Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Empty Well of Creativity

Now this is a strange thing, posting two weeks running. It's a one-off don't worry, next Wednesday will be someone new! I don't have the brain juice to come up with post ideas every week.

Speaking of brain juice... today I want to talk about one of the more troublesome problems that my depression has thrown up in my lap these past few months. The FUBAR state of my creativity. More specifically my ability to write.

But Rachel you're writing right now! Yes I'm writing a non-fictional piece about the inner workings of this dented brain-box of mine and believe me it's a damn struggle. But it's *not even close* to the levels of nope that I'm faced with when it comes to creative writing like working on that novel I took two & a half years to produce a mostly-complete draft of. That just ain't happening. Nuh-uh. No-how, no way.

From my guesses of what caused this period of depression the start coincided with the end of my last OU module and with my finishing of the draft of my book in May. I went from having a job & also having a really productive writing month in April (link goes to the last post I did on my writing blog twelvety-million years ago) to being at home all day and procrastinating my way through my final Children's Literature assignment.

120K words of frustration
I got the essay finished (by the skin of my teeth if I recall- yup on the deadline day) and I wrote the last chapters in my draft. I went to the effort & expense to get my manuscript printed & bound (look at the beast!) but then the problems started...

It took me THREE WEEKS to read the draft through once. Any other book of this size would take me about 6 hours to read but trying to get through my own writing felt like a constant assault on my eyes & brain. I loathed every second of wading through the pages I'd spent over two years creating and I "joked" to many people that I was tempted to set fire to the damn book just to put it and me out of our misery.

Now I know that I am possibly the worst person to objectively judge my writing. Especially while sliding into depression. So in a moment of sense I held off from grabbing the matches and instead put the manuscript and the plethora of notebooks associated with the project into a drawer and began to pretend it didn't exist.

I'm still ignoring that drawer. Other people would have come up with a bunch of new story ideas and be happily working on a different book while waiting for the previous one to be done being a recalcitrant piece of shit. But I can't do that. I have had a couple of ideas over the last few months but any enthusiasm for them died within a day or two. Any attempts to sit down and just write something were rather like trying to force a boulder through a sieve with cooked noodles for fingers - ludicrously impossible.

There's just nothing in the Creative Well to pull up and pour onto a page.

One of my favourite author-humans Susan Dennard writes a fantastic newsletter in which she shares news about her books (most recently Truthwitch & the upcoming Windwitch) as well as writing advice. Her website is a goldmine of resources for the aspiring writer and it's bookmarked on my browser for whenever I want it. Back in July her newsletter was talking all about how working on Windwitch for two years had left her so burnt out that her creative well had run dry.

This was something I related to enormously, but with the unpleasant exception being that I had been trying to refill my Creative Well for weeks by that point. I'd devoured more books than I'm comfortable admitting and all it served to do was make me run out of space in my reading journal. All the worlds I'd escaped into and raced through had left no impression on me once the final page had been turned. Every book I threw into the Well just clattered onto the bottom rather than filling it back up.

 Depression has kicked a fucking great big hole in my Creative Well and I have no idea how to fix it. Which is super inconvenient when my final OU module is literally Creative Writing and I will have to be producing pieces for deadlines - the first being in a MONTH from yesterday. Shit.

So I'm in a bit of quandry. Can I write my way out of this or will I need help in the form of medication in order to get my brain back on an even keel long enough for me to properly patch up the Well. I honestly don't know right now, any advice would be greatly welcomed.




Sunday, 25 September 2016

Milestones without My Mum

I think it goes without saying that every day when you lose a parent at a young age is difficult. I’m 100% being truthful when I say that my mum pops into my mind every single day, even 5 years after her death. But there is something especially bittersweet about her absence when I’m about to hit a milestone.

My mum died of cancer when I was 15 years old, and she was my best friend. She came to all of my school concerts and plays, all of my riding lessons and shows as a child, every single parents evening and I know I was so lucky to have had a parent who could and would do that. Losing her at the age of 15 means that most of what people consider significant life events or milestones, I have experienced without her. My GCSE Results, my A Level results, my first kiss, my first time moving away from home, my 16th and 18th birthdays have all happened without her. And it’s not just these big events where I feel her absence; I remember wishing she could come and see my GCSE Drama production, or to see me off at the airport when I went to the USA for three months. Every birthday and Christmas is somehow tainted with her absence. And don’t even get me started on mother’s day.

For the first few years there was an extra factor into all of this; jealousy. It’s an ugly thing to think and I’m not proud of it but I couldn’t help but feel on my 16th birthday, or when I got my A level results that my brother got to do this with Mum. He’s three and a half years older than me and was in his first year of University when she passed away. She wanted to go up and help him move in, but she couldn’t due to being knee deep in chemo.

I remember opening my results for my GCSE’s quite vividly; I went alone because I didn’t want my dad to be there and he had work anyway. I went in, hands shaking and tore through the envelope. After a look through, I was pretty pleased with my grades and called Dad to tell him how he did. He was elated and very proud. After I hung up the phone, I almost went to make another call. But then I realised I couldn’t. I looked around the hall for my two best friends, who were both standing with their own mums a little way off. It felt like I’d been punched in the gut and I wanted to burst into tears. It felt so unfair that everyone else got to tell their mum’s how they did and I didn’t. I quickly composed myself though and got on with my day – I didn’t want to cry when I’d actually gotten pretty good results. I know that had she been alive I probably would’ve told her to stay at home as well, but it was the option to do so that I wanted. God, what I would’ve given to have been able to do that.

