Category Archives: Uncategorized

Alone and Lonely: A Few Quiet Mutterings

I have always enjoyed being by myself. But I have always used my alone time to interact with people and create. I like the validation and engagement that the internet can give, and it feels less exhausting than having to talk a lot with real people.

Being alone only became an issue for me when I began to feel lonely. This happened when I was studying my degree. I felt so different from everyone else. So out of tune with everyone there. It’s almost like people at university are vibrating more slowly – there’s no urgency, no sense of purpose or effervescence of spirit. I couldn’t connect with it. I couldn’t sink into that frequency. I was bullied a lot in school too. I was always different, but I tried very hard to fit in somewhere. As I get older, I care less and less about fitting in, but I am more lonely than ever.

I could exist quite contently with one or two rich, meaningful relationships with people. I haven’t had that in so long. I feel starved of the spirit of brilliant, interesting people, and like any starved thing, I’m becoming sluggish, malnourished, wilted.

I am clutching onto what I can to see me through, but I do sometimes feel as if a wallflower can be forgotten, and when it is, not even the rain drops that soak the bricks it clings to, will keep it from drying out.

A Perfectionists Guide on What (Not) To Do At University: 5 Things I Wish I’d Told Myself Before I Went

Hi All,

I decided to make this short guide because many of you are bright, intelligent people, who’ve had hard starts in life. As a result, you’ve struggled in the education system and it has left you with the belief that you cannot succeed in academia. This is simply untrue, and I am living proof.

I’m a third year History undergraduate who has made it to the final term of the final year (the dreaded dissertation looms) at a Russel group (Ivy League UK equivalent) university – on track for a 2:1; a pretty decent grade!

What makes this EVEN MORE REMARKABLE is that I did it all with very little support and WITHOUT MEDS.

Ok, so that’s me, but I wanted to tell you all why I think I need to give some advice on this subject. My experience, because I pushed myself so hard, was miserable. As a perfectionist (a personality trait I highly recommend NOT adopting) I worked so hard on the degree that I didn’t live. I pushed away relationships, exciting opportunities and virtually anything that made me happy in the pursuit of completing the course to a satisfactory level.

This is a TERRIBLE way to approach university as an experience, and I implore anyone thinking that they will approach it in the same way to reconsider! You are worth more than this piece of paper, and your happiness should not be bound up in something that will cost three years of your life at the expense of real human experiences.

The point I’m trying to make is this: You can go to University and be successful/ happy, but make sure you build support networks, take advantage of disability services and staff who will help you, use your family and friends to keep you accountable, and find your own methods of learning, don’t follow what you see others doing – it most likely won’t work for you!

Here are five things I’d tell myself if I was starting again from scratch (the very thought boggles the mind):

1. This degree is not a reflection of your personal abilities, rather a reflection on your ability to pass as neurotypical.

You MUST separate yourself from the idea that universities are assessing YOU. They are not. You are different and you have your own skills and abilities that often fall outside the range of assessment at educational institutions. Many of you are excellent analysts and problem solvers, some of you are excellent verbal communicators and excel in presenting information to people. Nearly all of you are exceedingly charming, a quality MORE THAN REGULARLY lacking in University environments. Your ability to read fast or spell well are not your strengths and so what? Yes, you’ll need to do both at university, but make sure you really reflect on your strengths as you go along – don’t invest your self-worth in your ability to read quickly and retain written information on demand.

2. Build a support network and make sure it is water-tight!

If you want to end up succeeding at university, you need a strong and stable support network, both in terms of your relationship to the university disability services and familial/ friend connections to lift you up emotionally when things get hard. I had a very hard time with this and if you cut people off, you’ll end up withdrawing more and more from your life and degree. So before you go, take stock – count up who it is you can count ON. Ask the university what they do for students with learning differences, ask to speak to representatives, come loaded with questions and take their responses very seriously into consideration when you choose the university degree for you. You deserve to be supported during your time at university and indeed ALWAYS.

