On March 3 of 2021, Sarah Everad, a 33 year old woman, disappeared on a walk home in south London. She was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by London Metropolitan Police officer, Waye Couzens, who was arrested on March 10. This case has led to a series of protests from women in the London area, as people are desperately trying to bring attention to the staggering violence against women. Sarah Everad’s death is deeply mourned by people all across the globe and many are hoping for justice.
Unfortunately, this is just one of thousands of cases of disappearances and murders of young women. For men, this case represents one woman who died of an undeserved death. For women, it propels the already existing fear and threats that come with simply living in a society dominated by men. Research conducted by UN Women UK has revealed that 97% of young women in the United Kingdom have experienced sexual harassment or assault. This statistic is far too high for this issue to continue being overlooked.
The violence towards women is a global issue, and women in all countries are affected by it. My experience in California is very similar to the experiences that women in the UK have come forward about. One of my experiences that I recall very often is when I was walking home and a car pulled up next to me. My immediate reaction was to contemplate running away, but there was really no place for me to go because I was walking along a long sidewalk in a neighborhood, which meant that there was nowhere for me to turn. The man in the car was an uber driver, who looked to be well into his thirties. He kept complimenting me and asking me for my phone number, without taking “no” for an answer. Though I was sixteen at the time, I lied and told him I was only fourteen, to which he apologized and drove away. This situation made me feel so shaken and afraid. I felt violated in so many ways. Even if I was a legal adult, that behavior is still incredibly disgusting. The man's behavior was highly inappropriate and his refusal to stop after my first objection meant he had no respect for my boundaries. Though this incident was not violent, it perpetuates the idea that men are entitled to a woman's body and mind, which often results in sexual assault and violence. It also shows that this type of harassment occurs at an international scale.
Right now, many people including myself feel mentally exhausted. It is so tiring to see news of these attacks, day after day, with no improvements. What happened to Sarah Everad is beyond sickening, but it did spark many discussions about this topic. This is an important step towards helping women, spreading awareness, and listening to the struggles that we go through. It is so vital that we stand with victims of sexual assault. While it is very important, spreading awareness and showing support is not enough. If you identify as a man or a boy, you need to be asking yourself the following questions. Do you blame victims? Do you watch rape porn? Do you make or laugh at rape jokes? Do you remain friends with people that have been called out for predatory behavior? Do you blindly defend your favorite musician, actor, or influencer when they get accused of predatory behavior? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to genuinely reflect on your actions. This form of behavior encourages rape culture, and it makes society a dangerous place for women to live in. It is important to recognize that not all men are like this, however, all women are affected by it. In the patriarchal society, the collective group of men hold power over women. A lot of men choose to abuse this power by controlling, intimidating, or harassing women. There are men who are not like this, but they should not be rewarded by simply doing the bare minimum. I encourage the innocent men to do more than just bystand these actions, and instead, actively support victims by standing up against sexual assault.
Violence against women is a world-wide crisis, and it is up to men to make a difference. Women get harassed, sexually assaulted, beaten, and killed by men at a disproportionate rate. Gender-based violence is a major issue, but we can all do our part to make an impact. Spreading awareness, believing victims, and calling out predatory behavior makes a big change and will lead us in the right direction to a safer society. It is deeply saddening that this discussion arose in the mainstream media at the expense of Sarah Everad and so many other victims. I truly mourn for Sarah and her family. May she rest in peace.
Helplines and Resources:
Before I was introduced to TWE, I was a depressed teenager going through puberty and dealing with bullying too. When someone would ask me about where I would see myself in the future I would answer, “Well, it’s a blur to me and I don’t see it being a positive one”.
Being bullied would be hard for anyone who has ever experienced it and that would make them feel so low in themselves, this is what it done to me! I was being called names like ‘ginger-ninja’ or ‘fat’. This made me feel like I was nothing and that’s when I became depressed.
When Emily (founder of TWE) messaged me out the blue, saying she liked my posts I made on Twitter she wanted me to become a part of the team. This really put a smile on my face that the posts I create for my social media would also help others too.
