Surviving Christmas

I wrote this post for a work blog but unfortunately it wasn’t published. So I thought I’d share it here instead, rather than waste it. I guess the sentiment stands, wherever I place it, right? 


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Oh Christmas. A magical time for all, where everything twinkles and shines just that little bit brighter. Eggnog flows like water, chocolate waits tantalisingly to be devoured (usually for breakfast) and there is no pain anywhere.

If only.

Firstly, the festive season is s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l. Financially, socially, mentally – it can do a number on you in so many different ways, sometimes in ways you’ve never considered. I personally feel burnt out already just by the sheer amount of social engagements I’ve had (I know, boo hoo). Don’t get me started on the damage I’ve done with my debit card. So from the offset the magic can come at a price but we do it because it’s Christmas and we love our loved ones. Some of us adore this time of year and that’s cool too.

But Christmas can also be a challenging time for mental health and it’s important to acknowledge this. Every person has the right to take care of themselves during this period, even when they’re at home. If being with family isn’t the right thing for your wellbeing then that is fine, the modern set-up is often an extension of what we’ve always known and friends are the new family to many. As the clock ticks down to Santa’s visit, remember:

You don’t have to spend Christmas with your family

As above if this is a toxic place for you, you don’t have to do it.

If it all gets too much

Take yourself out of the situation. Absolutely nobody can give you grief for going to your room to read a book for an hour or having a hot bath in the middle of the afternoon. You know yourself better than anyone, so listen to your instincts.

Ask for help

I’m the worst when it comes to cooking the Christmas dinner. I do not know how to ask for help and end up sweaty and stressed in the kitchen, snapping at anyone who tries to intervene. Asking for help does not make you a failure; it just takes some of the pressure off. In fact, if you can write a list and make notes about who can do what, you’re laughing. Plus, if you cooked – it is against the law for you to wash up as well. Just saying.

Mind the booze

I’m not going to lecture anyone about their alcoholic intake but it is so tempting to turn to the buck’s fizz (or harder) to deal with Christmas Day. Alcohol is a depressant though and can leave you feeling low. Not to mention the Christmas morning/Boxing Day hangovers so sometimes it’s good to pace yourself.

Get some air

If you need to get out then get out! Nobody has ever regretted leaving the house for a spot of fresh air, let’s face it. Except maybe Dorothy Gale.

If it’s not perfect, tough

This is my new mantra, as I worry about presents, whether I’ve spend enough and that each gift is perfectly wrapped with a tartan bow. If everything is not just so then what’s the worst that can happen? The world will not implode. One year I forgot the stuffing and I’m still here to tell the tale, painful as it still is.

I am the gift and so are you

Your loved ones just want to be with you, I promise. For all the gifts and the going out, what really matters is the being together. And lots and lots of lovely cheese.

So from me to you, have a lovely Christmas and please take care of yourselves. 

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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

Horror & Anxiety

There have been loads of studies about how watching horror movies can actually sooth anxiety sufferers. I had never really thought about putting the two things together but it actually makes perfect sense – it also explains a lot. To me, about me.

I’ve always loved horror. When I was 18 I got my own TV in my bedroom. It was like a gateway to a new world and I fell in love with the movies right there and then. I found horror movies for the first time played late at night and I would stay up way past bedtime getting to know the big boys. Jason, Michael and pals. But I also learned about different sub-genres of horror, how they don’t all have to follow the same formula.

Now I rinse as many horror movies as I can, all the time. I just love them. Obviously there are great horror movies and there are terrible ones, and I generally feel as though there’s a place for most of them. Even the terrible teen ones that play their hand way too soon – I just need to be involved. Looking at you, True or Dare.