3. Look after your BODY.

I can’t stress this enough. One of your highest priorities at university should be the regular administering of exercise, good food and even yoga/ meditation/ BOTH. We with ADHD are absolutely higher risks for illness under stress than the average person. What is more, our brains are as good as our bodies. Really, it’s true! Our ability to focus and learn is directly linked to our physicality. The more physically inactive we are, the less we can cope with the attention demands of the course. Some of my best work was done when I was in a regular gym routine, taking vitamins/ minerals and working on eating high protein, low carb meals, regularly spaced. The times when my work was worst or indeed the most stressful were those points where I relied on fast acting caffeine and high-sugar snacks to give me the energy I needed to get through the stress of impending deadlines. The more stressed I was, the less exercise I did and the more crap I ate. It’s a cycle of reinforcement that you need to keep an eye on at all times. I constantly got sick following these high stress/ poor diet/ exercise phases and that can be very demoralising over time. Don’t let it happen to you!

4. Find your own learning style.

From my own experience, underlining text, listening to lectures and passive reading of books are HORRIBLE ways for the ADHD brain to assimilate information. What worked best for me was to read and take notes as I went. Sometimes I would copy relevant passages verbatim, other times I would read a passage and summarise in my own words on paper. The important thing to remember again is the physicality. Because writing on paper involves movement, we process this information much more effectively than we do when we underline phrases or listen to lecturers – it’s even more effective than typing on a keyboard. Pen and paper is your friend and ally at university and you should also experiment with other ways that you can incorporate physicality into your degree. For History it made most sense to do as I did above, but for science degrees and more practical subjects, getting hands on as often as possible will make the information much easier to digest. Experiment, play around with it, find your own way, but NEVER rely on or expect neurotypical learning methods to serve you.

5. Find your tribe / work on your passions.

This was something I sorely missed out on at university. I never made many friends and I wish that I had. ADHD can be an extremely socially isolating condition for people and we need to acknowledge that. Nevertheless, I don’t want you to feel alone like I did, so please make the effort to put yourself out there and meet people. It might feel scary or difficult at first, but you deserve to feel connected in an environment that often feels extremely jarring for many. I personally found an outlet in drawing and writing. When I was stressed or overwhelmed I would retreat into my room and draw on my tablet for hours. I’m not brilliant at it, but it calms me down, gives me something creative to do, and builds a skill that might come in handy in the future! Find your own passions and USE THEM to escape from time to time. It is not healthy to think about university for three whole years of your life. Find your tribe, find your passions, let them consume you sometimes and forget about university at least occasionally. Your happiness and well-being is more important than the piece of paper you end up with in the end.

Afterword:

I hope some of these tips help you. I’m happy to answer other questions if they come along. The experience is a tough one and I won’t tell you that it will be easy, but part of the reason I wanted to learn in the first place is because I respect the experiences of people who came before us, and passing the baton of experience to those who are starting out feels important. I want you to have the best experience you can possibly have and avoid as many of the pitfalls that I have experienced as is humanly possible for you.

You are not defined by the establishment, so establish your own definition of education and hold onto it throughout. You’re good enough to do this, and you deserve to pursue your intellect at its fullest despite your ADHD. Look after your body, be looked after by others, learn how to learn in your own way, find your tribe, find your passion, and detach your self-worth from your academic achievements. These are pillars to live by at university, and I hope they serve to house you securely as you learn and grow as a person. Good luck. If I can do it, so can you.

Facebook – The New Opiate for the Masses That’s Making You Sick.

A week ago I announced I’d be leaving Facebook for a month to see how things changed in my life. This was after I did some research on how Facebook algorithms transform the way you behave online. Jaron Lanier’s ‘Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now’ inspired me to take the plunge. In his book, Lanier outlines that algorithms used on these platforms are constantly analysing your online behaviours, processing this information, and adapting your feed of information to maximise your engagement. Constantly evolving, these data-grabbing parasites find new ways to seize your attention and keep you locked in. It really works! And it’s especially effective against those of us who are compromised by our real life experiences. Let me illustrate by sharing a little of my own journey with the platform.

