always fallen slave to ‘glitz and glamour’ – it’s why James Hunt was and is so popular. Because let’s be serious, out of all the World Champions F1 has had, is he the best one? Debatable. But he brought mass attention to a sport that had death lingering at every corner. He was a ‘celebrity’ whereas the others were just drivers. A bit like Lewis Hamilton. Had an F1 driver ever been to the Oscars and been as high profile as Hamilton before?

Grid girls are brought to Grands Prix via their agencies. An agency chosen by FOM or by the circuit informs all of its models of a potential job and they sign up to do it – just as you or I would for a job we desire. It’s a models dream to be scouted, to be headhunted – to be chosen. To work at a Grand Prix probably seems like a once in a lifetime experience – I too would grab it with both hands. But it’s their job to turn up and do what is required, not mine. Whether it be standing at a grid slot, clapping in the cool down room or even working in hospitality. It’s luck of the draw. But that doesn’t make them any less of a person.

In January, the NEC in Birmingham held the annual Autosport Show. If any of you reading this went, you perhaps might remember that opposite the F1 Racing Stand was the Azerbaijan Grand Prix booth. They were holding a competition to visit Baku for the GP and the people walking around the venue with the tablets for you to enter – were models, too. They weren’t wearing skimpy clothes or anything ostentatious (yes Pirelli, I am looking at you,) just white and purple polo shirts with jeans. I only know this because I recognised two of the girls walking around. They were on a programme called Britain’s Next Top Model and were in the final five. Funny, because one of the two girls I was routing for and was extremely peeved when she was sent home. But it just goes to show, that you can sign up to anything that your agency sends out but what you do and how you look is not down to the model, but down to the employer. Don’t shout at grid girls, shout at the circuit. Don’t look down on someone for doing their job – they are earning money to live just like the rest of us.

Grid girls do no harm. And if I’m being strictly honest and to-the-point for just a second, I think that if you are getting annoyed by a grid girl and believe she is being exploited (for something she signed up – and is paid to do) then you are easily offended. At no point is a grid girl asking for attention or scrutiny. Yes it’s old fashioned and yes it’s not really relevant in this day and age – but the agro that’s surfaced since the album got taken down is baffling. I’m basically dragging out that I don’t care what they do, it makes no difference to my viewing. I have watched F1 for what must be 10 years now and I can happily say that this year is already shaping up to be the best season I have ever watched – and we’re only two races in. We have a huge title fight on our hands, two teams gunning for it, two proven World Champions gunning for it and yet we’re sat moaning about grid girls. What a palaver.

What do you think?

Why Michael Schumacher is the villain we all love

Michael Schumacher. Perhaps one of the most distinguished names in sport, let alone Formula 1. You know who he is. You know what he did. You know the legacy he left behind. The undisputed king of F1.

Dressed from head to toe in red and arrogance oozing from within. Those were the glory days. The days when Schumacher was a household name, headlining newspapers internationally every fortnight, rewriting the record books. Make that how you remember him; though angel, he was not.

Schumacher had a presence. Similar to Ayrton Senna in that respect. That if you were to challenge his position, you must be prepared to face the consequences. Because in his mind ‘winners never quit and quitters never win.’

A cold-blooded risk taker whose only ambition was to win. Dangerous, yes. Ruthless, yes. But, did it work? Absolutely.

Seven times world champion, two with Benetton, five with Ferrari but all with Technical Director Ross Brawn. An unrivalled partnership that led the pair to 91 race wins and a staggering 155 podiums. Together they became the reference point, the benchmark, if you will.

Televised sport has a somewhat need for over-dramatising incidents. To be pantomime-esque and provide a talking point. The need for a good guy and a bad guy. Schumacher was the worst guy, getting under the skin of all other competitors and making it very apparent that he was not to be trifled with. Every action had an excuse yet nothing ever took away his determination.

Strip it all down and what’s left is a human being inspired by success, taking to the extreme to ensure he gets it. That time you cheated at Heads Down Thumbs Up staring at the person’s shoes, that’s your inner-competitiveness shining through. When football players dive in the penalty box. It’s an adrenaline boost so uncontrollable and so unethical, yet the gain is bigger than the loss.

Away from the racetrack, is a different story. After the tsunami’s that struck Asia in 2005, he donated $10m to Relief Aid. He founded ICM, the brain and spine institute and is an ambassador for the FIA’s Action for Road Safety and UNESCO amongst others.

