Travel Therapy: Wise Words from Filippino Prisoners


I am absolutely in love with the Philippines. From the pristine beaches, to the lovely people and the many experiences available, it is certainly a number 1 to go visit- just don’t expect anything to be on time and you’ll be fine! 

I found out about an open prison in Palawan- an island in Philippines, where people could go visit and meet some of the prisoners. I jumped at this opportunity, as having completed my dissertation on Women In Prisons and previously worked for Fine Cell Work – a charity helping to rehabilitate prisoners through the art of needlework, I knew I had to see what prisoners in the Philippines were all about. 

The idea about Iwahig Prison is that the prisoners are there to work, whether it be on the rice fields, farming, building new developments or making furniture. They are allowed to roam free around the huge grounds but have to work for the majority of the day. All of these prisoners have been hand picked from Manila prison and had to go through rigorous testing in order to make it. Such as fitness, behaviour, mental health records from 3 professionals etc. 

Upon entering the prison grounds I was struck by how beautiful it was, lushus green rice fields, beautiful birds flying around and well made buildings. I saw inmates working away and all would smile as we drove by in our tuk tuk. I was almost pinching myself that I was technically in jail right then! 

Dropped off at the main entrance I heard backstreet boys coming from inside, as I walked into the room I saw a group of men all dancing a routine to I Want It That Way…. Quite an interesting sight considering these men looked pretty hard and with most of their bodies covered in tattoos! I wasn’t quite sure if I felt that these men were like performing monkeys or whether this was a creative way to raising money for their needs.  

Afterwards, dancer Jason (presumably he gave himself a Western name!) came over to me to show me the various things on sale that prisoners had made, all of which were extremely impressive. He told me that a percentage of the money made would go to the prisoners who desperately needed money to give to their families to visit, as they were often at least a flight away back in the capital Manila. The crimes within the prison ranged from high- life sentence prisoners, medium- 20 years or less and low- 5 years or less. They all lived separately depending on their category but would all work together during the day. He said this was great as gave them all a chance to integrate and learn to work together. 

He told me his dancing group was the best job to have! Everyday he gets to meet new people, so he never gets bored, and he very much enjoys seeing people smiling at his performance as it makes him feel like he is doing good for others! The only snag- they have to dance everyday from 6am-9pm whenever a new tourist enters, and as he is now a 40yr old man his back isn’t quite holding up, but he won’t let his place go! 

I chatted to Jason for a couple of hours, his story was indeed a harrowing one. Aged 14 living with his family in Manila, they got robbed by armed men, he and his father were shot after trying to defend their home. He awoke in hospital to find out his mother and sister were raped and murdered and his father never survived. A year later he took his revenge. He is now in prison for life, but he said that there was no life after what happened to his family…. He had the staple prison badge- 2 tear drop tattoos (for x2 murders) but had a very warm face- quite contrasting aspects! Jason asked lots of questions about me and then proceeded to give me some life advice – maybe he could sense I was in need of some!?

He told me the key in life is to forgive, not only others but yourself. To wake up everyday thankful that you’re alive and here, he looked at me and said I bet you don’t do that as it wouldn’t occur to you that you wouldn’t be alive- thinking about, he’s quite spot on! He said don’t be bitter. Fight what you can but know when to let go. My favourite- if a boy ever breaks your heart don’t let them see you cry! And his last advice: always have a smile, keeps you positive even if you don’t feel it! At that moment there I knew I had to soak up all his words because if a man jailed for life after seeing his family raped and murdered can be like this, then everyday I must make sure to wake up reminding myself to do the same… 

As I said goodbye he whispered to me to add him on FB, and then grinned saying he had an illegal phone in here and had used a fake name for his profile! Funny how social media can make even the hardest of men do silly things!!!

Il finish with a Video of the dancing Inmates! 

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Travel Therapy: Capetonians


Coming from Namibia where my last post was about how open my peers were about mental health issues and anxieties; I was expecting not much difference with the people I would be meeting in Cape Town. This was an error on my part. 

The truth of the matter is that it is quite a taboo subject over there. Now I could try and hypothesis about the history of South Africa and the affect it has had on all its people. But I am no historian and fear I won’t do it justice. So I shall merely discuss the people I met and issues they faced. 

From a Londoner’s point of view living in Cape Town is the dream, you have the city, you have the mountains, the beach and the great partying. But there is certainly a dark shadow that casts over the city. When talking to friends I had met, they too were facing the everyday struggles and anxieties we face but on a different scale. It would seem as a male you are not supposed to talk of your inner trials and tribulations, it comes across as weak. And as a woman it comes across unattractive to feel low/depressed. It almost felt like everyone needed to have this outer shell that showed their mates they were totally carefree and fun. 

