Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Dear Mia: and other things she can't read

For those of you who have managed to avoid seeing anything I've posted all year, we got a dog. In February we brought home our 8 week old, 4 kilogram, black labrador baby girl.

Like most dog people, I spent years trying to convince my family that getting a dog would be a good idea, but to no avail. That was, until last Christmas, when all the planets aligned and the whole family finally agreed that we wanted a dog and that it could be really good for my anxiety. (As first-time dog owners, for my parents too, we didn't have the knowledge for a rescue.)

One of the lovely boys (I'm wearing
the same outfit as collection day, yes)
Come January, we started our search for labrador litters - the perfect "not girly or fluffy or tiny" family dog for us.We found one in the area and made a plan to visit them one weekend. On a Saturday, we headed 40 minutes away from home, the furthest I had been in years. We met two lovely boys who were 16 weeks old and would have been ready to come home with us the very next weekend, and my god was I excited. However, my family wanted to see another litter before making a choice and found one that evening. I agreed reluctantly to see a litter over an hour and a half drive from home and were only 5 weeks old, but at least we could visit them the very next day.

On Sunday, we journeyed all the way to the south coast. I was shaking, gagging, and utterly terrified, but as soon as we entered the beautiful, cosy suburban home and were greeted by SEVEN 5 week old puppies, I felt a sense of calm I can't describe. We were told there were two still unreserved, both black girls. They were identical in every way, apart from one with little white paws - we knew that one would be ours. It felt like she belonged with us: she was the runt and a little out of it, my soulmate. I let go of the boys from the day before, and I hope they landed somewhere lovely, but this litter stole my heart. We visited them twice more before collecting our new baby on February 18th.

I wish I had a better picture from
our journey home, but you try
taking a picture of a very
concerned tiny puppy. 

On that journey to collect her I almost threw up in the car, so terrified that I was making a decision I couldn't handle. I shoved my total panic down because this was something I really, really wanted. She screamed the entire way home, between snoozes (a sign of things to come probably), and we named her Mia.

Once home, I couldn't keep my eyes off her, struggling to calm my panic and my excitement all at once - And then she fell asleep in my lap, and all my anxiety faded. I was a mother.
Our first few weeks together were wonderful. Lots of sleeping, then lots of stress. Puppies are hard, man. Into March I began to feel painfully anxious all the time, and then came a week of panic attacks. From the moment I woke up, I would be shaking. I couldn't eat, I couldn't move, and I couldn't look at Mia. She was a constant reminder that I was under pressure to be better, I wasn't coping with the responsibility. I still feel knots in my stomach when I remember that one day, through tears and pain I told my mum we couldn't keep her. I'm so ashamed of myself for feeling that way, but apparently puppy post-partum is common. My Mum's not one to fight my anxious requests and appreciate that, but my god am I glad she said no this time.

Despite not being friendly to her at all that week, Mia never gave up on me. She'd sit on my feet at the end of the sofa while I shook and cried, and licked my hands when she could reach. As the week wore on, my strength grew back, and my bond with her has been unbreakable ever since.

Her existence in my life has impacted my mental health in such a positive way. I wanted to get better for her, so I did. In March I went on my very first walk with her, out in the woods, and I've been almost every day since. I've been to different places, at different times, with different people, when less than 6 months before I never would have considered it at all.

Since that awful week, she's been my sidekick. My inseparable soulmate. We barely spend any time apart really. For years I've been stranded at home by my anxiety, but with her, that doesn't feel so sad. I haven't felt lonely all year, because I know she's always here, happy to just hang out.

Within a few weeks of having Mia in our home, she developed the name "Mia Moo", and usually goes by Moo now. I honestly couldn't tell you how it started, but it truly is the best fitting name for her. My girl is quite the character.

She spends most of her time on her back, whether it's sleeping or playing, she just doesn't want to stand up, she's a bundle of limbs and strange noises. So many noises. What she does want, is to eat. My god she loves food. So much so that on her very first day we had to stop her eating moss and rocks. We don't stop her anymore, we have to pick our battles. Between mud, sticks, pinecones, carpet and bugs, we don't have much time for anything else - honestly, it's a relief when she's stolen real human food for once. She's a goofy little thing, with no coordination or common sense. She does as she pleases whether its logical, or safe, or not.