My Experience with Internet Addiction

Nearing a year prior to my decision to leave, Facebook had taken over my life. I was so invested in the platform that I spent most of my day getting attention, good and bad alike, as a mini kick to supplement my pathetic natural dopamine reserves. Thank you, brain, you’re so good to me. During this time, several significant life events had happened to me that knocked me off my feet. I had slipped a disk in the second year  of my degree which was causing a huge amount of pain and numbness in my legs. All the while I was working part time, hiding the fact from my boss and managing dicey personal relationships. I was cutting more and more real people out of my life as I slowly disconnected from reality. I had panic attacks, dissociation, health anxiety, and serious depression. I wanted to die, but I was also terrified of the idea of death. An unpleasant oscillation of negative emotions gripped me every day. As my real life started to implode inwards, my activities became deeply withdrawn and passive. I started to construct an alternative online persona, a confident, happy, egotistical version of myself that said whatever was on his mind. In short, a charming asshole. The feeling of having lost my voice in the real world translated to a booming, but meaningless online presence. I was clinging to control in the only corner of my life that I believed I had any left.

Little did I know at that time, Facebook, my little haven of safety, fantasy and control, was actually taking advantage of my vulnerability to keep me trapped in a cycle of depression, gasping for a breath of attention, but starved of real human connection. And these algorithms are designed to keep a person’s attention at the expense of the vulnerable. They learn the best ways to keep you online, and those most susceptible to addiction suffer the worst. How can we allow a platform that seems so innocuous and practically useful to systematically prey on the most compromised individuals in society? It’s simple, people just don’t know yet, and they really need to wake up from the stupor. Facebook has the chloroformed cloth to our face, and we’ve been under for long enough for us to forget who kidnapped us.

Would You Let an Organisation Build a Palace of Opiates in the Midst of Deprivation?

Do you know why a heroin addict takes heroin, even at the expense of his health, both physical and mental? He’s not lazy or a cockroach, he’s escaping his reality, and people who experience internet addiction on platforms like Facebook are doing the same. Groups and pages like ‘BPD meme Queen’ (BPD stands for Borderline Personality Disorder, a serious personality disorder that requires real world intervention) with over 120k likes, actively invites mental illness onto the platform, trapping more and more vulnerable people in the molasses of hollow experience.  Glorifying mental illness in the shape of memes and signposting it on Facebook is not healthy, yet it’s absolutely allowed on the platform.  I ask you, would you allow an organisation to hand out free opiates to vulnerable, struggling people who need help figuring out their reality? Would you let a giant corporation build a gleaming white tower in the centre of the most deprived area of a city, offering out free syringes for the people’s unbridled attention? I don’t think so. Yet we happily turn on our computers and let algorithms fuck with us all day long. Algorithms which become exponentially more effective, the more unwell we are.

The reality is this, you don’t need Facebook to stay in touch with people. Sure, it might be easier to use social media, it has all of your information in one place and it’s keeping it warm for you, but you do have a phone, you have messenger services, you can still send a text and ring people, even write letters (yes, we should do more of that especially). If we don’t put pressure on the networks to change, we’ll continue to experience all of these issues going forward. Facebook is making ill people worse over time, and in the best case, keeping people chronically not better.

Mark Zuckerberg – Building a Disease Free World on the Bodies of the Addicted

Mark Zuckerberg previously announced that, along with his partner Priscilla Chan, he would be donating 99% of Facebook’s shares to eradicate all human disease, founding the Chan Zuckerberg initiative in 2015. A lofty goal, but more importantly, one at odds with the very product used to fund this research. Addiction is a chronic brain disorder. It’s partly genetic, partly environmental, but according to the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a human disease. Many will argue that there are more serious and debilitating disorders, but that’s another debate and beyond this article. In its own right, addiction is a serious, debilitating brain disease that is being actively abused by Facebook’s algorithms, monitoring user behaviour, analysing the most visceral impulses of addiction, and using them against its users.