I found moving out to University for the first time particularly difficult. I remember having a dream the week before I was due to go. My mum and I were driving down a road, and then she was helping me unpack things in my room, and then we went to a cafĂ©. I don’t remember the specifics but I remember feeling warm and happy. And then I woke up, and for a few blissful moments I thought it was true and would happen. And then reality crashed into me, that that was never going to happen. Moving in was okay in the end, but I was moving boxes and walking around my new campus feeling hollow and off the entire time. There were a few confused looks when I introduced my Dad and my Stepmum and I knew what they were thinking. What about her mother? Where is she? But most people didn’t ask. Apart from my flatmate later on that day, who I know got an answer she wasn’t entirely expecting. Not the best way to start off a relationship.

As I’m writing this, it is the night before I move into University for the second time. And I can truthfully say that I am in a much better place this time. A mixture of therapy and taking time to grieve and come to terms what happened means I am more accepting this time around of my situation. Maybe it’s because I’ve done it before and it’s not as ‘significant’ but I think it’s a good sign anyway. My 21st is later this year and I’m apprehensive as I always am for big birthdays because I just have no idea what I’ll feel like on the day. But I know in my heart that either reaction is totally okay. I do think about the future; how if I ever get married she won’t be there, if I ever have kids she won’t get to meet the grandchildren I know she so sorely wanted to meet. But I’m starting to accept this reality more than be angry about it – and I know that wherever she is, she’s watching, and she’s proud.

Friday, 23 September 2016

There's More To It Than You Think

There’s something that I need to tell you all. I started going to online therapy. With all the posts on here about therapy and the way the pills were working and how I felt, I just knew it was time so I referred myself and that, as they say, was that.

And in my second session it came to light. My therapist officially diagnosed me with OCD. There’s a lot of talk about this mental health illness and with it, I always shrugged it away. I don’t have that, I’d tell myself because I don’t count and my room is a bombsite and I’m just not that obssessive…

Turns out, like with many other things, the media hasn’t been portraying OCD in all its forms. And once I read more about it and spoke to some friends about it and had more therapy sessions, I realised that yes, I did have OCD and I had probably been undiagnosed with it since I was a young teenager.

Because OCD isn’t just counting. The biggest part of OCD is the O which stands for Obsessional Thoughts. Now, everyone has thoughts and many people are likely to have the same thoughts as someone with OCD. It is just that someone who does not have the illness can shake the thought away. No, they’re not going to grab that pair of scissors and stab their friend. But someone with OCD latches onto the thought. They imagine doing it. Then they wonder what will happen next and then they ask themselves why they want to do it. And on and on. In a spiral of awful thoughts.

What happens next is the C part. Compulsions. To feel that they have some control and to stop themselves from actually stabbing their friend, they come up with a routine to make themselves feel better. In media this is represented as the counting or obsession with pavement cracks, etc. But it comes in many forms all unique to the individual and the situation. For example I mumble to myself, close my eyes, breathe deeply, wash my hands, clench my fists, rub my hands, tap… etc. Things that are barely noticeable to the naked eye and things I have been doing for so long, I didn’t even realise I was doing them until I was diagnosed.

So yes, I have OCD. And it’s been an odd revelation. Telling my mum has been the highlight because she just nodded and was like, yeah…. It was definitely an interesting moment. I had to ask her why she never told me!

But mostly now I am working on dealing with it. On getting better for the most part but also in embracing this illness. It’s going to be with me forever and I’m not actually worried about that anymore as I am now equipped with the skills to deal with it when it gets difficult.

Lastly these two books really helped me understand my OCD more so do read them if you want to!
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

And as always, please don’t be afraid to go to the doctor or speak out if you think you have a mental illness of any kind. They’re here to help you. We’re all here to help you.





Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Deep Breath before the Diagnosis

This is going to be a post of two parts. Half of this I'm writing Before, the other half will be written After.

After what?

After I see a Doctor seeking a diagnosis for whatever has been fucking up my mental health for the past 3+ months. The likely bet is depression, possibly with a dollop of anxiety to make things even more fun. I probably should have made an appointment for this *weeks* ago but that miserable little voice which I've talked about before has been a real bitch for talking me out of making that phonecall because it says things like "why do I need to see a doctor? There are loads of people way more unwell than I am, it's probably nothing. I'm just being lazy etc."



Over this summer I've become aware of my mental state in a way I don't think I have been previously and there is no getting away from the fact that I am not all right. I can literally tick almost every box of Depression symptoms without fudging my memories to fit (Anyone who follows on me twitter knows about my inability to wake up at a reasonable time & to feed myself proper meals). It is not good for me to continue avoiding getting a proper diagnosis, I don't think that sheer willpower alone is going to drag my head back out of the black pit that it's been living in for last stretch of time.

I just need to actually be brave enough to ask for that help - one of the hardest steps has been taken. I've made the appointment to see a Doctor. That's an accomplishment I should hold onto. The next step is going into that room and telling a stranger that my brain has been dousing itself in misery and is drowning in it to the point that I need someone to throw me a line to pull myself clear.

Obviously I am nervous to HECK about having to explain everything. There's this nagging fear that the Doctor won't actually believe that I'm actually depressed and send me home with only the sickening thought that I just need to pull myself together and stop wasting their time. That's the worst case scenario for me. I *need* to know that I'm not imagining all of these awful feelings.

So I'm taking a deep breath. And hoping that I don't get the wind knocked out of me when I hit the water.



After
Well I went to the Doctor's, admittedly I only got out of bed 12 minutes before I needed to be there and I was teetering on the verge of falling back to sleep for at least an hour before I moved. But I went.

And whaddya know I *do* have depression! The Doctor used basically the same damn diagnosis quiz thing I used myself last night on the NHS website and I came out with a 14 on what I could very flippantly call the Depress-o-meter (My sense of humour tends towards the morbidly dark when dealing with the unpleasant issues). That apparently means I'm at the upper end of "moderately depressed".

Now what?

