I appreciate you

In the last year I’ve come a million miles when it comes to my mental health. This time last year I wasn’t even sure if it was a good idea for me to stay at university, I genuinely was a bit of a danger to myself. I didn’t look after myself and I didn’t love myself. Now, here I am, still learning how to look after myself and love myself, but in the strongest position I’ve ever been in. And that comes down to a few things, the first being my ‘vice’ which those close to me know about (it has changed my life, for the better). But another reason I’m so much stronger now is because of the amazing people in my life: my friends. All of you, those from home, those in Exeter, those thousands of miles away. So here’s to you guys:

I am so grateful for the positivity that you bring into my life. Thank you for making me laugh when I feel like crying. Thank you for calling me just to say hi. Thank you for updating me on your life so I don’t feel like I’m missing too much! Thank you for showing me parts of myself I never knew existed and teaching me to like myself. We’re working on getting to loving myself, but without any of you I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you to all my girls at home for having my back since day one – we march together. Thank you piñapple. Thank you Pat. Thank you to the weirdos I get to call some of my new best mates, I’ve only known you a year but I feel like I’ve known your messi-selves forever. Thank you to the good eggs that I live with for making our house feel like a home, I know I’m not the most useful housemate but I hope I provide entertainment? Thank you to the best thing that came out of my break up; every cloud has a silver lining. Thank you d**g-mother, you helped me transform my life.

I could go on and on. There are so many more people I want to thank, even those who might not consider me a friend. You’d be surprised how much of an impact one interaction can have. I suppose the purpose of this post is to make sure my friends know they’re appreciated, but also to remind others to think about the people in their life and what a difference friends can make. Write a list of who/what your grateful for. Tell your friends how much you appreciate them because everyone deserves to feel the love!

(I would also like to thank my family but that’s an entirely different post to be done one day)

mental health awareness week – an honest review of myself

Well, it’s mental health awareness week and I thought, rather than pretending to be uber happy in some “look how far I’ve come” post, the best way to raise awareness of mental health issues is to be honest.

And, seeing as the theme is ‘surviving or thriving’, I’m here telling the truth and admitting that in some ways I am thriving and in other ways I am not, I am simply surviving.

Let’s take my appearance for example. I’m eating. I’m eating more than I feel I should, I’m snacking, I’m binging. But I hate the way I look; I look in the mirror and see ‘FAT’ plastered all over it. I want so badly to be skinny but I also eat way too much and I’m too tired to get to the gym most days and I don’t even know why I’m so tired because I’m sleeping well. But I do know why I’m tired; I’m tired because of my depression, it does affect me in the same way any other illness like flu might. And I’m in this cycle because I hate myself and the way I look, so I eat my feelings, literally. It’s horrible and it’s what I need to work on at the moment. At least I can recognise that.

I have phenomenal friends; there are genuinely some incredible people in my life, however there are also not so incredible people in my life. And I have been learning which is which since coming to university. There are people I can just ‘be’ with, we can just sit in my room and mellow out and not need any words. There are people who give me the best laughs of my life. There are people who make me feel important. So yeah, some fantastic people. So, I just have to focus on those instead of the not so fantastic people.

I feel the happiest I have been in a long time and yet also, at times, the emptiest I have ever felt. Most of the time, I’m happy; I think for once in my life I really, truly am just happy. And I can admit for the first time publicly, I am happy on my own. I am content. Content is the best word to describe it because happy does still feel a little too strong of a word to describe myself. I think that’s possibly why I notice the emptiness more, because I’m embracing the fact that I am on my own. I’ve learnt to realise that emptiness, though bad in itself, isn’t always the worst in the world. It can be moved through, you have to admit to yourself that you are lonely, and question what you need to do about it. If, when I ask myself why I feel lonely, I am able to actually do something about it, I will. But, if it’s out of my control, you just have the ride through that wave of emotion. There’s no point fighting it because you just won’t win if there is nothing you can do about it. By “nothing you can do about it” I mean when the loneliness goes beyond just wanting to be in someone’s company, or you can’t be in someone’s company, etc. So, I just go with my thoughts – it’s mindfulness – I have the thought, acknowledge it, and then do what I can with it.

Sometimes it is hard and, right now, some aspects of my mental health are a lot harder than others; but it isn’t all bad. Like I said, for the first time I can honestly say I have moments where I feel true, genuine happiness, even if they are fleeting moments sometimes. For the first time since being ill I can see real hope.

