Things I’d tell myself at sixteen

I’ve been quite reflective recently and thinking a lot about my teenage years, particularly as my sister is fast approaching her 16th (!!) birthday. Now I’m in my twenties, and believe me that’s a rollercoaster enough, but I had a tough time as a teenager, it wasn’t easy but at the same time some of the best things happened to me. I think we all have a certain view of our teenage years. I don’t agree with people saying that it’s the ‘best time of your life’ but there are certain times I look back on fondly. So, here are some of the things I wish I told

I don’t agree with people saying that it’s the ‘best time of your life’ but there are certain times I look back on fondly. So, here are some of the things I wish I could go back and tell myself to just give me a bit of a hand and the things I’ve learnt.

School isn’t forever. 

My life was hell at school, sometimes it felt like it was never going to end but it definitely did and it was glorious.

You’re right to look forward to college, it’s going to be great. 

I lived and breathed for my college. I could do classes I wanted to escape the people who hated me. I used to go and meet Ali from his day with butterflies. It was definitely a good two year with some great friends.

Trust him when he says he loves you, he does. 

I’ve been with Ali for almost 9 years. I had such issues at sixteen that I wasn’t good enough, that he was going to leave me etc. I was a complete nightmare. I wish she knew he’s still around now.

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Don’t hate yourself, you’re not well. 

I was incredibly ill with depression at this point, I literally felt like I was going insane and ruining everyone’s lives. I wish I knew that it was all to do with an illness and not because I was a terrible person.

Others opinions don’t matter

Can not stress this enough!

You can have a great future!

 I didn’t think much about the future much, I couldn’t but I wish I knew that I could get there.

Keep singing, keep writing, keep being creative! 

There were more than a few times I just didn’t want to do it anymore, what was the point, why bother? It was going to do more for me than I thought!

Ignore your art teacher, you’re never going to impress her. 

Seriously, the woman had her favourites, I wasn’t one of them.

Talk to someone. 

Just talk about how you feel.

YOU.ARE.NOT.FAT

Seriously, I would shout this until I was blue in the face if I could. I really struggled with the way I looked and thought I was chubby but I really, really wasn’t.

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The house parties are going to continue, they’ll be some of the best memories of your life. 

Best. Time. Ever.

Think about uni, just think about it. 

I thought it wasn’t for people like me. Oh I was wrong.

Love yourself, cause you’re pretty awesome. 

Something I still need to remember at 22.

 

What do you wish you knew at 16? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Fit: When Your Body Won’t Cooperate

Fighting Fit- When your body doesn't cooperate

It might have been well over a year since I broke my spine but sometimes it throws a bit of a fit. I’ve been really busy for the past few weeks and travelling to things, boxing up the flat and all that jazz, meaning that I’ve put quite a bit of strain on my back. This evening I’m sat with a big fluffy pillow resting, writing, reading and just feeling a bit frustrated. I’ve come a really long way in the past year but sometimes I try and do too much and pay for it later. I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than when your own body lets you down.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the accident and my injury lately, more than I normally would. With the warm weather coming and my friends heading to fun days out, theme parks and long walks I can’t help but feel a little jealous. It does still get to me but more than anything I get really self concious about it in public. There are still times when I get a limp on my left side because after doing too much I’m in a lot of pain or my leg will start to go numb. When I go to Comic Con or any big event like that, I sometimes need my crutch just to relieve some of the pain. As someone who wants to be seen as strong, who is used to getting up and getting on (just like getting up straight after I fell) it’s hard to let people see me on the days when I am a little more vulnerable. This is particularly the case when I’m getting to know new people, such as at my new job.

That said, I know that these frustrations are just a part of recovery and of having to take things one step at a time. I found a lot of comfort in a TED Talk I watched yesterday (click here for 7 TED talks you need to watch!), it reminded me that while my body is still working hard and healing, it’s not the only thing I have going for me. My body being in pain and breaking took things from me, but it gave me opportunities too. It taught me a lot about myself and what I want, it taught me to appreciate every step I take because I could so easily have lost the ability to walk.

