10 things I have learnt in my second year at university

Here is what I have learnt in my second year at university:

1. It is up to you what you take from the set readings and research – if a section does not feel relevant to your angle, skip it over! The readings are full of so much detail that you should only read what interests you, the rest will feel like a waste of time. You decide what you want to take away from your degree, and that doesn’t have to be every detail. You will kill yourself trying to remember everything.

2. Your real friends will not stop being your friends just because you don’t see each other as much. It will always be the same when you see them, no matter how long it has been. Your real friends will also support you, whether your decisions are stupid or not (though they might recommend against sending certain messages, but you’ll do it anyway). And they’ll be there to help you pick up the pieces when it all falls apart.

3. You need to do a weekly shop and actually cook for yourself. You cannot live off Deliveroo and Dominos. Go on BBC Good Food, get a cookbook, cook with your mates – just bloody cook!! You don’t have the money to order food every day. (I’m still working on this one)

4. Despite how hard they can be, long distance relationships are so worth it for the right person.

5. Hoover your room, make your bed, clean your desk – you will feel as though a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

6. Wake up in the morning, even if you don’t have a lecture. Don’t sleep in every day until 12, you lose half the day which could be spent doing productive things.

7. It’s okay to have some days when you can’t get out of bed though. Wallow in those days so that the next day you wake up ready to start again. Watch Disney films, get your friends over, acknowledge the feeling and address it.

8. You don’t need to go out in order to have fun. I’ve had my best nights this year at home, laughing with friends. Going out is great once in a while but you’re getting old and you can’t handle the sesh like you used to.

9. Tell your friends you love them. Tell them you’re thankful to have them, tell them how much they’ve improved your life, because who doesn’t want to hear how happy they make someone?

10. Look after yourself. Shower. Brush your teeth. Do your make up. Style your hair. Get at least 8 hours sleep. Love yourself. Nap. Go outside. Exercise. Just remember to keep living for yourself, do what makes you happy. You are the one thing in life that you can control, so take control of your life and live it well.

an in-depth study of eyeliner

I have a post-it note on my desk saying “WRITE ESSAY“, so naturally I decided to do a comparison of all my eyeliners and rank them according to their best attributes. Yes, eyeliner has attributes.

IMG_1125

So, first up is Eyeko’s eye do liquid eyeliner. This eye liner is perfect for beginners to wings or cat eyes, or for people who aren’t as bold with their wings. The tip of pen is like a felt tip and, though it has a fairly short life, it creates a very fine tip… Until you use it too much, and it gets stubby. But the solution to that is to cut the end of the pen, as though recreating the original tip. It is a thick black, not too liquid or washy so gives you a good clean line for a wing. This eyeliner lasts well; typically I could wear this for an entire day, maybe 16 hours, and it won’t have come off or smudged.

IMG_5384

Next is my ‘go-to’ liner, YSL’s shocking eyeliner. This liner claims to create a false lash effect and I think it definitely does; it makes your lashes look fuller because of the depth its deep black can create. The reason this is my go-to liner is because it’s very easy to use and creates a strong, bold, black wing which is my go-to eyeliner look. The tip of this pen is much longer and thinner than the Eyeko liner so you can create a longer, bigger wing easily as well.

IMG_9166

Third on the list is the longest-lasting eye liner, MAC’s Liquidlast Eyeliner. THIS EYELINER DOES NOT BUDGE. I have kept this eyeliner on for almost 3 days before, with no topping up, and it only began to fade after the second day. This eyeliner is like a tattoo for your eyes. It’s dangerous because it doesn’t come off easily, so you have to get your eyeliner right first time. I’m always hesitant to use this because, even though it is the longest-lasting and therefore ideal for lazy make up users, it is extremely thick liquid, almost like melted gel. And you have to wait for it to dry which often goes wrong because my eyes flicker somewhere and then BAM I’ve got eyeliner all over my eyelid. So for this one you need patience, a steady hand (which I really don’t have, so it’s a struggle) and lots of time. But when this stuff is done right it creates a very bold, fierce and clean-cut line.

IMG_8847

The fourth pen on the list is the one which served me best in its very short lifespan, it is BareMineral’s Lash Domination. This liner gives you such a good wing and is extremely easy to use but it dries out extremely quickly and, even for some of my friends, the lid pops off extremely easily without you realising. It is more liquid than most of the eyeliners I use but that makes it easier to apply if you want very fine lines.

