Mental Health Awareness Week: How birth control affected my mental health

I hesitated writing this post for a lot of reasons but not least that I don’t want this post to feel like it exits only because it’s mental health awareness week this coming week but sometimes moments like ‘mental health awareness week’ force you to have that little bit of courage to speak up.

So today, I want to talk to you about my birth control journey. Birth control is something I’ve always been hesitant to talk to a large audience about because it brings with it connotations and meanings. Although I know I should say ‘who cares’ because I’d advise other people of that; this is a subject I’ve always felt uncomfortable with.

However, I’m going to try to be brave and talk to you a little about birth control and how it affected me. The first birth control I ever went on was the nexplanon implant and I started this in the January of my third year of University (so about 2016). It appealed to me because after the procedure was over, you didn’t have to think about birth control and it lasted for three years. During the time I was on the implant I didn’t have a period, which was also a bonus to me (although I didn’t know 100% this would happen going in though I suspected as such because of how people close to me have described it affecting them).

The procedure itself was quite quick. A lot of people are squeamish about it because it involves you being cut into and I’ll admit I was nervous, as I know someone who wasn’t numbed 100% before it was put in. Luckily, the nurse I had checked and it turns out I wasn’t completely numb so she numbed my arm further. It was a strange feeling, as I felt what the pain should have felt like (like someone is stapling you) but didn’t feel the physical discomfort. Apart from occasionally touching my arm and being surprised when I came across the implant; I largely didn’t notice it was there.

Also, I just wanted to write a quick note about where to get this done. If you look up the nearest sexual health free clinic in your area (looking up ‘sexual health clinic and then your county usually works) you can usually either book an appointment (if you know what you want done this is what I’d recommend) or go into a walk in session and discuss the different options. I would like to note as well this advice is for people in England, I’ve only lived in the UK so I can’t advise for how to access contraception anywhere else in the world.

Before, I begin the next part of my story I think is important to note is that at this point in my life I wasn’t in a great place to start. One of these reasons is that for around 6 months at this point I’d stopped running (consequently I gained a little weight but not an excessive amount – I could still fit in 90% of my clothes). I debated mentioning this at all  but there was another part of my life that affected me that I’m not ready to talk about yet (sorry for teasing but it felt wrong not to mention at all) that meant I was not in a good place to begin with.

I didn’t notice much of a change in my life when I started the implant. In those few months when I started my life was a whirlwind of deadlines, extracurricular activities and work, as I tried desperately to get my life in order. The first thing I noticed was that all of a sudden I put on a lot of weight (disproportionate to the amount I was eating). I could tell I put the weight on fast by the way it looked on my body as well – my body just felt strange.

It took longer to notice how it affected my mood. All my pent up emotions and angst became amplified by 100%. I was angry all the time, hyper emotional. Although, I would describe myself as passionate and maybe of a Hermione in the way I approach my work; I’ve never been one to just react/ snap. I could see myself reacting to things and it was like an out of body experience. I knew my reaction was irrational but I couldn’t stop it happening. The spiral would get worse because in the lucid moments afterwards I’d be so upset about how I’d treated people (and for this I am still truly sorry for).

I knew deep down something had changed in me when I started the implant but I became so scared that if I took it out nothing would change and I was just trapped as this angry person now. It was that fear that stopped me taking it out until 2 years later, as I only removed it early this year. The effect on my mood within just a week after it being removed was ridiculous. It sounds silly but I felt like myself again. I could react like I wanted to. Something else I noticed as well was that my concentration went up and my focus on tasks. It felt like the time before my brain had been wrapped in cotton wool – if I managed to get a Masters when my brain was suffocating – what could I achieve now?!

I also started to notice my weight shifted easier as well. Also, in case anyone is wondering I am on another form of hormonal contraception now in the form of the mini pill (not every mini pill is the same though as there are different brands). It’s only been a couple of weeks, as I gave my body a break before I started anything else because I wanted to make sure I was myself again but I feel a lot better so far. However, I am experiencing an irregular period. Normally, my periods last 7 days and I am on day 9 now (however, I think it’s basically gone now, fingers crossed), if this continues I’ll go to my GP because a 7 day period is bad enough; I don’t think I can cope with much longer.

I accessed the mini pill from Lloyds Pharmacy. You can get this service through the NHS and not pay but I found this method more convenient as the process was quick and easy (and there is a Lloyds Pharmacy literally 2 minutes from where I live). It was also not expensive, as it cost £10.00 for a 3 months supply (and I think you save if you buy a larger supply).

The implant robbed me of a lot the 2 years I let it take over me. And all I can think about now is that I should have taken it out sooner. But I’ve had depressive episodes all throughout my life so I just thought it was a culmination of that. This may have been true in one way but although I’ve felt low since having it removed and unfortunately I probably will again feel low in the future; I have never felt so low as I did in those two years.

I’m not saying don’t go on the implant. Just listen to yourself and your body. If it’s not working try something else. Don’t let yourself think it’s you failing rather than the method itself if it doesn’t work for you.

It took me a long time to remember that I’m a fighter and that I always been someone who tries to do as much as possible (and doesn’t take no for an answer); I hope this post can help someone remember this too. If you suspect your contraception is making you feel low, please, please see if other options are available to you. Hormonal contraception is that is the way you chose is never going to be 100% fun and pleasant but please don’t suffer unnecessarily.

Remember you have the right to demand a break from it as well. For Mental Health Awareness Week that is the big thing I want to stress is trust yourself.

On another note, I know this period can be stressful. It’s great that more people are becoming more aware about mental health issues and have the courage to talk about it but sometimes having lots of voices talking about a subject can be challenging too. I know I find it overwhelming to read about people’s mental health problems sometimes because it hits too close to home. Also, don’t feel like because everyone is talking about their mental health that you have to talk about yours too. There is nothing wrong with sharing something if you feel like it could help someone going through the same thing or if because you feel it will help you to process everything; but you don’t have to share every part of your mental health journey.

