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.

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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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