My Family, My Rocks.

 

As you travel though life, there is little as important as your family. Family doesn’t always mean genetically related, but whether you are lucky enough to have your own genes supporting you, or you are lucky enough to be able to have picked your own family (or variations thereof)… life would be almost impossible without them.

I have touched upon the support I get from my family quite a lot on this blog. That is for two reasons. Firstly to show how much I appreciate them and the love they show, but secondly and perhaps most importantly because I would never have been in a position to share my story without them.

My mental health issues can make me feel alone sometimes… and since I live on my own I do get lonely from time to time. But I am fortunate enough never to have been in a position where there was truly no one I could call for help, no matter how alone I felt. My crisis box has a big list of numbers of people who I can call on in a crisis. Family doesn’t mean never feeling alone, or never being lonely. Family means never *being* alone. Family is the people who support you no matter what, that offer their hands to help you get back up when you fall (even if they laugh first!) and who love you for who you are.

My family has been through a lot with me. They have seen me fall pretty hard. They have been frustrated beyond words with me, spent sleepless nights worrying about me, wasted petrol and time coming to help me out, or take me to appointments, or take me shopping. They have been genuinely scared by my actions, worried I wouldn’t be there the next morning. They have had to clean up my messes. They have had to offer me a shoulder to cry on even when they were angry with me. They have stood by me even when walking away would have been easier. And they love me despite knowing I will hurt them again. They have had to re-evaluate all their priorities and put their own lives on hold, at great personal cost. It certainly hasn’t been easy. But that is what true love is…. it is weathering the storms the best you can, because the rainbows and sunshine after it are worth it.

I have never been a perfect daughter, sister, mother, friend, niece or cousin. I never will be. And that is okay. Because the reward for dealing with me at my worst is seeing me at my best. I know my strength has carried people through difficult times. I know that I am 100% there for my family too. I know that the bad times are gradually becoming further apart and less severe. And that means the good times are coming. And most importantly I know I am capable of doing great things.

I have been feeling quite down recently. I have been having issues with my neighbours (I will post about that soon), my mental health hasn’t been great, and finding the right medication and therapy combination is proving particularly difficult right now. And then out of the blue a couple of weeks ago my dad asked me to go on a mini-holiday with him (and my daughter <3). He decided to take the time out and spend it with me. We are only going for a long weekend (in the week lol) because that is all the time he had spare. And despite that he chose to spend it with me. If that isn’t love, I am not sure what is. More than that, I was supposed to be doing something with my best friend on one of those days. When I talked to her about it she didn’t even hesitate for a second before telling me to go and have fun. That is despite the fact she could have used me there. Again, that is love.

Families don’t keep score. Don’t get me wrong, they will bring stuff up at the worst possible moments, they will laugh at you as well as cry with you and they don’t always make the right move… and they will bring up your past without question… but they don’t hold it against you.

You… you reading this. You have family. Probably a lot more family than you know really. Make sure you appreciate them, and thank them for being your Number 1 fans. They are special, and a little recognition is never a bad thing. Having family also means the tables are turned and you are their family too. So everything they do for you, you do for them.

They say love makes the world go round. Well of course it does! People stomping away after arguments with their loved ones make the Earth spin and so do all those doors that are slamming shut!

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Self Harming…. *Trigger Warning!*

 

I have been quiet for the last few weeks, and I apologise for that. I haven’t been doing very well. When I started writing this blog, I promised to share the good and the bad. It is important to me that I write about the REAL effects of living with mental health problems. I must warn you, this post contains triggers regarding self harm that could upset you. Please look away if you feel it will hurt you.

For 10 years, my self harm method of choice was always overdosing. Unfortunately, after a while, your body can’t cope with it any more. Because of that, I have cirrhosis of the liver. Half of it is dead, and it can’t repair itself as the damage was just too much.

Recently, I have been under immense pressure, that was added on to the usual massive dip in mood that happens around April and August each year. Basically, I was feeling helpless and lost. I knew I couldn’t overdose again, because genuinely I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to damage my liver even further. But I still needed a release, so I started cutting.

Yes, it was stupid. I know. But there you  have it… that is what happens when you need a release and nothing else works. I should mention that I raided my crisis box and phoned my local crisis team before cutting, and I was very helpfully told to go to bed!! Absolute joke… they are supposed to be the people who help when you are in crisis mode!