In all of this, the good days, the bad nights, the medication changes, the occasional limping and the jokes that I make to make others more comfortable I realised that I need to keep my mind fighting. I can’t let myself go into a place of wallow and self pity. I can’t let myself give in when I’m sick of physiotherapy or don’t feel like going to the gym or when the doctors try and palm me off with silly answers. Keeping my mind strong is what will, in the end, keep my body fighting, even on the worst days.

Where’s The Damn Book?!

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I’ve been wanting to write a book since before I started university. I’ve always written stories and the summer before I moved (3 damn years ago) I was working on my first novel. I was going to uni to do Creative Writing and I was going to be a writer. And then I started the course. I quickly realised I hated the course with a passion and spent a year of my life being told my work wasn’t good enough by older people. It always confused me because people my own age and one or two lecturers really liked it but there were some that were just hell bent on saying I wasn’t good enough. Now I’ve never had the strongest self esteem, I understand creative criticism but when you work so, so hard to get onto a course to be told by someone who has never read a word you’ve written that you’re writing is bad, you kind of take it to heart. Well, at least an 18 year old who’s just moved away from home and who’s walking around in an incredibly anxious state takes it to heart. I feel better now that it was just her opinion and truth be told after I refused to be caught by her after some catastrophic writing she’d put online (claiming that anorexia wasn’t real), I distanced myself from her and felt a little better about my writing. People liked reading what I wrote online, so why wouldn’t someone publish it eventually?

I’ve kept up my blog for almost three years now and had another before that, one of the main things people comment on when they search for me is the quality of my writing. So why isn’t that enough? This time last year I’d just returned from Athens on a week long creative writing course. Everyone was there because they knew to some extent what they wanted to write and I did too, something that my undergrad course lacked. Again I got positivity and some really great feedback but then the inevitable happened and I fell out of love with what I was writing and then I was there with ideas. Great right? I wish. I have all these ideas but self doubt is crippling. I write something, look at it a few hours later and can’t stand it. I get anxious that I’ll make spelling or grammar error and then be seen as an idiot. It’s deep in my heart that I want to be a writer, I want to see my name in a bookshop and see my thoughts on paper.

I know for a fact I can do it and I will, right now though my head feels so muddled and confused. What should I write about? Do I work on the non fiction piece? Do I try again on that old novel idea or start something completely different? Am I writing for Adults or Young Adults. All these thoughts go around and around in my brain and if I try and plan I get even more anxious because WHY IS THERE NO MANUAL THAT TEACHES YOU HOW TO BE AN AUTHOR. Which is silly, there’s no golden rule, not curse to break or magic formulae to make sure people will love what you’ve written. I know all this and yet I still want to delete pages of writing or worry about ever finishing something. I’m hoping these are rational fears.

It may sound like I’m complaining but I’m not, I feel like I have so much to give but it’s almost as if it’s trapped in my head and just won’t negotiate with my hands. I have ideas every night before I go to sleep and think they’re magical I wake up after scribbling them down and wonder how the hell I’m going to make something out of them. I don’t know, I thought I’d have a draft of a novel by now and I know, I know books can take years and years to just draft and then even more to get published. I’m just trying to get out of this rut where I just look at the page in anger because it’s just not doing what I want it to. My biggest critic is now myself, but I think with the voices of others inside, from the past who really shouldn’t be there. So I guess I’m going to have to work on kicking them out and working out what the hell I want to put on to paper, that might be a good idea. Oh and I might find the bloody book in my head stored away somewhere just waiting to come out.

 

Image from Pinterest

Maybe life’s not fair..

When we’re young we get told life isn’t fair and as we grow older we realise this. there are things that we can’t control that we wish we could, illness is one of those things. You can help with some to prevent it or sooth symptoms but there are others you can’t, and mental illness is the same. I’ve learnt a lot in the last few years about myself and the illness that I have. I’ve thrown myself into research to learn more about the science behind it, recent research and theories to try and have a handle on something that I didn’t choose to have.