Cheating is not what defines Michael Schumacher. It is a part of who he was inside the helmet. But there are multiple sides to a dice. One time it may be a split-second misjudgement, the next a purposeful manoeuvre and so on. The unpredictable driving style. The win-at-all-costs mentality. That’s what defines Schumacher. Let the statistics do the talking and the driving colour your screens.

Take him or leave him. He’s the villain you can’t help but love and admire.

Do take out eleven minutes of your time to watch this fan-made video. Tissues at the ready… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EQYimzsaW0

#KeepFightingMichael

2016 in words. Sort of.

To say this last year has been a rollercoaster would be an understatement. I think of it more like a bungee jump. How the thought of the jump is scarier than the actual activity. How the first part is the worst part and how it levels off at the end.

I can’t even put into words how I feel about 2016. I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for the last hour or so and even now I’m struggling to construct a reasonable sentence. But what I can say – without hesitation – is that I am proud of what I have achieved. And to me, that’s the most important thing.

Before the summer I received my last bulk of University grades. All of them, were firsts. And if you take into consideration the months leading up to those assignments, where I was suffering from an eating disorder, makes it all the more shocking; to me at least.

Every year I try and set New Year’s resolutions and tell myself to do things out of my comfort zone. But I don’t live my life by structure. I didn’t even apply to University and look where I am. I live my life spontaneously. By rolling a dice. A guessing game. I don’t like planning things. Planning means there’s an element of something going wrong. Like when you arrange to meet up with friends and they bail last minute. I can’t be bothered with that.

So this year I won’t set any resolutions other than to be the best version of myself.

I had a wake-up call in November and lost my Grandpops. Always appreciate your loved ones and never take them for granted. Things happen without a warning all the time. I never got to say goodbye. My mum never got to say goodbye. No one did. But the sky gained another star and I can only hope he’s watching over me whilst I do him proud.

I’m due to start work experience at an F1 team in January. I’ll also graduate. My future is charging right at me and I still don’t know where it’ll take me. But that’s the best part. Although I have a huge fear of the unknown, I’m almost excited by not knowing what will happen. The future is terrifying but I’m lucky to have the friends (new and old) and family I do, to share the adventures with. 2017 can only be better, I think, I hope.

If you’re reading this and like me you had an up and down year: believe in yourself. You’ll be surprised where self-belief will take you. If you don’t like something, change it. If you want to do something, do it. Be spontaneous. Be yourself. Your life is an open book – don’t let someone else write it.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain.

Make those mistakes. Be risky. Stop questioning the outcome because not every mistake will turn out to be a bad one.

 

Not everything is how it seems

“Take a before and after picture,” He said as I got up ready to leave the consultation. “When this is all just a memory, you’ll realise just how strong you are.”

Strong; adjective; having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks / able to withstand force, pressure, or wear.

We often confuse strength with power, that to be strong you must have enormous muscles and go to the gym almost every day. But strength isn’t about the weight you can carry, but rather for how long for.

However, there is a stigma.

That people with mental health problems shouldn’t speak up about their struggles because it’s a sign of weakness. But it takes a lot of strength to hold your own body let alone face the world. The weakness is not within the people who suffer, but within the people who believe in the stigma.

My story is somewhat different.

The bathroom became my bedroom, my pyjamas became my everyday clothes, my hair was in a ponytail, my makeup none existent. I kept quiet. I hid under my clothes. I distanced myself from the people who knew that something was wrong. I was stressed. Unhappy. I couldn’t walk. So frail. So weak. So lost.

We are midway through November and yet this last year has been the worst and the best of my life. I say that because at the start of the year and the first six months or so, I was the above paragraph. I stopped being myself.

I was diagnosed with EDNOS [eating disorder not otherwise specified] in February. I had an anorexic body but not an anorexic mind; my problems were caused by pain and stress rather than anything else. I was not in control of my weight loss. I wasn’t doing it on purpose. I wasn’t aware and thus was totally blind sighted by it all until it was too late.

“Stand on the scales please” my doctor said as I walked into the room. “You look dangerously thin, have you been eating?” Before I could even answer, she had clocked the digits on the scales and begun to ring the receptionist to book an urgent consultation with an eating disorder clinic.

What I have missed out is that I had been collapsing; that’s why I had gone to the doctors in the first place. Suspected hypotension (low blood pressure). Which although true and is something I suffer from, was not the apparent issue.

I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to be made out to be a liar and I certainly couldn’t deal with yet more stress. So I bought smaller clothes, wore that good ol’ fake smile and decided to bite the bullet.