The Doctor I saw wasn't particularly gifted with sensitivity settings so it was suggested to me that I ought to be making changes in my life to deal with the root causes of my depression, (the fact that I'm unemployed is definitely not helping) I need a reason to actually get out of bed in the morning and currently my own willpower is not motivation enough. The phrase "need to stop moping about" may have been used. *sigh*

It was also suggested that getting a part-time job to fill some time & tide me over financially while I figure out what the fuck I'm doing long-term would be "easy" like jobs are just falling from trees around here. Just because there is an enormous Tesco a stone's throw from my house doesn't necessarily mean that they are in need of staff.

I am fully cognisant of the fact that I need a job both for financial reasons and mental health reasons. I am not one of those people who can manage and divide up their time to use it productively without it being required of me. If I had a boss who was expecting me to get up at 7am in order to get to work on time then I could do it, but when it's just me thinking "oh you should do x,y & z today"there's no real incentive to follow through because there's no consequences if I don't do those things.

Of course there is the shame & self-loathing of knowing I failed to do what many people can do with nothing more than willpower as their motivation. But currently my inability to get out of bed and get things done is somewhat out of my control - if my brain has foxed itself on how to produce the chemicals which make me want to wake up in a morning and not feel like someone has simply dug me up with little care that I'm soft and squishy - then is it entirely my fault that waking up before 9am has become such a foreign concept?

When I initially had my diagnosis (it's now a week later because this post didn't get finished last Wednesday like it was supposed to *quelle surprise*) I didn't get a prescription for anti-depressants because I thought that maybe I'd be able to sort myself out by just booking some counselling & getting a job or whatever. But after mulling it over for a week now I've started to realise that in order for me to make the lifestyle changes which will allow me to stabilise myself I do really need to be able to function for a good portion of every day.

At the moment I can't - I'm waking up late every day, not really getting out of bed before noon & then milling about aimlessly for several hours before Le Boyf gets home from work and then we're both sat around doing nothing for the rest of the evening because it's very likely that he's also depressed and can't be fucked with anything.

So I'm going to look into getting meds, because if they help me to function well enough to get up properly, do the things I need to do & sort out fixing the root causes of my depression then it can't be a bad thing to try them. Just got to make another appointment at the doctor's and *not* with the original guy because I don't need my worst perceptions of myself reinforced again ta very much.

This has been a bit of a rollercoaster post and has taken me far longer than I would have liked to finish. That's another thing which depression has fucked up for me - writing. It's been like trying to transfigure shit into diamonds with a toothpick. Agonising and damn-near impossible. I'm hoping like hell that meds will help whatever it is that has kicked the bottom out of my creativity or the next 9 months are going to be hellishly difficult.

So deep breath, let's try to deal with this. One day at a time.


Monday, 19 September 2016

A Rambly Ramble

So, I did some things.

(Sorry for not posting two weeks ago btw, I was having an internet break because the internet can start to take over your life and it’s bad so yeah)

That interview I told you about? Didn’t get the job. DAGNABBIT. And, here’s the worst part: I CAME SECOND. I would have got the job if one person didn’t have more experience than me. Sighhhhh

But I have had another interview and I went to Primark by myself and I went the post office and library by myself and I walked 40 minutes home by myself and I AM STILL ALIVE. Cool eh?

Turns out going outside doesn’t always = death.

Don’t get me wrong, going outside still = PANIC in my mind. But it’s turning into manageable panic. And I’m starting to remember what it’s like to be in love with life again. Instead of walking down the street and panicking that the sky is going to fall down, YES THIS IS A LEGIT FEAR OK THANKS, I can walk down the road and listen to the birds and smile at other people walking past.

And I think this is what I always forget: I will never ever get rid of my anxiety.

Never. I have to live with it. BUT what I can do is learn to live with it and manage it in a way that makes ‘normal’ things more doable for someone like me. Going to the post office wasn’t massively straight forward, I had to turn around halfway there, calm myself down and then walk back again. 

BUT I DID IT. And I didn’t give up like I would have before.


Where am I going with this post? I’m not really sure.

I guess recently I’ve just realised that my anxiety doesn’t have to take over my life. It’s so hard when you’re in this dark pit of anxiety to think that there’s ever going to be a day when you won’t panic and even though I’ve managed to deal with it before…it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with it again.

But I’m doing it for ME. And I’m actually starting to like myself again. Whenever I achieve something I want to high five myself in the face SO HARD and celebrate how kick ass I am. Because mate, I posted a parcel all by myself today and that’s awesome. AND I had to wait in a queue for eight minutes (YES I COUNTED THE MINUTES ON THE CLOCK) and I hate queues and I hate people being behind me in queues and I feel trapped and the ceiling was low BUT I DID IT OK

I don’t think there’s ever going to be a day when I can say I AM NOT AN ANXIOUS PERSON. But, I feel like in the near future there will be a day when I can say I AM AN ANXIOUS PERSON BUT I AM ALSO A FUCTIONING HUMAN BEING WHO CAN DO LIFE STUFF.

And that’s gonna be an awesome day.

I might have a job, I might not. (Don’t ask – long story) but basically the job I was interviewed for might not actually be a job they can offer at the moment so it’s a case of ‘this is not a no, it’s a don’t know and we’ll let you know ASAP.'
SO CROSS YO FINGERS FOR ME.

Maaaaan I can’t wait to earn money again and feel like I have some ounce of worth. And it may be the little things but if I have a job then I can buy CHRISTMAS PYJAMAS AND CHRISTMAS BEDDING AND DO CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AND YAY. The thought of getting into a snuggly bed with new Christmas sheets and Christmas pyjamas and a big snowy candle and fairy lights and a book makes me want to die with happiness.

If I can do that by the end of this year then basically YES TO 2016.


The moral of this post: you a bad ass bitch and you can do whatever you want. Don’t let anyone or anything say differently. 

Sorry, I just love cats. 



Friday, 16 September 2016

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome"I don't belong here."