My experiences about cutting have in the past has been talking to those that have done it, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of it. I have heard them say watching the blood flow feels like you are letting the bad bits out. I have also heard people say it helps them feel in control, and that the pain helps them feel alive again. I am not sure what my experiences are yet… I just enjoy watching the blood build up.

I never thought I would write a blog like this, and it is a shame I lost the battle with my mind for a little while. But having spoken to various mental health professionals who have said that while cutting is not good, it is better than overdosing considering my liver status. I was given these tips, and I shall pass them on. Before I do, however, I need you to know I don’t condone cutting. I hope you manage to find better ways of coping, and I hope you look at my crisis box post for coping tips. I sincerely hope you never need these tips. But knowing that cutting is NOT a suicide attempt, and is simply a coping technique for when things get bad, means it is better to be safe that sorry.

  • Contact a mental health professional. This should ALWAYS be something you do before you self harm in any way. If you don’t have your own mental health nurse or other professional you can talk to, don’t forget there are still people you can talk to. Here are some useful numbers and websites.
  • Go through your crisis box. If you haven’t got one, please have a look at this page and create one. If you are stuck, let me know, I have been helping people put them together. These are distraction techniques that can be amazingly helpful!
  • Practice mindfulness… tips can be found here, here, here, or in any Google search.  It helps calm you down, and brings you back into the present moment.
  • If you must cut, keep it safe. Use sterile blades at all times (you can either buy sterile blades, or sterilise the ones  you have in sterilising fluid or even putting them in boiling water. If you are using disposable blades, make sure you dispose of them safely. If you are re-using the same blade, be super careful and vigilant about keeping it sterile. That last thing you want to worry about is an infected wound.
  • Wash the area you will be cutting AND your hands thoroughly, I use an antibacterial scrub to help. Keeping everything clean reduces the risk of infection.
  • Once you have cut, keeping the area clean and dry is essential. If it is a small cut, you can use an antiseptic, but don’t do that in a deeper cut as it will just get into your blood stream and wont work.
  • Dress the wound appropriately. Make sure you have a suitable first aid kit with the right size dressings and bandages (if needed). Put the dressing on the cut, and if the blood comes through that dressing put another dressing over the top, and wrap a bandage round it. The bandage should be firmly on, but not tight enough to cut of circulation or be uncomfortable. After twenty  minutes or so, you can go back and redress the wound. If it is still bleeding, reapply the bandage. If after a further ten minutes you are still bleeding, it is time to get some help.
  • Keep wound closing strips (Steristrips for example) handy, wounds heal quicker if the skin is together (rather than a gaping wound  in the middle) and scaring is less evident.
  • LEAVE IT ALONE! Once you have cut, leave the wound alone. Don’t keep removing the dressing to stare at it, you will have plenty of time for that later. The more often you remove the dressing the higher the risk of infection.
  • If the cut does get infected, seek guidance from your GP. Leaving it to go away on its own can be dangerous, so always get it checked over.

I hope you never need that list. The important thing to remember is that there ARE other ways of coping. Use all the tools you have and maybe this time you wont need to do it. Cutting should never be the first thing you do when you ‘feel the urge’.

I am NOT a medical professional of any kind. My advice should never substitute that of someone qualified. However, should you ever need to talk, if you want some advice, or just a friendly ear, you can contact me at any time. You are not alone, you are strong enough to cope, and you WILL come through this. Just stay safe!

 

 

 

All about Pills

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I currently rattle… literally. But I receive so many questions, comments and opinions on the different medications out there that I decided I should write about it. Now I know I say this all the time, but I wont be offering medical advice because I am not a medical professional. I can’t decide what medication, if any, might work for you. I don’t know you. But, having been on various tablets since a fairly young age (about 14 I think) I can offer an opinion on them.

Here is the long and short of it: some medications work for some people, and some medications do not work for some people. I know, I could nearly be a doctor with advice like that. But unfortunately, that is the truth of it. Whilst it would be amazing if one tablet cured everyone, that simply isn’t the case. Now many people don’t know too much about antidepressants and anti-psychotic medications, so it is easier to explain something that all of us have come across a few times in our lives: antibiotics. There are loads of different types, which is brilliant, because they work in different ways. Antibiotics can target specific areas, or your whole body. It will cure some things, but not everything. Some people have bad reactions on them, and some people are fine.