I will admit I was scared about joining TWE because it was a new experience for me but I didn’t realise how much of a positive impact it would make on my life!
The team was really welcoming and gave me a chance to do what I loved, which was writing! I love writing my heart out and whatever comes to my mind I can make into an article.
I gained new skills like how to structure my articles and how to plan out my social media posts. These were handy skills to learn because now when I want to post something, I have a plan to follow!
Now, 5 years down the line I’ve gained so much confidence with my creative writing and I also made so many friends through Teenagers With Experience and these friends are ones for life! So, joining TWE has become a part of my life now and I couldn’t be more happy being a team member for them.
The pink Tax
If you identify as a female or have a vagina, congrats! - you pay twice as much for almost everything as men do for the identical product. If you purchase feminine hygiene products, women’s clothing, women’s razors, women’s body wash, etc, you’re paying the pink tax! The pink tax is a name given for the extra amount that women are subject to paying for specific products or services. So no, it is not an actual tax per say, but it is an extra amount of money we have to pay. We pay thousands of dollars more every year than men just for our lack of a schlong.
Let’s take a trip through Target. We’ll go to the personal care aisle first to shop for razors. Since I am a woman, naturally, I’ll go for the women’s razor, which is $6.49. When reaching for it, I see the men’s razor. Alas! It’s $4.99! Well, the women’s razor should be more suited for my body, so my wallet will have to suffer just a tiny bit. Next, we’ll buy some laxatives. We have two options: the women’s laxatives, and the men’s laxatives; same exact formula and amount, they just slapped a different color on it. The women’s laxatives are $12.30 and - you guessed it - the men’s laxatives are HALF the cost: $5.49. How about we take a look at some other random products, just for fun?
Cisgender women go through periods, menopause, and sometimes childbirth; All/most women put up with sexual harassment, societal pressure to put extra work into our appearance like wearing makeup or shaving our legs, fear of walking alone; I could go on forever. We have to waste an extensive amount of money on things we can’t help needing like tampons and pads. Then, here comes the pink tax to join the list of things society has decided to do to belittle women.
Don’t get discouraged if you’re a woman, though! We have put up with the misogynistic ideals of the patriarchy for centuries. We have been strong enough to turn the other cheek for centuries. We will continue to fight for equality to reverse the idolization of males that society has clung to for centuries. It is the year 2020, and it’s crucial that we continue to demand equality: equal pay, equal rights, and equal respect.
Depression with Anti-Vax Parents
Trigger Warning: This article talks about depression and suicide.
Disclaimer: I am not dismissing either process explained in this article. I am only sharing my experience and what worked for me.
Ever since I was around 8 or 9 years old, I have been battling my depression. I experienced the whole shebang! I had no appetite, severe panic attacks, horrendous suicidal thoughts, I felt empty yet indescribably despondent. It got to the point where it felt impossible to get out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t get through a full 5 days of school and called my parents to pick me up multiple times a week. At that point, I obviously couldn’t really hide it from them. I was exhausted and couldn’t go on that way anymore. One morning, I had my dad pick me up from school. He drove as I sobbed in the passenger seat for what felt like an eternity. I then asked him if they could afford a therapist for me, and to my surprise, they could.
A few days after that, I went to see a psychologist. She had me do several tests including a series of drawings and a questionnaire. After 2 or 3 sessions, she told me I had depression and anxiety. Right off the bat, my parents were already sceptical. They kept saying how quick it was and expressing their distrust for my psychologist. I wasn’t sure if they were just insecure about picking the right therapist for me or if they had trouble accepting the diagnosis, which I understood; I, myself, am still having issues with accepting it.