The thought that ran through my head as I was sitting in a cafe, watching people arrive for a book launch, people who all knew each other, and not one of them someone I knew.

When it comes to book blogging, I'm pretty confident. I've been a book blogger for seven years now, and I've honed my voice and writing style, and worked out what works for me in regards to when I post, what I post, and what I read. I have no issues with Once Upon a Bookcase, everything there works how I want it to. It's my hobby, and I enjoy it.

But that's when it's just me, my computer, and some books. When it comes to book events, that's when it happens. The uncertainty, the doubt, the feeling of unease. The feeling that I shouldn't be here, I don't belong with these people, I'm not "good enough" to be part of this. In that moment, I feel like a fraud, that I'm just pretending to be someone that fits in, that belongs, but fearing people are going to figure this out, and ask me why I'm there. And even when I see people I know and politely ask to hang out with them, I still feel it. Everyone else seems to know everyone else. I don't because I don't belong there.

Impostor Syndrome, according to Wikipedia, refers to "high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women."

High achieving is a bit of a stretch, but I think my blog does pretty well. I enjoy my blog and work hard at it, but I'm always surprised when people tell me how great it is. I tend to often downplay it. And when amongst my peers or other people in the book industry, with my book blogger hat on, I crumble.

This is something I've started to notice when it comes to my lifestyle blog, Jo's Scribbles, too. It's just my little thing that I enjoy doing, but I see those bloggers around me, and I wonder why I even bother. I'm not a part of this group either, and this time, I've not even met many of them. I was astonished when Fiona of The Escapologist's Daughter mentioned one of my posts in her first newsletter, and called me one of her favourite blogs, and when Kathy of I am Kathy B includes me in #FF tweets saying I'm one of her favourite writers. Calling myself a writer is something I balk at internally, yet force myself to do anyway, even while constantly feeling like I'm fooling myself but nobody else. I'm not going to stop doing the things I love, but that doesn't mean I don't feel like a child playing at an adult's game (yes, I have changed the wording of that saying, because it's sexist.).

To be perfectly honest, I've mentioned that I'm fine when it's just me and my computer (and my books, for book blogging), and although that's true, it's mostly because I don't have too many readers, so there aren't as many people to "find me out". I feel it more when I write for other sites, including this one, even with this post. Because you're going to read it and see through it. "Why is she even writing this? Why is she even a team member of Safe Space? Who is she? Why is she even here?" I get so nervous hitting the publish button, or send button on emails when I'm emailing a pitch or a finished piece for other sites. Despite all I've said up til now, despite all I've been told by the people I work with on these sites, this is the piece that's going to give me up, this is the piece that's going to show them that I'm actually no good, and don't deserve to be on their site.

I sometimes find myself feeling similarly in other areas of my life, but it's mainly when it comes to writing that I feel like this. And I don't have any answers. The point of this post is simply to say, "Hey, sometimes I feel like this. Maybe you do, too?" It would be nice to know I'm not the only one who struggles with feeling like I don't belong, that you'll find me out one day.

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Sunday, 11 September 2016

A Gap Year in Review: Change is Good.

I’ve been sitting in my new (and temporary) bedroom all day thinking how to put a post together talking about my time out of education. How do I summarise 20 months of working and travelling and adventures into one post? I can’t, realistically. So we’ll just talk about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

My time out of education has taught me a lot and changed me as a person without a doubt. My stepmum even today commented on how different I was to the girl I was 2 years ago, about to go to University thinking it would be the best years of my life and would make everything better.

Well. It didn’t exactly go like that.

One Term. That’s how long I managed before all of the mental health crap I had been burying and burying throughout my GCSEs and A Levels came bubbling to the surface. It started off with bouts of sadness and self-hatred amongst other things. As I was leaving University, the crippling anxiety started that took over my life for six months. I was seeing a therapist for my grief at the time but we ended up mostly talking about my panic attacks.

And then I went to America. Three whole months of sun, summer and camping. Sounds great right? Well it was those things. But there were also tears, work reports, fighting and a lot of soul searching. My time at Camp was something I am eternally grateful for because it was what I needed, but it wasn’t all fun and games. And it was only after camp that I realised what it was that had been bothering me for so long.

I was completely stuck in the past. Long story short, and I’m sure I will make a more in depth post about this at some point, my mum died of cancer when I was 15 years old. She was my best friend. And I wanted to make her proud, even if she wasn’t here anymore to physically witness it. I wanted to be the girl I was when she was alive; bubbly, outgoing, lots of friends and very active. Since she passed away I had become more introverted and started staying in more talking to my friends online than going out on hikes and horse riding and all sorts.

I went to camp with all these expectations of making her proud, being a specialist counsellor who knew her stuff. It became apparent very quickly that after 4 years of barely being around horses, my knowledge was lacklustre and not up to scratch. They were pretty okay about it to be honest, offering me to change positions and when I look back on it I was rather rude. And it was because I felt like a failure, like I’d let her down and couldn’t be the person I was.

I know now that people grow. We change and develop and it’s just a part of life. Growing away from old friends, old hobbies and haunts is natural and perfectly okay. Yes there are things I miss about my old self and life, but things now aren’t so bad. I’m definitely not as ignorant as I once was, I’m far more confident and happy to spend time with myself too, and I’m also part of an awesome bookish community. I’m far more laid back than I was at the start of my time off (probably because I haven’t had a ridiculous essay deadline in 20 months!) and I like to think I’m a lot less judgemental of people than I was. Personal growth isn’t always something I’ve been able to deal with very well, constantly nostalgic for the past and my life before my mum died. But I know now that change is good, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, and I’m proud of who I am today.