Addiction disconnects. Not only does Facebook help us unplug from reality, it does it under the guise of connecting the world. Why is this a problem? Facebook is funding its research against human disease with a technology that makes a serious human disease worse in the population. The very system that sells itself as making the world more social, more connected, is actually doing the opposite. Now, there are smarter people than me working at Facebook, of that I’m sure. Moreover, these people understand the technologies inside and out. So, given that the odds of Facebook engineers knowing everything I do and more, and yet not even advertising to the public better methods of networking, methods that are less manipulative and damaging to vulnerable people and the social fabric of society at large, what is the gig? Why isn’t this big news? Why isn’t this issue even on the radar at all? One can only imagine they have their very good, very legitimate reasons.

I’m sure.

Students! You are Prime Targets for Manipulation!

At this point many of you are probably wondering ‘what has this got to do with me? I’m not addicted. I’m just a student.’. And it’s a perfectly acceptable question to ask, but here’s the thing: As a student, you’re extremely vulnerable to Facebook’s manipulation. Students deal with higher levels of mental illness, depression and social anxiety, those being some of the most debilitating aspects for our social group. More than this, students are trying desperately to form social connections, especially when they first start out at university. Facebook and other social media platforms thrive on the insecurity of students trying to make their way on the social scene. We’re also chronically bored. Bored people find themselves spending inordinate amounts of time on these platforms because there’s nothing better to do. Procrastination, too, adds to student stress and burnout. Perhaps if we weren’t constantly having our essence sucked by horny virtual-dementor-algorithms, we’d have time to get some of our work done (I’m sure the least popular argument on this list). All of these factors make students prime targets for algorithms which want to keep you trapped in Zuckerberg’s Wonderland for as long as possible.

I’m not saying go cold turkey like I did but think very carefully about how you use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Communication, after all, is a two-way street. When we look out of the window, the things on the other side look back. The real question when using social media is who’s using who?

An Individualist Collective : Millennial Intent

The idea of a collective of individuals is probably a little difficult to digest, but contrasting ideas are often innovative and meaningful. Integrating and working with many different people with individual, unique backgrounds, purposes and minds is a revolutionary notion for a society which has become too samey, sluggish and boring.

Yes, we already have collectives, but they are homogenous, often espousing rigid, inflexible political mantras and violently ejecting anyone who does not agree with all of its overly simplistic, obstinate pillars of agreed wisdom. This was once religion, though now more often we see it in the far-left political sphere. More than ever, the idea of intolerance towards perceived intolerance (often just disagreement on truth), has become acceptable and even desirable on the left.

I ask, what kind of society do we want to build for our children and future generations? Is it a world filled with shame, inflexibility and intolerance to diversity of opinion (though often touting social diversity)? Or do we accept difference in human character, sexual orientation, race, religion AND thought? Nothing in nature is uniform, not even DNA, so why do we expect this to apply to ideas? The blueprint for life is built on variance, not similarity. Our thoughts, a product of our brains, and our brains – no two the same – a product of our DNA. Every biological blue print is different.

Here at Millennial Intent we appreciate variance in all forms, including the organic ideas in the organic mind. We connect, find value and meaning, through our differences. Like the magpie’s nest, we would have all the best, shiniest medallions of human thought and ingenuity, but unlike the magpie, we assort them to the benefit of humanity, building a narrative, a palace of ideas that everyone can benefit from.

We want a collective and to accommodate your ideas on our platform. We value independent thought. The kind of person who thinks about changing the world while they’re on the bus to work, or mowing the lawn on Sunday. We value active thought, inspired ideas that happen on the go. We make ideas meet, joining the dots, making the connections which make for fascinating reading world-shattering ideas.

There is no longer any diversity among the elites. The news outlets, social media platforms and Universities are against diversity, against you, the average working man or woman. Clever though you are, you are kept in check by these well established yet often difficult to see forces of negative pressure. You deserve better than this. We at Millennial Intent have started a grass roots movement for the disillusioned and depreciated. We want a platform that supports you and gives you a voice against these forces.

It comes as no surprise then that we see a lack of diversity amongst the political elites, media outlets, social media companies and Universities. All now (with but a few exceptions in news) can be described as left-wing organisations. Everywhere you see diversity crushed, a left-wing organisation harbouring virtuous slogans of social diversity has sprouted. It will be our job in this generation to pay close attention to the double standards, false virtues and evil deeds of these kinds of institutions. We have a moral duty to begin to call out these insidious tactics where we find them and replace them with honesty, integrity and cooperation.