She is the sassiest, most determined, independent puppy dog ever. She is also the clingiest, whiniest dog. She wants her own sofa to sleep on and will move if you sit near her when she wants space, but if you leave her alone, she'll cry. If you aren't paying attention to her, she'll cry. If she's hot, cold, tired, hungry, wants to play, wants to sleep, she'll cry. She definitely lives a life of her own, and does what she wants when she wants and will get her own way eventually. It took her 9 months, but she successfully made her way into my bed overnight, despite having her own downstairs.

Mia now weighs 27 kilograms and will be one year old on the 21st of December. I couldn't be without her now, she is the absolute love of my life but she is an absolute menace. Theft is her favourite pass time. We've lost slippers, flip-flops, an entire bench, a rubber duck.. the list goes on... but for some strange reason, we still love her endlessly. (It'll be because she's so damn cute, and she knows it.)

She'll greet us excitedly when we've been gone for minutes. She hates the vacuum cleaner but is so fearless that she thinks she can take it on, every single day. She's a year old and still doesn't understand her own tail. She doesn't understand social cues and tries to play with dogs even when they're clearly mad at her.
Sometimes she wakes up in the night and coughs up wood like a cat coughs up hairballs. Nothing she does ever makes any sense, and I'm utterly obsessed with her.

My Mia Moo is definitely one of a kind, and couldn't be more suited to her odd white paws (and tail, and chest..). I don't think any description could do her justice, you have to see her to believe how totally bizarre and completely lovely she is. I could not be more grateful for her falling into my life.

Happy Birthday, baby Moo.

If you want more Moo pictures, and who doesn't, my snapchat is dedicted to her - beckystorey

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Hi, I'm Anxious

Have you ever been caught out doing something odd like making faces at yourself in the mirror or sniffing your own armpits, and found yourself on the spot trying to explain it away? That tension, that desperate search through your mind for any other excuse is exactly how I feel when I realise I've inadvertently mentioned that I'm at home in the middle of the day, on a weekday, when most people should be at work or in some sort of education.

Being a social dog walker, I meet new people almost daily, and some of them I spend enough time with to get to know closer. I love meeting new people and learning about their lives, which as an anxious soul is a little out of character - but there's something that I just can't get enough of when it comes to listening to other people's stories. From what I know about how to socialise, it seems we just drop hints into the conversation on what we do with our days. My Mum will mention something about being in a school and after the always necessary "oh you're a teacher?", she then goes on to explain that she only works in the background and then further on to discuss and share thoughts and ideas with the new acquaintance. Being in my situation, I miss out on this form of bonding.

Sometimes in these conversations with new faces, I'll mention something about what I do with my time. Usually, this means implying that I've been at home in the middle of the day when most 20-somethings would be busy. I stifle myself once I've let this slip, waiting for them to ask what I do. More often than not, they don't. I assume everyone just jumps to assuming they misheard, or that I am in fact extremely lazy. What they don't assume is that a mental health problem could be behind it all.

Despite how it sounds, truthfully, I want to be asked what I do. I'm not afraid of talking about it, I'm afraid of bringing it up myself. If another person opens the door to discussing my anxiety then any discomfort they feel is on them, but if I start it I feel so much remorse for pushing a taboo topic on them.

I'm not embarrassed about who I am or what I do. It's basically a full-time job for me to talk openly about my anxiety. I'm not sensitive to questions, in fact, I welcome them. I'm proud of myself and I see the importance in helping others learn about such rare disorders like my Agoraphobia. The issue is always with how other people feel about it. I never know what a person is going to say. I never have high expectations but there's nothing quite as uncomfortable as someone responding with "oh you just have to take deep breaths and keep going, ey?" ... Thank you for your kind words but 4 years of panic attacks can't be fixed with deep breathing.

Explaining that my anxiety means I find it hard to leave the house is tough to do when I am in fact outside my house. I have to follow up every revelation with "it's getting better though, a year ago I never would have come here" because when you say mental health, people want to see mental health. For those who are unfamiliar with mental illnesses, it's hard to see how anyone could be anything other than totally broken or totally fine.

I'm well enough to walk my dog, not to go to work.
I'm well enough to go shopping, not to be in education.

