Monday, 18 September 2017

How Hard it is to Love Yourself when you're Tackling Mental Health

I keep five different journals. FIVE. I have my weekly planner, my "worry diary", my Daily Greatness Journal, an art journal and another plain written journal I don't use as much. Why? Because I like to write, and to keep track of my progress and my wellbeing. I like to have a creative outlet. It's important to me to have some sort of outlet as a way of dealing with my mental health. It's difficult to keep on top of everything when you have five bloody journals, but it's also difficult when you feel like your mind is a mental representation of this. I know what you're thinking, just have ONE journal for gods sake, Emily. No. I tried this. And I didn't like it. I felt restricted. I need different journals for different methods of creation. If I wrote my anxieties in my weekly planner it would distract me from my schedule and if I started painting in my daily greatness journal it would mess up my daily greatness plan. I'm just not a one-journal-kinda-gal. 

It may sound like a lot of effort to people who don't battle with a mental illness but having a mental illness IS a lot of effort. Every small task feels like a huge hurdle that you've been forced to jump over. Although, daily tasks that feel like mountains are the easy part, the hard bit is then having to deal with a mind that tells you what you've achieved isn't good enough. How am I supposed to love myself when all of the necessary actions I'm taking to get myself there are being rejected by my very own being? It's oh-so-exhausting. 

I feel such intense pressure sometimes, but now I'm saying NO. No more feeling inadequate. It's debilitating to feel such disappointment in yourself when you're trying your hardest. To look at yourself in the mirror and see a person you don't want to be. A person you wish you weren't. 

Thankfully, recently, I've been allowing myself time to relax. Like really relax. I don't have to feel 'accomplished' everyday. I don't have to love myself all the time. I have five different bloody journals for a reason. Because my mind isn't one state of being. Humans are not one dimensional. We are not one emotion, or one behaviour. I know some days I will feel suffocated and defeated but whilst I feel that way it's important to remember the times I've felt the complete opposite, too. I've also been allowing myself to feel it. Rolling with it, I guess. After all, I know it's temporary. And I know it's okay and completely ~normal~ to feel contradictory emotions. 

After all, I doubt I'm alone in this. 

And if I could offer one piece of advice for everyone reading this, it would be; stop putting pressure on yourself to be great, you're fine as you are. 

no pressure, no stress-er


- peace and love, Emily -xo




Monday, 11 September 2017

When You Only Have Yourself To Blame

If there is one thing I have learnt throughout my life, it's that I'm really good at giving advice but not so good at taking it. I sometimes think that it may be because I see myself as being an exception to the rules. It's pride and it's ego. I see this in myself sometimes. I catch myself behaving and believing that I'm somewhat exempt from morality. I have endless excuses and take zero responsibility. I'm ashamed of this, it is not the way I wish to live my life. Having a loaded god complex probably stems from the abundance of praise and admiration I had as a child - classic me blaming my parents!

I know that when I only have myself to blame there are proactive steps to take instead of wallowing in self pity (which is something I've definitely been known to do). The most vital step being to take some goddamn responsibility! Accepting that I am flawed is not easy but it's completely necessary. I am not the only person to make a mistake. I am not the only person to feel this way but I do because of my own actions and I deserve to because of my own actions. It really is a lot easier said than done.

I know a lot of people say "don't worry" and "don't beat yourself up about it" when things go wrong. But that's bullshit advice, sometimes, people need to be told. I am one of those people. I do need to beat myself up a little bit, I do need to feel bad for my actions. If I didn't, how will I ever grow? It's easy to tell someone not to worry because we know it's what we would want to hear if we were in their position. But, if everyone went around spewing this discourse we'd all be tripping up struggling to walk on the layer upon layer of rugs we've swept everything under.

You gotta fix it. You gotta take action.

I know once I've accepted my wrongdoings and accepted that I am flawed I will start making better decisions. I think believing that I am exempt from the rules makes me more inclined to break the rules in the first place. Now that I am accepting I am not above anyone else, I won't act as though I am. I want to change but it won't happen because if we don't have the power to accept personal responsibility for our actions, we won't have the power to change them.

Don't let people get away with being shit. When you see bad things happen, call it out. And when you only have yourself to blame, take responsibility, accept it, fix it and learn from it.


- peace and love, Emily -xo

Saturday, 26 August 2017

I Moved House (again).