With this information, my psychologist suggested immediately starting me on antidepressants. My father, the most stubborn and ignorant anti vaxxer there is, was furious. He also had depression and hated being on his meds. He believes that doctors are trained to give medication as a solution to everything and not give what could be more beneficial holistic options. My mom was reluctant, but never argued with either side. I’m assuming it was to prohibit any added stress on me. We went to see a psychiatrist so she could prescribe an antidepressant and dosage. She decided to go with Zoloft, which is what my father used. From that first appointment, she already started talking about how we would start with 25 mg, then 50 mg, then 100 mg, and so on. She was also saying how most of her adolescent patients do best at 200-250 mg. I assume you can imagine my parents’ reaction. I’m surprised they didn’t burn the hospital down (exaggeration!!)! Their problem with this was that before she even talked to me about anything like how I felt or how bad my condition was, the psychiatrist was already talking about going up to 200+ mg. My father constantly reminded me how he felt like a zombie on just 25 mg, nonetheless 200. I understand that he just wants the best for me, as most parents do. However, his comments and reminders did nothing but give me extra anxiety and irritate me. I was having trouble accepting being on meds, too. I guess it made me feel as though there was something wrong with me or maybe it solidified the idea that I need help, or I possibly even felt immense relief that I was finally getting help. I honestly don’t know what I was feeling.
When I was on 25 mg, I felt no difference after a few weeks. I couldn’t talk to my parents about it since they would start arguing with me about how I should be going the holistic route and the doctors are just trying to drug me, etc. I talked to my psychologist about it, and she increased the dosage to 50 mg. From there, I was feeling a little better, but was still in a horrible mental state. I gave it a few more weeks, but I couldn’t take it anymore. I talked to my psychiatrist (not my psychologist) and she wanted to jump to 100 mg. I could’ve sworn my dad had a stroke. Once we picked up the prescription, we realized the psychiatrist made a mistake and gave us 50 mg again. I was devastated but I could tell my mom was kind of relieved. From this point on, we kept information on the dosages from my father, thinking he would start an argument with my doctors and cause more problems for me. We told my psychiatrist and she said to just take 2 pills for a total 100 mg. My psychologist said to instead cut some of the pills in half and to take 1.5 pills for a total of 75 mg. Up until about a week ago, I continued this dosage. I was still having suicidal thoughts occasionally (2-3 times a month), and my anxiety never lessened throughout this process. We increased the dosage to 100 mg, which is what I’m on right now. This is probably the best I’ve felt in years. I’m still coping with everything; in fact, I cried while writing this article.
If your situation was anything similar to mine, just remember that both sides just want the best for you. You must do what you think is best for you. If you want to go the holistic route, just know – according to my parents – it takes longer than medication; like months longer, but my father swears by it. All I can say is that western medicine is what worked for me. Curing depression is a very slow process with a lot of experimentation to find what works best for you. You should work yourself towards telling your doctors everything! No matter how hard it is to talk about, try not to leave any details out; it makes it easier for them to help. I recommend reading “Finding a Therapist Who Can Help You Heal” by HelpGuide for more information on how doing this helps in the long run. This is coming from a person who didn’t speak about her depression for 6-7 years. I bottled everything up until I reached my worst state. Happiness, as grammatically incorrect as this sentence is, is so much better!
If you are struggling with depression, please just speak to anyone whether it be a friend, sibling, trusted adult, or doctor. One thing my parents used to say to me is that the one good thing about rock bottom is that the only way to go from there is up. It really is worth it!
Depression and suicide helplines:
The history of aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy is the use of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils for healing and cosmetic purposes. The history of aromatherapy can be drawn from many places, such as the Egyptians who developed the first distillation machines to obtain oils. The use of aromatic oils as mood enhancers is thought to have originated in China, and the Greeks contributed to modern aromatherapy, especially as it was used for healing purposes and a highly valued practice. In fact, in Greek mythology it is believed that Gods were gifted with the knowledge of perfume and fragrance. Medical benefits of aromatherapy were not proven until World War II, where a French surgeon, Jean Valnet used essential oils to aid in healing soldiers’ wounds.
So, how can aromatherapy help teens? It can actually help in many of the challenges heightened during adolescence. Essential oil properties vary from oil to oil, something that can make the process of looking to buy any intimidating, but the ones I will be detailing in this article are especially useful for dealing with stress, mood swings, concentration, and have a multitude of other uses.
Uses: Rosemary is the perfect oil for pre-exam stress, this is because it has not only been shown to improve both concentration levels and information recall, but it can also reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, rosemary can lower levels of cortisol, a hormone which can cause insomnia and mood swings, this means that rosemary can boost your mood, making you feel more energetic, more alert, and happier. Ideal mental conditions for exam season!