There are some that feel that medications are a sign of weakness. They are not. Nobody thinks twice about telling people their bodies defences have let them down and they are dosed up on paracetamol for a nasty cold. But because of social stigma, amongst other things, stating that you are on medication for mental health problems causes embarrassment and upset, along with probing questions, making the person disclosing such information uncomfortable.

This is another area of prejudice, stigma, naivety, ignorance and misinformation we as a society have a duty to tackle. Fortunately, we are heading in that direction. We are becoming a more open minded society and we now accept there are things we don’t understand, rather than making up strange things to explain it. Which is all brilliant. But there is still a fair way to go, and that is one of the reasons I started writing this blog.

Do not see medication as something scary. Any decisions regarding medication should ALWAYS be under the instruction of a doctor. There are plenty out there, so if you find one isn’t working you can move on to another one, particularly if you are getting annoying side effects. In this day and age there is no need to feel ‘drugged up’ or like a ‘walking zombie’ as some I know have described.

A member of my family recently expressed concern that going on certain medications would be a life-long thing. And, to be fair, for some, probably including myself, medication will be a part of our lives forever (or at the very least for the foreseeable future). But for most, medication is a temporary solution only. If it can help you get out of a hole and make positive changes in your life, then that is brilliant. There are some that only need to be on medication for a few months. But no matter how long you may need it for, weighing the pro’s and con’s with your GP is essential.

As people who read this blog regularly will know, I suffer with chronic depression (amongst other things). Things get a bit tricky with depression, because some of the best help you can get can only be provided by yourself… a better diet, more exercise, getting a hobby, getting into a good sleep routine, quitting smoking and excessive drinking, etcetera. The bummer is depression leaves people almost unable to do any of it due to the complete lack of motivation, energy, will power, and a myriad of other drains on your soul (to be quite frank about it). However,  if medication lifts your mood enough to help you make those changes, it might be worth it.

Just a cautionary tale to end with. I know a young man, who has been on medication for the vast majority of his adult life. He had finally got himself into a good place, things were going well, and he decided he was doing so well he was going to stop all medication immediately without consulting anyone. He went down hill rather quickly, and it took him three years to build his life back up to where he was before. At that point he slowly reduced medication over a period of time, under the supervision of his doctor. He has been medication free for 5 years now, is due to get married in the New Year and has a baby due any day now. I know some of the warning labels on various things sound stupid… but when it comes to your health there is little more important than getting it right. Please only use any medication you are given the way directed.

And never forget, you are in control. Make it your business to learn about your condition, to learn about the medications you have been given (whatever they are for), and do not be afraid to go back and talk to your doctor if you are not happy. Believe it or not, they like it if you go in with an idea of what you need to help you, providing you are able to listen to the advice and reasoning they give if they don’t agree with your conclusions. But don’t diagnose yourself… the are not so keen on Dr Google!

Overdosing Part 2- What to Expect:

Further to my post earlier today, I wanted to take some time to explain what taking an overdose is really like. This might be distressing for some, but if overdosing is something you are considering, then you need to read this. If you know someone who wants to kill themselves by pills, point them here, if you have a child that self harms, point them here. In fact, point everyone in this direction.

Now I want you to know something. Talking about this is something I find exceptionally difficult. There are aspects that embarrass me hugely, and bits that make me sad. I have even physically gagged while writing this article. However, if someone reading this reconsiders overdosing as a result, it is worth it. It will also help those who think taking huge amounts of tablets will just mean they go to sleep and wont wake up (yeah, I used to think that).

So lets start at the beginning. No doubt you have now been round to every shop you can think of, and bought (lets use paracetamol as an example as it is the most commonly used) 2 packs in every shop. I expect you got the ones without sugar-coating as they are cheaper. You know, the ones that are rather large, round, and taste awful if you have them on your tongue too long. So, now you have all the tablets in front of you.

The information below is from my experiences only and should not substitute seeking medical advice. What I am writing applies to both those that self harm by overdosing and those who are attempting to end their lives.