At the beginning of this year I decided to move back to Cambridge. Prior to this, I spent 3 years studying in Cambridge before moving back in with my parents last year. Toward the end of last year, I met someone in Cambridge so naturally, wanted to move back. We rented a room there for about 3 months before a pretty major fall out. I really wanted to stay living and working in Cambridge but couldn't afford to rent somewhere on my own on the wage I was on. So, here I am, again, back in Norfolk, living with my parents...

I thought this move would be a classic opportunity for me to write another blogpost. I like to check-in every now and then. I have quite enjoyed going back and forth and changing my path. After all, I'm at the early-twenties-limbo-stage of life. NOW is the time to be exactly this. I sometimes beat myself up a bit for not being where I want to be but I do believe this is actually where I should be. I've been too caught up with getting ~there~. Wherever ~there~ is. To be honest, I don't think anyone is really ~there~ I don't even think ~there~ exists. I'm dropping getting ~there~.

I think one of the toughest things for me to admit is that I don't have a clue what I want to do or where I want to be (hence the constant moving from place to place). To be quite honest, this terrifies me. It feels absurd for me to feel anxious about something I have complete control over. I have a lot of freedom and opportunity right now but I also have self doubt and anxiety. I feel like I'm constantly having to fight to feel okay and then when I do feel okay I beat myself up again for not feeling okay in the first place. I hate that I struggle and I hate admitting I'm not actually okay. It feels like a weakness to admit that I'm scared but I don't feel weak at all.

I think I'm just really bloody sensitive. Which doesn't necessarily mean weak. It doesn't really mean anything good or bad, weak or strong, it just means I feel A LOT. It's exhausting, sometimes. It can also be rewarding, exciting, breathtaking, enchanting, joyous, etc, etc...

Swings and roundabouts, eh?

All of this ~feelings~ talk reminds me of a David Jones quote, so I'm going to end the post with this:

"It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply."

- peace and love, Emily xo

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Coming off meds

I was on antidepressants for just over a year from February 2016 to April 2017.  I had my dose reduced in March so it's not a surprise that the months following this have been fairly rocky. For the past year my mood has been relatively stable and in hindsight, I feel so relieved I decided to start taking medication. Being on antidepressants is like being wrapped in bubble wrap. In fact, it kind of feels like when you visit the dentist and they give you a numbing injection in your gums just before you have a filling, but for your brain. If you've had a numbing injection in your gums then you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that coming off meds is the aftermath of the filling-feeling when your senses start to come back and the awful ache of the former dental procedure starts to creep up on you. Coming off antidepressants is a prolonged, convoluted version of that.

During my time weening off antidepressants I felt - to put it simply - shite. And it wasn't just one of those 'I feel like shit so I'll have a bath' moods. It was a full-blown motherfxcking-monster-rollercoaster mood. I could not predict or control my mood. Monday was up, Tuesday down, Wednesday right, Thursday left and fuck knows what was happening during the end of the week because why make life easy, right? I was also extremely teary coming off meds. I kept crying at really inconvenient times. I would arrive at work, have someone ask me if I'm alright and I would burst into tears. So embarrassing. I think that exact scenario happened about half a dozen times.

It's safe to say antidepressants are a pretty hefty numbing device. It's been 4 months since I started to ween myself off medication and things have definitely settled. I think all of the emotions I had been unable to feel for a year, came out in the space of 1 month. I'm glad I'm somewhat stable in comparison to how I felt then. I like that I have progressed, I think I'm always progressing now. Slowly. Very slowly, but still I am moving forward. Things used to feel as though they were moving backwards but now, I only see what's in front of me. There are still times where I sit and reflect but now, most of my reflection is for the purpose of progression.

I know last February I was at crisis point and I'm so grateful I took the support offered to me at the time. I do believe antidepressants are more of a quick-fix, something to mask the pain for a while but that's exactly what I needed. If anything, the withdrawal symptoms were enough to make me never want to get to crisis point again so I don't think I'll be going near them any time in the near future. Or the far future. Or any kind of future.

Here's to progress.

- peace and love, Emily -xo







Thursday, 6 July 2017

Fear

Last night I googled 'how to talk about your feelings' which is hilarious because - its me! I'm always talking openly about my life. In fact, in previous blogposts I've talked about suffering with depression, feelings of anxiety, suicide attempts and relationship issues. I spent a long time last night skimming through article after article of understanding fears and expressing feelings. I learnt that I'm completely comfortable blogging about them because I'm not having a conversation with anyone in particular; in fact, I feel like I'm just talking to myself, which is great. No conflict. No one to tell me that my feelings are bad, or silly. Or that I'm pathetic and stupid. That is what I am most afraid of.