I had a friend who got such bad depression/anxiety he couldn’t even get into his car. So secretly his mum took him to the doctors. He saw a therapist for a while, but told no one, knowing that if he did he would be judged and that certainly wouldn’t help his deeply low feelings. 

Unfortunately this isn’t a lone story, I’ve had friends dealing with bereavement, breakups, unemployment and all have the same underlying issue, seeking help was almost tougher than having to deal with the issue itself. I was trying to wrack my brain to see how my fellow peers could change this, how they could all learn to be more open/ accepting of these issues. Then I saw a feature on tv about the caravan man! 

This guy, a psychology student, wanted to raise awareness of the situation young Capetonians face and wanted to offer help. So he drives around in his multi coloured caravan offering insight into the situation and free therapy sessions. Whilst I’m very aware one caravan will certainly not cover the number of people out there needing help, it is certainly a great kick start into tackling this situation. 

Personally, I love the idea of bright colours and bringing positive vibes to people. Who knows I could be coming to an area near you with my multi coloured van! 

Travel Therapy: Namibia Part 2- How The Other Half Live

Continuing upon my 3 week tour, I had the pleasure of meeting young like minded Namibians along the way. We all sat around, joked, drank and shared cool music from our countries. When the conversation turned to more serious matters (yes by me!) I was quite surprised with what I found. 

I guess what initially struck me was the very apparent disparity between the haves and have nots. As per my last post – without an offering of a welfare system, the poor people have limited to no help with mental health issues. However, with my new friends I discovered any kind of therapy they needed was right there to be experienced for a certain price of course. I thought being a third world country they may not have access to CBT, NLP or any other dynamic approach to psychotherapy, I was wrong. There were many trained therapists in Namibia. 

But what they all seemed to share was the apparent speed in which they had been prescribed anti-depressants. My first question was to ask why a lot of them needed/wanted to go to therapy in the first place. Funnily enough, it was similar reasons to my fellow peers in the UK- anxiety with what to do in life, depressed about who they were, too much recreational drug use and just an overwhelming question of who they were and where they fitted in. 

I understand there is certainly a place for anti-depressants, and indeed have some friends who have needed them. But to be sat in a group and told about the frequency of how many times they have been prescribed meds, seemed a bit odd to me. 

It was clear the majority of them felt the anti-depressants were turning them into zombies and not actually solving their issues. Instead, they’ve learnt to talk to each other. This includes men, I could be making a generalisation here but I would go so far as to say that Namibian men (of a certain background) are a lot more content about sharing their feelings, being open and asking each other for help. Indeed aside from that, what I found totally refreshing was how open both men and women were to these kinds of topics; I even witnessed how healing it was to be in a large group where everyone felt comfortable enough to share their thoughts. 

This is something I shall try to bring back to the UK with me. So be ready everyone – group sharing shall be coming to a place near you soon 😬

Travel Therapy: 1st Country – Namibia, Part 1.

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January 2017 saw the start of my world travels for 4 months, ok I say world, I mean 3 continents! I had many aims for these travels, self development and cultural growth to name a couple. But I also wanted to expand upon the Psychotherapy Course I undertook last year in London. What I really wanted to find out was how other countries dealt with mental health issues, addictions and whether having a therapist was as fashionable as it is in the UK & USA. Apart from simply learning, I also wanted to see if there were any techniques other countries used that could potentially be brought back to the UK, to form a new dynamic approach – maybe the Pasc Approach?!

My first stop was Namibia, and I was fortunate to be staying with a lady who introduced me to a great charity out there: Sister Namibia. Here they explained the biggest issue the country faces is with GBV (Gender Based Violence). This is the root cause for the majority of crimes, depression and death. The charity has found that the majority of GBV is due to the fact that men are depressed that women are becoming more equal in education and jobs, which in turn gives them more life choice. Domestic abuse, rape and murder all occur at the hands of men who cannot grasp the understanding that it is good for there to be equality and that it doesn’t make them any less of a man.

Charities such as Sister Namibia, but also a movement called MenEngage are the helping hands this issue needs. MenEngage seek to educate men about gender equality, their mission statement is for Equality to not be seen as taking power away from men, but to empower women. They offer counselling services; programmes and training which address behaviour change. These are invaluable and have clear results in reducing the crime levels of GBV.