How to Use: One way you can apply rosemary is by applying a diluted oil to your skin.
Uses: Peppermint is perfect for those mornings when you feel tired and unmotivated as it is a natural stimulant of which helps concentration, boosts energy, and overall mental performance. Both exhaustion and irritability are lessened by peppermint and it can also help to alleviate stress.
How to Use: Peppermint can be applied from an oil and rubbed into the skin; if you are using it specifically for stress then it can be rubbed into the temple.
Uses: When going through a stressful time in your life, lavender can assist in making it just that bit easier to manage. Perhaps best known for its calming properties, lavender indeed promotes calmness and induces sleep due to being a sedative. Additionally, lavender has been shown to have uplifting effects, this leads to an overall result of you feeling well-rested and in a good mood!
How to Use: Lavender is relatively easy to access in many different forms. In oil form it can be bought at local shops or ordered online (websites listed at the end), in its raw form you can even grow your own lavender relatively easily from the seed. If grown, then one way to use lavender is by cutting off a sprig and placing it under your pillow.
Uses: Another very useful oil for relaxation is clary sage, which has been shown to reduce dizziness, anxiety, and irritability. Some studies even show that it can help with blocked creativity and confusion.
How to Use: Clary sage is best used as an oil mixed with another substance such as coconut oil and then massaged into the skin. Another way to use it , especially for relaxation, is to put three to five drops into bathwater, this also has cosmetic benefits from the oil on your skin and is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the relaxation through the steam produced.
Overall, aromatherapy has amazing benefits for everyone; it is easily accessible through online shops, high street shops and even your own garden! As a method of self-care, aromatherapy is easy to do and the cosmetic and mental gains are abundant. It can help you generally feel like your best self!
Useful websites for buying essential oils:
The world of full time work
In the run-up to my post-A-levels summer, I always planned to work full time. I knew I had to do it since I’d put aside no money for university and I’m notoriously bad with spending. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to do it, and when I actually finished my exams I was slightly stumped. This was it. Time to swap out the revision cards for the world of work. There were a few problems at first - I couldn’t go full time at my current job at Primark, I had no way of getting there and perhaps the most prominent issue: I had absolutely no motivation to do it.
Why would I? I’d spent the last two years tirelessly working for my exams, finding a balance between writing, my part-time job and all of the other problems life was pummelling at me. Summer was meant to me my time to relax and finally take a breath. I handed in my notice at Primark with the promise to myself that I would find a full-time job, made a few half-arsed applications on Indeed and kicked my feet up, indulging in Netflix and doing absolutely nothing. However, when I did, I had a nagging voice in the back of my head. You’re not doing enough. You should be doing more. I felt guilty.
I posted a message in a Facebook group for employees of the coffee chain I’d worked to prior to Primark, simply asking if anyone needed a new member. I already had contacts within the company as I’d worked in several stores for them and it wasn’t long before I’d signed a 30-hour contract at a local store. I was excited to be back at first, but after a few shifts that wore off. Rude customers, lunch rushes and running out of stock was not something I had missed.
However, I knew I had to do it. I needed the money and I needed something to do over the summer. I passed my driving test by that point but a car was useless if I couldn’t afford the petrol or insurance. Again, I felt guilty for not working; I knew this was a better chance than any to earn some money and it would benefit me in the long run.
The Influence of TV characters
I think there’s something about certain TV show characters.
I’ve binged a lot of shows in my life -sitcoms, romcoms, dramas, everything. I’ve found myself getting lost in TV characters and their stories. There’s something about being invested in them that makes me hit that dreaded next episode button. Heck, I’ve even found myself watching fan edits and reading fan-fiction about some characters. When you become invested in their story, they can become a big part of your life.
The first show I watched properly and intensely was the Big Bang Theory. I haven’t shied away from criticising the show in my previous articles, but that doesn’t make it any less important. I started watching it with my dad in when it first aired in 2007, and even though I felt the show and its comedic elements went downhill, I still tuned in a few months ago for the series finale. It felt like part of my childhood was ending - the show had been in my life for eleven years.