I hope for a future where it no longer feels like I don't have the privilege of talking openly about who I am. I hope for a world where I get to fully immerse myself in meeting new people and sharing my life just as much as any fully functional person would do. For now, all I can say is, ask me. Don't fear the possibility of the conversation taking a turn you might not be prepared for. All I want, and I imagine most others like me, is to be as normal as everyone else. I want to talk about my interests and my life, it shouldn't matter that I don't fit into all the same categories as other people my age.

I want to talk about it and I want to be honest, but I've also been taught over the years that I don't have the freedom to start the conversation myself because I can't force anyone into an uncomfortable position. Ask those questions, get to know people even if the conversation won't be as small talk-y as we're used to. You never know how interesting a person could be, or how much your life could be changed just by getting to know someone.
(also I promise my anxiety stories are witty and hilarious, never sad and uncomfortable)

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Old Me Can't Come To The Phone Right Now

This evening, returning from a late evening walk with my family and our puppy (she's 9 months old okay, she's still a puppy), staring wistfully out of the window at the pink sunset in the distance, Taylor Swift began to play on the radio. I love her and I don't care who knows it but Look What You Made Me Do has had to grow on me. Sitting there contemplating life, I began to spiral on the concept of a personal evolution. Changing who you are in its entirety, so much so that any old version of you no longer exists.

Mirror Pictures circa 2005
It's a strange concept when I think about it, that we can fully let go of an older copy of ourselves and completely change our fundamentals. I suppose when I read that back, it's just growing up. From the ages of 5 to 10, of course, we'd change. 10-15, sure. 15-20, I guess so. 

But what if, in the space of 4 years, you lose everything about yourself only to have to start again? 

Between the ages of 16 and 20, my whole world changed so much that I had no choice but to redevelop myself, working from the bottom up. I don't have an issue with the changes in myself, or other people for that matter. I'd always advocate for adapting and changing whatever parts of you you'd like whenever you'd like.  My concern lies with the footprint you've left in the earth. The footprint that you no longer fit inside.

I exist as two different people in this world now. The person I am today, and the person I was 4 years ago in the world I left behind. We all exist as different copies of ourselves really. When that distant family member says "my goodness haven't you grown!" that's them confessing that they had held one single copy of you in their mind and hadn't taken it upon themselves to update it. This past version of myself now exists only in a world that has long forgotten me. When others think of me, without knowledge of who I am today, they think of nothing but a ghost. A figment of their imagination. It's not that I have a problem with the who I was at 16, it's just that nothing remains of that person. Like a snake, we all shed our skin every so often, we just do it in personality traits and hair colour. 

Mirror pictures 2013
In 4 years of changing, I've had to learn who I am from scratch, with this new slightly more anxious vibe. Trauma teaches you who you are pretty quickly. When you stare your own mortality in the face and decide you want to survive, you begin to really live as exactly who you want to be without shame or apologies. Things I would pretend to be interested in, pretend to like, pretend to be when I was 16 are entirely gone from my life. If I don't want it, I won't have it. I am unapologetically myself even when it's not the socially desirable option or even the practical option. Gaining this level of self-acceptance is the only thing that will push you through years of oppressive mental illness. I am anxious 24/7 and it is important to me to always look after myself in any way necessary, I'm not going to be ashamed of what I do and do not feel capable of.

What used to be mornings of waking up at the crack of dawn just to cover myself in badly applied makeup and straighten and backcomb my already dead hair, are now mornings filled with deep breathing and kindness (and puppies). My mind may be unwell, but my soul feels healthier than ever, and I owe that to my choice to strip away everything I don't want any more. I am in awe of the people who do run their mornings with beauty and glamour, I could spend hours watching makeup videos on Instagram but I'm self-assured enough to know I'm not interested in trying it myself. I suppose I'm a bit stubborn now, I won't do anything I don't want to do if it involves pretending to be someone I'm not. Life is far too short to torture myself by forcing myself into activities I don't want to do.

Academia was never my strong point, not because I wasn't smart, but because I didn't care. If I didn't care for the subject, I wasn't going to do it. (Here's a written apology to all the teachers who dealt with my "coasting", thank you for sticking it out.) These days, despite not being in any full-time education, I love to learn because it's MY choice, and there are so many teachers and classes I look back on fondly, for still inspiring me to keep growing. Turns out the world is just a much easier place to be in when you're not being forced or pretending.