Sometimes, sharing doesn’t help. It’s ok to keep it private sometimes. Keeping it private doesn’t mean you are not suffering.

I do not share half of my struggles on here because I am naturally a very private person. It has took me years to get used to social media. As a teenager I barely interacted on the popular sites at the time because sharing things that happened to be seemed so unnatural – my MSN messenger chat game was particularly terrible. Over time I’ve learnt through observing how to communicate more after witnessing how it can help me and how certain bloggers and Youtubers have affected me (for the better). However, there are times like this post where I feel like I can process the pain I went though and I want to talk about it because I wish someone had written something that would have talked about it to me.

So here is me talking to you about how my contraception had a very crappy effect on my mental health. If you’ve had a similar experience please comment below. If you have any questions about my experience I’d be happy to answer them. I’m far from an expert on the subject but I will be honest and try my best!

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

– Blog posts Thursday and Sundays- 

P.S. My friend Callie’s post made me remember that I should make sure I have resources at the bottom of this post for people who need them – please read her twitter thread as she says it better than me.

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Book review: Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley

I am more than a little bit late with my review of this book (this book was published in the UK on March 15th) but my life has been very hectic recently so I didn’t have time to properly sit down and finish this book till now.  I also just want to quickly mention at the start before I start this review that I was very kindly set my copy of the book by the book’s publishers*.

The plot of the book is as follows:

Following the death of his mother, Max Friedman comes to believe that he is sharing his brain with a tumour. As he becomes focused on controlling the malignant tenant, he starts to lose touch with his friends and family, and with reality itself – so Max’s father sends him off to the artsy Baldwin School to regain his footing.

Soon, Max has joined a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet. He befriends Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, a boy who refuses to let go of the things he loves. Max starts to feel happy, and the ghosts of his past seem to be gone for ever.

But the tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down, and Max is forced to face the truth.

-Mild spoilers ahead. There are no big plot spoilers here but I usually keep my reviews almost spoiler free so I wanted to flag-

I’ll start by saying that it took a bit of warming up too but I did enjoy parts of this novel. It reminds me a lot of books I would devour as a teenager. After all, who doesn’t dream of going to an artsy school where the teachers are cool and there are loads of quirky characters. I think this is also my main issue with the book, it feels very much like what you expect a novel for teenagers to read like – it’s basically screaming no one understands you if you’re quirky! This isn’t a bad thing, and there is books I love that apply the same techniques (*cough, cough, John Green*); however, there is still a uniqueness to the writing style that this lacks.

Don’t get me wrong there is real heart within the novel. The bits of the writing that truly resonated with me and managed to cut through the teen novel stereotypes where the parts where Max discusses his relationship with his mother, father or grandfather. The way Max’s grief is depicted felt raw and honest and kept me going with the novel, even when other parts grated with me a little.

I also loved the advice in the creative writing class about use of the 3rd person instead of 1st in certain instances, as it pinpointed an issue I’d had when reading my own writing and others in the past but couldn’t quite put my finger on. It even has influenced the direction I want to go in terms of my own novel, highlighting why I will always love reading – there is also something new to be discovered.

The characters in the novel I may not wholeheartedly love as much, but I was not completely uninvested in them – I just thought they could be a little more. Fish, the main love interest of the novel for example, very easily falls under the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ stereotype. However, I have always felt two-fold about these characters. Yes, they are often used almost as a prop for the male characters to project all the angst onto and ultimately to ‘save’ them, but they are often the best, more empowered and memorable characters. Fish is somewhere in-between, she is strong and resilient in the way she strives to confront her own emotions and helps others too as well; however she doesn’t completely shake the idea that she exists purely to help Max through his pain.

In regards, to Fish, her past relationship with Monk also wasn’t really explained enough for me to invest in it. I could understand why Max didn’t seem that fazed by getting in the middle of it. However, at the same time I’ve witnessed relationships like that where you’re always aware of a small spark between two people existing, but deep down they both needed to just let each other go because they just don’t work (it would have been nice for more detail of the ways Monk and Fish didn’t work).

Another part of the novel that didn’t sit right with me was the way in which Max was repeatedly drawn to Fish’s self harm scars. Self harm scars are not something anyone should be ashamed of or feel they have to hide; but it felt like the novel was implying that was something almost romantic about them. Especially by the way Max obsessively went back to them again and again.

Overall, while I definitely had issues with this novel; something about it made me not want to stop reading. The novel had sparks of greatness in the way it treated grief and mental illness; I just wanted that little bit more from the characters.

*To be clear I was not paid for this review, which I think may be obvious may be its content.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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P.S. SPOILER AHEAD

Max’s creative writing teacher, Dr Cage was completely in the wrong in regards to what happened at the restaurant. You shouldn’t drink in front of a pupil full stop, especially not to the extent where you’re a bit too drunk to notice that said pupil is taking massive gulps from your drink.

Blog: Dodie O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire concert 1/04/18

First of all, look at me spoiling you all with content so close to each other (I am going through a ‘writing’ phase so enjoy it while it lasts). Also, secondly welcome to my first ever concert review. Well, it’s not a review but more of a recap of my experience. So last night I went to see Dodie at o2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. It was my Christmas present from Martin – who also very kindly joined me at the concert despite it not having a mosh pit, which meant he consequently didn’t know what to do with himself the whole time.

My experience really started before the concert even began with some awesome food from VX London. I’ve wanted to try this place for a while and it didn’t disappoint. The food for London wasn’t too expensive; it had lots of garlic (which, along with spice I love) and it was quiet because it was Easter Sunday so we had seats.