Another show that really pulled at my heartstrings was How I Met Your Mother. The show captures the lives of five friends in the big city - which is the pretence for every sitcom ever - but somehow, each individual character makes you feel different things. It follows issues such as break-ups, cheating, losing people close to you, infertility and absent parents. I’ve dealt with some of those things in my own life and seeing it reflected on-screen did something to me.
The thing about TV characters is that they’re always there. They’re constant - things around you might change rapidly but your favourite show will always be there to watch when you need it. The sense of community that you get from a sitcom or the feeling of warmth from an amazing series finale can brighten your day.
I’ve found inspiration in them as well. When there’s an epic love story, it influences my own writing. When there’s heartbreak, I’ve translated the angst that worked in the show into my own work. There are real people behind the characters and words and feelings and that can easily hit home for you.
For example, I’ve been watching Jane the Virgin since it aired in 2014. I recently got around to watch the series finale and it made me cry - in fact, it wasn’t crying. It was ugly howling and blubbering and weeping. The show made me feel something. I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. It’s so easy to get invested in them.
For me, I love the feeling of being involved. After watching ten seasons of Friends, I felt like I was a member of their group. After bingeing Orange Is the New Black, I felt passionate about seeing where the women in the show went. It’s okay to let yourself be uplifted by a TV show. Sometimes, it can be a distraction or even a coping mechanism to help you deal with things going on in your own life.
Never be embarrassed to embrace your love of TV shows and the characters within them. The people on screen can be our heroes - I’m not afraid to let myself be inspired by them.
The good place - a review
The Good Place is an American sitcom with an unexpected depth. The basic idea is that Eleanor Shelstrop (played by Kristen Bell) wakes up after dying in a heaven-like utopia called The Good Place. She quickly realises that she has been mixed up with a human rights lawyer of the same name and doesn't deserve to be there. As you can imagine what follows is a journey of near misses that will keep you glued to the screen. The plot is skilfully woven with new revelations and a particularly clever twist at the end of the first season.
However, the characters are what kept me addicted to the show.
Chidi, Eleanor's supposed soul mate, is a well-intentioned Philosophy professor with crippling indecision. His application of various famous Philosophical ideas to the situations he finds himself in are mind-bending and educational in the most interesting way. Perhaps what I most like about him is the solidity of his integrity, something I find refreshing when self-centred characters with subjective morals are so common.
Eleanor somehow has a personality worth binge-watching. She's witty enough to be quote-worthy and her interactions with the others will have you rolling with laughter. She begins as a self-obsessed character but fights to stay in a good place with a stubborn persistence that will leave you cheering for her anyway. Gradually the connection she forms with the other characters changes her and the unlikely four friends navigate whatever is thrown at them.
The other two main characters are Tahini Al-Jamil and Jason Mendoza. I can't say much about Jason without spoiling it if you haven't seen the first few episodes. But trust me you'll love him in his own special way.
Tahini is a "sexy skyscraper" in the words of Eleanor (who is equally attractive) and there's certainly some queer baiting going on. Eleanor is clear about being attracted to her. (Three cheers for a show that normalises queer characters so much that no one mentions it). There's even a hint in one scene that Tahini could be Eleanor's soul mate (can't say more without spoiling it) which was almost certainly thrown in there so the fanfic world could go crazy. Appearance and attraction aside, Tahini is a character with her own quirks and insecurities. Her posh British accent and snobby ways often rubbing up hilariously against the others.
As well as being a light-hearted and relaxing show it deals with bigger questions. Should we all get rated as good or bad people based on what we do? What makes us good or bad? If we did loads of good things but with the wrong intentions do they count? Or if like Chidi we buy a blueberry muffin instead of a chocolate one not knowing that the migrant workers picking the blueberries are being mistreated are we guilty? Who would actually be counted as good if we do all get tallied up? Should there be an average place for the average person?
All these questions might not be your cup of tea but for me, it was certainly a delightful watch.
