Closed for Christmas

Dear Friends,

I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for the rest of December while I deal with some stuff (basically my own mental health).

I’m all good, I’ve just been having a bit of an adventure with my anxiety and overstretching myself socially, as usual.

So to combat these overwhelming feelings, Jill and I are breaking for Christmas on the Blog Collab and I’m going to probably keep it light (if I blog at all) between now and the new year. I just need to think about what I want to do and also have as much chill time as I can get.

This week is fucking mental again in terms of going out but next week I am winding down and nesting in the lead up to the big day. Fuck it. I’m going to read lots of books and take lots of baths. I want to be in PJs as much as possible. I am hanging up my false lashes for a month or two!

I will pop in I’m sure before Christmas but until then, things are going to be a little quiet over here.

I hope the festive season is being kind to you all. It can really do a number on you sometimes, financially, physically and mentally. Just remember you’re only human and can only do so much – and really the true spirit of Christmas is the cheese board, so as long as that’s taken care of, what else matters? JK of course. Christmas is what you make it. Just take care.

See you soon.

Sincerely yours, C xoxo

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Safe Zone

My home is rarely tidy. It’s comfortable and warm but our furniture is worn, there are books everywhere and I only vacuum when I know I have guests coming. I believe there’s always something more interesting to be doing than housework and I live by this philosophy. I wish I were more house proud but I’m not.

My home is, however, a safe place. For myself, for my family and for anyone who needs it. The kettle is always on, we have tea and coffee and beer and crisps and anything else we might need is just round the corner. There’s a spare bed during the week (or a couch always) and a shoulder to cry on any time. We can sit in silence or we can watch crappy TV (or good TV). You can have a bath or a shower, and borrow my fluffy robe. You can even use my good conditioner.

What I’m trying to say is nobody should be alone when they need someone. Nobody should feel alone. It’s important to realise that it’s okay to not be okay and that we don’t have to be strong all the time. We have the right to ask for help and we should also be there for each other when we need it. Life is hard and frenetic and it’s very easy to lose sight of ourselves and other people in admist our daily life.

So my home is a safe zone and my shoulder is a sturdy one. My ears are open. I don’t have a clue about a lot of things but I do know how to just be there. And I know how to make an excellent hot beverage.

#mentalhealthawareness #bethere

*Post inspired by a status update on social media (not written by me).

A History of Silence

The other week was Mental Health Awareness Week and I had planned to post this then as a celebration of my own mental struggles – but of course I never got the time/had the energy to sit down and polish off the right words. I do think it’s great that this week is marked in the calendar and that it prompts so many valuable discussions. In the wake of the devastating news about Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbits, it feels especially poignant.

Where do you even start though when you’ve been plagued with doubt your whole life? And why does it always feel so narcissistic to talk non-stop about this stuff? I’ve dealt (and sometimes ignored) my own depression and anxiety since teen age. I always thought I was just supremely anti-social and lazy (I am lazy) but I’ve come to understand that it’s not that black and white. Sometimes the feeling of not being able to physically haul yourself out of bed isn’t just because you’re a sloth. As for being around too many people, that’s all symptom of the same condition. Some days I can’t bear the thought of having to deal with another living soul. My family used to describe me as sensitive and you know what, I really am – and there’s nothing wrong with it.

When I first moved to Brighton I was grappling not only with a dramatic move and adult life away from home but with crippling loneliness. I didn’t like myself very much, felt hideous 24/7 (adult acne did not help) and all I wanted to do was hide away. As I adapted to my new life some of that fell away but I’d fall hard for the wrong men and then feel everything ten fold. The first time I sought (not very good) assistance from a medical professional was because of a man (I had an affair with someone completely unavailable). Really it was about all those feelings backing up one on top of the other and having no understanding of how to deal but the boy was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was immediately medicated with no other discussion and whatever I took then was not the one. My doctor was well-meaning but not exactly open to a conversation about mental health and I guess I didn’t really care to understand the whys then, I just wanted to be ‘fixed’.

A few years later, during my black period (age 24-30), I was in a very bad place. I was trapped in a relationship that was slowly killing me. For the most part I was numb and uncaring about everything but inside I felt trapped, scared and I did not want to be part of anything anymore. I walked on eggshells around a man that scared and controlled me in subtle ways. When he told me I was crazy I believed him. When he told me I was lucky he didn’t hit women, I believed him.

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s sometimes hard to remember how bad things were then but they were the pits. I thought seriously about ending it and planned my out meticulously, something I’ve never really told anyone and certainly nobody at the time. I had it all mapped out but now I think if I’d gone through with it, it would have been a cry for help. Not to trivialise the choice to end a life, I have every sympathy for anyone in that position but I personally wanted a way out or for someone to reach out and tell me what to do. I’m thankful I didn’t act on that and one day did find the strength to leave him. I still dream about that time and live in dread that one day I might bump into him again.

Life since has been up and down of course because it’s life but it’s been good. That anxiety though just doesn’t want to let go. Everywhere I go I am constantly wrestling with the internal voice that tells me I’m worthless and failing at everything. Every time I walk into a new social situation I’m sure everyone hates me – and I will often lie awake at night because I forgot to say goodbye to someone and have probably upset them in some irreparable way.

It’s a funny old battle – the war between this negative voice and the real me – but they are both me and we have to find a way to co-exist. I’m medicated again, I started up on Sertraline about ten months ago and it seems to be suiting me. My lovely doctor also got me signed up to some CBT training and counselling and has generally been adorable every time I’ve rocked up to her office and sobbed my heart out. I’ve been lucky this time and things feel more manageable. Some environmental changes can trigger a particularly bad period but other than that I’m coping.