Ask a group of people with a mental illness and none of them would have asked to have it. It interrupts life and sometimes for some of our friends it takes theirs. I’ve thought a lot recently about this, about health. As much as I try and treat my body right with certain foods and getting fit and healthy I can’t do much for my mind. Sure I can surround myself with positive people and listed to my mind and my body but other than that if I’m having a low there are a lot of times where I have to wait it out, live with my depression or the anxiety attacks I sometimes have.

That said, ask that same group of people if they could flick a switch and it would have never happened and it will never happen again, it would be a much harder decision. Don’t get me wrong, in the last 6-7 years my illness has made my life hell and has taken things away from me, but it’s also given me things too. I’ve had depression since I was a teenager, so I don’t know what it’s like being an adult without it so sometimes I wonder, would I be as empathetic if I’d never had it, would I be as passionate and would I be so grateful for the little things in life. I don’t know. But I do know, because of my illness, that I have the best possible people in my life who pick me up and who know when I need the day or when I need a kick up the ass. Through lows and highs I’ve got great writing ideas or lyrics I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of, I’ve connected with amazing people and can be blissfully happy by the tiniest of things like waking up in the morning and feeling ok and other things too.

Why am I writing this? For a few reasons, one because I didn’t feel so great in my mentoring session today and we talked for a long time about depression, how I feel about it and the fears I have. There is fear, fear that I might go back to a dark place like I was at school but my mentor pointed something out to me. At 15/16 I had no experience, I hadn’t been diagnosed and I didn’t have a good medical team. I didn’t have a lot of information or ways to recognise my feelings and try and combat them before they got too bad, I had unhealthy ways of dealing with my feelings. In the last 3 years especially I’ve done well to get as far as I have and while the fear won’t go away, if I take note I’m in a better position than I was when I was 15/16. I have a voice and I have you guys too, who can cheer me up on Twitter to no end.

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Taken on my 15th birthday, I was happy here and hadn’t really experienced bad depression yet. 

People may call me names like a nut job, loon, or make snide remarks about being unstable and therefore unable. I’m getting to the point where I’m starting not to care and their hate makes me more driven. This illness may never go away but that doesn’t mean people will always be ignorant, which is why I write things like this to educate, to explain. I’ve written before about my story (the short version, maybe one day I’ll write it in detail) before and I’ve always been open on here about my highs and lows. I think it’s important to remember, for anyone who has an illness, that this is just a part of you, it does not define you. 

So no, life might not be fair and there are thousands of people in the world who live with my illness every day, but we aren’t alone. We might feel like it when depression grabs us and drags us under for a few days but at the end of the day there are so many others out there who are at all different stages of their illness and recovery. Don’t be scared of being you.

Crack – a poem

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Sometimes I write poetry, this image really made me think about the past year and where I’m at now. I started writing this after a really tough gym session,where I just felt my body let me down. Anyway, this is one of my few poems, enjoy.

One second was all it took,

Flying then falling

My lungs gasping for air

You cracked and you crumbled,

making me not as high.

Once I’d dreamed of growing taller, now I’d take it with no complaints.

You made my legs useless,

my summer a sleepy haze.

A city that should have been my playground,

turned into white walls and levels of pain.

Even now as I start to reclaim,

some of those things you took.

You can still floor me with a no notice

reaching out for boxes, the only hope I have of taking away my pain.

No doubt you’ve changed my life,

for the good as well as the bad.

In ways I couldn’t have dreamt of,

before their letter came.

I don’t want to fight against you,

spend my days angry and depressed.

But some days I can’t forgive a body that fights against me.

When I’m trying every day.

But I suppose time will tell,

and all I can do is carry on.

Slowly and pick myself up from the fall.

