Sunday, November 16, 2014

'Tis the season to be jolly?

I love Christmas. It's probably my favourite time of the year. There's nothing else - not Easter, birthdays, or even weddings - that brings family together like the celebration (essentially) of all that is good in the world: new life, hope and faith. The turkey and trimmings don't hurt either, plus my mum makes a killer roast leg of lamb 'on the side'. Because we're Arab and there has to be meat on the table, obvs. Growing up, I remember loving dressing up for church, coming home to the smell of roast potatoes and gravy on the stove, the cosiness of friends huddled in our living room, red wine and scotch rosy-ing everyone's cheeks, warm chestnuts fresh off the barbecue in the backyard. I guess that's one of the joys of being younger and sans the curse of expectation.

Fast forward to when I was about twenty years old and the Yuletide bubble simply burst. I went from one side of the spectrum to the extreme opposite. I still loved Christmas - or at least I thought I did/do - but all of a sudden, there seemed to be a real weight on my shoulders every time the season fa la la la la'd into view. The change wasn't dramatic, mind you. It wasn't like I started throwing fits in the middle of midnight mass or refusing to help roll the endless coconut dessert balls (snigger) my mother insists on making every single year. The changes were a lot more subtle. A constant lump in my throat, even when listening to my father's ridiculous Boney M Christmas collection, a feeling of dread on Christmas eve, avoiding social media or completely immersing myself in it. And it has literally taken me over seven years to even try and understand what was happening to me.

Why would anyone make a pug sad? On Christmas?!

I've always suffered some degree of depression - I think the statistic is that over 80% of the human population has experienced a form of depression in their lifetime, both treated and totally undiagnosed. So I started researching the issue. Most sources seemed to attribute a similar feeling of melancholy with two factors: seasonal changes (seasonal being both weather related and migrational/occasion-related circumstances) and unrealistic expectations (the destructive expectation of manic happiness, where excitement/joy are at a constant throughout ones life).


Reading through case studies and different definitions of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I realised that what I'd been experiencing through Christmas happened every time there was a dramatic change in my daily routine, but specifically when the people I love/socialise with/rely on weren't around, i.e. Christmas, summer, Easter and other occasions/national holidays. I also realised, this was something I'd felt long before Christmas had become a difficult time for me. I'd felt these pangs of anxiety ever since I was in middle school and we'd break for mid-term or - gasp - summer holidays. The thought of not being able to access my routine, my friends, my teachers, my colleagues was so incredibly disheartening. It was my comfort zone. I didn't know how to 'be' if I wasn't a part of that particular activity.

Growing up, the fear of change when my routine wasn't in play and the emptiness I felt when I wasn't surrounded by 'my people' increased. I had let what I 'do' define who I was. And I'd been doing it for over a decade. I had also allowed the facade of 'manic happiness' seep into the cracks in my confidence - everyone else seemed so much happier. X's family bought a lot more presents than mine. Y had a huge dinner party and not only were all my friends invited, I wasn't. Z was definitely happier - they spent the summer discovering themselves in Nepal and THEN travelled again for Christmas. Wow, what was I doing wrong?

Comparing myself to others. Underestimating the joy of what I already possessed. That's the textbook answer. Unfortunately, that's not something I (and I can't imagine anyone else, either) can simply program into my brain and heart function. You can't simply stop feeling a certain way, but there definitely are methods to fight this feeling. Anyone who has experienced SAD (I mean, really) will know how crippling the feelings of sadness/loneliness can become. The main takeaway for me has been to allow myself to reach out to close friends and family about my feelings. It has taken twenty seven years for me to be able to to even discuss the concept of depression with members of my family, and I have finally also had the courage to speak with certain friends.