IMG_6577

I don’t very often use pencils because I like the smooth line you can achieve with a pen but if I am doing a smoky eye or a softer look I will always reach out to these, Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencils. These liners will blend with any eyeshadow you want to create a smooth transition; I particularly love doing this with the brown liner for my more basic looks. These create a very clean line, considering they are pencils, they are easy to use. However I would never use these to create a wing, they are far too stubby for that – no matter how much you sharpen them.

img_4414.jpg

Finally, I thought I’d note on how not all high-end products are good. All of the eyeliners I have mentioned are good quality from high-end brands but I have often been more disappointed by high-end products than drugstore products. This is MAC’s Penultimate eyeliner. I think this is possibly the most disappointing eyeliner I have ever bought and I spent £16.50 on it (at least, because I probably ordered it online and had to pay shipping). The colour is supposed to be ‘rapid black’ and yet here I am with wishy-washy black; it is a sheer covering of very thin black eyeliner. Two seconds later is has rubbed off as well. I had high expectations for this, based only on the fact it was from MAC, and I was extremely disappointed. I suppose the moral of this is go for quality over brand when it comes to make up. Of course, the higher end brands are more likely to produce products like foundation which are better for your skin. However, this is not always the case, so I am always trying new products to find the best one for me, cost-wise and skincare-wise.

This was a bit of a different post, in fact this was the sort of stuff I expected to be posting more often on here when I first created this blog. It’s what I want to be posting more of, but I’m not sure if people actually care and will read them. So feedback would be lovely. THANKS!

Manifesto for Mental Health 2.0

So I recently rediscovered all my old Tumblr blogs and, in the midst of my cringing and wishing I could delete the internet, I find this:

Feeling down?

And I’m still shuddering with embarrassment but I’m realising the message I had back then is still applicable now; in fact, maybe even more so now. So, I’m going to rewrite it. First, go read that one. Have a good cringe, really, you can laugh as much as you want at me. Then come back here and read my Manifesto for Mental Health 2.0.

You probably know my story by now, you probably only read these because you feel your have to when I share them on Facebook, but for whatever reason you’re here I hope this might help you in your future.

(Here’s where I previously went for the tough love approach and decided to be graphic – not this time, I’ll save you from that.)

If you want to self harm, including but not limited to cutting, scratching or burning, you know what? In that very moment, that might be all you can do. So, don’t beat yourself up. If you live with suicidal thoughts and you simply make it through the day you’re doing better than you could be and that should be commended.

I was right when I said self harm was an addiction and that it can progress, so much so that it becomes attempted suicide; but it’s like drinking, as long as you keep it under control its okay.

So, next in my original Manifesto for Mental Health, I told a very graphic story about the terror suicide causes. And, though that story is the harsh truth, it’s not what people in that mindset need to be thinking. (I also put loads of random phrases in bold to try to make it more ‘impactful’ in the original).

In reality, anyone considering suicide needs to be gently reminded of all their reasons to live, not the way they will ruin things if they don’t live, because they will already be feeling as though they don’t have a choice.

The length of the effects of suicide were correct, but again when your mind is in that place you’re not thinking rationally. I would never have believed my family would still care 2 months later at my darkest point.

I’m cringing again at everything I wrote when I was, like, 14.

I think I wrote this thinking I knew so much more about mental health than I did so I couldn’t fully understand how it truly feels to be in that place.

Then I go on to address eating disorders which, at this point, I had had no real experience of at all. I think I explain the basis of anorexia pretty well, standard. But I just stop there. As if there aren’t other eating disorders.

I think I actually described the psychology (at least of my own experiences) behind the eating disorder pretty well. You do feel like you need to be punished for eating, in some way. And people do look at you differently and you can’t not notice that. (I hate using a double negative but that was the best sounding way to phrase it).

I then went on to explain as though I had come through some massive recovery journey that “it all gets better”. But that’s not true, for some people it might not get better, but it just might also not get worse if they’re lucky and they’ll learn to live like that. So, maybe from each individuals perspective it does always get better.

The rest of what I wrote made me cringe too much.

I just thought I might rewrite my manifesto, you know, keep it up to date if it’s going to be on the internet forever (because I can’t seem to delete my original Tumblr so it’s been immortalised).