I sleep more than the average person: my body’s natural defence mechanism

Today I spent the entire day in bed. I’m sick. But I’m not ill in the sense of a cold. I am mentally ill. Only, how was I supposed to tell my seminar group that? It’s funny, isn’t it? I’m trying so hard to break the stigma surrounding mental health and influence others to be more open about it, but I can’t even admit it half the time. I still find it impossible to tell near strangers that I’m having an episode. So I send my seminar group a message saying I’m sick. No explanation needed, they assume it is some physical ailment. See. Why do we make those assumptions? Why is there some pre-conceived idea that mental illnesses can’t be just as debilitating (and even more so at times) as physical illnesses?

I am angry. I’m angry because I live in fear that I’m going to be told to “get over it” if I admit my brain is keeping me in bed. If I had broken my leg, I wouldn’t be told to just walk it off. So, why are people told to “get over it”. Get over it. What a horrible expression. Essentially that is telling someone to get over their own brain. Now, I can safely speak for every single person ever when I say you can’t just “get over” your brain – there is no escape from your brain, it literally controls you.

So, I stayed in bed today. I fell in and out of deep sleep. People often find it strange how much I nap. But they aren’t just naps. When I sleep during the day, I am sleeping. I am so exhausted by my illness that I need to sleep, as though it is night-time. Sleep is an escape. It is the one time I get respite from this monster. I don’t care how stereotypical I sound by calling it that – it is a monster. And, since coming to university, I am increasingly fighting it alone. I feel more alone than I ever have and, in some ways, I like it because I can just exist – that’s all I can bring myself to want to do at the moment, exist. So, I stayed in bed today, just existing.

People don’t like me. That’s not my anxiety speaking. That’s not my depression speaking. That’s not my eating disorder speaking. That’s me. I could list reasons why people don’t like me, some of which would be my illnesses speaking, like if I say people don’t like me because I’m too fat. So let’s not do that. Let’s just admit it, people don’t like me. I know it is impossible to be liked by everyone. But I am not liked by anyone around me. So, I feel alone. I make myself be alone because that way I don’t have to feel so unwanted in the presence of others. Staying in bed leaves me with just myself, there’s nobody I can disappoint or upset or annoy, just myself. So, I stayed in bed today.

I always text my mum when I get like this, just to tell her. But I never want to speak to her, or anyone. I don’t want to tell everyone what’s going on inside my head because, what if they just tell me to get over it? What then? But there are people, like my parents, who I know won’t tell me to do that. So why don’t I want to talk to them? Because, to be honest, I’m sick of talking about it all. For two years now I have been talking about how I feel and, fundamentally in my core, I still feel the exact same way about myself. I am worth nothing. I am too fat. I am too much hassle. I am horrible. Talking about it only makes it worse. I have to admit that writing helps because I just put it out there and nobody has to listen or pay attention if they don’t want, but as I always say, I will do anything I can to stop others from going through what I go through, so I write about it to try make some sort of a difference. But, for now at least, I am done talking to people. So, I stayed in bed today.

My answer to all of my problems is to go to bed and sleep. When I start to get anxious/depressed it reaches a point where my body begins to shut down – I physically start to fall asleep in a way that is completely out of my control. I have sat in therapy sessions and rolled my head back falling asleep when things get too much, without even realising I am doing it. This is my body’s defence mechanism it has developed over the last couple of years. I am not lazy. I am not sleep-deprived. I am simply in a battle, between my body and my brain, and my body will do whatever it can to protect me from my brain.

So, I stayed in bed today. But not out of choice. I did not have the strength to get up. You may understand that, you may not, but never tell me to “get over it”. Never tell anyone to get over it. Mental illness can be just as bad as physical illness.

desserpeD yllacinilC: A Backwards Brain.

I’ve been awol for a while. I know. Sorry. I’m 75% messy mind half the time so I juggle what I can, and for the past few weeks that’s been focusing on trying to get my YouTube going (if you weren’t aware of it, here ya go: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXSclcZK1wETQOOruPcF5-A). However, this week I’m taking a break from filming because, to be quite frank, I don’t have the mental capacity to put on a smile for a video and spend the endless hours editing. Again, sorry.

I was, well, incited to write by a book I’m reading. It’s called Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression, written by Sally Brampton and published in 2008 when, I suppose, she was in a period of remission. Perhaps remission sounds strange to you when describing mental illness. But there is a stigma we want to break. “We” being the mentally ill folk. Remission exists in exactly the same way with mental illnesses as with physical ailments, such as cancer. And there is the same fear of relapse (which, funnily enough, is a word commonly used to describe mental illness by many people, yet there is a lack of awareness that pre-relapse a person is in remission…did that make sense? Not too sure.)

Where was I? Yes. Relapse. Remission. All that jazz.