When I first cut my hair off, I felt free, like I'd released myself from the chains which held me back to being the same person I'd always been. Turns out, changing your look won't automatically free you from the past, but it's a good start. Not too long ago, I went and bleached my hair again for the very first time since I was 16. Being bleach blonde was my "thing" then and I held onto it with the grip of a child on a comfort blanket, but when I got ill I decided it wasn't important anymore. Dying my hair again seems so insignificant, but to me it really meant something. It meant to me that I was getting better. That I was shifting my priorities again, to include indulgence, because my desire to try new things and stand out a little more had returned. Not everything from your past life has to go away forever, you see. You can pick and chose who you want to be at any given time and you never have to feel guilty or wrong for dropping and collecting any parts of you that you feel you're missing, or don't want around for a while.

I feel so much more peaceful inside myself these days. I have nothing but positivity to put out into the world, even when it hasn't always done the same in return. I often wish I'd found this part of myself when I was younger, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way. I consider myself a grandma in a 20-somethings body (even if I'm often mistaken for 15), and I couldn't be happier. If I'd felt this confident in my own choices when I was at school, I truly think life would have been extremely different today.

Mirror Pictures 2017
There's something endlessly relieving about totally letting go of your former self, and keeping only the parts you truly want. Accepting wholeheartedly that you made some poor choices and some excellent choices, and that you don't need to continue to carry them all with you. In the end, if those in your past life hold an incorrect version of you in their mind, then they aren't important to your new being anyway. You don't have to live in the shadow of your youth, no matter what the catalyst to your change was. You can start today, just because you want to.

You can cleanse your life of all the debris that remains from the years gone by, you don't need to carry it with you. Be it pictures you've kept, a hairstyle or Facebook friends you barely remember, you are allowed to start again. Those who remind you of your wrong-doings aren't valuable to your fresh start. The people who have watched you change and grow will be the only people who matter.

The only harm you can do comes from allowing your memories to shape who you are today. You don't have to be a certain type of person, interested in certain types of things just because of your experiences in the past or what others thought of you. You can shape your own world, just by deciding that you want to start again.

I'm telling you, you are allowed to make choices that will erase your footprint from the earth. You're allowed as many footprints as you need before you get it right for you.

I suppose my point is that you can be whatever and whoever you want. Change as often as you feel necessary. Adapt to new surroundings and never feel guilty for leaving behind a world you once happily inhabited. Know that some people weren't meant to benefit your life forever, some may have never benefitted you at all, but the clouds of youth covered it. Start fresh and be unapologetically yourself.

Dungarees, a puppy, and that boy I friend zoned in 2008.
Stop pretending you care about things your friends like, so you'll fit in.
Stop going out to places you don't like, doing things you don't care for, just because it's the done thing.
Cut out the ex-partners and ex-friends that don't serve to benefit your life. In fact, as a general rule, cut out anyone who doesn't add joy to your days without hesitation.
Take up that hobby you're nervous about because you don't know if it'll be weird or if you'll be any good.
Put your feelings out there and never look back.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Not Quite a Girl Not Yet a Woman: Recovery and the Art of Getting Better

Lately, my most prominent topic of conversation among both my neurotypical friends and my ever growing group of less neurotypical friends has by far and away been recovery - and more specifically how we seem to be punished by the universe simply for getting better. The world can understand "irreparably ill" and "completely fine" but the in between stages of "far from bad but far from good" seems to send other people into an endless spiral of confusion, leading us to have to pick up the pieces for them.

I can understand why it's so hard to grasp the concept from an outside view. When I say I can walk to our local corner shop with no issues, and I can even do it with other people these days, I'm always met with praise and congratulations, but when I say I can't get in the car and drive there? Blank stares and confused eyebrows. Why can't I do that if I can do this? Boy if I knew, I'd be doing it all.

My best example is that on many occasions now, I've been able to drive with my boyfriend (shout out H ily) but other days I simply can't. No if's no buts, I'm just not doing it without an unfathomable panic attack. There's no rhyme or reason as to why it differs, it just does and everyone else needs to be on board with that. Nothing stays the same, okay?

There seems to be this notion that recovery should happen all at once and all together when it's more like taking a category at a time.
Walking - Check.
Into this one tiny shop alone - Check.
Being in a car with someone other than my parents - Nope.