The next time I write a post on here, I’ll be in a dorm room in a small city in the middle of the country I’ve visited approximately once. I know now that University isn’t going to be the best thing ever, that all those wild expectations I used to have won’t necessarily come true. But it’s a new chapter and I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Jeans, Jeans, Jeans

I hate clothes shopping. Like, really, really hate it. It’s one of those tasks that every girl is supposed to love so when I was growing up and I hated it, I felt alone, secluded and like something was very, very wrong with me. I, of course, know now that this is not the case but I definitely had an identity crisis as a teenager and just tried so hard to fit in by forcing myself to love clothes shopping but it just did not happen.

So when I got older and online clothes shopping arrived, I was extremely happy. I’d go click happy on the purchases and then return anything that didn’t fit. No going into thousands of shops and getting more and more deflated when more and more clothes did not fit right or look good or flow perfectly. Long gone were the days of feeling fat and the wrong shape all day. Walking home red-faced and empty-handed.

Or so I thought.

Recently my favourite pair of jeans that I wear mostly every day and have done for the last 5 - 7 years died. It was about time really but I was devastated but I put them to rest and opened up the webpage for the store I bought them from (and every other pair of jeans I own) and ordered a few pairs to be delivered to store.

They arrived the next day and I popped in happily and picked them up. They’d obviously fit as they were the exact size I always buy from this store. So it was a bit of a shock to find that, in fact, they didn’t fit. The first pair were a bit too baggy around the crotch and the second pair were fine at first but felt uncomfortable after a while and the third pair didn’t even have pockets! Annoyed, I returned them and decided to try again on a longer leg length.

Four new pairs later. Guess what happened?

All four pairs were called “Skinny” Jeans. I have always worn skinny jeans. I know what Skinny jeans are. These four pairs of jeans were all so tight I felt like my legs were struggling to breathe. I would have definitely advertised these as super skinny. So I do not even want to think about what their super skinny jeans do feel like!

Anyway. I returned all four jeans to the store and this time thought I’d have a look around and see if I could find any straight jeans that they were advertising on their “different styles” board. But no. No straight jeans. So with a sad little sigh I decided to put this store behind me and try another.

In the second store I was faced with the same issue. All the jeans were skinny. And I started to feel all that loathing I have for shopping creep in. I never shop the fashion style, never seem to like what everyone else does and now I’d be stuck wearing Jeans I felt uncomfortable in simply because the fashion world doesn’t care for the minority like me.

Fortunately in the third store I tried, hidden by the thousands of skinny jeans I found a pair called slim fit and in my size! After trying them on and finding they do in fact fit all over the leg. I ran back to rack and found another pair and bought them quickly!

Upon leaving the store and waiting for a bus, I couldn’t help noticing that everyone in jeans were more or less wearing skinny jeans and now I can’t help but wonder - are all their thighs screaming in pain too?

While this shopping trip was finally successful, I'm still not sure I'll be making a habit of going clothes shopping. I still hate the way clothes that don't fit make me feel fat and ugly and undesirable. So I really hope these jeans last a while so I don't need to go through that hell all over again. One day, maybe the world will realise that women come in all different shapes and sizes and we all like different styles, but sadly that day is not today.

And don't even get me started on the difference between jeans for women and jeans for men!



Friday, 2 September 2016

Going Without a Mobile

Going Without a MobileIn this technological age, we've come to rely on technology so much that it's almost automatic to reach out for our phone or our laptop without a second thought. But on Tuesday I realised just how attached I had become.

My Mum and I went out to a preview movie screening on Tuesday. Because it was a preview screening, we were told we wouldn't be allowed mobiles in the cinema, and as neither of us wanted to hand our phones in, we decided to leave them at home.

But the prospect of spending most of the day without my phone on me was a daunting one. Laura wrote earlier this year about having to go without the internet for a few weeks, but when it came down to it, it wasn't so much that I would be without my email, Twitter, or Instagram that worried me, but the simple fact that I wouldn't have a way to contact anyone.

I'm a bit of a worrier, and have often been told that I think and/or worry too much, and this was the case on Tuesday. I was genuinely a little scared to leave the house without my phone. The one day I leave the house without my phone is the one day I'm going to need it, I was sure. Well, not sure, but that was the worry. Anything could happen. And while my phone wouldn't necessarily stop bad things from happening, but at least I'd be able to try and phone someone and ask for help, or let them know I was ok. Without my phone, I felt very alone and completely cut off.

The other not as important by equally annoying thing about not having our phones with us was not knowing the time. Neither of us having working watches, and so we've come to rely on our phones to know what the time is when we're out on about. When you have to be somewhere at a specific time and have no way of knowing what the time is, it's really bloody frustrating. I was so much more aware of how long things were taking, the walk, eating my food, and so on, worrying they were taking too long. We were actually fine as we left pretty early, but I did feel lost not knowing what the time was.

As I said, I wasn't too bothered about checking my email or Twitter or Instagram, but there were a few moments when not having immediate access to the internet, like I'm used to, was a little jolting. Occasionally, I wanted to look something up, when I wasn't quite sure of something I was talking about with Mum - the title of a book, the name of an actress. I saw a statue I would have quite liked to Instagram, but no camera nor internet access. It was only slightly annoying, nowhere near as frustrating as I thought it would be, and that itself made me think. I realised I spent more time looking up than looking down and noticing more about my surroundings than I would have if my phone was on me. I didn't really mind not having access to those apps, and the world didn't end because I wasn't checking or updating them. Perhaps - dare I even say it? - perhaps I can live without those apps.

I'm one of those people who can remember a time when hardly anyone had mobile phones. We got by fine. We never worried about not being able to contact people, there were phone boxes if we needed them. I remember when my brother and I were allowed half an hour online a week each, on a Sunday, the sound of the modem as it dial up to connect to the internet, before there was broadband. When it wasn't available, we managed perfectly well. But now, we're so used to having such things ready at our fingertips, to be without them is a shock to the system.

Perhaps we could all do with leaving our mobiles at home every now and again?