Last Christmas, when I decided making dinner for 13 people by myself was a good idea

Pick up the phone and let it out. Surround yourself with things/people/moods that make you feel good. For me, that's going to be taking on a lot of the cooking this year and immersing myself in making big plans for the new year. Taking action is always a relief - it reminds you that you can continue to move forward, all you have to do is put in the work. Escape: that can mean hitting the gym, going to the movies or getting stuck into a new book. If I'm feeling suffocated or that feeling of emptiness begins to hit home, I'm going straight into my duvet and picking up a favourite book or film for the afternoon. Be good to yourself. This season will be all about balance and trying to find that sparkle in Christmas, again. By myself, without a routine.

P.s. Self diagnosis is definitely not something I recommend. I have spoken to professionals, both in the past and recently who have reiterated my findings and reading. If you are feeling down, alone, stressed out, exhausted or simply in need of an objective ear, speak with someone. You owe it to yourself. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Truth Is

Guys, this year has been the worst. Here's the truth as it slips from my heart, into my fingertips, on this cookie crumble encrusted keyboard and onto the filthy screen of my Mac that I haven't used for anything other than online shopping and stalking people who (I thought) had been making me miserable for years.

I kissed goodbye a job I thoroughly enjoyed at the start of the year, came face to face with thirteen kilos that had made themselves comfortable on my formerly (semi) athletic physique, lost a dear friend to the never-ending expat cycle all amongst some of the most (personally) profound moments of self-doubt, anxiety and, frankly, depression.

I never did understand what people meant, in the movies and in all those Though Catalog and Hello Giggles blogs, about 'not recognising yourself'. What is that? I used to laugh at that, I used to think I was a lot more 'logical', a lot more 'grounded' than these people. Until I woke up one morning and didn't recognise myself.

Brought on by both external factors I could not control and just plain CONFUSION, I reached boiling point very recently and decided I had one of two options: to continue on this path of (self) destruction or to grab my life by the horns and bring back the passionate person I had once been. SO much easier said than done, but realisation is definitely part of the healing process.

I wish this post was about some radical solution I had discovered while gently humming 'ohm' into the universe, cross legged on my porch, overlooking the ocean. Unfortunately, this isn't Instagram (which I love - I'm on @missremys) and my porch was converted into an extra room for my smelly (and wonderful) teenage brother and I live near the sea, not the ocean, but that's besides the point. The point is I've finally had an epiphany. It's one of those you hear characters making in inspirational films like INVINCIBLE and you literally have to face palm because it seems so obvious, but in reality, it really isn't: this is your one life. You only get this one to live. Make it worth it. Do what makes you happy.

WHAT?! Call the President!

Real talk: this is the best piece of advice anyone has given me in.... ever. So here it is. Am I back to writing this blog? I don't know. Am I going to start a pancake art business? Probably not, but that does sound fun! Will I leave everything and travel the world with my savings? Shit, I just gave myself an idea!

Point is, from now on, I'm only going to do what makes me happy. Not what I think I need to do to keep the peace. Not what I should do because of social expectation. Definitely not doing anything out of fear of the unknown, change or loss.

New beginnings.

Image courtesy of The Daily Quipple

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The ABCs of Arab Entertainment

From the multiple genre-encompassing glory of Shadia, Soad Hosny, Farid al-Atrash and Duraid Lahham to the state of Arab entertainment today, something somewhere has gone terribly pear-shaped. Even Sherihan's mental fawazeer series is unmatched amidst the sea of uninspiring Nishan's and Ahlam's. Razan Moughrabi is now being hailed one of Arab television's rising stars, butt implants have become a prerequisite for aspiring Syrian and Lebanese actresses... and that, ya 7abaybi, is only the beginning. The below is a starter list of things wrong with the state of Arab television*:

1. The result of a Google images search for Arab series crops up stills from Turkish shows (Muhannad ruined it for everyone else really), something censored and (snooze) historic television. I'm so bored I'm considering not writing this list anymore.

2. Collagen, hair extensions, coloured lenses and wigs are a must.

3. Our reality shows are a) 95% ripped off and/or franchises and b) hosted by the least charistmatic personalities in Arab entertainment.