I already know that most of my fear stems from intimacy, I've had counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the past to help combat this. I remember being terrified by something my therapist told me. She said the best thing for intimacy fear - is intimacy... she said that being in a safe, secure relationship - one that shows me not all people are bad - will be most helpful. I tried this. It didn't work out.

So, I'm back to square one and it's frustrating because I felt like I was making good progress, which I am still optimistic about. However, I know I have a lot more work to do now and I'm exhausted from continuously trying to move forward. This continuous circular endeavour reminds me of a Virginia Woolf quote:
"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end."
Life is one great cycle of shit! A luminous halo is perhaps a little more poetic. Either way, I believe that everything is connected and we're all going round in a loop. The path is not always clear, we experience happiness and sadness in waves, nothing is a constant state of mind - and that's okay. It helps to put this into perspective when I find myself struggling to accept my circumstances. It also helps to write about how I'm feeling, especially as I struggle to vocalise it.

Sometimes I feel completely suffocated by anger and fear, almost as if there's a tangible block stood before me, stopping me from moving forward...

I have a Susan Jeffers book (my counsellor recommended me) called Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway; a life motto, almost. I often refer back to this when I feel stuck. It kicks me back into reality and really helps me to understand that: This Is It. This is all we have. Right Here. Right Now. I cannot hold back forever, and I won't miss out on things that have the potential to be amazing because I'm too chicken shit scared to do them. Fucking, yolo n that (I've read so many self help books that I'm starting to think I should write my own).

Jeffers suggests 'that while inability to deal with fear may look and feel like a psychological problem, in most cases it isn't.' She believes 'it is primarily an education problem, and that by reeducating the mind, you can accept fear as simply a fact of life rather that a barrier to success.' She goes on to teach and 'experiment with taking the concept of fear out of the realm of therapy and placing it in the area of education' and found that her students were 'amazed at how shifting their thinking magically reshaped their lives'.

I've been working on this change myself and am starting to notice what triggers my fear and what I can do to help it. Again, it's a cycle of ups and downs, and more ups and more downs... etc, etc.

I think you can either let fear control you or let it guide you. And I think the fact that I sat up for two hours last night googling 'how to's' suggests I want it to start guiding me instead of being burdened by it and running away. I've been burdened by it, got the t-shirt, had it signed; the whole lot. So now it's time for change. I mean, come on, Em, you're a fighter. You got this.

I got this.

- peace and love, Emily ox

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

I tried to keep myself warm and the whole world went up in flames

I've been unintentionally writing a lot of stream of consciousness style poetry that; although different to how I would usually write, is really growing on me.

This one's a real debby downer.


A lot of the time I don't feel like anything is real. I didn't like what was happening outside so I locked myself in. And inside I've been busy with flames and trying to put the fire out. But the more I try the bigger it gets. I think it's because every time I fall out of love I feel weaker. Like a flower that's had all of it's petals pulled off. I used to believe that love could overpower hate. And anger. But I only feel anger. I have been pushed around by people that are bigger than me. It hurts but at least I can still walk. And although I can still walk, it's becoming harder to run. I feel like I've been running for too long. I know you would agree. How do you rebuild yourself when you've lost your way. It's like trying to put together a glass that's been dropped from the clouds. I can't even find the damn glass. I had it in my pocket once. It was broken and I kept losing bits. I didn't intend on leaving shards of it behind. There are pieces of it everywhere. In places that are too far away for me to get to, too hidden for me to find. I don't think I will ever find it. Let alone piece it back together. I think I'm having trouble understanding that once things are done they cannot be undone because I keep trying to undo it.  I've been trying to undo it for a long time. I'm still trying to undo it.



- peace and love, Emily xo

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Boys and Girls

I'm not sure if this is a poem, or a short story or whatever but I wanted to write so I did. Enjoy.