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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Buried in Books

You could say that it's the last day of summer considering how tomorrow is SEPTEMBER (*takes a moment to hyperventilate*) so I feel like today would be a good day to reflect on how I spent this summer.

Simply put - I spent about 75% of the last three months cramming stories into my eyeballs. I read like a book shortage was imminent. I devoured hundreds of pages of words at a pace that would give other people cramps. I poured dozens of chapters of adventures into my brain and it never felt like it was enough to fill the empty well of apathy I've been sat at the bottom of this whole time.

Between the 1st of June and today I've read 86 unique books. That isn't even including the few books that I re-read in that period which I'd already read & counted towards this year's reading total, and the fact that I read the entire Shatter Me series three times through in one weekend in July. In July alone I read 52 books and did very little else.



Reading is my coping mechanism for when I'm feeling truly shit and I've felt shit for most of this Summer. I had great ambitions that I would make amazing progress with my book and really get stuck into rewriting the draft I finished at the end of May. I opted to avoid throwing myself into getting a new job after I left my last one because I thought "hey let's give this whole writing business a fair crack while I don't have uni work to do". But as you might have seen from my constant twitter griping, that plan was brutally shot in the face before June was even out.

I hated that draft I'd spent over two years writing and three WEEKS reading with such violence that I contemplated on many occasions just setting fire to the damn manuscript and forgetting I'd ever subjected the world such a heap of shit (thank fuck the people of the world *haven't* read it, but I'm sure Nature despises me). It's been consigned to a drawer until I decide whether I care enough to take it out ever again.

So as any well-adjusted human-creature would do I decided to bury myself in books, in the metaphorical sense although I do own enough to build myself an actual coffin out of books. I started to read and read and read. Losing days to other worlds and times and stories of people who seemed far more interesting than me. Let's just say that clothing & food were not utilised in the correct manner for large swathes of time.

I suppose I was hoping that one of these books would give me some inspiration of any kind. The jolt of energy to step back into *my* reality and face the problems that I was desperately avoiding dealing with. But none have been the lightning strike I've needed - with perhaps the exception of Alice Oseman's Solitaire & Radio Silence which had me crying in the small hours about how much of myself I saw in those words (a future post will be looking into the thoughts that Radio Silence provoked at 1am last week).

But now as we stand on the cusp of September I know that I need to act my goddamn age and do something about the situation I'm in. I have what should be my last OU module starting in October so I need to get my head around not fucking that up (since it's another Creative Writing module I'm already anxious enough that I won't have any ideas worth writing let alone submitting for marking).

I know I need to get a job because my bank account is gasping and I can't spend another three months in this house alone & getting nothing done. It turns out that having little free time is when I'm actually most productive so I gotta work on getting myself employed ASAP. Who the fuck knows what job but it's gotta happen.

I also need to read less and probably see a doctor or something...y'know to deal with that whole depression issue that I've been carefully avoiding for weeks...


Monday, 29 August 2016

Music is the Strongest form of Magic


As far as I can remember, I always have been a music lover. As a child I used to record songs from the radio onto cassette (yes, I am that old). Half the fun was trying to get the timing perfect so you had no silly radio DJ talking at the beginning or end, just pure music. My sister and I used to make up dance routines to music videos, and I went to dance classes. Even now, the songs I spent hours learning the choreography too still stick in my head. 

When somebody asks that famous question of your favourite music, my answer is that I have eclectic tastes. How can you answer with just one song or genre? It's impossible. Sometimes the music just gets to you, and you have no choice. 

More recently, I realised that I actually listen to music quite a lot. I stick my earphones in as soon as I leave the house, and they’re with me for my whole commute, whilst shopping, whilst driving, whilst sleeping, whilst blogging. I just love my life to have a soundtrack.


via GIPHY

But is most important to me is how I can use music as a form of escapism. It’s a way to distance myself from the thoughts in my head but also the world. I don’t have to think about the crowded commute or be distracted by the people around me. It helps me to focus, and to zone out some of the anxieties and madness going on inside. 

I recently broke a pair of headphones in the middle of the day, and it shocked me how much it affected me. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I would cope, and I became ultra aware of all my surroundings, and all the things I usually blocked out. Needless to say, I immediately went out and bought another pair. I need my safety blanket of headphones. 

On the flip side, music connects me to the world. I love discovering new artists through recommendations, and creating playlists with my friends. I like dancing to songs and feeling that moment when you can just belt out your favourite tune. To be at a gig for your favourite band, and stand singing along with everyone in the crowd, those moments are indescribable. I feel like part of something big and united and it makes something fizzle inside me.

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What is amazing is that everyone has a different story, a different experience. Maybe it's the song you first danced to at your wedding, or had your first kiss. The song of the summer, or that tune you just can’t get out of your head. 

Music is my calmness, my alternate reality when things get too harsh in life. I love that I can just take a step back into the world of headphones, and zone out for a little while. My little world away from the world.

I've made a little playlist of a few of my current favourites. If you bump into me, it's likely I'm bopping along to one of these.

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Friday, 26 August 2016

One Step At A Time

So you all read this post, right? Where I explained how my entire life has recently been turned upside down and I had to go from being really active to barely able to walk for five minutes without dying. It's been tough. Emotionally and physically for me. There have been times when I've wanted to just give up on trying to be better and just stay in bed all day. Times when I've felt guilty for not being able to walk up the stairs and having to take the lift, guilty for asking someone I'm with if we could slow down or stop because I felt unable to carry on. 

I have also spent a lot of time wondering if I'm making a big thing out of a small thing. That maybe I am just unfit and causing a fuss.

And I keep going back to that thought.

Over and over again.

And it is because I am starting to get better. I still am nowhere near where I was. I am still scared of even trying to work a full time job and there is no way I could walk to and from work or go out jogging again but I am not the same person I was in January wherein I had to spend days in bed to recover from small activities.