You have gotten the drink ready, written your note, and now you are staring at the packets. You start taking them one by one. You speed up a little as you gain confidence. This isn’t so bad!

After about 20 minutes, you start to smell something you can’t quite describe. It isn’t a nasty smell, but it isn’t going away. After that, you start to feel a little dizzy. The room begins to move. At this point, you start wondering if this was really the best idea you ever had. Then you realise you feel really sick. But you are so dizzy at this point there is no way you can make it to the bathroom. So you puke on the floor. Violently. Repeatedly. By now, you have decided you don’t want to die. At least not like this.

You have (just, and only just) made it to the phone. You have dialled 999 (or 911 for those across the pond) and you know an ambulance is on the way. The operator asks you to unlock or open your door to allow the ambulance service entry. That’s  when it hits you. You can no longer feel your legs, and you are frozen on the spot. You can’t move. Panic sets in at this point. You have just decided you want to live and then you can let help in. You are going to die in that very spot. The panic attack leaves you in even more pain. You start to cry as you realise how stupid you have been.

Your stomach has been entirely emptied now. There is simply nothing left in it. So your body starts bringing up bile, that burns your throat raw. After that, the blood makes an appearance. You are retching SO HARD that you shit yourself. That is the worst bit. At that point you realise exactly how bad things are.

Fortunately for you, a neighbour has a key and is able to let the ambulance crew in. They take you to the hospital, and you are put on a drip (activated charcoal and stomach pumping are other options if the overdose was caught early). You are still being sick however, and by now it, along with the agonising spasms in your stomach, is causing extreme pain. And they wont/ can’t give you  anything to help with the sickness or heart burn, and absolutely no way can they give you more painkillers to help with the pain.

If you are lucky you will get a nurse that cares. For the most part, they think you are wasting their time. They would rather be dealing with emergencies that are not deliberately self-inflicted. You will meet with the Psych team. They may decide to keep you in, but if they don’t they still write to your GP. They will make the appropriate referrals and work out if medication is right for you. Oh, and you will be picking up just 1 weeks worth of meds at a time. They don’t trust you any more.

Despite all of that, it probably wont be the last time you do it. Because guess what? You survived! What better way to punish those who love you for caring than hurting them again? You know that disappointed look that only a parent can give, the one that cannot be ignored? Well you are special. You can ignore it. After all, you know they would be better off without you. It doesn’t matter that they would be devastated for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t matter that they would lie in turmoil every night wondering how they could have changed the outcome. You have sentenced them to a lifetime of misery with one final act.

The good news is that actually killing yourself is harder than you think. The sad news is that most suicides are accidental (cries of attention gone wrong or attempts to relieve the pain).

Stay away from the tablets. Trust me. Use this instead.

If you are lucky enough to survive overdoses, there are still other things to consider. For example, despite being on a cocktail of drugs I have to take them all in one go as if I try to take them 1 by 1 my body thinks I am OD’ing and I throw up. The same happens if I sip drinks (I tend to gulp now). Half of my liver is damaged beyond repair. Believe it or not, I am one of the lucky ones. So go ahead. Take all those pills. You know best after all, and this will never happen to you.

IN THE EVEN OF AN OVERDOSE (EVEN JUST SUSPECTED) CALL FOR AN AMBULANCE IMMEDIATELY.

 

So you want to take an overdose?

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In the past month or so, I have received 3 enquiries asking for advice on how many tablets it would take to kill them, or asking for advice on how to obtain vast amounts of tablets when the shops can only sell them 2. I have also had a few messages trying to engage me in some sort of one-upmanship. They mention they have had X amount of tablets, and then they ask me what my largest overdose was. This happens a lot, and I never get involved. Why? Because I wouldn’t want to give someone the idea that they can take X amount of tablets and survive. You would not believe how many suicides are accidental.

This terrifies me.

People see ‘overdoses’ on the soaps and in films etc. In those stories, the person trying to commit suicide is found just in the nick of time, and lots of people come and cry over them hoping they will pull through.

So, here is my viewpoint on the matter. Firstly, your friends and family will be cross with you. Why? Because you just tried to ruin the rest of their lives. I hope you don’t want them to trust you again. They wont. You want some dignity? Forget it. If you are one of the lucky few, you will get a sympathetic nurse who will try her best to help you. She will chase up the psych team for you. Do not fool yourself, however. Most of the staff don’t want you there. They want to treat people with real problems, not self inflicted ones. That means that if you are lucky enough to have your stomach pumped, you can forget about gentle. They may well force it down hard enough that you will cough blood for a few days.