Some might argue that going into a store is harder than just being in the car, but if that was the case I'd be able to eat soup instead of being able to sit in waiting rooms alone (A proud accomplishment if I do say so myself and I'm not sure why I fear soup).

Anxiety towards one issue is not comparable to the other - Just because one task seems easier than another, does not actually make it easier. It's individual and unaffected by our other accomplishments. Just as having learned to speak French won't make you any better at speaking Mandarin.

It is almost as if we're punished for being in this middle ground because the rest of the world doesn't understand how to deal with it. Privileges (and I use the term very loosely) are taken away when we begin to improve because it's suddenly expected that we've improved entirely. If you can do this, then you don't need any of that. If you don't have a cold anymore then we're taking away your tissues, even though your nose is still a bit runny. Reactions like this make recovering not only more laborious than it already has to be, but almost pointless. Recovering is firmly a middle ground, which still requires the same patience and care as being completely over taken by your illness. The frequency of good days, or good moments, may have increased, but ultimately there are still so many bad days and it's not right that we have to justify those to anyone who can't understand the idea that being "better" isn't set in stone.

The pressure grows so intensely when we start to show signs of having it together. My likelihood of saying yes to things I wouldn't even dream of before has increased tenfold, but that makes it near impossible to say no on the days when I feel beaten by my anxiety. It's a real life application of the "you've made your bed, now you have to lie in it" phrase. I've presented this image of a person with their life together. Someone who is, by all accounts, doing well, who can achieve almost anything now, give or take a little anxiety. Unfortunately, this isn't realistic in the slightest. As a result, I feel I have to apologise and explain myself in a way I never had to before. In the past, I'd fully embraced my own situation and unapologetically owned my anxieties. It was futile for anyone to ask anything of me, because I was always going to stick to my protective guns, guilt free. Now, I've opened the flood gates, I rarely take "me" days or say no. This has led to so very many days feeling overwhelmed and guilty.

I find myself regularly having to explain that I need some time because I can't keep up with my own rate of progression. I'm trying so hard, and I'm so proud of myself, but there's only so long you can keep up such intense hard work before beginning to crash. This would be an isolated problem of its own if only I didn't then have to explain myself as if I'd done something wrong, because I need to take few steps back. My actions affect others and I understand how it can be painful to allow their lives to be impacted by my own when my life is never stable. I'm more than appreciative of the people who continue to love me, to care for me, and want me in their lives despite all the baggage I come with, but I can't help but feel like I'm never quite enough now.

Every so often, I have some seriously good days, I can almost appear fully functional. In reality, I am simply a high-functioning bundle of anxiety. However, the good days are what everyone remembers, what everyone clings to. When I can't function quite as well, it's as I've told my loved ones that I'm converting to Satanism. I mean well, I always do, but sometimes I can't keep up. Unfortunately, this is often received as if I don't care, or don't want to be a part of the relationship.

If I may, I'd like to clear this up once and for all. Yesterday is not today, last week is not now. I am doing my best every single day no matter what. Just because my best today doesn't look like yesterday's best, doesn't mean I'm not working equally as hard. Sometimes, I back out of things at the last minute. That is because I cant possibly carry on with how I feel and I need to escape, but I left it as late as possible because I wanted to try. Be pleased that I tried, that I even considered whatever it was. Don't blame me, or take offense, I tried. Know that I will have always tried my best. A year ago, I probably wouldn't have even attempted such things. I never want to cause any upset when my anxiety affects someone else's day, it's just that at this moment it seems like my options are going through with the plans or death. We'd all choose the same, given the same circumstances.

When it comes to recovery, the vast majority of us are living in this Phantom Zone. Where we are doesn't exist inside the usual space/time continuum, only to us in it. Please just give us time, let us call our own shots and try to take life with us as it comes. We're moving one step at a time and so should you. I know you have plans and hopes that include us, and we are more grateful for that than you'll know, but please, let us decide what is and isn't realistic.

We'll get there, I promise.

I hadn't sat on this field in 4 years - seriously.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Retrospect Is 20/20 (get it?)

I can't be the only person who counts years from birthday to birthday, not January to December. For 4 years now I've been counting my life in birthdays because, for some cruel and unusual reason, my birthday has always been at the very centre of a great change in my life.