VX London

I had the Meatball Sub (£5.50) with just plain chips (£2.50) and Martin had a Pulled Pork sub (£7.00) with cheesy chips (£3.50). Also, just because I realise not everyone will know everything at VX London is vegan! In terms of the food I’d definitely recommend the cheesy chips (I made a mistake not getting them!) and the meatball sub I had was great. The pulled pork sub was also nice but it was meant to be spicy (for me it wasn’t, ha, ha) and I prefer pulled pork options with bbq sauce.

Meatball sub
I don’t have a picture of Martin’s food because I was too scared to get in-between him and food.

We also shared a slice of rainbow cake (£4.20), which was amazing, the icing was beautiful and the cake wasn’t too sweet, which is sometimes an issue with rainbow cake for me. We couldn’t finish it because VX was just so filling (which I sometimes find to be a struggle with some vegan options because we both eat a lot!). This would be a great spot to grab some subs in the summer to take to have a picnic at Hyde Park or down at the canals near Camden. My only criticism would be is that it felt like something I could have made (minus the incredible cheese sauce on the chips, which I’ve been trying to crack in my head ever since) but that is one of my favourite types of food to eat out because I’m lazy. And by what I can make, I mean stuff I can cook but done in a lot of ways better.

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I’ve also been trying to pick up more souvenirs from trips out so I picked up this pretty awesome ‘I Love Vegan Junk Food’ sticker to stick on the side of my comics box.

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After the food we headed to the concert and arrived at around half 6 (doors opened at 7). Unsurprisingly there was a long queue and after walking for what felt like a mile down the queue we eventually got to the end, and parked ourselves outside a house that said ‘St Martins’ so I decided it was fate (for those not in the know my partner in crime is called Martin). We quickly felt very old as most people looked about 14 (and there was a lot of very ‘done’ parents waiting with people in the queue – but also a mum in a flower crown in flower crown solidarity with the people she was taking to the concert).

We also noticed the queue was generally older the more you got towards the back (I think with the decline of our youth us oldies also have lost the enthusiasm to queue). However, the girls in front of us in the queue I swore were like 16, but then started talking about university and smoking (I wanted to rip the cigarette out of their hand and tell them they weren’t old enough, ha, ha). Martin was also the tallest person there, which although is common at other places we’ve had contenders and I think it kind of highlighted the age of the audience. It was also unsurprisingly a female audience, as I think Dodie is brilliant in capturing the feeling of what it feels like to be a girl growing up. It did however mean once we were inside there was virtually no queue for the male bathroom in comparison to the ladies.

After going to the loo and listening to some of the first support act Fenn Lily (who I wish I could have heard more of – I’m going to have to check them out); I bought my merch (after a long conversation with Martin, which I’m sure he loved about what I should buy). In the end I went with the Party Tattoos jumper (£35) and pin (£5( because I love that song and I wanted to get things I knew I hadn’t seen on the online shop. The jumper however does run smaller than the Promises one, which runs quite large, so that’s something to take into account.

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The next support act Skinny Living were great and another one I’m going to have to listen to. I can only hope they bring the same energy to the recordings, as they do their live performances.

And then there was Dodie.

I’ll start by saying try as I might I couldn’t see a lot of what was going for the majority of the concert (perils of being small). Also, the bar was in front of where I was trying to see (why would you put the bar there?!). However, I will say the set was beautiful, there were flowers hanging from every mike stand and from the ceiling and it looked like a ethereal dream. The lighting was also brilliant and emphasised the performances, which I think can be a hard skill to do.

I also loved hearing Dodie’s songs with the weight of her band behind her (the violinist was also ridiculously good). The atmosphere was also a very nice inviting place (I saw lots of pride flags, which made me happy). Martin was very happy as well when Dodie closed on ‘The Middle’ as that was the only song he knew. I was just happy to hear the song meaning confirmed (it’s about a threesome).

My only ‘con’ was that sometimes it was actually difficult to hear the band over the screaming crowd (though they all could hold a note!). I can understand the enthusiasm though, I think it was just the oldie in me tutting whenever there were screams when Dodie spoke. I also think because a lot of Dodie’s songs are quite chill (or sad as she put it) I’d like to have had a seat (I can’t remember if that was an option – shoot me if it was). Also, the meanings behind of the songs obviously made me brew a little – after all, I am the queen of just letting life pass me by.

Because I’m me I was upset as well that I didn’t get to properly see Dodie’s outfit.

As for Dodie’s April Fools moment. I’m personally not a fan of April Fools at all so it wasn’t for me (I just don’t see why you’d want to raise someone’s expectations and crush them/ I wanted to see Demi Lovato, ha, ha). I think it didn’t help that Martin got genuinely excited for a minute as well, which upset me more. I managed to calm down by the time the next song ‘Absolutely Smitten’ had finished though. Overall, don’t get me wrong I can see why it’s funny and harmless – I just really don’t like April Fools (also it was after 12pm so my guard was down).

Other than that my only other con was the rain afterwards, which obviously was not Dodie’s fault but meant my merch got wet, as well as me. Plus, as I told Martin rain is only acceptable in Paris (though I will admit the noise is nice and I like the snuggling up in a blanket bit afterwards but that’s it).

Overall, I think I would love to see Dodie again but be able to have a seat (and hopefully see the stage more) or alternatively see her play at a concert in the park (I think Dodie and a picnic would be a great combination). It was though a deliciously good day and I am grateful for my annoying-but-wouldn’t-want-to-go-with-anyone-else company. The experience also made me love concerts again – I need to see Paramore and loudly scream Rose Colored Boy (I will use the American spelling only because Paramore are American).

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

Turtles All the Way Down: Review

Turtles All the Way Down centres on 16 year old Aza Holmes who suffers from multiple anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder. The plot covers friendship, loss, living with mental health issues and a bunch of other random bits that make the book great.