As there is no NHS in Namibia, there certainly isn’t free therapy on hand, which is hard to see given such levels of depression in men and extreme damaging affects on women. I did come across one charity which offers free psychological therapy, Regain Trust. Here they offer individual and group counselling sessions with expert psychotherapists, and hold 4 month workshops to empower women and give them the ability to speak up.

What is clear from the work these charities do, is that psychotherapy and counselling techniques are the way forward in helping to combat these issues. Whilst I often find many flaws with our health care system in the UK, I shall count myself lucky that we have any help at all. However, it does also show that we need to continue being at the forefront of this profession and lead the way for the rest of the world.

Ever feel like your other half doesn’t quite get you? Or you sometimes don’t get them?

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You often feel that you’re living on a completely different planet to them, it’s as if you’re always doing more for them or that they simply don’t listen when you bang on about what it is you need to feel happy.

I’ve been reading this book The 5 Languages of Love. The idea is that we all have a language of love but when you’re in a relationship it is often the case that you don’t share the same language. In order to understand your other half better and for them to understand you, you need to know what both your languages are and what it is that makes you/ them feel loved. Once you’ve nailed this, you’ll be well on your way to a balanced/equal relationship.

The languages are:

Quality Time

  • This is actually spending time with them, not in front of the TV or at the cinema, but doing an activity one on one where you are sharing a quality experience. Apparently it’s at its best when you’re doing an activity that they love and know you don’t love as much, but appreciate you doing it for them. Beware, if it turns out they love S&M and want to chain you up and whip you, and you don’t feel too good about this, you don’t have to do it.

Acts of Service

  • When they do something for you that they know will make a big difference to you. Such as taking the bins out, giving a blow job, or making the bed. These things are not something they enjoy doing, but they know it makes a difference to you so they do it for you.

Physical Touch

  • In bed snuggles, public displays of affection (not groping in public, just holding hands perhaps), concentrating more on foreplay then getting their rocks off. Or agreeing to sex at least once a week.

Gifts

  •  Yup that’s right, some people feel loved when they’re given gifts. This can be anything from a new Chanel bag or simply to a stone you found on the beach you walked on together or even a book that they thought you’d love to read because you’re so into global warming.

Words of affirmation

  • This is telling them how good they are, randomly telling them that you love them, complimenting them, and encouraging them in whatever they want to do, not what you want them to do though. This should be done daily, not once in a blue moon.

Take the quiz to find out your language. In the next blog I will be going into each language and giving examples of how you can talk yours to them and vice versa.

QT: How Many Dates Should You Have Before You Do The Deed?

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Question Time: The age old question of how long one should wait until you seal the deal. If you do it too quickly will you look too easy, will the guy be put off, will he simply dump and run? But also a lady has needs too, and it’s hardly like we are expected to be virgins before we marry. So what is the right answer that will give you what you need and also help you keep your man?

Some people say after 3 dates the acceptable time arises. Others say they prefer to do every base apart from sex for at least 8 dates!

Answer: You must look at it in 2 ways. Firstly, if you know you’re one of those girls who bones and falls in love immediately (slash becomes obsessive and crazy jealous) then you must hold off, in fact don’t invest your time in a man, buy a vibrator, much easier for you emotionally.

For the rest of us, I would say 3 dates is the perfect time. The fact is, you can really get on well with someone, but if there isn’t any sexual chemistry then you need to know sooner rather than later. Every lady has needs, and they need to be met, we aren’t just some holes for them to enjoy themselves with. In terms of going down, that’s more a relationship vibe, lord knows where he was the night before and you’re considering putting your mouth around it??? NO NO NO, Genital Warts + Mouth = ruined for life!

Lesson to Learn: Know yourself well enough to know what you can handle, if once you have sex you expect to marry the guy, then you wait (or perhaps see a therapist because hunni it sounds like you’re a bunny boiler), however if you’re more aware and wanting your own needs met, then crack on, sex first, rest comes later.

QT: How Do I Make It More Serious With Him Without Actually Having To Ask?

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Question Time: You’ve been dating this guy for a while now, you both seem equally into each other, but he hasn’t made that next step to make things more official. Does he see this as just a bit of fun? Is he still dating others? How do you find out where you stand without having to embarrass yourself and ask directly?

Answer: You never want to show your cards first, in fact with men the best way to get what you want is to be as indirect as humanly possible, but still lead the situation. So Get To Work!