2013: Anxiety: The dawn of an era
2014: Anxiety II: Woops more anxiety
2015: Anxiety III: You have no qualifications but here is some depression
2016: Anxiety IV: Hey, maybe it isn't all bad.

When June rolls around, and I begin the 29-day countdown, I can't help but become nostalgic for the very recent past, and this year feels even more important because I finally close the "childhood" chapter on my life and apparently become an adult.

This last year, starting from my 19th birthday, of course, has been a wild ride if ever there was one. Admitting it is hard, but the truth is, I never believed I'd make it to 20. In fact, I believed it so little I even wrote it down. Looking back now, I'm so glad I chose to keep an official record because it serves as a constant reminder of how far I've come. This year has been one of massive change, my family life and my social life, and therefore my own personal life, has been flipped upside-down.

New meds, new therapist, new me.

It's not that I give full credit to these things for the improvement in my mental health, but I can't deny the huge help they've been or the fact that they appeared shortly after my last birthday. This time last year I was seeing a perfectly reasonable therapist - a good one in fact. I truly owe him for dragging me out of the gutter I was in back in 2015 (And recommending that I should date my now boyfriend). That said, 18 months is a long time to spend with one therapist and once I'd reached a certain level, his help was no longer making much of a difference. I moved on, found someone new with a different approach and began to make strides again. I've achieved things in the last year that I thought I'd never get to do again.

At the very same time, I'd decided to change my medication. I'm proud of being on medication to control my mental health, it's no different to antibiotics or pain killers. I'd hit a ceiling with my current medication, I had been taking a subtherapeutic dosage for 6 months and couldn't stand the side effects which came with trying to increase that level - so I packed it all in and anxiously started something new. So far so good is all I can really say on the matter.

It's no secret that the last few years haven't been easy for me, and if they were a 10 on the "boy this sucks" scale, then this past
year has been a 6 (okay sometimes 5, sometimes 7). I'm a little too superstitious to admit it, so I say cautiously, that this year definitely feels like a whole new life.

I'd also like to take a moment to get mushy about the people (and animals) in my life who pushed me further towards this new beginning.

I'd never imagined that anyone would be able to truly be on side with how my life works and the irrational ways I feel, and yet, despite all the odds, one year ago, my best friend of the last decade officially became my other half. While I wouldn't credit another person for fixing me, I will credit him for being there every step of the way while I fixed myself. So many of the new experiences I've had this year have been because of him. Not because he made me, or even that it was his idea, but because he let me do the irrational things I needed doing in order to step out of my comfort zone and being right there with me. I wouldn't have managed half the things I have this year if it weren't for what we have, thank you for letting me be me. (gross, I'm done now)

MORE IMPORTANTLY, this year brought the newest edition to my family, the Moo. Mia is, and always will be credited for the biggest improvement in my health. Never could I have imagined that one tiny being would be enough to push me to put their needs above my own anxiety, but here she is, convincing me every day that some things are just worth the risk. Because of her, I have broken down walls I thought would stay up forever. Because of her, this year, I have reached a place where I can just about pass off as a functional human.

I try to steer well clear of setting goals and expectations because they only give me more stress and anxiety, so as far as the next year goes I'm keeping an open mind. One day at a time is all I'm really concerned about. So far, that's paid off pretty well. I entered this year with the lowest of expectations and purely negative ideas of how life would be. I never would have dreamed that things would end up the way they have, and I will never stop thanking my lucky stars, and whatever other spirit is watching out for me, for getting me to where I am now.

I may be miles from the finishing line, but at least I'm back in the race. 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Not Quite Twenty Things To Do Before Turning Twenty: Forgiveness

I have approximately 8 weeks until I turn 20. The big two-oh. Third Decade. I don't understand why we celebrate 21 more than 20, it doesn't mean a thing in the UK. Sure, in America it makes you of legal drinking age, but here, absolutely nothing is any different to turning 20. The jump from 19 to 20 though, that feels like a much bigger deal. 20 marks the beginning of real adulthood, to me, that feels like a far more important birthday. Unfortunately, being so convinced of it's importance has made me a little nervous to actually reach that age. (though, what doesn't make me nervous?)