Would a bird find its home if all the trees were the same? A flower is called a weed when it is numerous, and beautiful when it is rare. We value the summer because it only comes once a year.  Only a few have seen the Aurora Borealis in person and most say it is a singular wonder, a visual feast in the coldest regions of the world where the white snow frames its vibrancy all the better.

Be a flower amongst weeds. The first day of warmth after winter. An aurora on the edge of the world.

True diversity is rarer than you think.

Millennial Intent

Art by Zoe Outram Art

University – A Psychopathic Institution?

Psychopaths come in many flavours, all of them dangerous, but there’s a common thread that strings them together. Psychopaths create personas to hide behind, they might be the pleasant co-worker who asks you what you did at the weekend, or the cheery neighbour who always says ‘Hi’ with a smile as you’re leaving the house. Psychopaths have no empathy, they don’t feel anything for others, and they work hard to keep it a secret until it’s too late. Psychopaths are punishing, they act with cool rage and crushing retribution, delivered with full force, no remorse, and no warning. Psychopaths are dangerous because you can never tell where you really stand with them, until it’s too late.

Universities, too, are a little bit psychopathic, and here’s why:

Before getting to University, I was sold a face that didn’t match the interior. The open day was a bright and happy affair, bloated with opportunities, glowing reports, shiny presentations, and cheerful students. The reality was nothing like it. Fresher’s week, a thoroughly bizarre experience, left me swept under by feelings of isolation, sadness, and confusion, in the wake of excess intoxication, no sleep, false friendships, and having to deal with the behaviour of students even less well adjusted than myself.

Seminars were awkward, uncomfortable silences, intermitted by an equally uncomfortable lecturer’s cajoling – to no effect. You could sense nobody wanted to be there. Exams came, I’d never felt so wrong. Existing, just, on caffeine, sugar, the promise of a restful summer with no essays or exams, and pure-bliss freedom. The relief came and went in an instant. I sat on my chair at 10 am, after being up for nearly two straight days and laughed. Hysterically. The summer lacked its promise. Where was the rest? Gone with the thought I’d not make it to year two. How did I know I would, when I wrote my 24/48 hour exams not feeling at all like myself? I didn’t trust Mr Hyde, the maniacal, caffeinated creature, to do me justice.

So that was year one. Sunshine and daisies? Hardly.

The flowers only grew on the grave of my stable sense of self, the sun revealed the camber of the newly disturbed earth beneath. And the face of the establishment fell. I knew that University was filled with hollow promises and veneered smiles. It came for the person I was and smashed it to pieces. A sledgehammer of insanity, it walloped me.

Am I the only one to take a bludgeoning? I don’t think so.

And what did it offer me as recompense? There’s the open door team. You can see them a couple of times a term, if you’re lucky. There’s your supervisor, untrained and helpless to help. There’s the groggy, sluggish system, which punishes poor attendance, but prances prissily around the issue of mental health support. I don’t even know where I stand with it. Who makes up the rules and more so, where are they?

So, for me, university feels like something pretending to be what it’s not. It left me to fend for myself psychologically and emotionally, and in confusion, caused by the dissonance between perception and reality. It didn’t care that I wasn’t coping. If it did, there would be the necessary infrastructure to support students in crisis, but the reality is, it doesn’t exist. The rapid pace, lack of support, and brutal examination periods has left me, and many other students battered. I didn’t realise until it was too late, and I’m part of a bigger problem. It’s happening to students everywhere.

UPP student survey for the Guardian found that 87% of first year students struggled with some variation of mental health issue. Of this figure, almost half (44%), reported feeling lonely or isolated. We are facing an epidemic of psychological illness at universities across the country. Universities are not doing enough to support mental health issues, and we need real change here. With an institution that hides behind a cheerful, sun-beam persona, obliquely avoiding the issue of mental health, and smashing students to bits psychologically, university is a lot like an anti-social monolith, and it must work with students to learn how to feel again.