Turtles all the way down

As I don’t suffer with obsessive compulsive disorder, I found the look into the mind of someone who is living with the disorder insightful. The way I have always obsessed over a event feels more like a dark cloud coming over me, which is then all I can loop back to for that day. The next day though a lot of the time the feelings are gone. Sometimes, it can only be for 5 minutes, like every time I see a new email subscriber (I’ve seen a lot recently for some odd reason) and for some reason I’ve decided that instead of it being a totally normal thing, it’s some sort of conspiracy where people laugh at my blog (even though that makes like zero sense). So basically if you’re an email subscriber please comment below and reassure me that’s not that case! I can’t imagine what it would be like being constantly trapped in that kind of thought cycle.

I loved the characters in this novel, particularly the fan-fiction loving, hilarious Daisy who reminds me both of me and a few of my friends at times, which is probably why I love her. There is though refreshingly not too many characters to stress over, as most of the plot is centred around a core group of characters- I’ll admit I’m awful at remembering names if there starts to be too many characters in something.

Maybe the small ‘cast’ is linked to the fact that John Green has described this novel, as his most personal:

“This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood, so while the story is fictional, it is also quite personal.”
Source: Penguin.co.uk 

I think this really shows. I feel much more like I am in Aza’s mind then I have felt with characters in other John Green novels though maybe that is also because Aza’s experiences in life are a lot more close to home for me than say Hazel’s experience in The Fault in Our Stars.

Image: The postcard that came along with my copy of the novel.

The novel however is not without faults. Like, all John Green books the characters are a little bit too philosophical for their own good. I’m not saying people that age can’t have those sort of debates because they most certainly can (and I think social media has brought an immense amount of pressure to have everything all figured out even younger nowadays) but in my experience this was something largely internalised or restricted to things like blogs (which, one of the characters does have).

I think this is probably my only criticism of John Green novels- I remember talking about  the topics that are discussed but always in a roundabout way. Everyone does not also always have amazing vocabulary. But as an English Literature graduate I’ll admit I don’t hate it though I can understand why people might think it might come across as pretentious.

My other not really a criticism because I loved the book regardless, but perhaps instead then a little quibble, is that the mystery that makes up the plot, for me (it’s on the blurb so I really don’t think this is a spoiler!) is a bit anti-climatic. It felt like it was there to tie characters together but this could have been done in another way- the bit where everything was revealed was also just a little bit rushed as well.

There are though elements of this book that are specular. As mentioned the novel does an amazing job at demonstrating what it’s like in Aza’s mind. At the same time though the novel is able to show and explain what it’s like for both the people who suffer from mental health and their friends and family. There is a scene in the book (which, I am going to try my best not to spoil) in which the lead character, Aza has to confront the effect her mental illness has had on her friends and family. Of course, the book stresses this is not something that Aza has deliberately maliciously done but I think it is refreshing to see the effect that mental health issues do have on someone’s family and friends. Without making the person at the centre feel incredibly guilty or selfish- just making them realise what is going around them and come out of the bubble that their mental illness has on them.

What is important to me is that we also get to see Aza’s mum and friend’s opinions- we see the importance of having an open dialogue, as it helps stop a cycle of both parties acting in a certain way because they don’t know how to do anything else.

In fact, for me one of the most powerful scenes of the novel (mild spoiler alert, maybe?) is when Aza demonstrates exactly what it feels like to think like she does. Sometimes, it does take a metaphor to help people to understand.

I’ll admit I thought one of the characters was being overly harsh at first but after a lot of thinking about it (mostly on my bus to work) I realised that it was a totally justifiable reaction. Yes, they could have brought it up beforehand but I’m not immune from letting such feelings bubble up myself and then all come tumbling out.

It also leads to some truly beautiful scenes between the two characters afterwards (and demonstrates something I’m trying to do more and more, take the time to see what your friends are doing and show some love towards it- especially in terms of things they create). In one of the scenes one of the characters says it feels like they are actually in the moment and not “watching a movie of our conversation”- something that I can definitely relate to (the feeling like I’m not quite ‘there’ in a particular moment).

Another amazing point about this book is that it talks about fanfiction. And it’s not making fun of it but celebrating it and from what I know about John Green I would only expect as much (though to be honest that is not a whole lot- I really need to go on a binge of his content). Most importantly, fanfiction is praised as being something that should have fans and does showcase really great writers and to be honest it reminded me of how I need to read more fanfiction again!

Before reading this novel my favourite John Green novel was Looking for Alaska. Since, this is the book I’ve read the most recently it is now Turtles All The Way Down but I think if I read Looking for Alaska again there might be a bit of a war going on there.

This also counts as reviewing a Youtuber’s book (though I don’t think a lot of people counts John Green’s novel as ‘Youtuber books’ even though he is very well known on Youtube) so I’ve put it under that tab. I’m hoping to try to have different tabs on my blog soon where you can click for book reviews, fashion stuff, etc. but my theme is making it a bit difficult.

I think the phrase ‘Life goes on’ has perhaps been used too much so maybe instead what you can take from the novel is ‘Life happens’. Your mental health problems are not something to be magically fixed, sometimes there will be bad, sometimes good but amongst all that life just goes on- so capture the good moments whenever you can.

April

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Year in review: The highlights and fails of my 2017

I chose this picture of green tea because I’m ‘spilling all my tea’ about the year (yeah, the expression doesn’t sound as good when I say it) and the only tea I like is green tea. 

Is this post a bit too late? Yes, but I’m going to do it anyway. Plus, I wanted to reflect a little on my 2017 (and decided a whole 13 days was enough time for that) and not write something in a rush. My 2017 was overall a good year, but then I kind of count 2016 as the worst year of my life for me both mentally and consequently physically so in one way it just kind of couldn’t get any worse! However, I did manage to do some pretty cool stuff in 2017 and the year was what I would class an as ok year, though I’m hoping 2018 will be a great one.