1. The first time should have been special but it was trivial. It wasn't horrific. It was a catalyst. The start of something I had no idea about but it was something everyone else did, so I did it too. I think he thought I was happy. I wanted to tell him I wasn't. 
2. I had a feeling it wouldn't be too long before someone held me again. When you have your face pressed against a boys chest or neck there really isn't much else to long for. This is why new people are exciting. 
3. I tried being friends because I had a hole in my core. I waited after school almost everyday. He never really wanted anything to do with holes or essence. 
4. When the summer changed to autumn I spoke of only him. But the more you think about them the less significant you are. I watched the snow fall in the early hours of the morning, waiting for him to wake up. When he did, it was always to the sound of the same song. I still can't listen to that song. I probably could have loved him. I thought I did but I was wrong.  
5,6,7,8. Everyone was used to it by now. There were many in between that I would have mentioned if I thought they were thinking of me. 
I lost count when people stopped talking about it as much. We made love at night and during the day; I felt lighter. We called it love. We also called the moon our friend. 
My parents called it a phase but it felt like a lifetime. There are some I won't mention because I don't care and there are some I won't mention because I do. 
It was only one weekend. I still despise you for making me feel like there would have been another time. The further and longer I was away from you, the more it seemed likely that I wouldn't touch you again. I still haven't. 
Things are too fresh and I still feel weak. You're probably thinking how typical of me this is. 



- peace and love, Emily xo 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Motivation

I've pretty much been bed bound for the past few days, suffering with horrific menstrual cramps which doctors suspect to be endometriosis. This amongst other stresses are putting me in a place that I don't want to and refuse to be in. So I've taken to writing a blog post to see if I can find some motivation...

It's so much easier to say I want to be productive than actually engage in anything that requires me to do so. Even as I type this I'm laying down on my bed in my underwear, not a typical environment for a so-called motivation post. I guess this post is a start though. In fact, I could consider this post the first step to motivation, and for anyone reading this also feeling uninspired I grant this post you're first step to motivation town, too.

Next step: create a motivation playlist. I feel like I'm in need of some proper bangers, those songs that make you actually want to do stuff... I'm thinking Destiny's Child - Survivor, Banks - Fuck With Myself, Aretha Franklin - Respect, and more along those lines. I enjoy a good stereotypical feminine kick ass song. Although, everyone has their own specific taste in music so go ahead and find your own jams, especially if you're a hefty bloke with no desire to belt Beyoncé.

Thirdly, I guess I should actually decide what it is I want to do. For this, I'm going to put together a to-do list. To-do lists are fun, in fact, I really love writing lists. When I was younger I used to have a book of lists. The first list in the aforementioned book was a "marry list". It had my maths teacher, taylor swift and a few people in my school year on it. And, if you think that's kind of cringeworthy or weird, then you're not going to like that one of the people on the list was my friends mum. I'm not even sorry, she was fit.

Finally, I should almost definitely do this last thing. I feel like it's a major component of my plan and one of the biggest steps, maybe even the penultimate step, to motivation town: get up off my bed...

I will probably do that now. Cheerio.

- peace and love, Emily xo

Friday, 31 March 2017

The Best Queer Spots in Berlin

Here are some of my favourite queer places in Berlin ranging from clubs, to bars to book shops - enjoy!

Schwules Museum 



Shwules Museum is a museum FULL of LGBTQIA art. What more could you want?


Other Nature 


Forget Ann Summers, and sex shops aimed at ~str8 ppl~ Other Nature is a QUEER sex shop selling everything from books on Feminist Porn to Non Latex Condoms. In fact, this isn't just a queer sex shop, it's completely VEGAN, too!


Prinz Eisenherz



So, you're a raging gay with a love for literature? Look no further...


SchwuZ




SchwuZ is officially the BEST queer club in Berlin, don't @ me. Popular for catering to ALL colours of the LGBTQIA rainbow, it's impossible to feel out of place here, well, unless you're a cishet white dude. 


Silver Future




Welcoming "kings, queens and criminal queers' Silver Future is a bar with quirky interiors and a lively queer scene.



Most of these places are situated around Kreuzberg (my favourite Berlin district) and Neukolln (the 'hipster' district of Berlin), all are EAST of the river. I assembled a map indicating the location of all 5 places below:



- peace and love, Emily xo

Friday, 24 March 2017

Nobody likes you when you're 23

I turned 23 on March 19th 2017. I guess that means it's about time for me to ponder where my life is going and how I've come to be where I am today. I enjoy a good ol' reflective post (mainly for the little bit of bragging I get to do about how I'm pretty content and proud of where I'm at). Recently, not a lot has changed since my last few posts so I'm going to talk about my journey to 23 prior to this year.