 Oh, Ahlam.

4. Most of our original series storylines are about strife and pain and war. Things that are even slightly inspired are lifted off external sources (and still find a way to be about pain and strife and war), i.e. Sana3ood Ba3d Kaleel and Everybody's Fine.


5. Is a character in a nightclub? They're probably doing something bad. Because clubs are bad places where people drink bad things, etc.

What would you add this list?

*I write this list in jest but also with hopes that the standard of our entertainment offerings elevates itself once again to something we can be proud of. Arab cinema is once again making a name for itself - fingers crossed Arab television picks up too.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Megabites of Zombie Deadication


First, I'm sorry about the title of this post. Secondly, and more importantly, to celebrate the single-handed demise of the zombie genre, thanks to WORLD WAR Z, I have compiled a list of extras, short films, games and graphic novels officially linked to and inspired by the far superior 28 DAYS LATER. Just to highlight the pronounced failure of the former as compared to the latter. Light, Sunday reading.

Deleted Scenes:

Beyond Contagion (mega grainy)
Cabbie Impressions
What Being Attacked by Rage Zombie Would Really Be Like (sans music)
Alternate Ending (terrible)

Behind the Scenes Footage - mainly a lot of wind swept Boyle-age, terrifying rage SFX make up and models of zombie ravaged humans.

Six official short films released in support of 28 WEEKS LATER (slightly NSFW, if only for gore-related reasons). Some of these are better than the actual film:

Jealous Rage
28 Seconds Later
Welcome to London
Light 'Em Up (don't do drugs, kids)
28 Weeks Earlier (why are they American?)
77 Days Later (the actor is a schmuck but this is pretty good)

Free preview issues of 28 DAYS LATER the graphic novel, following Selena's return to Britain, kind of a time-filler between DAYS and WEEKS.

And finally, a Stop the Zombies! simulator, alongside a bunch of naughty kids and their zombirific parodies, including LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem (sorry) and The Boondocks (really).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rule #4

For the love of God

As you may have deduced with wits I hope are sharper than those of the FBI unit in NBC's Hannibal, this list continues on from last week's deceptively titled 'Rule #1' on the social media faux pas committed by a) the regular user and b) the filmies. And without further ado...

Rule #4: wishing people who aren't on Facebook a Happy Birth/Mother's/Father's Day or Fourth of July or Groundhog Day or whatever it is any of you celebrate. "Happy Father's Day to the world's greatest dad!" Is your dad on Facebook? No? So wait, he didn't even read that message? No? Do you have your dad's phone number? Yes? Would that have been more personal? For him to hear your voice? You know.... just putting that out there. Stop it.*

*the geeky/obsessive exception to this rule is when wishing pop culture icons/people who inspire you a happy birthday. If you do this, avoid looking like a hipster know-it-all and reference these people's works, preferrably by including a link to who they are/what they've done.

Rule #5: don't abuse social media privacy privileges or it will come back to haunt you and will become a nightmare worse than any horror film you've ever seen. Security on social media, and email for that matter, is more flimsy than 2008 Grammy's J-Lo. Cyber safety is currently a huge issue - treat the hidden coves of your social media existence as if they were public. Is there anything you wouldn't want your bosses to read? Any politically sensitive material? Offensive to where you live/work? Get rid of it.

Rule #6: documenting your every movement is silly because a) if you're Foursquare'ing all your locations, you are like a walking blimp for stalkers**, b) noone cares that you just made John a cake and that you are now having a cup of tea and that you are now watching a film and in another hour will watch another film and in another hour will discuss how awesome this film is with everyone on Twitter until you are all spent and retire to your bat caves digitally exhausted and ready to re-boot for another day with your pixel families and c) it's annoying. Moderation is key.

**security settings can help here, but really, why do we all need to know you were at Burger King and are now at the pub and are now back home? WHO CARES?

Are you guilty of any of these? Do you have any SM pet peeves?