2017 – A year of ups and downs.

So if you’ve read my most recent posts, you’ll know that life has been a bit mental this year. I was made redundant from a job, someone I respected passed away, my gran became really ill. More recently I found out I was being made redundant again and my gran passed away this weekend. All in all this year has been a bit of a shitter.

However many downs there have been I think it’s also important to remember the ups too. Good things have happened this year and whether they’re big or small, I think they’re worth mentioning. So after four days away seeing some amazing people in Newcastle, I’m trying to refocus and re-evaluate life. Before I start spilling my brain all over this blog though, here are some of the big and little things that I’m grateful for.

The Big Stuff:

My Friends

The fact that I know I could go to Newcastle and stay with two amazing people any time I need to is amazing. The fact that so many of my friends have been checking in with me and have been kind enough to offer me beer, food, a comforting ear, a day of singing and music or a conversation to take my mind off life is massively appreciated. One of my friends is even spending Christmas with me this year and will be flying over from Australia. Most importantly though, none of my friends have made me feel bad about skipping out on social things to take time for my brain and my family.

My Family

No one likes their family 100% of the time but I really think most people genuinely love their families. I really do love my family. I don’t always show it and I definitely could do more for my family. But if this year has shown me anything, it’s that my family is great (not that I didn’t know it before). Whether it’s the family a few doors down or family from across the world this year has made my family even tighter than before. I appreciate my family a lot.

My Job

Okay so I’m being made redundant but one thing I’m really grateful for is how flexible they’ve been with me. I’ve been allowed to work from home whenever I need it and leave at 5pm and finish the day at home. My colleagues have been amazingly understanding and I’m really grateful that I ended up in such a good team.

The Little Things:

Video Games

So the little things might seem trivial but I’m going to start with video games. I love video games. I play with people I’ve never met online and I play games that friends have recommended me and I talk to them about the game constantly. It might seem silly for a lot of people but for me, especially this year, videogames have been a fantastic escape for me into a fantasy world or twelve.

Internet

Okay so I’m not talking about social media or YouTube or anything. I’m talking about broadband and WiFi. I was paying a silly amount of money for internet that was barely working. But I changed WiFi provider and I now have super fast super reliable internet. So yeah it allows me to enjoy things like Netflix and YouTube which is another great escape.

My Camera

I’m not the most active on YouTube any more and I’m not the greatest film maker or photographer in the world but fuck me, taking the camera out for a day of shooting video or doing a photography tour is absolutely amazing fun.

Sidenote: If you’d like to come along on a photography tour of London with me for the amazing Project Parent come along to the event page here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/181144485778845/

So as I mentioned at the start, 2017 has been a bit of a shitter, but it’s not all been bad. Thanks to everyone who’s made my 2017 slightly more bearable and occasionally a whole lot of fun. Still though, fuck 2017.

3 Things I Appreciated This Past Week

Every day is not good, but there is something good in every day.

In turbulent times like these it’s really important that we learn to appreciate the people and the things in our lives that we’ve really appreciated. It’s often the little things that we overlook easily. I find it really useful to seek out these little things to make ourselves remain positive and to prevent us from becoming cynical and angry at the world.

While it may feel like hate has taken over the world, love still exists and it’s still a powerful thing. The quote above is a powerful one for me and I try to find that something good in every day. Here are some of the good things that I have experienced this week.

1. Reconnecting with an old friend and with music

Years ago, I met a girl at school and we chatted rarely and sang together once in the music room at school. We pretty much never hung out and never really spoke much but we recently reconnected after 8 long years and being thousands of miles apart. I knew very little about her when we were in school but the person she’s become is wonderful. Kind, fun, accepting, really flippin smart and also very talented. We got together and chatted, listened to music like the old days (like where you’d buy a few new CD’s and bring them round and listen to them together) and also sang together. This is the product of our re-connection! Mara, thank you for being you!

2. The kindness of strangers

So as you know, I’ve recently started making videos for this blog as well. If you don’t, check out the channel, watch some videos, subscribe (shameless plug, I know, video below). What I really appreciated though, was someone who was established as a YouTuber and someone who’s videos I watch every week, took the time out to watch some of my videos and give me feedback. She’s undoubtedly really busy and she still helped me out! She was in the last blog post and she remains one of the loveliest people online. So, thanks, Ana Marta!