So, let’s talk about Sally Brampton for a moment. I have been incredibly touched by her writing, relating to what she describes more than I ever thought I could and realising more and more that the way I feel isn’t abnormal when faced with mental illness. Sally passed away early last year, she walked into the sea. Her obituary in The Guardian said this, “Sally will be remembered as the editor who transformed the women’s magazine market and trained a generation of confident, accomplished female journalists. She should also be remembered as the woman whose ferocious honesty about depression saved lives.” ¹ She was a high-powered editor, hugely responsible for the success of the British edition of Elle magazine, and yet she fought the same battle against depression that so many people fight on a daily basis. It’s strange how you can connect with someone from such a different world to you because of a mere chemical imbalance.

As I read Brampton’s book, I find I’m learning more and more things about my illness, which I didn’t think possible after living with it for almost two years now. I don’t know if I’ve ever really clarified what exactly I suffer from. Maybe I have, maybe if you know me you already know this. However, I didn’t actually know what to call it until I sat crying in front of my mum the other day and asked her what was wrong with me. It’s called clinical depression. Nice name, eh? I also suffer from anxiety and disordered eating, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before. The reason I say it like this is because I’ve had people, namely certain males from a neighbouring school, mock me for telling people about my illnesses. I have been accused of attention-seeking and everything a sufferer of anxiety’s worst nightmares are full of. (Excuse my grammar there I know you’re not supposed to finish sentences with prepositions but I couldn’t figure out a better way to phrase it).

Well, anyway, the purpose of my writing all this babble is because there are two things Sally Brampton has taught me. One, is that remission can have an end AKA you can (and often will) relapse. Sadly, she showed that in the worst way. Although, it feels oddly ironic being suicidal and saying “sadly” someone managed to commit suicide. It’s almost that sort of bitter congratulations you give someone when they beat you in something you really wanted to win. However, being both British and human, I have to put sadly as, despite everything, death is just sad. I am relapsing. This is possibly the one moment I will fully admit it. I can tell I am relapsing because I no longer want help. I don’t want to eat anymore, I don’t want to exist anymore, and I find everything causes me horrible pangs of anxiety. So that’s that. Let’s move on from that hastily please. I mean it when I say I don’t want help, sincerely. The second lesson is that my memory loss from my most ill phases is COMPLETELY normal. This is a very specific lesson but I always found it so confusing that I just can’t remember huge chunks of the first term of my lower sixth year. And I am always left with blanks after I have episodes. I forget whole conversations I have. Sally wrote in her book, “There are parts of my memory of that time that are still missing…There are conversations I have had, or that people have told me I have had, that are quite blank to me and I am apt to grow confused about the chronology of months, or even years” and reading that, I felt this sudden sense of comfort knowing I’m not the only one. I think about it a lot. Often, I ask myself why I have so little memory of my worst moments and I have come to the conclusion that it is my brain protecting me. Just as your body creates a scab to cover an open wound, your brain controls what you remember to protect you. It’s science! Your brain chooses not to record the conscious memories you could have kept, in an attempt to prevent that pain from returning. However, it works the other way too, as Brampton put, “other parts of my memory of that time are still acute enough to mean that I have only to pass certain places of smell certain scents to feel intense pain. It returns at an almost cellular level.” This is the brain maintaining the conscious memory of tiny little details of traumatic experiences, rather than the whole experience itself. Again, not too sure if I’m making any sense but I hope somehow this all pieces together for you to read.

I think now, the last thing I want to do is leave you with some lines from Shoot the Damn Dog that I relate to and have stuck with me. Maybe, if your brain is sometimes silly (always silly, Loveday, be accurate) like mine, it will help you feel less isolated. Perhaps you’ll just understand more what sufferers of mental illness go through, and you’ll be able to help someone close to you by showing your understanding. Who knows? But here you go:

“Nor is it, truly, a desire to die so much as a fervent wish not to go on living.” (on being suicidal) Honestly, I have never read anything which sums up my thoughts on suicide more.

“Depression is a paralysis of hope.” You just feel hopeless. All. The. Time.

“Religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who’ve been there.” When I read this, I thought a lot about it. I wouldn’t call myself spiritual at all but I know, having been in the darkest of places that (for me, it may be different for others) religion is not something I can see any hope in to save myself.

“These days I believe that it wasn’t myself that I hated, so much as the self I became during depression. I wanted it dead.” If any depressive doesn’t think this, I’m very jealous. We all want the bloody thing to go away.

“Imagine saying to someone that you have a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, and being told to pull yourself together or get over it.” Let’s break this stigma please. YOU CANNOT JUST GET OVER DEPRESSION. Or any other serious mental health problems for that matter.