Highlights 

Completing my Masters 

I’ve done a few blog posts on this but I made it through another year of higher education (woo!) and got my Masters in Journalism and Media Communications. It feels strangely distant now but I met some really great people on the course and it made me feel a bit more confident in my academic abilities again, which is always a plus.

Graduation with mother

I got my first (professional) job 

First of all, I want to make it clear I don’t think retail is not a professional job or any minimum wage job for that matter- what I mean here is I got my first job that was actually related to what I studied at University. Also, having paid holiday and not panicking about money if I am ill is such an amazing feeling.

My first day
The picture Martin took to commemorate my first day.

Mental health 

In 2017 I really tried to work through a lot of my mental health issues, and like to think I went from decidedly off track to kind of strolling along the tracks. It’s never something that will come easy to me, but sharing on this blog helped a lot, as did trying to better look after myself physically.

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I started this blog 

For a long period of my life I have wanted a blog. What can I say I love to write and rant about the world and a blog seemed a brilliant place to do that. Although, of course it is nice if people read your blog, like your posts or comment (which, let’s face it I’ll be honest a part of me craved); I personally just like writing and getting things off my chest. So here’s to 2017 for being the year I didn’t just post one blog post to a blog, not promote it and then delete it a week later because I felt too exposed to the world.

Year in Review post

Martin and I got our first flat 

Since Martin and I have been living together in some capacity for so long I forget sometimes that is our first ever flat together where it’s just the two of us. And the flat is cold (single glazing is not our friend), expensive (though not for the area- we got a good deal!) and still bare because we haven’t got a lot of furniture but it’s ours, it’s not tiny and is a lot better than a lot of other people’s first flats. Sure, ‘adulting’ and paying the bills sucks, but at least I have someone else to whine about it with.

Martin flat

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

2017 was also the year I got my love for reading back and I’m so happy about this. I forgot what it felt like to be so inspired. I forgot what it felt like to delay finishing a book because you loved it so much. Or to be able to stop yourself reading it all in one sitting. I forgot how much I truly was a bookworm. Basically, I love reading, it’s in every part of me from the fact that I prefer to read something rather than have someone tell me instructions (hence why audio books unfortunately aren’t for me) to the fact that I can spend longer in a book shop than most other shops.

The Power
My favourite image I took of a book last year (and one of my favourite books I read).

Fails 

Money 

Living anywhere remotely close to London/ in the South is expensive. Consequently, despite earning a good wage we are perpetually broke. This is looking up this year however as Martin has started a better paying job, and I will be shortly booking my trip to Japan (and trying not to spend all my money on clothes in order to afford it). Also, a lot of the problem last year was that Martin and I were fed up so we spent money to fill that hole and so consequently never had any money either. We’ve finally managed to claw our way out of that cycle and once again learn the value of tins of kidney beans and sweetcorn, as well as meal prep- so much meal prep!

Mental health 

So although I put this in my highlights this was also a ‘fail’ as well. Working through things it turns out is kind of hard and I am still running away from a lot of things. As we speak I am letting those familiar nagging thoughts worm their way back in again. While 2017 was the most I’ve actually analysed my mental health (which was a positive thing overall); the journey that came with that was not exactly pleasant.

Hair/ how I felt/ feel about my appearance 

For a large part of last year I let myself get very upset over my appearance whether it be that my hair was not the colour I wanted (it still isn’t) to the fact that I no longer felt comfortable with myself generally. My body in 2016 changed a lot in a short period of time and I still have not quite got over that. This year I am determined to just dress how I want no matter what and let myself be healthy. Also, to have really great hair (any suggestions are appreciated).

I also want to give a big shout out to all my amazing friends and family. I hope your 2017 was great, and if it wasn’t I hope this year will be better. Thank you for putting up with my rants, bossiness and general weirdo nature for another full year.

April

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Anti Bullying Week: My experiences and what I’ve learnt

It’s anti bullying this week so I thought it’d be an apt time to jump on the bandwagon as it were and discuss my experiences with bullying. I’ve been bullied on several different occasions and at times although I didn’t fully realise at the time I have engaged in bullying behaviour. I think a lot of the times this is something we are scared to admit about ourselves so instead will only talk about the real, horrible cases of bullying, rather than the day to day routine behaviour we saw (or even participated in) that we didn’t realise could have lasting effects as well.

Dodie’s bravery in talking about bullying in her latest book (my review for which can be found here), and how she had engaged in it too because she was afraid, and it was easier, helped to inspire me to speak up about this. The reason she gave of being afraid the conversation would turn to herself instead is really my reason as well. From what I can remember from my hazy memories, my bullying behaviour was joining in with nicknames and not thinking about the consequences. Behaviours I thought was teasing but added to the persona of a person, and didn’t let them define themselves on their own terms. If the people I did this to (I don’t think the list is long but it’s probably longer than I’d like to think) are reading this I’m sorry I went along with the crowd. Sure, I might have not been the loud voice egging people on, but that doesn’t mean I am not guilty. At the time I didn’t even realise but looking back now I know this behaviour matters.

I know how bullying makes you feel. Even the little comments can feel like a heart attack to your nerves. Usually when I’ve been bullied they picked up the easy part to latch on to, which is that I was chubbier than the other children in the age group. Or when I was a teenager and not the weight I was made to feel but because I never had the part where I could eat and nothing be there (not that there is anything wrong with that). I was made to feel like my body could never fit in. It was easy for them to latch on to my body because society told them everywhere it was not desirable. It was easy to latch on to because I knew this, and was insecure about it. I also wouldn’t fight back.