My heart goes out to anyone with the same feelings and it breaks my heart when another person loses their battle but I understand. Suicide doesn’t make a person weak and if that’s the only way to find peace then I get it – although I would hope there’s always another way.

Things might be getting better and there is less stigma attached to these mental conditions but we still have a long way to go.

Here are a few deeply relatable illustrations about anxiety that I love:

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Smental

So much for Motivated May, eh? I had all these plans to keep the posts flowing throughout Mental Health Awareness Week and then… I couldn’t muster the energy. Instead I had a very chilled week, mainlined Safe on Netflix and spent time with my beloved. Which sometimes is all the self-care you need.

MHAW was a busy one at work though with workshops every day which I made sure I attended. While they won’t change my life forever, they have given me plenty of food for thought. Particularly when it comes to diet, direct sunlight and digital behaviour. I’m not talking going on a diet obviously, I’m talking about the things I ‘should’ be eating for optimum mental health – fermented foods like kimchi, anyone? Sauerkraut with every meal? I’m definitely falling short of my 5 a day (bare minimum) and probably should swap out my daily Wispa for an apple but we’ll see.

Apparently you’re also supposed to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight into YOUR EYEBALLS every lunchtime too – which I definitely do not do, what with being ginger and mutant and all.

For me it’s the digital side of things that is the real problem, I’m the worst for falling down a blue light rabbit hole before bed and not being able to sleep – so I’m looking at what I can do to rein that in. So much of the time I spend on social media could not be considered ‘quality’ and I can do without it. That’s what books were invented for, right?

All in all I think I’m in an okay place. I was going to do a whole spiel for the week about my history with depression and hey, I still will but in a few days when I get my act together. In the meantime, I’m just here thinking about life and kicking myself that May wasn’t the hive of activity I planned it to be. Joyous June, anyone?

Consider this a check in, filler post while I sort out my life.

How are you?

Blue Monday

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Here it is, the single most depressing day of the entire year.

I mean there are reasons to kick against it, to say “Fuck this, not today, Satan” but when it’s violently windy outside and your umbrella gets blown inside out 0.2 seconds after stepping out of the door, it’s hard to be strong. Plus, I got my period and have the worst cramps ever in the whole history of menstruation, so I’m not feeling today AT ALL. (Of course I’m jesting, these are not problems in the grand scheme of things. But aren’t Mondays hard enough?).

This isn’t a big post really, just an acknowledgement I guess to anyone feeling extra shitty today. I feel you and I’m here for you.

I’ll spare you a Reasons to be Cheerful list because it’s likely you already know there are blessings to be had in this life, even if they’re just Oscar Issac’s face. Depression doesn’t see all that or work that way, I know. But sometimes it’s useful to receive the message that you’re not alone, that other people feel the way you do and they understand.

Be kind to yourself today and every day, but particularly today, while everybody’s chattering about how depressing it all is. Do what you can but if you can’t do anything, that’s fine. Stay home if you can, avoid people if you need to.

Rinse Netflix, read a book – whatever you need, try and make time for it.

I’m thinking of you.

World Mental Health Day

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Yesterday was World Mental Health Day so obviously that’s my topic for today. And today is International Day of the Girl Child so that’s tomorrow covered. I just love being one day out of sync at all times.

So Mental Health. It’s fitting for me at the moment, as you know I’m always banging on about it, especially lately. I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression and anxiety – something I have always ignored but has gone into overdrive over the last couple of years. As a result of finally getting some help I’ve been doing counselling and I’m now medicated too. Which freaked me out to begin with but now seems like such a logical step. Mental Health after all is no different to physical health, the two in fact can go hand in hand.

It’s been through following people on social media and talking to other friends who are fearless about MH discussions that I’ve felt like I can be true to myself. Which sounds all kinds of cliche but it’s a relief to know there are people out there exactly like me and that I don’t have to be the strong one all the time. I fully realise it’s okay to not be okay and to reach out for help. And, where possible, set aside time and energy to administer all-important self-care.

Through this new honesty I’ve also been able to converse with loved ones who understand what anxiety feels like so a lot of good has come out of this period in my life.

To define anxiety is a hard one. I mean, it’s different for every person (and the same) and what works for one in ‘dealing’ with it, may not work for another. My personal anxiety seems mostly of a hypothetical nature. I stress constantly about terrible things happening and it makes me ill. I’m also constantly paranoid that everyone hates me, that I’ve fucked up, that I’m a failure and a fraudster – and all that bleeds into my every day life.

I’m currently learning how to compartmentalise and ‘file’ worries into two categories: ones I can deal with and ones that I have no control over, therefore I have to let go. It’s the letting go that I’m still learning to do – and that is way easier said than done.

There’s no fix for this and I think that’s the bottom line. So many of us live with these feelings so it’s important that we’re talking about it. Things may get better but it will always be an ongoing process – and that’s okay. Through conversation we can shrug off the stigma and maybe even help each other out. We all have the right to good MH, whoever we are and wherever we are.

So here’s to the worriers and the anxious and the depressed – you’re not in this alone.

Ps. Tonight was my last group counselling session and when I said goodbye to the one woman I’ve bonded with there, I choked up. I will probably never see her again and I just hope she finds a way to live with her worry ❤

Begin

I’m starting again. Again.

I’m delighted about it and I’ll write more soon when I can get all my thoughts together but for now, just know that I’m making solid plans to feel happier. That is my bottom line.

Oh, and obviously it’s not all that major, just a job change. I’m not selling all my books and moving to Antarctica alone. Not yet anyway.

I just wanted to take time to celebrate a little bit of light at the end of a long, long tunnel with you guys. And I’ll be getting back into writing more regularly soon, both here and elsewhere. I can’t wait.

How are you all? ❤