Then there is your friends. Yes, you might still have one or two, but not for long. They will get sick and tired of phoning an ambulance whenever you mention the slightest of ailments, such as a headache. They never know any more whether it was an overdose or normal aches and pains.

That is just the tip of the iceberg, and I will elaborate further in the future. In my next post which will be published shortly, I will explain what an overdose is really like. So, you have taken loads of overdoses. You know the score. The risks have been drilled into your head, yet none of them apply to you. I hope you don’t think stopping the overdosing and attending therapy will save you. If you are very lucky, you might be able to walk away with a few mental scars. Worst case scenario applies to me. I overdosed on and off for about a decade. I moved from once or twice a week to once or twice a year. My last one was April this year.

I have had regular liver function tests for years, and they always came out normal. I was told I had been lucky this time but might not be next time. Everything was fine until a few months ago when I discovered I have cirrhosis of the liver. That is usually found in alcoholics that have been drinking all their lives.

Perhaps I am not invincible. Perhaps my parents were right. Perhaps ‘karma’ really exists.

IF YOU FEEL LIKE OVERDOSING, PLEASE, PLEASE CHECK OUT MY CRISIS BOX. I WILL BE MAKING THEM TO SELL IN THE NEAR FUTURE, BUT THE LINK GIVES YOU TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN.

 

We aren’t crazy enough!

999 What’s Your Emergency is a series currently airing on Channel 4 on Monday evenings at 9pm.

Last nights episode upset me. In part, because it was so accurate. I suppose also because there have been times when it could have been me… hell, it WAS me. It also frustrated me immensely, simply because these situations should not happen, and when they do, they should be managed better. Don’t get me wrong, the ambulance staff did absolutely nothing wrong.

I shall start from the beginning before I confuse you all! This episode was specifically about mental health problems. It started off with a man on a roof who wanted to jump, and covered several problems, including a gentleman who slit his wrists and someone who jumped in front of a train.

The episode really highlighted something I have been saying for quite some time. Our mental health service is completely inadequate. Mental health is one of the easiest services to cut, 1) because a lot of the service users are unable to create too much of a fuss about it, and 2) because it is easy to pass the responsibility around. It is not like cancer, where the oncology department alone deals with it. With mental health, care can be provided by hospitals,  designated ‘houses’, community teams, your GP, charities, organisations amongst others. And because of that, no one will accept responsibility for a patient, always claiming one of the other services should be dealing with it. It also means paperwork gets lost, the patient doesn’t get any continuity of care, and problems are made worse when patients finally find someone they can talk to properly and are quickly moved on again, leaving us frustrated and upset.

I will use my experiences this  year alone to prove my point. In April, I went into ‘crisis’. I decided I was fed up of being alive, and didn’t want to fight any more. I wanted to give up. But I am one of the lucky ones. I have been blessed with an extremely supportive family that try their very best to help. Even with their support, however, I was not doing well. I have a long history of self harm, almost always by overdose. And there have been some very significant overdoses in my past.

This time, instead of overdosing, I decided to get help. So, as I had been instructed to do in the past, I phoned an ambulance. I was taken to hospital, and I waited 7 hours to see the Psych team. They sent me home with a promise that I would receive a visit the following day. A week later, after not so much as a phone call. I went back. This time, I went by taxi. I told them I didn’t feel I could keep myself safe. So, again, I waited for the Psych team. This time, I waited over 12 hours to be seen. They were aware I had medication with me, simply because I wanted to show them what the doctors had put me on. When they came to see me, at around 2.30 in the morning, I spoke to them for around 15 minutes. They, again, said I should go home, and that I would be contacted in the following week.