Now I’d like to think I wouldn’t let it not touch me but I’m not impenetrable. It still would. Then, they probably didn’t realise that their tiny comment was all I thought about every minute of the day. What it would be like when I was smaller. When was food, what I should eat (or not eat) to achieve this.

This is still not something I think will ever escape me, but it has dropped down my priority levels now so that my day is more than that. I’ve never made negative comments about people’s weight or appearance or tried to belittle them in that way, but the little bits of behaviour I was complicit in could have effected someone in the same way.

My message from this then is that you may think because you’re not a bully (or the stereotypical definition of one) that you’re behaviour is in fact not bullying type behaviour. Before, you dismiss something as teasing let yourself really think about whether they are in on the joke or not.

I forgave my bullies/ antagonists a long time ago. They just weren’t worth the effort. I think in the end they realised they had been as wrong about me as I’d been about them. Everyone just never bothered to get to know anyone, and just stuck to their labels.

Maybe it’s about time we throw those labels and preconceptions away. It’s hard and you have to be strong to resist the crowd (and when you’re going through your own insecurities that is damn near impossible). I used to get so wound up about the people who didn’t like me for seemingly no particular reason and wondered what was fundamentally wrong with me to make that so. Now, I know sometimes people just don’t click (though they didn’t need to ignore me though or make it obvious though- just saying) and you’ll never please everyone.

I don’t know what I would have done growing up if social media defined my life and my experiences as much as it does this generation growing up now (perfect Instagram photographs at every corner would have definitely sent me into a talespin) so anyone growing up with that as my upmost respect. Especially as words online cut as deep as any that come out of people’s mouths.

This anti-bullying week join me in reflecting over your past behaviour, and seeing how you can be better moving forward. Be the second thought that comes into your head, not the judgemental first one that you didn’t even consciously decide.

Faith, trust and a little bit of pixie dust: doing things that scare me

Image: A screen capture from Peter Pan/ Walt Disney 

The other week I did something I’ve never done before. I swapped an item with someone on the internet. In fact, we swapped a hat for a hat. My Lazy Oaf x Marie baseball cap for her Lazy Oaf Red Faux Fur Heart beret both of which are not easily able to find, and generally sold out everywhere on ine.

Now, first of all I want to say that I am in no way saying go send people you don’t know your items and that you can trust anyone. This was a risk. Don’t mistake that. A calculated risk yes because they showed me pictures of their item and had very good positive feedback on Depop. But it was a risk nonetheless. For both us.

I’m happy to say that in this case we were both people who genuinely wanted the other person to have an item I loved, and I have received the beret (really fast actually!) and their Marie baseball cap has made it’s way to its new owner!

Lazy Oaf April Beret

An awkward picture of me wearing the beret.

The point of this story is not that you should trust strangers, but that this was a risk for me. Something, that would usually result in lots of panicking, and worrying about posting the item before they did. Worry that for some reason the item wouldn’t get to them, or vice versa. And while I did still worry a little bit. It was a lot less than usual, which I have to count as a small victory.

When people say do things that scare you, so often people think you automatically have to go to massive gestures, like skydiving, but I think gradually building up to bigger, and bigger things that make you nervous is probably the best route. Sure, I do a lot of things that scare me daily, as even something as little as sending an email to a colleague, no matter the content, is something I pause about in my head a little. I think though having to do this daily has drilled the fear of emailing out of me a lot, which I’m grateful for.

Yes, I put myself out there a lot in a few aspects of my life. But that doesn’t mean I don’t agonise other it or worry about it each time. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you are like me and the things you think of before bed are usually your worries for the day, and if you’re someone that if something goes wrong you will agonise and obsess over it to the point that it feels like the end of the world, and you can never get out of this mess you’ve created, then I understand.

I don’t think this is something that will ever be fully out of my life. And getting rejected does suck (trust me I know). But every once in a while you’ll get a piece of good news. An article you wrote will get a like (that’s literally enough to make my day, ha, ha). Unfortunately, you have to fight through a lot of panic inducing moments to get those little points. So start small. Take a little risk. Distract yourself from it. See what happens. If it went well, great, try a slightly bigger one. If it goes bad, try to breathe. Try not to push everyone away. Easier said than done, I know I’m incredibly guilty of this. Sit down absorb yourself in something to calm down, and start over. Try again with something small.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the big risks in life. I genuinely cannot ever see myself skydiving for example, or riding one of those ridiculous, over the top rollercoasters (don’t even get me started how panicky rollercoasters make me) but maybe I’ll have the courage to tweet someone important an article I’ve written, and be unashamedly proud of my work.

Though I’m not going to lie I could use a little pixie dust every now and again.

🍂April🍂

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Dodie ‘Secrets for the Mad’ Book Review (and Pop up shop)

I’ve got a secret for the mad
In a little bit of time it won’t hurt so bad
And I get that I don’t get it
But you will burn right now but then you won’t regret it

You’re not gonna believe a word I say
What’s the point in just drowning another day
And I get that I don’t get it
But the world will show you that you won’t regret it

Little things, all the stereotypes
They’re gonna help you get through this one night
And there will be a day
When you can say you’re okay and mean it

I promise you it’ll all make sense again
I promise you it’ll all make sense again

There’s nothing to do right now but try
There are a hundred people who will listen to you cry
And I get that they don’t get it
But they love you so much that you won’t regret it

You’re at the bottom, this is it
Just get through, you will be fixed
And you think, that I don’t get it
But I burned my way through and I don’t regret it

Little things, all the stereotypes
They’re gonna help you get through this one night
And there will be a day
When you can say you’re okay and mean it

I promise you it’ll all make sense again

– Dodie, Secrets for the Mad

November 2nd was a big book day for anyone who like me has a soft spot for British Youtubers, as not only was Dodie’s Secrets for the Mad: Confessions, Obsessions and Life Lessons released, but so was Noodlerella’s debut novel, Undercover Princess (The Rosewood Chronicles). This post however is focused on Secrets for the Mad, as I read that first.