I don't exactly feel ready to be an adult. I haven't reached those milestones we're supposed to have completed as a teenager. I can't drive, I have no higher education and I don't have a job, I am entiely dependent on my family and I go to bed at 10:30pm and that's not even the half of it. Being 20 doesn't exactly match where I am in my life. 80, sure, but 20? Not exactly. That said, I still have 8 weeks to try to feel a little more functional. It's not that I think I can cure myself in 8 weeks, infact it doesn't have much to do with my anxiety at all. I just think that maybe I should get my brain a little more in order before I leave my teenage years. Decluttering, learning to be a little less like a creature of habit and finally getting round to appointments I've been putting off for months all feel like a pretty good step in the right direction.

First things first, I figure before I can do any kind of moving forward I need to forgive the past and accept the present. One of the more emotional checks on my bucketlist, it seems like a necessary step to take first. Really embracing where my life is and who I am is something I've been putting off since day one. I go through phases, sometimes I truely do feel powerful in my situtation and I learn to put self-care above all else - but some days, I feel more guilt that I could ever explain for something I can't control. Despite what it may seem, what happens in my head isn't voluntary, I can't make it stop and I can't make it better. Some days I need to listen to voice in my mind - I know it's never right, but it's not always possible to defy it.

Self-care should be a staple in every persons life, mental illness or not. Putting ourselves first sometimes is what has to be done in order to stay afloat. Some require more than others. I require more than most and most days I feel incredibly guilty for that, especially when it effects the people around me. Self-care isn't selfish and I shouldn't have to feel guilty, but after a few years living the way I do, you begin to question if maybe you are doing something wrong after all. Over time, I got used to disappointing people, to  hopelessly explaining that my absense wasnt personal, to feeling like a the worst person because I couldn't override the voice in my head. An important part of being an adult to me, is accepting who I am and not feeling guilty because someone else can't accept it. As a teenager, we all experience social insecurity, worrying what others think of us - I'd really like to shake off that whole idea now, it's not healthy and it's not necessary.

It's not that I don't understand why people feel this way when my illness effects them. When my illness gets bad, it influences every aspect of my life and that mostly involves my social life. This means cancelling on my friends and withdrawing entirely, it can be months before I bring myself to socialise again and I understand that it can be really diffuclt on the people at the other end of that stick. I dread having to tell the truth, I'd like to lie and say that I'm busy - unfortunately anyone who knows me well enough to see me knows I'm never that busy. I very intensely fear the reaction I'll get if I'm honest and admit that I'm not feeling well enough to do something, because I'm used to the reaction being less than friendly.

Just as you wouldn't step out infront of a train to please a friend, I shouldn't have to feel bad for letting someone down by not doing something which I percieve to be as dangerous as stepping onto that railway. I always make it clear that my choices have nothing to do with the individual person and does not in anyway impact my love and care for that person. That should be enough. Being in my life means being okay with that, and part of accepting who I am is also accepting that some people don't get to be in my life if they don't understand. Just because the last experience was positive, will  never ever automatically mean that I'll be anxiety free the next time. Sometimes, it's even going to be worse, and that should just be accepted by the people who wish to be close to me. I've made it clear enough by now. As an adult, I refuse to feel ashamed or guilty for my illness. I'm doing my best to be everything I'm supposed to be for everyone else, but sometimes I can't keep that up, and I'm going to be okay with that.

I am also going to be okay with the route that led me here. A part of almost every mental illness is the regret that stagnates for years. I find myself regretting everything I did in the years leading up to my anxiety finally manifesting itself. After years of therapy I have yet to find a reason why this happened to me, and I'm not so sure I ever will, so instead I lay blame on everything, from the small day to day activities to the major life events which shaped who I became. The truth is, I don't know what the cause of my illness was no matter how hard I try to find one, so it doesn't seem fair to pick out parts of my life which almost certainly have nothing to do with who I am now.

We've all had bad people and bad experiences which have permanently impacted our future and the people we became, and it's hard not to hold grudges against them no matter how many years have passed. For me, it's hard not to place blame on every bad experience and person I came across in my teenage years - but the truth is there's just no way that something so simple caused me to develop the way I did. Somedays it's just easiest to wish that very certain things had been different, rather than allow myself to spin out wondering what I did wrong to end up this way.