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.

a message about self harm

Okay, so let’s start this off with a massive disclaimer saying this is NOT for attention. This is a PSA to educate people so that others don’t have to keep facing this issue. Also a disclaimer to say I have the best parents and brothers supporting me and this does not reflect any of their views towards self harm at all – they have always been the most understanding and caring people.

Self harm of any sort, whether it be cutting, scratching, burning, fasting or purging etc, is not attention seeking. People who put themselves through that pain regularly are not doing it for kicks. They are not just crying out for help. Sure, sometimes it might be a cry for help as well, but it goes far deeper than that.

The difficulty here is that I cannot speak for other people, so the only real way I can explain this would probably come across as attention seeking in itself. But I’m not going to tell you a personal story which could be construed in that way, I’m just going to explain the general mentality behind self harm. Obviously I cannot cover every detail and these things won’t apply to everyone but I just hope this will open some people’s eyes to the truth behind self harm.

Some people self harm as a release, in order to let out emotions such as sadness, anger, and even in some cases a level of joy. Without this release they can feel trapped, suffocated and scared. Some people self harm to punish themselves and, mostly, this is due to low self-worth which will only be lowered if they are then accused of doing it for something as silly as a bit of short-lived attention. Others self harm to try to feel something, anything, because they have reached an extreme of numbness. And some self harm because that’s just how they cope, and there doesn’t have to be any other reason behind it.

At the end of the day, if you’re self harming instead of committing suicide, you’re that little bit stronger than you could have been and the last thing you need is someone accusing you of doing it for attention. I’d far rather use that as a coping mechanism than give up entirely on life, wouldn’t you? So, why do people make us feel like childish attention seekers when in reality we’re doing everything we can to get by? You are not helping the situation at all by accusing us of just wanting attention, there is no beneficial outcome of that.

Yes, some people do it for attention, for some it is a cry for help. But it is by no means fair to make the assumption that it is attention seeking over a genuine emotional coping mechanism, that is like making the assumption that all people with lung cancer have smoked. Yes, it can be the case but it is not always right and it is unfair on those who don’t fit the assumption and are belittled for it. Eventually, those who do it for attention tend to get the attention they needed and stop, or they admit they were doing it for attention. Whereas those who self harm for the reasons I have mentioned above or any other reason tend to continue beyond just ‘getting that attention’ from people about it. It is not a game of look at my arm of cuts, or look how my teeth have rotted from purging, or look at the cigarette burns on my hand. These signs are not there to be showcased, they are just there on our bodies and we don’t need you to doubly point them out to us and then go on to assume it has all been done for attention. So don’t make that assumption, please. Don’t think that if you come over and give us attention about it we will all magically be cured and never self harm again because that’s not how mental health works. No two brains are the same.

relapse and recovery

I’m a bit reluctant to write/post this – I don’t know which one I’m more reluctant to do really. But the thing that makes me want to write and post it is this: I have made it out the other end of this and that is what I need to keep showing whenever this happens. Plus it almost sort of detoxes the relapse out of my system to write it down.

Now, I am going to admit firstly that I had been drinking when I relapsed – I hadn’t had stupid amounts, but enough that I was having fun. We get the gist, yes? However, alcohol is a depressant so I have to be more careful around it. So, it was Friday night, I was out with my mates and I was having so much fun. Genuinely. But then something switched in my head and I couldn’t hold back the thoughts. Here’s the thing, whether people realise it or not, I am constantly fighting back negative thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all consuming when I’m on medication, but I do have to work at it every day to keep the suicidal and other such thoughts at bay. I have coping mechanisms which I have evolved over the past couple of years which work well for me, only on Friday night they didn’t. I was sat outside waiting for my mates to have a smoke and suddenly my brain turned on me. I didn’t deserve to be happy and having fun. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I wanted to disappear because I couldn’t handle my own literal existence. Imagine that, not being able to cope with the fact that you are a living, breathing human being. I felt so dark. So, naturally, I left the club and went home. I had told some of my friends that I was feeling this way and, of course, they were concerned – if you’re reading this I’m still sorry for doing that to you. Walking home my thoughts just got worse and worse until eventually my inner voice was screaming “KILL YOURSELF” at me. (Now this next bit may be triggering so please skip to the next paragraph if you are easily triggered) I got home, found my sharpest knife and sat in my bathroom cutting my wrist until I collapsed from the pain. I was completely alone, crying and screaming, cursing myself and wanting it all to just end right there and then. And as I collapsed I truly thought I might have succeeded in killing myself, just for a moment.