Pre-Results day feelings
With results day creeping up emotions will be running high. You may be feeling excited, nauseated, scared, worried or you might be in denial. However, whatever you are feeling is justified. These results might be important, but they aren’t the end of the world. If you tried your best in the exam everything will be okay.
If you are like me you have completely disregarded your post-exam feelings which made you feel happy about the exam you have just taken and are now feeling like you have failed all your exams, failed life and contemplating marrying rich. However, just remember you are your own worse critic. My mum once told me to try and not envision stressful or scary events. This is because it makes you live through it twice. In addition, you always envision it worse than it really is.
You might be wondering; how do I deal with these feelings? Well, there are many coping mechanisms that can help you. One way which I am sure many of you do is relax and watch Netflix. Watching Netflix or tv can help you switch off your brain. Another way is reading a book. Personally, when I am stressed, I read Harry Potter as I love envisioning myself learning spells at Hogwarts or playing Quidditch alongside Harry. Things like movies and books help you escape your reality and envision yourself elsewhere.
However, sometimes trying to escape doesn’t work or becomes an unhealthy habit. Ways to deal with your feelings are keeping a journal specifically for emotion and mental health. I have personally filled many journals over the years with my feelings as a way for me to get them out without verbally speaking them. However, some people prefer talking to people. You might want to talk to a family member, friend or someone who specialises in talking about mental health.
In conclusion, you should try to enjoy your summer. You have earned it! You will feel so much better creating memories with friends or admiring the sunsets. Results day is inevitable, there is no way to prevent so you should try your hardest not to obsess about it. I know it is hard but no matter what your results are you will feel happy that you didn’t waste most of your summer fretting about something you had no longer any control over.
Phases of sexuality
Phases of Sexuality
As people grow and gain more knowledge of themselves and the world around them, it is perfectly normal to begin to question aspects of yourself you may have considered constants, such as your gender identity or sexuality. I’m going to focus on the latter for this particular discussion.
One of the most common pieces of casual homophobia I have seen and experienced is others assuming that a person’s sexuality is just a ‘phase’, and something that will be grown out of and ‘corrected’ with time. Often, this is not the case, and the identity a person decide fits them doesn’t change much (or at all) as they grow as a person. However, sometimes this does change, and that is okay. You are allowed to grow and discover who you are at whatever pace suits you, and it’s absolutely okay if you didn’t know your identity as a young child. Personally, I always had a feeling I wasn’t entirely straight, but I have several friends who only realized once they hit adolescence that they might not be heterosexual or cisgender. You might also feel like a label (different to the one you previously identified with) suits you better, and that’s also absolutely fine.
I personally am bisexual, but it’s a little more complicated than this, so I simply like to identify myself as ‘queer’, as there’s no specifics in that and it does fit my orientation. I know people that use very specific labels and intensely dislike being referred to as anything other than those labels, and I also know people that don’t like to use labels at all, even if one particular identity fits them perfectly.
However, there have been some cases of people realising that the identity of belonging to the LGBTQ+ community no longer fits them, and that being LGBTQ+ was not a long-lasting identity. That is also absolutely fine. What is not okay is somebody using one person’s experience to justify the ludicrous idea that sexuality is something a person can pick and choose.
In an interview in 2011, singer-songwriter Jessie J stated that she had “dated girls and boys”. However, in 2014, she renounced the label ‘bisexual’, saying that, for her, it was “a phase”, but explicitly argued that she was “not saying bisexuality is a phase for everybody.” She came under fire for her use of the word ‘phase’ to describe her period of experimenting with her sexuality, because of its history of being used to disregard the LGBTQ+ community. Despite this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding one sexual or romantic preference is not what you want any more.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your sexuality or gender identity is yours and yours alone. Frankly, it’s not really anybody else’s business how you identify or how you label yourself. All that matters is that you are comfortable in your own skin, and screw what anybody else thinks. If somebody disagrees with you, that doesn’t matter. It’s not their identity to dictate.
If you have any issues, questions or queries regarding your sexuality or gender identity, one of us at TWE will be more than happy to chat with you.
Thank you for reading,
The articles here are written by guest writers or previous TWE members.