My favourites tend to be the psychological ones that get under the skin and fuck with your mind. I loved Hereditary this year because it took me to the darkest place imaginable. It gave me something that’s been done before but in such a different way. It shocked me, gave me feels and nightmares at the same time – and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

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Not your average feel good movie

I like smaller “anti” horrors that offer a slow burn with a massive pay off at the end the best. I like the horrors that feel real. They make me forget my own anxieties but could also totally happen in real life. It’s almost as if watching something like Hush, a home invasion movie about a deaf protagonist terrified in her own home is something that could so easily happen. While I myself am not deaf, I can put myself in her position. In a twisted way it makes me face up to what I might do in the same situation.

Anxiety for me is about questioning every little detail of my life, living with a constant paranoid fear that I’ve done something wrong and everybody hates me. But it’s also about fearing the very worst case scenario, for instance that my love ones will go out one day and never come back. These are the things I cannot control, the things that could happen but are unlikely. When I see a horror film it either makes me forget my own woes and focus all my feelings on the main character – or makes me stare at my own mortality face on – like I’m the final girl and the worst has already happened, so here I am: ready to fight.

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This is why you always sit with your back to the wall

I found a forum about this very topic on Reddit and user coffeeallthetime said it better than I can:

My rationale: Anxiety is your body being ready for an immediate threat that doesn’t (currently) exist, like a fight or flight response. Watching or reading horror gives a face to this “threat” and lets your mind live out the scenario, giving you a catharsis of sorts, and relieving the anxiety. Kind of like how listening to the song you have stuck in your head all the way through is supposed to help it get unstuck in your head. At least that’s how I think of it.

It’s hard to explain I guess just what I get out of these movies. They excite me, they make me tap in to my dark side, my fascination with the human psyche and how frightening human nature can be. I like the adrenaline shot I get what Laurie Strode fights off her brother – and it makes me feel like I could fight too. Let’s face it, in reality I’m more likely to be the wuss hiding under the bed but you just never know.

So to make myself feel better, I like to forget myself with horror and gore, final girls and ghosts. If it’s horrible, I want in please.

What about you?

Gaslighting

Excuse the serious post prefacing all the fun Halloween fodder but I wanted to put this together following a conversation I had this morning with my husband.

He was telling me about a woman who went to prison for murdering her husband with a hammer. She’d been driven to breaking point by his behaviour and maybe then this behaviour didn’t have a name. It does now, a word bandied around a lot in the media at the moment: gaslighting.

It’s taken me a while to get my head around the definition of this word and now I have, it’s brought up a lot. In relation to the news story, a change in law to recognise gaslighting as a legit form of abuse has affected the sentence this poor woman has been serving. Turns out this man had been manipulating her and making her think she was crazy from the start. I hope they release her because she could so easily be me.

Just in case you’re not aware, a definition:

Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another person’s reality, by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person. ~ Dr. Robin Stern, author of The Gaslight Effect

For me that statement rings so familiar, in particular the latter point. My greatest shame in life is how far down I fell as a result of a very bad relationship. Rock bottom. I woke up eventually on the ground, looking upwards thankfully but it would have been such a relief and so easy just to take that final step and just let go.

Of course my experience is in no way as extreme as the woman in this story but that’s the point. Control and manipulation can be so insidious, so commonplace within a relationship that you don’t even recognise it. It’s like a slow gas leak, pumping poison into your self-worth.

The man I lived with cheated but told me I was paranoid when I found nude photos on his phone. He’d emotionally blackmail me into doing things sexually that I definitely wasn’t comfortable with (pictures, public places). When we went to Barcelona he managed to get me to go topless on the beach by going on and on until I felt I had no choice (I cried secretly because I felt so bad about my body then and he knew it).

Often he’d remind me I was very lucky he didn’t hit women – that I needed psychiatric help, and my own mother agreed with him (my mother despised him and would never have entertained a conversation alone with him, yet still I believed him). He’d project every single one of his insecurities and fears onto me and that’s the crock – I believed him. I questioned myself. I lost the will to live and I stopped fighting.

What’s more I believed that I loved him, that no relationship was worthwhile if it wasn’t difficult. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the thought of him now sickens me to the core. Much as I wish it wasn’t true I still bear the light scars of that relationship – but more than that: I still have work to do on forgiving myself.