The book is part memoir, part advice, all emotions. It charts the things Dodie has learnt while struggling with mental illness, and reflects on those parts of her life, and how she got through it. I picked up my copy from the Dodie Pop up show at the Youtube Creator Store in London (as far as I’m aware the pop up is running for about another 2 weeks), along with the ‘I Promise You It Will All Make Sense Again’ jumper. I had actually already preordered the book but when I saw that the copies at the pop up were signed (and came with a free poster, pin badge and zine I knew that was the way to go (so my ordered copy is going to have to be sent back because as much as I’d like to I don’t think I need two copies).

Dodie Pop Up

Dodie Pop Up 2

The staff at the shop were super nice, and asked if I had been to the live shows last week. Sadly, I had to reply I had not, because despite really wanting to go I had not been paid yet then and my wallet wouldn’t allow it. They also confirmed that the shop doesn’t have a phone (I had wanted to ring ahead before I made the trip just to make sure things were still in stock) and that the best way to get in contact with them was over Twitter (the Youtube Creator Store link above). I also mentioned how I was hoping they would have the You EP vinyl because I had missed out on the website and really wanted it to add to Martin and I’s growing collection (it’s ok because Martin’s an audiophile- it means we get away with being this hip) so hopefully fingers crossed they can make that happen (if you want to see it happen I recommend you tweet them like crazy!). Along with the Bobble Hat that Dodie sold on her tour, because let’s face the facts, it’s definitely wooly hat weather now.

They did however as I mentioned have the ‘I Promise It Will All Make Sense Again’ sweatshirt at the event, which I’ve basically living in because it’s super warm and toasty (really good quality too). They also had a couple of pieces that I remember from Dodie’s merchandise website including the ‘Is it Tho’ hat and the Dodie portrait white ringer top.

Dodie 3

There was also merchandise from other Youtubers there like Dan and Phil (I was very tempted to buy their plushies, and their merchandise looks so good in real life) and Zoella. Overall, it was a nice little shopping experience and the shop is only a minute away from St Pancreas/ Kings Cross.

The book itself I started to read the very night I got it, but I read the bulk of it on the train to meet my mother for the day, and it was the perfect train read. There is something about trains that make you reflect, and this is a book all about reflecting.

One of the main things I really loved about the book was the way Dodie used her lyrics and photographs, as ways to demonstrate and reflect on certain parts of her life. It made me think back to what I can remember well and not so well, and made me realise that some of my most vivid memories are when I went on a trip around Europe at the end of my first year of University. For a lot of people the trip would have been pretty tame, and boring, but it was one of the best times I’ve had in my life and made me remember how much I love travelling.

Dodie Images

Images in Secret for the Mad. 

It also made me think back to the memories I have from when I was younger. The ones I remember the best are as follows. I remember the toy car I used to love when I was little. It was a green Mercedes peddle car (the only time in my life that I will actually remember a car- I am notoriously bad at remembering what car I am in- never leave me alone in a car park). I remember that I used to love just peddling round and round in it, in my garden. Even as I started to get too big for it (in fact I can remember that part sometimes even more, which is weird for me as I have an habit of suppressing bad memories). The story I usually tell about the car is that I used to ‘drive’ it down my street, and knock on the doors of people down the street, asking for petrol. I was a bit too outgoing and didn’t really understand ‘stranger danger’ as a child (to chart my life you kind of say I went through extroverted, to introverted to somewhere in between).

My other prominent memories revolve around clothes/ costumes. I remember my gold shiny dress that I loved, and would wear to every special event. I remember my pink fluffy coat with matching handbag. My orange sun hat with a sunflower smack bang square in the middle. My La La from Teletubbies costume that I refused to take off, and was a symbol of my childhood obsession with transitioning into an actual teletubby, complete with teletubby toast (courtesy of a cutter) and teletubby custard (which was a disturbing shade of pink and essentially yoghurt for anyone not in the know). There was also my Blossom from Powerpuff Girls costume (though I wanted to be Bubbles). Considering the obsessive way I like to plan what I want to wear for a certain event (it never goes the way I planned); its unsurprising that I remember everything by outfits.

In Secrets for the Mad Dodie envies her childhood brain for being able to remember when she cannot. For me, it was just reassuring to hear that I am not the only one who forgets. I’m the sort of person who can remember the exact details of homework set but if you ask me to recall the last year of my life; you’d only hear fragments. After my dissertation I even managed to forget what it was about (it doesn’t help that I hardwired my brain from a young age to try my best to forget anything unpleasant).

Dodie Book

(Poster pictured below) 

Dodie, however, unlike me, suffers from Depersonalistation disorder (DPD, or dissociation, or derealisation (DR), she describes it like essentially feeling like you are drunk all the time, and are not quite attached to reality. She discusses in the book how she was able to eventually get treatment, but how it took years of fighting for people to take her seriously.

People with mental health issues should not have to fight for a doctor to take them seriously. The majority of people have a natural aversion to the doctor, even more so when you have something wrong that you can’t quite put your finger on, like your mental health. You should be listened to, never turned away (like Dodie is at one point in the book).

It’s sad to say that this is the truth. I know friends who have had bad experiences with therapy. Who just wanted to have someone to listen to them but found there was nowhere capable of being 100% there. I have always tried my best to listen, but I admit I struggle with knowing quite what to say, or how to be there. ‘I understand’ and ‘I’ll always listen’ never quite feels like enough.