I steadily returned back to University, did some work experience at an F1 team and travelled to Paris. Casual, right? What I had realised, is that there were only so many seasons of Pretty Little Liars and once I was caught up I couldn’t just do the same thing every day.

Although I was not in control, I made it my priority to be in control. Don’t let anyone else, or whatever else, try to dictate your life. What you see in the mirror and what someone else see’s is only down to perception. Don’t let someone else’s opinion change your reality – if the sky is the limit, wave at them when you’re dancing on the moon.

Remember, strength is not what you hold, but how long you hold it. To prove it? I did just as I was told to in the first six words of this post.

beforeandafter.png

If you are reading this and suffer from any kind of mental illness, just know that you’re not alone. It’s not weak of you to need help, it’s brave of you to even bring it up. It’s not a weakness and it’s not embarrassing. Stop trying to be like everyone else, accept who you are and love the person who looks back at you in the mirror.

Never be afraid or ashamed of who you are. Be proud of yourself and never stop believing because the rest will fall into place. Those who underestimate you are the ones who don’t know what you are capable of. It’s not a question of if you will beat it, it’s when.

Start writing your next chapter.

An open letter to any girl that wants to work in motorsport

To ______,

If you want to do something, that isn’t what someone else thinks is right. Do it anyway. Take the risk. Because if you don’t, you’ll live the rest of your life asking questions that you would otherwise be answering for yourself.

Stop hesitating, stop doubting, stop comparing.

I never had someone encouraging me. Never had someone telling me to do whatever I wanted. I was always living this structured life that all of your school teachers advise you to live and instead of having them inspire you in doing whatever you want, you have them telling you to do something the way a book says. But, life is not a book. It doesn’t always have a happy ending, not everyone sticks around until the end, good people and bad people are hard to identify and you never know what can happen.

But what will happen is entirely based upon what you do right now. So that pause, that hesitation, will define what happens to your future.

I parted ways with a former employer a few months ago. I was drained. I was exhausted every single day, of every single week. I was keeping secrets. I was put in the middle. I was put in a position that made me the most uncomfortable I have ever been.

What I thought was a good opportunity, was one of the worst jobs and one of the worst experiences of my life. But it took me so long to admit to myself that I was unhappy because I was doing what I wanted and if I’m being completely honest, it still makes me uneasy today.

Not everything you do will be positive. You somewhat need these types of experiences to learn. Perhaps not to the extent of what me and my former colleagues dealt with. You do however need times that are rough because it’s how you develop your personality. It’s how you build your strength and how you understand your weaknesses.

I learnt that sun-cream in foreign countries – for me – is ineffective.

On the flip side, you will find people that you consider friends just as troublesome. For example, days ago I had someone claim I only spoke to them because they worked for a national sports broadcaster. He mistook my genuine friendliness for flirtation. Which I have to admit, is becoming a common trait – which is rather sad.

To quote said person: “I’m just saying. You want to know me when you think it’s useful. Rest of the time, you can’t be arsed,” which was followed by “If I didn’t have the job I did you wouldn’t have even given me the time of day.”

Not that I feel the need to defend myself, but as few of my friends will be able to confirm, this is wholly inaccurate.

I always get comments like “you don’t seem like the type of girl to like motorsport.” Can you imagine their reaction when I tell them I play football, too? It’s because there’s still this ideology [big or small] that girls and boys have to do different things, whether we want to admit that or not. There’s a reluctance to fully accept gender equality. Though admittedly, this doesn’t apply to everyone.

My advice? Prove them wrong. Show them why you should be considered just as anyone else. Be the person that inside you know you are. When you’re 80-years-old and chatting away to your grandchildren, it’ll be so much better to say “I can’t believe I did that,” than “I wish I did that.”

Had I not quit college – I would not be in University. I would not have met half of the people that I have. I would not have travelled. I would not be doing what I’m doing now. I would not be fulfilling the person I am or the life that I want.

This whole “the heart wants what the heart wants” quote doesn’t just relate to your love life. It represents you. If you’re not being yourself, then who are you? You can dream big, but live your life bigger. Not everything you want happens when you close your eyes. So go out and get it because hard work pays off. It isn’t instantaneous, but everything happens for a reason. If it’s not this time it’s because something better is waiting for you, you just haven’t noticed.

The most important thing is that people are going to love you, hate you, be unsure about you; but make sure that they spell your name right.  Because then, either way, you win.