I feel like a different person now and my strength probably comes from this experience but I’m glad there’s a term for it now. Or at least that I understand it. I don’t share this to be all woe is me. Many (too many) women will see themselves in these stories but we need to talk about our experiences when we can, to ensure that none of us feel alone in the things we’ve survived.

So when snobs get all high and mighty about a show like Love Island I tell them to shush because at least it’s educating the next generation on what to look out for. Maybe I’d have got out sooner or not gone in at all, if I’d know more about it then.

Peace out, fuck face.

Twisted Nerve

Anyone else spend a fair portion of their life worrying that they’re not a good person? I think I question this every day at least once but when drama occurs the feeling hits me tenfold and I go all floppy with inertia. Like, why am I bothering, I’m the worst, I might as well give up, go to the end of the garden and eat worms. I hate this element of myself, the part that immediately concedes that everything is my fault and rightly so I should be punished for it.

I’m really trying to take these moments and hold them at arm’s length. To examine them before I commit to hating myself because of them. Sometimes this is possible and other times, not so much. I’m trying to understand that I’m not a perfect human being and that I will make mistakes and sometimes I will be insensitive and a dick – and as long as I acknowledge these times and try to fix them (and ultimately learn from them), then I can’t be all bad. It’s always a thrilling ride inside this head of mine, thanks anxiety.

Anyway, as it’s slipping nicely into Autumn, I’m in a pensive frame of mind and trying not to beat myself up over every little thing. I’m really not a negative person on the whole and my philosophy is to try to keep things upbeat where I can so anxiety feels like the voice in my head trying to bring that down. I’ve mentioned before that it feels like a constant battle of the wills to be myself and live with these feelings. Generally I’m winning though which is good.

The chill in the air is really nice though and we’ve had a couple of those perfect cold sunny days. I’m loving wearing jeans and boots – and I love my life very much. Apart from the little wobbles about what I’m doing with my life, I know how lucky I am. I have good friends, a home, I get to live and love a really good guy – and my family are the best. I want for nothing and deep down I know I’m not the failure human being that the voice sometimes makes me believe.

How are you?

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).

Bojack Weekends

I’ve had one of those perfect weekends when all the best new TV has made itself available and I’ve been able to go about my business of blogging and putting away clothes while watching it.

Relax haters, I also put on a dress and lipstick and went to see not one but two friends today, I’ve not been 100% hermit. Unfortunately.

Life has got increasingly busy over the summer with no sign of slowing down so these days seem few and far between at the moment. I cannot wait for it to get colder so I have a legit excuse to nest again.

Anyway, new Bojack is here and we’re already on Season 5. Let me tell you that when it first arrived on Netflix I didn’t know what to make of it. It was just an adult cartoon about a washed up horse and various other human and animal characters.

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But then… it started to shine and I realised it as one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever seen. It handles difficult subject matter in the most extraordinary way and has moved me to tears on more than one occasion. I would go so far as to say at least two episodes from previous seasons, one from last season (Ruthie, S04 E09) and one from the third (Fish Out of Water, S03 E04) broke me for a moment.

It’s been said that it’s handling of mental health and depression is some of the best and I’m inclined to agree. Despite it’s candy coloured appearance and wry observational humour, it doesn’t shy away from the uglier side of life. Not to spoiler but we’ve spent time examining feelings of failure and rejection, drug addiction, miscarriages, divorce, chronic depression and sexism.

It’s so relatable and though I’m not that far into the fifth season we’re already looking at the topic of asexuality. Meanwhile, *spoilers* Diane has travelled to Vietnam not only to get away but to get in touch with her roots, something her all-American family have always denied her. AND Bojack has become the accidental voice of feminism because who better to listen to on this topic than a man?

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It’s just so clever and spot on and I can’t wait to binge the rest of it. If you haven’t yet I would really recommend it – it’s definitely special and definitely some of the best TV around.

What are you watching?