A couple of my flat mates came back and found me in that state. Again, to them, I say thank you for everything you did to take care of me. What happened after my flat mates found me has overwhelmed me so much. I was in a strange hysterical state where I was calm, but inside my thoughts were still racing. I was sort of falling asleep but in a very negative mindset when two of my friends, one a very old friend, appeared in my room. The feeling I felt seeing these people surrounding me, four amazing people who were giving up their own time for me, was almost euphoric. I was being distracted by them so, although the thoughts were still there, they were being held back more. I want to specifically focus on one person, my old friend, I hope you’re reading this. The fact that he was someone who I had known so long, someone who has seen me at my worst states, and could easily just have forgotten about me once we moved to university to avoid all my ‘drama’ (haha, it’s funny because I study drama…), yet he came to see me. As cliche as it might sound, I was so touched by this. And, as all four of them sat with me, I felt safe for the first time that night.

I have realised that, despite what my illness might tell me, people do care. Depression might make you feel lonely, isolated, worthless and every other negative word under the sun – it sure has for me – but it is a bully. It is a liar. So is anxiety and every other mental illness. They are genuinely nasty things; they eat away at you like a tumour until you are so weak you cannot keep fighting them. But you have to hold on to the moments of light that come in the darkest times, I clutched at the support of my friends and held it tight to make it through the night and start a new day. And I woke up feeling so positive (in comparison to before) and thankful. Depression doesn’t often let you feel thankful, so we have to appreciate those little moments and, as I said before, keep hold of them. I suppose that’s the “moral of this story”, that positivity can come from the worst of times and relapse can help you move further towards recovery.

anxiety, episodes, attacks, panic.

I want to talk about panic attacks. Or anxiety attacks. Whatever you want to call them. The reason I want to do this is because, certainly for myself when I first started suffering from anxiety attacks, I had no idea what was happening and wasn’t aware I even had any form of anxiety. I’m going to explain my personal experiences of anxiety – they may differ to those of others – but I hope this might help people realise that anxiety affects a lot more people than we think. You might have had a panic attack and never known.

I have two types of panic attacks. One of them I don’t really label as a ‘panic attack’ because I don’t feel like I’m panicking so it feels like mislabelling. However, the first definitely is a panic attack. It is caused by my social anxiety, which I am happy to say I have managed to get very much under control over the past few years. My social anxiety is triggered by unfamiliar public journeys alone. So, basically, if I have to get the train to somewhere I have never been before on my own I get anxious. When I was younger I physically could not take public transport by myself and would not go out unless my mum/dad could give me a lift. I could not even take taxis – and taxis are still something I find very difficult at times. The anxiety would also get bad if I felt remotely threatened, for example if I was around drunk strangers, or frankly (sorry for the stereotype) strange men.

So this panic attack, how did it manifest itself? I’m going to use an example of when I was with two of my friends (I wasn’t even alone) at a train station in winter. It was about 6pm, so not late, and we were getting the train to meet one of my friend’s mums for dinner. We had to walk down an alley type thing to get to the station and it was dark because of the time of year, I felt slightly on edge. I wasn’t panicking at this point but I could feel my palms were sweaty and my heart rate was very slightly faster than usual. All of a sudden some drunk men stumbled towards us and one started pissing practically on us. They shouted things, though it was unclear as to whether they were aiming their proclamations at us or just the world around us. Immediately my heart rate doubled and I was gasping for breath. We kept walking towards the station. We realised these men were also walking to the station now. See, I can safely say now with the benefit of hindsight that these men were not following us and didn’t actually have any interest in us. But in my head, in that moment, I was telling myself something else. “They are going to rape you.” “They are going to grab you and take you away.” “They are going to kill you.” “You are going to die.” These thoughts whirled around in my head and I could not keep them at bay. Suddenly there were tears running down my face, only I wasn’t crying in my usual way. They were just tears of fear, no sobbing or wailing, I simply and truly believed I was going to die in that moment so I was crying in terror. I was stood on the platform, with my two friends sheltering me, genuinely believing the thoughts in my head. I was shaking, unable to breathe evenly; I could only mutter single words at any one time. Eventually the train came and we left the drunkards behind, but my anxiety remained. For the rest of the night I was quiet, still shaking and my heart rate was still too fast. Now my brain was telling me those men were going to find me. I felt as though I was suffocating that entire night, it took a long time for the panic to subside, and it only really did when I went to sleep.