I may aswell just let sleeping dogs lie. What happened happened and I can't change a thing. So here's to forgiving myself, the people I harbour painful memories for, and the bad experiences I learnt to regret. Carrying around that weight is something I don't need, I don't think it'll ever be healthy. I will be starting my next chapter with an open heart and a clean slate with no bad feelings towards myself, or the life I've lived up until today. For better or worse, I am who I am and I refuse to hold any ill feeling towards the life I live now or the life I lived until this day. Despite everything, I'm happy right now, there's no need to dwell on what brought me here or the hard parts of being who I am,

Friday, 31 March 2017

"If You're Not Living, You're Just Surviving" And Other Unspirational Instagram Quotes

We live in a generation of excitement. The opportunities on offer to us are far bigger than our previous generations could have ever imagined. World travel, wild holidays and the nights out we've come to accept as part of our culture are a fairly modern invention. All this with the added influence of social media makes it all the more essential that our lives contain some serious excitement - movie magic level excitement.

That said, even as far back Oscar Wilde's era, the concept of "living not just existing" was influencing lives. Personally, I kind of hate that. In fact, I really hate that. There is nothing I think is quite as misleading and sometimes harmful, than that very idea. I do not, in any way, agree with the notion that we have to lead exciting lives in order to be living.

It seems to me that the general message is to do what makes you happy, and that is truly living. Even that doesn't quite sit right with me, but even worse is how incorrectly that message has been interpreted over the years.

There is so much pressure to "live free" and be wild while we're young and I get it, I do, but I think it's unnecessary. While I have absolutely nothing bad to say or any judgment about those who chose to spend their time in more adventurous ways - be it wild nights out or traveling the globe, I don't understand how it has ever become okay to say that those who chose not to, are simply existing, not living.

The core matter comes down to what we consider to be boring, and "boring" is one of my least favourite words. Absolutely nothing is legitimately boring, it always comes down to opinion alone. Which is why telling someone that they're boring, that their lives are only surviving not living, is not okay by me. Why do we consider people to be lower in the food chain than ourselves simply because we don't think their day to day lives are fun enough. To go out of your way to tell another person that their life isn't fun or even enough to be considered living because they don't enjoy the same things that most others do is an insanely harmful thing to do.

Not being fun enough is the bane of my life these days, not because I want more for myself, but because I find myself having to justify my choices when the people around me assume I'm just an incredibly boring person. The truth is, despite the anxiety, I am genuinely happy with the ways I choose to spend my time. I'm a homebody, I don't have any concerns about spending my nights with my family, I don't drink, I don't feel the need to travel the world and I'm perfectly happy being alone. To some, according to the quotes, I'd be considered to be barely existing.

The truth is, I don't remember the last time I was bored. I can entertain myself all day every day and I don't think much about craving human interaction.To be honest, I consider this to be a serious talent. In a world where we crave excitement, I'm extremely good at blocking it all out and living exactly the way I want to. That's all that's important in the end, doing only things that will make you happy (within reason okay). There shouldn't be any judgement towards anything a person chooses to do with their own lives. If it'll make you happy to spend all night out partying, drinking and mingling, then you do that until your heart is content and don't let anyone stop you. But if you want to spend your nights in, wearing pajamas and watching re-runs of sitcoms alone, then you should never ever have to feel like that's not okay either. In the end, you run your own life. and the only way to waste it is by doing things that don't make you happy because you want to be a part of a culture you don't care for.

The same goes for our futures too. There is a lot of judgement towards different career paths. Some are considered to be lower than most because of the pay or their "boring" nature. You career is going to be a part of the largest chunk of your life, never ever do anything that wont make you happy because you've been told it'll be boring, or you wont earn enough. If you dream of being a high powered lawyer or an astronaut for all I care, then do it. If you want to be a librarian or a receptionist or one of those people who count how many cars pass through a certain area, then by God you do it and you never stop.

When everything is stripped bare, when there is nothing left to question, you'll be left with the notion that you either used your time on earth to be as happy as you could be, or that you wish you'd done more things which made you happy. Conforming to what other people want, because of the fear that they'll think you're boring, is never going to be worth it. The people in your lives who truly matter will always see the excitement and the happiness in whatever you choose to do, because they'll see the affect that it'll have on you, and you alone.