Now I am not sure what more I could have done to beg for help. So I overdosed while I was in the hospital. It was the first time I had overdosed on Tramadol, and it made me quite ill. I don’t think the doctor, I mean receptionist, actually thought I had done it, because I wasn’t give activated charcoal and instead was told to sit in the waiting room. I passed out at about 5 in the morning and ended up in recuss about 6. At 9am, I was feeling much better as the drip had worked and I was moved into another waiting room. At around lunchtime, the Psych team AGAIN tried to send me home. I refused to go, and I admit I lost my temper a little and shouted at them, asking them if they needed to see me  hanging to help me. So they agreed to keep me in for a while. I was sent to yet another waiting room. And at 3am the next morning I was finally allocated a bed on the mental health ward. I wont even go in to the fact that I had to clean it and make it myself!!

I was kept in for a little over two weeks, my medication was changed around and I was referred to get more help.

Whilst on the ward, I already mentioned the discrimination that happened from a medical professional, a consultant, no less, who refused to have one of ‘them’  patients on his ward. I needed to see him because of a separate medical issue that occurred whilst on the mental health warning, resulting in a 4 day stint on the post operative ward, of all places! Further to that, I also found out that all of the hospitals mental health wards were being shut down. I estimate that is a loss of around 50 beds. It also means that the next hospital that has beds is now about an hours drive away, instead of 20 minutes. We also know that that hospital never has spare beds anyway!

It infuriates me because this service is essential. It is just as essential as an observation ward, or an oncology department. Yet it gets cut, and cut, and nobody listens to anybody speaking out about it. It is so, so easy to dismiss mental health. Get over it. Pick yourself up,  and pull yourself together. Yet it is a real problem. It is as real as any broken bone. And what makes it worse is that there is no cure.

When somebody is told they have an incurable disease, and that all that can be done is manage the symptoms to try to reduce the pain, they should be given the very best opportunities there are. And yet when someone gets a mental health diagnosis, it IS a life sentence. And the very best you can hope for is that you don’t fall. Forget actually being happy. But apparently that is not enough. Apparently we need to get kicked down and shot away by our government too. Imagine telling a cancer patient they can’t get treatment? Imagine the uproar that would happen if THEIR paperwork was lost??

Another one bites the dust :(

When I was 16, my mental health problems got so bad I was put in a funny farm for 3 months. For the vast majority of my time there, I was the only one who wasn’t anorexic.

There were 6 of us that got on really well, which was great, because 99% of the time we were the only ones there. We had two girls come in during the time I was there, but they were only there for 2 days.

It is strange that you  can get so close to people in that place! The girls there were very, very ill, and this place was the last stop before hospital, sedation, and force feeding. (As we were all under age at that point, our parents were still able to make decisions about our care for us).

It wasn’t a particularly high security place. So one day, one of the girls was so ill she had to go up the stairs in a chair lift because simply walking up the stairs could have killed off the last 2 calories that were keeping her alive. Maybe 3 calories.

One day, she ran away. She made it 2 miles before she died. None of us said much for the rest of the day. We didn’t know what to say. It was a shocking reminder that none of us are invincible. And just how dangerous this disease is.

When I left, I had the numbers of those girls. We kept in touch. About a year after I was discharged, I had a phone call from the mother of one of those friends. She told me that my friend  had died because of an overdose of heroin. I was shocked, because she really wasn’t that sort of girl. I was devastated. And I don’t think I am as ‘over it’ as I thought I was, because I have just started crying!!

Fast forward to last week. Another of the girls had died as a result of her anorexia. She was one of the most beautiful women in the world. Absolutely gorgeous. She just couldn’t see it.

To top all this off, I had a friend who committed suicide a few years ago. She was well and truly loved by an awful lot of people. I just wish I had had the chance to help her. I feel responsible, like I could have prevented it. But unfortunately I can’t tell you exactly was it is it would probably count as libel/ slander.

The terrifying thought is that HALF of the people I was there with have died. Sometimes the illness beats you, rather than the other way round. And perhaps I have learned that no matter if you are given the worlds best treatment with world-class counselling, things can’t always be fixed.

I wish I had a magic wand to make things better.

The most I can do is direct you to this page, and to let you know I will be making up crisis boxes so if anyone wants one, message me. The prices will vary as I will make each box individual, but I don’t see them being too expensive (around £25 ish?) or if you like I can give you some ideas so you can make your own one). I will be selling at cost price, so I wont be making any money. It is something I am so passionate about these boxes that I am willing to do them non-profit. I might even ask for some donations to hand out to people who really can’t afford them. But I would love to hear your comments on the matter.