The world and my mind

This will only be a short post. Yesterday I didn’t write, I slept until 1pm and spent the rest of the day switching the news on and off every other hour to see updates of the situation in Paris, reading about other events that caused destruction in the world and trying to distract myself with tv shows and work I had to do.When something like this happens you realise that you need happiness in your life, you need to appreciate the little things, because if the attacks on public places in Paris taught us anything it’s that no one knows what’s going to happen day to day.

It’s been no secret that I’ve been struggling for the last 6 months or so and while I was upset about Paris there were other things that were bothering me. Things that, while they might not mean a lot to anyone else, meant a lot to me and I was having lows. That said I felt like I couldn’t speak about how I felt because there was so much suffering in the world and while normally I’d spend the weekend or any time alone I had working through things, what has been happening meant I felt uncomfortable to even think about.

Today I got to see my mental health team and they understood what I wanted to say and why I didn’t feel I could say it. Those old words ‘everyone is fighting their own battle’ is true and I could finally talk without feeling like the most selfish and self absorbed person ever. I cried tears for the people lost across the world over the weekend but for today I needed to focus on myself again.

I made some important decisions today and while I don’t feel that I can talk about them on here yet, I hope that in the near future I can write about them. I never expected something that didn’t even happen to me to have such a big effect on me, if that makes sense. What’s been going on has just reinforced that life’s too short to spend it unhappy, especially for someone who cannot always have happiness.

I hope this blog made some kind of sense and I promise it will all be more coherent when I’ve had a proper night’s sleep.

Night guys, stay safe.

World Mental Health Day – 10th October 2015

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I didn’t intend to write a post on mental health today, until I realised that World Mental Health Day had snuck up on me and I didn’t have anything planned. I think a lot about how much about mental health I should put onto my blog, am I putting too little in, am I putting too much in, will people just see me as an illness? It’s a big concern I have being so open about my issues and my life.

I’ve lived with issues since I was 11, I’d be extremely unhappy at school due to bullying. I’d say that the really awful depression started at around 15, so 6 years ago now. I’m in a much better place but I’m not ‘cured’ and I’ll probably live with this for the rest of my life, it’s just one part of me. It’s like my asthma or the weak knees I inherited, it’s just something that’s there which can make my life more difficult.

I’m fully aware that not everyone gets the help I now get and isn’t as open, and that’s fine! This is one of the most person illnesses you can have, if you don’t want to talk about it so be it! For a long time after my diagnoses although I felt some relief I couldn’t say it out loud I couldn’t say ‘I have depression’ because I was scared about what people would say, even now I have that and it’s sad. We need more education because at least one quarter of the population lives with a mental illness, so why is it still taboo?

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The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today, photo from the BBC

Love them (like me) or hate them, the royal family getting involved in mental health work and the fight against stigma can only be a good thing. I understand William’s public self helping with the cause due to his late mother, Princess Diana, who openly admit to struggling with Depression, Self-harm and Bulimia before she died. Catherine also has been strongly involved, particularly when it comes to young people, whether this is for personal reasons or not I cannot fault her. The fact that these young royals are being open and engaging will hopefully send a message to people or hope.

There’s also celebrities opening up more and more, I personally find inspiration in JK Rowling and Stephen Fry. When you see people in the public eye talking or just admitting that they also have a mental illness it makes you feel more normal, like you can achieve like they have and that you have someone to admire. I think it also makes them more human.

I thought a lot before writing this and I didn’t want it to be specifically about me, I just didn’t feel like exposing my emotions right now, partly because I’m in a bit of a werid headspace where my brain can’t work out of I’m on a high or a low…it’s really hard to explain. I did want to mention how interested people were at the open day today about the topic of mental health in my dissertation and going on in my PhD later hopefully. I wanted to mention how I came home and drew something to mark the day and try and get out how I was feeling whilst watching Stephen Fry’s ‘The Life of a Manic Depressive’ because I didn’t know what I wanted to write about. Like most people in his documentary said, my illness can make my life utter hell but at the same time I don’t know if I’d get rid of it.

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My art piece ‘ out of my mind’