So because I'm getting better, and I'm starting to feel better. I wanted to just write a quick post on here to tell you about some of the things that I've achieved lately that I've been proud of. Things that seven-eight months ago, I never would have managed. Because then I can show to you and also to myself, that I am on the road to recovery. I may never get to where I was but if I keep working, I might get somewhere near to it.

  1. I can climb the three flights of stairs at work without crying out in pain.
  2. I can walk for a good half hour before I need to slow down.
  3. I can carry heavy piles of books and/or bags again
  4. I don't feel as achy when I wake up in the morning
  5. I don't feel as achy after driving for 30minutes.
  6. Yesterday I climbed the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs and while I was out of breath, my legs and hips did not hurt until 4 hours later. Which is unheard of.
Of course, with all those amazing achievements, I still have things that I do now or cannot do now that I used to be able to, such as:

  1. If I've been driving for a long time, my left arm is more comfortable in my lap then on the steering wheel, giving my muscle a break.
  2. I still cringe at the idea of running and how much my muscles will hurt me for the task.
  3. If I don't do my physio exercises, I can struggle to get out of bed.
  4. I am still incredibly exhausted most days.
  5. When I have done too much, I can barely get up out of the chair as I hurt all over.
  6. I'm still getting bizarre and annoying pains in my fingers and knuckles.
I am not 100% okay but I am better than I was and I am so happy about it. If I could get to a point where I could job for 10mins once a week, I think I will be happy with life again. That is my ultimate goal and I am going to make it. I'm sure of it.

It's all just about taking it one step at a time.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Little Miracles

A few weeks ago Laura wrote a really fantastic post here on Safe Space about Milestones and how they change when you have a mental illness. This got me thinking about my own milestones and the progress I’ve made with my mental health recently. This past year I have really been pushing myself, but with every success that little voice in my head says

“Oh, that’s nothing to be proud of! People do that every day!”

And so I’d bury those feelings of pride and tell myself that my achievements were nothing. For years I have listened to that little voice so that it got to the point where I felt embarrassed that I’d actually consider the things I do to be achievements.

“Have you won an award?” that little voice would whisper “Bought a new house? Gotten engaged? No? Then shut up and sit down” It would tell me.

My achievements felt minuscule compared to what other people my age are doing with their lives but they weren’t small, in fact, they were massive.

I talked about these feelings with my counsellor who pointed out that some of the things that I am doing now felt impossible when I first came to see her and that is the word I used, impossible.

I fully believed that there were certain things that I would never be able to do again. The things that I’ve been doing recently are more than just milestones, they carry more weight than that, they’re miracles. If you told me a year ago the things I am doing now I would have laughed in your face and said “Yeah, when pigs fly!” because it seemed that miraculous to me. Yet here I am, making my own little miracles happen every day.

After this conversation with my counsellor, I decided to start documenting my mental health achievements in a journal. It didn’t take me long to fill an entire page. From smaller things like not washing my hands or sanitizing before eating, to bigger things like going somewhere that triggers PTSD memories. After ten minutes of frantically scribbling, I put down my pen and took a good hard look at all of my achievements and in that moment I let the pride that I always pushed down inside of me swell up into one big burst of sunshine.

Since that day a few weeks ago I have been trying to teach myself that it is okay to celebrate my little miracles. Instead of brushing them off as nothing, I have been telling my friends and family when I’ve managed to push past my anxiety and achieve something. I’ve been having mini solo celebrations with cake and a good book as a reward for being brave. But most importantly I have continued to document my successes and keep adding things to that list so that instead of letting my miracles float away unrecognised, I am catching hold of them like fireflies and appreciating the beauty of them in the few minutes that it takes for me to write each achievement down.

Every little miracle that I’ve made happen is now solid, documented and recognised by me for what it is. Each one is a vital step on my own personal mental health mountain, and one day when I reach the top of that mountain, I’ll be able to look back at all of those little miracles and gaze out into the distance at the steep slopes and jagged rocks that I overcame to get to this moment, I bet it will be a beautiful view.


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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Bloody Periods

Let’s talk periods.

I’m SO bored of seeing adverts on TV for sanitary towels or tampons where women are galloping around with short white skirts on, having the time of their lives whilst on their period. Don’t get me wrong…I’m sure there are some goddesses out there who manage it but seriously, WTF. When I have my period the last thing I want to do is be moving around with any vigour plus wearing something that could easily show up period stains is a HUGE no no in my book.

I mean, maybe I just fail badly at periods as I’ve touched on before, but really? REALLY?

I wanted to share with you some of my period fails with you today so that you can feel less alone when you may experience a slight period malfunction. Perhaps these stories are TMI and perhaps they’re not but what they are is REAL. They’re things that happened to me, that I had to style out awkwardly and they still haunt me today because learning about periods is not the same as learning about YOUR periods. Until your body gets into the swing of things you will SO not be prepared and I found that out the hard way…



I can still vaguely remember when I first got my period. I was a weird teenager who was desperately hoping my period would arrive. I was so jealous of all the girls around me who were proudly whispering about tampons and I felt so immature and unwomanly compared to them. LOL I TAKE IT BACK I DON’T NEED PERIODS AT ALL. It was after school and I was part of the trampoline club which met once a week to bounce around for the fun of it. I went to the toilet just before the club started and saw a small spot of blood in my pants. I panicked straight away wondering what it was before thinking ‘OH MY GOD, IS THIS MY PERIOD?! YAY YAY YAY!’ I stuffed some toilet roll in my pants and told one of my friends that I thought my period had started. Luckily she had a spare 50p or £1(I can’t remember which) to shove into the slot of the sanitary towel dispenser hanging on the toilet wall and that was my first ever experience of sanitary towels…that first time I put one on it felt like a nappy and I was CONVINCED that everyone would know I was wearing it. 