First off you must continue the ‘cool, sexy, fun girl’ attitude, don’t start getting all clingy or moody, that certainly isn’t going to help trap him down. Then after a mind blowing night of fun, you check your phone in the morning and giggle to yourself. Turn to him pretending to look slightly awkward, and say that this guy has just messaged you wanting to take you out. You in fact aren’t that interested and you’re really enjoying your time with him, but you don’t want to put all your eggs into one basket, and if he isn’t on the same wave length that’s fine, you just wanted to make sure you weren’t being unfair to him as that isn’t your style.

Like clock work, the simmer of jealousy will turn to the boil, no way does he want someone else taking you on, especially after the night you just gave him. And voila, you have both just agreed to be exclusive.

Lesson To Learn: Don’t ask for what you want, men are like chess pieces, if you move them around appropriately you will not only end up winning but also still manage to keep that cool, chilled girl persona you worked so hard to build.

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QT: I’ve Met Him Through A Dating App, Will People Judge Me If I Tell The Truth?

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Question Time: You’ve met one of the dreamiest men and things are going pretty strong. However, the more you take him to mates parties the more the question arises of ‘soooooo how did you meet?’ You think that everyone will judge you for not being able to get a man the good old fashion way. Doesn’t online dating wreak of desperation? Surely there’s something wrong with you?  Do you come up with a lie to satisfy their needs of knowing, or tell the truth and risk everyone disowning you as a friend?

Answer: If your mates are that shallow, then the question should really be: should I sack them as mates??? Fact is, society has changed greatly and everything is online; we shouldn’t be ashamed of it, in fact people who can’t use digital should be disowned and sent back to the ice ages. What’s the difference between meeting someone online and meeting someone when you’re completely wasted at a party, surely the online one is better as at least you’re making a sober decision?

Lesson To Learn: If anyone chucks it at you about online dating, you simply ask them ‘oh were you kept up all night by your man too? Oh no you didn’t, shame, guess that’s what happens when you go for boring men to simply fit into the group…. At least with my one, we know we have the same passions (in and out of bed).

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QT:You’ve Found Out He Is Cheating On Your Friend, HELP! What Do you Do?

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Question Time: You’ve got hard evidence the little a**hole is cheating on your friend. Obviously you want to tell her, but she is so infatuated, talking of marriage etc that you simply can’t be the one to break it to her, plus you’ve heard what happens to the messenger.. SO what do you do?

Answer: Confront that lying bastardo. Firstly, do so in a public place, make sure to record the conversation, tell him you have naked snaps of him and not only soon will they be going up as your profile pic, but also they are on the way to the printers to be made into real life size posters. Then you shall go onto explain that he needs to tell your friend of his misdemeanours. And perhaps if he does so by the end of today then all of the above will be locked away in a safe only to be used if he doesn’t leave your friend alone.

Once the deed has been done, you organise a big ladies night at yours to cheer her up, oh and of course you must give her the obligatory break up survival kit: a picture of Ryan Gosling with a brand new vibrator.

Lesson to Learn: Don’t be the messenger if you don’t have to, but make sure it is done right. Overall aim is to keep your friend’s hurt to a minimum, and to help pick her up so that soon she’ll forget the ex and have moved on to an Italian stallion who shows her how it’s really done…

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QT: Everyone’s Getting Married, Where Does That Leave Me?

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Question Time: I’m in my late 20s and it feels like everyone is getting married and settling down to grownup life, but I’m no where near that, I’m not even sure what I’m doing in life? Cue anxiety and fear of being left behind….

From your smug friends who have just got engaged (you truly are happy for them but that doesn’t discount that they’re smug) to the ones who are popping out tiny humans. You start to get panicked, what if it will never happen to you? What if you never meet the perfect man, or what if the man you’re with isn’t 100% right? Will you ever have kids???

Tip: This is the time you need to stop, take a breathe and actually see the good points in your life. Don’t panic rush into a bad relationship or panic rush out of a good one, just WAIT. Remember the pros and cons list in previous blogs, write one of these. What’s great about your life and what could you change/tweak? Focus on those, not on everyone else’s lives and dreams, they’re theirs, not yours. You may have a bucket list to tick off before settling down, do it now, this is your time! Maybe you want to experience an Italian stallion or a silver fox once in your life, go go go because as you get older, these types won’t fancy you so much.

Lesson to Learn: With age gravity pulls everything down, and you’re still young and pert so crack on, time is running out to have this fun. Time isn’t running out to settle down and have babies, when you do meet the love of your life they’ll love you no matter how saggy your boobs are. So then you can look back at your life and feel content that you have truly lived it to the full before embarking on being a grown up.

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