From Kate x

 

It isn’t just ‘drink driving’

Before I delve into this post, I want to pop in a little disclaimer. I’m not bashing drinking in any way – Sambuca and I go together like milk and cookies. But I’m also not bashing the sponsors or the social activities that come with alcohol. I am, of course, a student and won’t hide the fact that socially drinking is about 40/50% of what I do in a year. No, really…

The aim of this is to change the perception of how people are reacting to the open letter to Jean Todt from Eurocare’s secretary Mariann Skar. She argues that alcohol and driving should not be mixed, which is a fair point considering that on average, 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured each year because of drink-driving collisions.

To say “it’s just an advertisement” is not only hypocritical (with the ban of cigarette branding) but it’s also naïve. Do I think a logo encourages people to go out and specifically buy that drink? Yes. A sense of nostalgia and thinking I was a Bond girl made me to go and get some Martini. Do I think a logo encourages people to go out and specifically buy that drink and then drive after it? No.

But the fact is, people do. People think that because they’ve only had one or two drinks, they’re fine. There’s a reason several countries have now inflicted the zero tolerance rule. It’s because no matter how little you think you have had and no matter how much of a good driver you assume you are; alcohol changes the blood level in your brain making your reaction times a lot slower, your balance shifts and your judgement is impaired. If drink can give you the confidence to chat up someone in a bar, it can very easily manipulate the way you drive. Just one sip will linger in your body for two hours.

Ask yourself this; would you trust someone driving if they had previously had a drink that night? If the answer is yes, I think you’re mad. If your answer is no, why would you drive yourself if you have had a drink?

This is coming from someone who has had to deal with an alcoholic parent for the last six or seven years. It’s not as clear-cut as just ‘drink driving’. It’s not just the mad-men that you see on Road Wars on a crap Saturday night. It’s failure to stop when someone is walking over a zebra crossing because they were too slow to see them. It’s the not stepping hard enough on the brake pedal because they are substantially weaker. It’s the weaving across the road because their brain can’t focus on the lane that they are in. Lines are jagged, things appear closer or further away, colours merge together and so on.

Have you had to be driven somewhere by someone either severely hungover or still drunk from the night before? Maybe you have. But what about when said person has been drinking all day from the moment they got up? Perhaps not. It’s scary. You are literally a passenger with no control. Which is why I hate flying so much. But with a drunk driver, you can see how slow they are to react to a red light, to speeding up or down, to changing gears. And if they encounter a round-about; well that’s almost as hard as if they were taking an exam.  

Alcohol alters your reaction time. It slows everything down. It doesn’t matter if you are a good person, it doesn’t matter if you are a great driver. You could hurt someone. You could hurt yourself. Your friend could be hurt. Your family could be hurt. The next time you’ve had one too many and you start slurring your words and laughing at your total mess, imagine yourself driving a car. Because that’s the sort of lunacy that people do. It doesn’t damage just one person, it damages their friends and family too. Imagine the guilt of the person, who for that split-second, thought they’d be able to drive home without any problems.

By association, F1 is almost endorsing the association of alcohol and driving. Whether you admit it or not. Why would Heineken for example, pay out £150 million for it to not make an impression?

They are not forcing a drink down your throat, nor are they telling you to drink drive. But advertising alcohol whilst ‘Bernie says think before you drive’ is total hypocrisy. And actually, someone who is about to even consider driving after a drink clearly cannot think at all, let alone drive. If you don’t endorse drink driving, why allow the main factor to be showcased so much? If it’s just ‘drink driving’ perhaps you should go and say that to the hundreds of families who have lost loved ones because someone thought it would be a good idea to just ‘drink drive.’

Please stop referring to it as “just a logo” or “only idiots drink drive.” Because whilst both are true statements, it’s so much more than that. It isn’t just a thought for some people. It’s a moment of misjudgement. It’s a spur of the moment idea to get home. At that moment, the last thing they think about is other people or the chaos they might cause. All it can take is to accidentally run a red light. But when alcohol is involved, there are no accidents. There’s just the consequences of what a misjudgement can do.

It may be my bias and because of my experiences. But to me, alcohol branding in F1 is so much worse than that of cigarette. What’s just a logo to you, is an idea to someone else. In hindsight we’d all say it’s stupid, but for the wrong person at that one moment it’s a somewhat unconscious decision. Alcohol controls the way you think, the way you speak, the way you act. It will dictate the way you drive. Don’t assume otherwise. To associate smoking with athletes was wrong, but to associate drinking with the pinnacle of motorsport is stupidity.