I feel like I've had such a wholesome, fruitful life; especially during my younger years. I had what I described to my therapist as "a text-book childhood (so tell me, Natalie, WHY am I still insane?!)". I've been on many holidays and adventures that all seem to blur into one when I try to remember them. My earliest memory is of me trying to hold onto my mum (and crying a lot) on my first day at play-school because I REALLY did not want to go. I remember being quite an ambitious, funny child. At 6 years old I wanted to be "a barbie lady". At 8, I wanted to be a "professional cheese grater" - not the object, someone who professionally grates cheese - great aspiration, right? At 10, a lawyer, a writer, a dancer, in the army, on the moon and travelling the world. A funny child, indeed.

I'm glad I can no longer say I still feel like a teenager even though I'm in my 20's, because I really don't. Although, it does feel strange to think I'm closer to 30 than I am to 15. I used to listen to that Taylor Swift song about being 15 thinking "it's OK I don't need to have it all figured out yet." and now all I can think of is Blink 182 - Whats My Age Again? and how fun it would be to run around causing havoc in the nude like they do in the music video. Maybe, I no longer feel like a teenager because I'm an actual adult-sized baby who only wants to run around in the nude screaming at people?

Or maybe I should go back to my therapist.


- peace and love, Emily xo

Monday, 27 February 2017

I am alone.

I've been back in Cambridge for just over a month now. There are many things I love about being back and from an outsiders perspective my life is pretty good. However, recently, I've been feeling lonely and spending a lot of time alone. And although feeling lonely and being alone aren't synonymous, I am both. It's somewhat strange to feel lonely when life is in your favour. I have a comfortable home, job and relationship but somehow I still feel as though something is missing - maybe not missing - it's emptiness I feel most.

For the past 3 years around this time of year, I have had an annual suicide attempt... I know my yearly routine will change this year. I feel better than I did before but I'm frightened that the emptiness I feel comes from a place of habit. I mean, there's nothing I can contribute to how I feel except that I'm not suicidal right now. That should be a good thing though, right? I don't want to be depressed anymore and I know I am more stable now than I have been but I'm finding I cannot accept this change so easily when I've spent so long feeling low. The past few years are part of who I am now. I feel like I'm learning to cope again in a way that is completely alien to me. I've forgotten how 'normal' people do things, how they socialise, how they eat, how they wake up every morning...

I guess I'm in a weird transition period of my life. Whatever it is, I feel isolated. I hate feeling isolated. I feel so disconnected. This feeling is unfamiliar to me now. This "new and improved" version of myself hasn't felt loneliness yet and the old me only knew how to drown out emotions, not feel them.

All of this is spinning rapidly around my brain so I apologise to anyone attempting to understand this scatty insight into the depths of my mind. Like fuck - seriously fuck - having a mental illness is exhausting. You have to work so hard every day. Every single day is a struggle. And soon as you've made progress, you reach another bloody hurdle. There are so many hurdles. You can see hurdles ahead of you for daiiiizzzz. The hurdles just keep getting bigger. Bigger hurdles means you have to jump higher but jumping higher takes up too much energy so you have to rest, until you feel able to start jumping again. You have to keep on jumping until you finally make it. When you make it, you celebrate because you've made it. You forget that there will be more hurdles. You forget there will be more jumping.

Poop.

I like my life and I've slowly learnt how to control my feelings again, but everything is different now. It's almost as if I've been reborn, the past me feels like a stranger. Maybe I am reborn; I know I'm changed. I'm still scared. I have the same shell, same freckles, same colouring, same scars (plus a few new ones), but I wasn't empty before and now I am. Today, I am utterly, truly, madly, deeply alone.


- peace and love, Emily xo

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Back to Cambridge

In the past week I have successfully:
  1. Secured a job
  2. Moved back to Cambridge
  3. Started CBT
  4. Passed the 20 day sobriety benchmark
I have a job working in a health food store - it's the vegan dream! And yes, that means I live in Cambridge once more. Honestly, I was terrified of moving back here. Cambridge is where I suffered the most with my mental health, it's where I scrutinised myself, induced abuse, consumed catastrophe, became overwhelmed, overworked, over-everything. I knew I had to move home last May but I never saw myself moving back. Fortunately, I'm healthier and happier than I was last year*, and I am (surprisingly) glad to be back.

One of my new years resolutions was to write more (I think this was a resolution last year too) and I enjoy keeping a record of my personal progress so I will be posting at least one Life Update post per month. I genuinely don't think I could cope without keeping to targets, for someone who experiences dissociation, it really helps to ground me and bring me back to the present moment.

Anyway, here's to discipline, progress and feeling content!

- peace and love, Emily xo

* I didn't suddenly wake up one morning and decide I was happy. It took a lot of working on myself, therapy, medication and support.