I got home that evening from the trampoline club and for some reason, even though my mum was really open and honest about everything from periods to sex, I was too scared to tell her. So I text her instead (lol) and said ‘I think my period has started.’ She came upstairs to my bedroom and smiled and we had a chat and that was my womanliness activated.

However it wasn’t plain sailing from there. I had very heavy periods; I think this was mainly due to my genes…my mum told me her periods were very heavy so I guess that might be why?! I do remember going to the doctor about them at one point but he didn’t seem worried so I guess that was a good thing…! But I wasn’t really prepared for HOW heavy they would be.



The most mortifying and probably TMI experience with my period was in a music lesson at school. I was wearing a pink Bodyform sanitary towel which is sort of the low-medium absorption and at the time I thought this was plenty sufficient to keep my flow in check. OH GURL. I remember throughout the lesson feeling like my pants were soaking wet and really, really heavy. Almost like there was a wet flannel resting in my pants. I thought nothing of it…I’d only really just started having periods so I assumed that was what it was meant to feel like. Oh how wrong my poor young self was. 

By the end of the lesson I knew something had gone catastrophically wrong. I could smell my own period; I could feel wetness between my thighs. Something was very very wrong. I stood up at the end of the lesson and holy hell, the chair was a STATE. I had pretty much leaked all over the chair. So I rapidly sat back down and panicked thinking what the fuck am I supposed to do?! I waited until everyone else was walking out of the door before I stood up and made a quick run for the door. The music teacher did say ‘Is everything alright Laura?’ at which point I should have said ‘I’M SO SORRY I JUST HAD A PERIOD ALL OVER ONE OF YOUR CHAIRS.’ But instead I ran to the toilet and assessed the damage in my pants. Oh wow, it was literally like an explosion. I’d never seen anything like it before and I was so embarrassed. Bearing in mind at this point my whole class were already on the way to our history lesson in the other building. I was sitting in a toilet cubicle pressing toilet paper into my trousers to soak up all the rogue blood. I wasn’t brave enough to go to the school office and ask a woman to HELP ME SORT MY PERIOD OUT because I thought they’d laugh me out of there. So I did the best I could. I stuck a new sanitary towel to my bloody pants and hot footed it to my next lesson where I spent the entire time sat on my blazer so as not to get the chair covered in my period. Luckily it was the last lesson before the end of the day so as soon as the bell rang I flung my bag over my shoulder and lengthened the strap so that it was long enough to cover my bum and speedily walked home to deal with the disaster that had happened.

Oh god, I cringe so much when I think about just running away from that chair but I just couldn’t face telling someone that I couldn’t period.



To be fair, most of my other embarrassing period stories revolve around chairs at school and a far too low absorbency sanitary towel. There was one time when I was in a biology lesson at the end of the day and I REALLY needed to change my pad but I knew that if I stood up then people would see me leaking so instead I waited until the end of the lesson, thinking I could surreptitiously just quickly wipe any leak on the chair up with a tissue. So when the end of the lesson came and we had to stack our lab stools up I panicked thinking OH GOD PEOPLE WILL SEE WHAT I’VE DONE. I quickly jumped up, just as one of the girls in my class looked down at my chair and saw my small leak. I gave her a pleading look to pretend nothing had happened and quickly stacked my stool underneath another one so no one would know it was me. OH THE SHAME.

I wasn’t ready to start using tampons at this point. I’d never had sex, nothing had ever been IN my vagina before so I wasn’t ready to stick something up there…and even now I much prefer using sanitary towels. (Although if I’m out/working/not lazing around the house I tend to use tampons for the fact they’re less likely to leave me with a massively stained crotch. YAY FOR TAMPONS)



It took me a good few years until I really got into the swing of my own body and learned how to cope with my periods. For the past few years I’ve been on and off contraception so I haven’t really had a proper period in a long time. Which sort of sucks because even though I hate periods, there’s a small part of me that loves the feeling of awesome womanliness that surrounds me when I’m on my period. Just me?

Also, over the years I’ve managed to create the best period survival kit that I carry around with me ALL THE TIME just in case. It's a large pencil case/make up bag that I put the following things into:
  • -          Six tampons: two regular, two super, two super- duper- fuck-me-you-have-a-heavy-period
  • -          Four towels: one regular with wings, two super plus with wings, one night time mega huge towel
  • -          A handful of nappy sacks (perfect for when you’re in a bathroom with no sanitary bin)
  • -          A spare pair of pants just in case things get SERIOUSLY bad down there
  • -          A few pantyliners
  • -          And some tissues just in case the toilet you’re using doesn’t have any

Ever since creating my little period kit I never ever ended up having a panic moment where I thought OH GOD MY PERIOD HAS STARTED AND I HAVE NOTHING ON ME. Every single bag I owned had a few towels and tampons stashed into the zip pocket at the back. And every time I went to school or went out, I would put the period bag into my bag so it was always there…just in case. Plus it was always handy when someone was in a panic and needed to borrow a tampon or pad…I had plenty to go around! Plus it didn’t look embarrassing or obvious in my bag…it just looked like a make up bag or pencil case...



Coming full circle, as I mentioned about the adverts, I just want to say that periods don’t have to look like that. Periods can be messy and unpredictable and a bit scary. But that’s OK. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about that side of periods. Sure, some women have super light periods and don’t have to worry about white trousers or getting a leakage. But some of us women do and that’s FINE. It’s normal. It’s life. I bet every woman has at least one embarrassing period story to tell. So if you find yourself having a slight problem with your next period YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And if you’ve only just started your periods or are yet to start them…don’t worry. No woman got it right straight away. It’s all about learning how your own body works and going with the flow (lol, soz.)


(Also, don’t be ashamed to talk about periods. It’s just another fucking amazing thing that your body does.) 

P.S ALL THE AMAZING ARTWORK IN THIS POST IS BY GEMMA CORRELL. She is a legend.