“Frankly, I’d happily shoot the damn dog and be done with it; but I’ve come to accept that it is both unkillable and, in some sense, unknowable. Certainly, it often takes me by surprise.” In case people aren’t aware, “the damn dog” refers to Churchill’s labelling of depression as “the black dog”. This sort of ties in with the above quote, it’s not something you can just remove, nor is it a reasonable illness.

“Depression…depresses every single cognitive process. Concentration, memory, logic, reason, even the interpretation of facts and actual events are all interrupted.” This is so important for non-sufferers to understand. Everything, everything, is affected by depression and we can’t help it.

“I am, in all these ways, blessed. I am also a depressive. It doesn’t quite fit, does it?” I often think like this. How am I depressed when I have such an amazing life. But unfortunately, depression (and other mental illnesses) doesn’t discriminate.

“I am a case. I am a trial. I am an error.” Sometimes this is just how I feel, going back and forth to appointments, trying medication, frankly trying everything.

“I don’t want sleep. I want oblivion.” Sleep is my saviour. Always.

“Depression is the great thief.” I guess I take from this that she is saying depression steals your life. For example, for me it has stolen my sixth form. A time in my life I should have been learning how to grow up, not how to deal with clinical depression. It steals your entire body and all your attention. Yeah, it’s selfish like that.

“I used to be somebody. I am still somebody.” This perfectly sums up the contrasting feelings between my good brain and my bad brain, AKA depression vs. me.

“I want to die. I want, so badly, to die.” Pretty self-explanatory.

“Today I can’t honour it by calling it an illness. Today it is just a thing that neither of us knows or understands.” Some days I wake up so sick of fighting this bloody thing. I can’t stand it and want to spit in its face.

“I am terrified she will give up on me, that this thing will drive her away. Every depressive has that fear. Why would anyone want us? We don’t even want ourselves.” I think this one comes under anxiety more than depression. There is a constant fear that everyone is going to leave me because I’m a downer and have 0 personality half the time and I am just a pretty nasty person when in the intense grip of my depression.

“Telling somebody in the grip of severe depression that they are being selfish and self-pitying is like telling somebody with asthma that they have breathing difficulties. It is meaningless except as a statement of fact…They are lost in a place without boundaries or borders, where the concept of self has no meaning. They have lost their very self.” We all know we’re selfish. You don’t need to tell us. But as selfish as we are half the time, we are also so very concerned for others the rest of the time, for fear of them ending up in the state we are in. Make sense? It’s human nature.

PSA: I’m not OK.

I’m writing this from a dark place. I have to confess from the start; this isn’t going to be positive. I don’t think. I haven’t planned it. But I’m making myself vulnerable, thinking that possibly this might help someone. Of course, that someone may only be me.

Answer me this, how do you tell the people closest to you everything you’re feeling, all the screams from within your head which are starting to hurt you physically, without seeming to be seeking attention? I think it’s impossible. Opening up guilt-free and innocently is a myth. Bloody hell, I’m exploding from within. I have to show you.

So, here it is,


a segment of my whiteboard in my room (which I put up because I wrote this sort of stuff on my wall before – baby steps to improving behaviours). Here are tonight’s feelings: one serving of self-loathing with a side of guilt for being so selfish, garnished with temptations of temporary relief strategies. Why am I sharing this? Why have I posted this for all the world to see if they wish? Because I’m sick of being scared to admit how I feel.

I want to make this clear to everyone. Mental illnesses are constant, as I’ve said before, some days are easier than others but it’s continuous endurance. Every single day I am under attack from my own brain and it hurts me relentlessly. How do you explain that pain to someone else though? You can’t. That is the most terrifying part; no matter how you try to get it across, nobody else can understand the suffering inside your head. Not even those who suffer themselves. And I have to admit it, there’s not a magic “but” coming next, no sweet phrase of reassurance. Suffering from mental illness is frankly s-h-i-t-e: So Hard It Takes Everything. Always. It takes everything to will yourself to get up in the morning. It takes everything to try to want to keep fighting. It takes everything to hold back when your brain tells you to hurt yourself. It takes everything to remind yourself to keep breathing. (obviously you do that naturally but you get my metaphor, yes?)

I can’t pretend to be fine all the time. I need to admit that I’m struggling. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up (there’s your reassurance I suppose), it means I’m fighting harder than usual. And it’s tough.

But there’s my public service announcement, admitting I’m not very strong at all sometimes, admitting that for the time being I’m not A-OK, and confessing to those who care that I’m struggling. And I suppose the reason I’m sharing this with everyone is, as I said at the start, in the hopes that it might help just one person in any microscopic way.