Mental health can be hard to understand, especially if you’ve never struggled with it. That’s why in recent years so many people have tried to break the stigma surrounding it by talking about. In the end while it’s helped, people then talk about how they feel every Youtuber or blogger has now come out with a mental health issue. All I can say to that is so what is they have? And maybe there is something about the desire to share a bit of yourself online and to be heard that means that means there is something in your brain you just need to get out.

Secrets for the Mad Poster

Secrets for the Mad Poster 

I personally have talked about suffering with my mental health. Vaguely, and not in great detail. Maybe one day I’ll get to the point where I can talk about it more. To be honest, I have had no official diagnosis, no definite clue. That is my own fault, as much as I talk and encourage my friends to get the help they need or go to therapy; I have yet to do myself.

Despite, oversharing on this blog, I don’t like talking about me. I don’t like being personal and honest. To be honest I’m scared (bizarrely enough) it’s all in my head, and I’m just too emotional or hyper sad.

Reading about other people’s experiences helps however. Especially when you know they understand, like Dodie because they have somehow managed to find that magical land where they can discuss how to talk if you feel like you’re suffering with mental health problems, without feeling like it is patronising.

Within Secrets for the Mad Dodie also discusses the other things she worries and obsesses over (I don’t know about you but I’ve always felt like I obsess over too many things, and it was refreshing to see someone not just cover one aspect of their lives but lay everything bare) from her bad skin, to issues surrounding body image (I was relieved to see this addressed, as so often I see famous people be they film stars, or Youtubers lose weight and then not talk about, as if they were always that way); sexuality (I love that Dodie is dispelling the myths surrounding bisexuality), and how sex education actually fails to talk to you about the stuff surrounding sex leading to damaging patterns and abusive relationships (and how that abusive is not always physical- and we shouldn’t keep letting bad things happen to the people we love because they’ve not been hit yet).

Dodie Book Signature

What the signed copy looks like. 

Another thing that I love that is stressed is the ‘Little but Important Things’, something I’ve tried to grasp onto recently. I may have had a bad week, or a horrible moment in my day (that I’ll obsess over and play over again and again in my head) but instead I try to focus on a moment I’ll have laughing with Martin, or a piece of good news, or a special moment with a friend.

Forever Idiots

This book reminded me and inspired me to keep on writing, whether it be here or in the novel that I promised myself I would write ever since I was little and first picked up a pen. Hopefully, I will have the courage to be just as confessional though I can’t help but make mine just a little bit more fantastical.

If I had to sum up Secrets for the Mad I would say that Dodie laid herself bare as much as she could without giving away her soul and I really respect that.

I feel like a six out of ten
I gotta get up early tomorrow again

What goes on behind the words?
Is there pity for the plain girl?

Can you see the panic inside?
I’m making you uneasy, aren’t I?

-Dodie 6/10

Also, on a slightly needy note let me know if you enjoyed this book review. I feel like awkwardly enough I’m actually terrible at reviewing things because I go on too many tangents so if you like/ hate my style let me know.

🍂April🍂

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I’ve officially finished my Masters degree

Image: Pexels (A representation of a students life if they are way more hip than I was/ somehow have enough time to use a type writer, and like coffee). 

A short(ish) and slightly personal post ahead. This is just a warning so you know for what you’re getting yourself in for, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!!! Anyway, to the point. The other day, I got my dissertation results and I’m proud to say that my calculations come to the conclusion that I got a distinction overall for my Masters (I really hope this doesn’t come to haunt me lol and it turns out I worked it out wrong).

People who know me personally will know how much this meant to me, not least because I’m a perfectionist but also because I didn’t get the grade I wanted in my undergraduate degree. While blame can of course be blamed on me (and the demon that is procrastination- mostly fear of failing procrastination); a lot of the reason for my result was because of events in my third year of university that essentially meant I was feeling the lowest with my mental health I have ever felt in my life. Although, it has been hard; I’ve finally started to feel like there is a way out of that black hole (though I am by no means magically ‘better’) thanks to the support of my friends and Martin. And due to a whole lot of fighting on my own part. However, at that point in my life I’m not surprised now I didn’t get the result I wanted- I can barely even recognised myself in the person I was that year. I basically should have asked for help and said I was not coping. But I was too stubborn/ afraid to. So what I am saying is, if you’re struggling, ask for the help, confide in someone, I know it’s scary and feels more challenging than whatever you are going through, but it will help so much more in the long run. I honestly wish I had and should have done.

And for those like me who didn’t quite get what they wanted the first time round, I just wanted to let you know you can do it. And basically you’re going to go through a lot of things that suck, and make you feel like there is no way out. But there is, you can do it, and if you need someone to talk to message me. Alternatively, please check out the helplines just below.

Mind (mental health charity)

0300 123 3393

info@mind.org.uk
Text: 86463

https://www.mind.org.uk

The Samaritans (free support for anyone who needs it) 

116 123 (UK) (24/7 every day)

jo@samaritans.org

https://www.samaritans.org

I also want to say a big congratulations to Callie and a thank you for all your support. Ciara- you did amazing, I’m so proud even though you’re older than me lol but I’m definitely the middle aged one of the group. Mitchell- I know you’re going to do amazing. Holly, well done on your Masters, and 4 years putting up with me-we did it (again)!!!

There’s so many more people I could mention and want to but it would make this post far longer than it already is. But everyone else on my Masters course (you know who you are if you’re reading this- well done you’re all amazing).

I also want to say a longer big thank you to the long suffering individual that is Martin, thank you for actually attempting to read my dissertation- it was much appreciated. A big thank you to my mum too for always believing in me.

To anyone else reading, it’s never too late to change your path, whether it be job wise, grade wise, mental health wise. And don’t worry I’m going to stop pretending I’m a life coach now (though let’s face it you’d all buy my motivational DVD because it’d be hilarious).

🍂April🍂

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