3. My job

Tonight is my first night home for 3 days. I spent two days in St Helens and one day in Leicester. Leicester is the day I want to talk about though. I got to see where one of my young people had got to after knowing her for three years. She’d organised an event for 500 students to encourage them to get into STEM. She was confident, calm and assertive throughout the day. It was so wonderful to see what she’s achieved and how successful her project has become. I’m proud to do what I do and I’m so proud of her for supporting other young people who have been told they’re not good enough to get into STEM. They can and will and they’re going to pioneer innovative new ways to make the world a better place. 🙂

The Power of a Smile

I talk a lot about how the little things in life can really help people get through a day, a week, a year. It could be something as simple as a good song or bumping into an old friend or even something silly like tidying up the mini zen garden on your desk. All of these little things can make the tough days just that little bit easier and even though sometimes you don’t acknowledge them, they’re there if you look for them.

I made a new friend recently. For those of you who know me you know I’m not a huge fan of meeting new people. It often makes me feel physically sick. People often tell me that they’d never guess that I’m not a fan of meeting people because I seem so friendly and confident. Truth is, I’m just a very good actor. Meeting people, as I mentioned, makes me feel very sick. It makes me brain function at 1000mph and leaves me considering every single possible social interaction that we’d have in the next few seconds, minutes, hours and days.

However!

This particular person walked up to me with her friend (who I already knew and who all of this also applies to when I first met her) and came over beaming. Smiling like there wasn’t a thing wrong with the world and that made me feel significantly more at ease than when I saw her coming over.

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A simple smile made me feel significantly more comfortable with this new person. She came across as friendly and accepting. Luckily, she was actually friendly and accepting. She’s absolutely not the only person with a winning smile though. Most of the people I know and love greeted me with a smile. Whether it was at the first ever volunteering residential I went to (where I was unable to bring myself to approach anyone), at work or through other ways I’ve always had wonderful smiles around me to calm my nerves.

So I’d always encourage you to smile at that stranger you see on the train every morning, smile at your partners, your friends, your families. Whether it’s a polite smile, a toothy grin or a good ol’ hearty cackle it could be a huge thing. You never know when someone might need that small gesture of kindness.

If you’re in need of a smile, my glorious friends from all over the place have sent me photos (or let me trawl through their Facebook photos) and are here to provide a smile for you as they did for me.

 

Thank you to Jacqui, Deepan, Taz, Sarah, Zahrah, Amira, Jenny, Shaun, Emma, Rob, Victoria, Kate, Scarlett, Kishan, Cat, Zahra, Monet, Emmeline, Jack, John, Naomi, Amy, Katie, Louise, Reema, Sarah and Rosie and many many more for sending in photos, helping me to spread a little joy and for bringing so much joy into my life. I ended up receiving more photos than I could fit but here are just a small fraction of them!

Keep smiling, all.

A

Mental Health Awareness Week: Tag

So it’s come round again pretty swiftly but we’re slap bang in the middle of MHAW.

The delightful Becca has tagged me to talk about my mental health. You should go check out her post here. First things first, thank you to Becca for sharing her story, answering these questions and helping to make talking about your mental health normal. Now, I’m sure regular readers will know a fair bit about my journey but here goes! (Warning, this is going to be a long one.)

  • What mental illness do you have?

I have depression and anxiety.

  • When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed with depression when I was 18 and still in college. The anxiety was when I was around 22.

  • Who knows about it?

Almost everyone I know. I try to be as open and honest about it as possible though that doesn’t always happen! The first person who knew was my ex who to this day I’m grateful to for supporting me and getting me the help I needed. We don’t speak anymore but I’ll always be thankful for helping me to get better! The first friend who I told about it was one of my closest friends and my sister from another mister. That was the hardest thing for me, just coming to terms with it all. I was so scared that it would alienate me from other people because I wasn’t normal.

  • Do you receive treatment for it?

I’m currently on a pretty decent dosage of Fluoxetine (I think it’s called Prozac in the states). I’ve been on more different tablets than I can count and have gone to counselling multiple times but believe it or not, the idea of talking about it to help me recover is still quite scary.

  • Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything?

My anxiety and depression stop me from doing a lot of different things. Though I’m outwardly a very chatty person, I despise meeting new people fearing that they may hate me. It regularly stops me from going out and socialising with friends. So often, I decide to stay at home rather than see people I really want to as I’m so scared of talking to people that I don’t know. My mental illnesses also stop me from doing some really basic things too. It often leaves my body completely exhausted and I sometimes struggle to get out of bed, speak, eat, drink or even breathe sometimes. I’ve also (not for a while, thankfully) once left a restaurant because I couldn’t decide what to eat.

  • Is there anything in particular that has helped you?

Music, art, comic books, videogames and volunteering. Oh and food. I love food. Music is my favourite way to unwind and calm myself down. I love to sing and play. There’s something very therapeutic about creating something. Whether it’s a piece of music, a piece of art, a delicious dish. Or just saving the universe from monsters and aliens. Of course the other huge thing that helps me is having good people around me. Friends and family are not to be taken for granted. Whenever I need it, I seem to get a text or call from my best friends. Whenever I go home to see my family, we chat all night, we eat and watch Grand Designs. My work also helps me greatly. It’s a job I love and getting to work with and support other young people to help their communities and themselves gives me endless pleasure.

  • Can you describe what it feels like to have your mental illness?

It feels like a prison of thoughts. Every single interaction I have, whether professional or social is an absolute ball ache. I go through all the possible scenarios that could possibly come out of this interaction. What if I say something that offends them? What if I say something embarrassing? It’s exhausting. It’s a constant feeling of ineptitude and inability to function normally. It’s comparing myself to everyone else in society and to societal norms and trying to fit those molds. It’s like an elephant standing on my chest and daggers poking my brain. It’s more often than not a complete numbness to everything in the world. Pleasure is an uncommon thing and it’s very rare that I feel truly happy to be alive but I want to get back to being happy again.

  • What is a common misconception about your mental illness?

That it’s as easy as flipping a switch to turn it off. The number of times that I’ve been told to just get over it and stop being so miserable is impossible to count. It’s also the least helpful thing in the world. If I could do that I would do that in an instant. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world who would want to suffer with depression and anxiety. I know so many people who I’ve worked with, volunteered with, spoken to online who are fighting the same fight as me and it’s probably the most common thing that is said to us. 13245324_1854977518062911_6991456438909472387_n.png

  • What do you find the most difficult to deal with?

The guilt. It’s unfounded, unfortunate and irrational. I would never feel guilty for breaking my leg and not being able to do something yet for some reason, not being able to bring myself to go out and see people because of my mental illnesses fills me with so much guilt. I feel guilty that I miss birthdays, gatherings, parties, dinners. I struggle to do any of that stuff unless I’m in control and I’ve planned every detail and know exactly who is and isn’t going to be there. I feel so guilty for letting people down and disappointing people but if it was the other way round, I wouldn’t ever feel like they were letting me down. They’re just looking after themselves.

  • Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

First, thanks for reading this far! It’s always a struggle to talk about these things so openly but it’s important that I do. I would love for more people to do the same so that I can make sure that we’re not going to be stuck feeling bad about our illnesses. As always, just make sure that you ask your friends how they are. Offer to support each other, look after each other, be kind to one another and make sure that there’s always love and compassion at the forefront of your mind.

Also, just generally don’t be a dick.

As this is mental illness tag, I’m tagging everyone who’s reading this. Drop it in the comments below if you’re comfortable doing it or write a blog post of your own. Otherwise, please feel free to like, comment and follow me for more mental health posts. 🙂

A

Birthday Celebrations

Welcome to my first post on the new revamped WordPress blog! I recently celebrated my birthday so I thought I’d write a little about what goes through my head every year.

Every year my birthday becomes less and less important for me to celebrate. This year was no exception. Sure it’s the day I was born, but it’s just like any other day. People still go to work (I didn’t), buses still run, people are still born and we keep on moving round the sun as per usual. The world doesn’t stop turning for me and I don’t expect it to. Every year I say to myself, “I’m just going to have a quiet night in with my best buds Junk Food and Netflix”. Every year that doesn’t happen. It is however for a very beautiful reason.

People want to celebrate with me. 

Every year I feel pressured into doing something. People aren’t pushy, people aren’t forcing me to do anything. I put the pressure on myself. Every year I stress myself out trying not to have a birthday thing, then planning it, then booking it, then inviting people. The worst part is once I’ve invited people the fear that no one will come. The fear that I won’t feel comfortable enough to enjoy myself. The thought that there’s nothing to celebrate.

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But this year was a little different. I don’t know if it was the ridiculously brilliant cocktail of people I was with, the fact that we were packed into the beer garden so tightly or the tequila but my thought process changed. The thing that was worth celebrating was that I was still alive. I hadn’t let the over thinking, the mental health condition and my own lack of self esteem kill me for one more year. I had survived, my brain is a little healthier this year. My friends grow more and more incredible as each day goes by and the one day a year they help to make me feel like the world has stopped for a day, like people had stopped working and the buses stopped running. They actually ended up singing “Happy Birthday” so loud that the pub actually stopped.

This year I’m celebrating. I’m alive, I’m well and I’m blessed with great friends and family. I’m winning against my mental health conditions and I’ve come to enjoy my birthday again.