The second type of anxiety attack I have is caused by my general anxiety. The example I will use here is a sensitive one, which I find pretty hard to write about because of the circumstances, but it is the best example I can give. It was late at night and my ex-boyfriend and I were in bed about to go to sleep. I can’t remember what it was but we fell out over something, it was no doubt stupid but it felt so important in the moment. The reason I don’t like to call these episodes anxiety/panic attacks is because I don’t feel anxious in the traditional sense, I’m not panicking about anything. They just are what they are. I felt this heat surge through my body, almost like the feeling you get when you’re really angry at a person, except I wasn’t angry. This heat filled my whole body and I began to want to rip off my skin to cool down. I was sat bolt upright in bed and holding back tears. I cry a lot so I try my best to refrain wherever possible. My eyes were stinging and I was beginning to hyperventilate. We kept arguing, he got more frustrated as I feel deeper into my episode. I began to get angry at myself, a livid monster was inside my head telling me to stop. “Just stop.” “STOP.” “You are bad.” I was just angry. I cannot explain why this happens, I don’t understand why my brain immediately turns to self-loathing but these bullying thoughts start and I can’t stop them. Suddenly I started hitting myself on the head. I smacked my head with my hands over and over again, causing myself as much pain as possible. I started pulling at my hair, wanting to rip it all out. I wanted to get out of my own body. I felt possessed. It was as though my spirit was trying to escape the prison that is my body.

My episodes happened quite frequently towards the end of my relationship. It is only since the break-up that I have realised the trigger was him. That we just weren’t working anymore. But that’s a different story. There were other ways my anger towards myself manifested itself in my episodes – sometimes I would bang my head against a wall, sometimes I would cut myself. I don’t think people really associate self harm with anxiety attacks; it is generally thought to pair with depression/bipolar/BPD/etc. I think anxiety is often overlooked as a mental health problem because it’s not omnipresent. However, if I can make just one person realise that they are not weird or messed up, that simply they experience mild anxiety (or any other extremity of anxiety), so that they feel more self-aware, then I am doing my job here. It’s ridiculous that people feel ashamed of the emotional sensations they feel in certain situations. Anxiety is our body’s natural defence mechanism – think about fight or flight. That response is entirely based on our anxiety. It’s just that when you label something with “anxiety” it suddenly has very negative connotations. So let’s embrace all that. We should be proud that our brains are intelligent enough to have this safety net in place just by human nature. Wow. I love the brain.

Cool. I’m done now. Hope I haven’t rambled too much. Have a nice day!

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.

3 important things to understand about being in a relationship with mental health problems

If you’ve read my other posts you’ll be aware I suffer from mental health problems. If not, hi. Yes, I do have depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. WOO. I am also in a relationship, have been for around a year and a half. I know that people don’t tend to like it when others post about their relationships online so I’m going to try not to be too annoying.

I was first told I had depression in October 2015, so I was ill before I went into my relationship which was a hurdle I very much had to overcome with him in the beginning. So, how did I tell him I had these problems? To be quite honest, I’m not the master of subtlety so I just told him whenever I took mental health days from school at first – a tell tale sign of mental health problems, isn’t it? I think that kind of introduced him to the idea that I wasn’t completely stable. I told myself that I needed to be honest, because if I kept something as big as my depression from him it would become more difficult to be honest with him about it if the relationship did go anywhere.

Which it did, obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. And the most amazing thing happened, the relationship helped my recovery so much. I don’t really know if you can say you go into “remission” when you have depression, and I think it was a combination of therapy, medication and having that positive element in my life that really helped me become happier for a while. So for the first few months I don’t think he faced the true darkness of my illness, because really by the time he showed up I had it far more under control and I didn’t really have any episodes (he may of course correct me on that, because I may be forgetting something).

I don’t know when he first witnessed an episode of mine, but over the past couple of months things have become harder for me again, I have to admit that. And he has definitely seen me in my darkest moments now. One huge difficulty I have is my brain switches off when I’m in an episode, I don’t remember a huge amount of what I say or do. So a couple of months ago, after a meaningless spat, I went into a horrible place and he had to physically hold me down to stop me from hurting myself. I can’t even remember most of what I said other than repetitively telling him “I can’t do this. I want to die”. Imagine that, hearing your girlfriend/boyfriend say those things. They say in relationships you see the best and worst of each other; this is definitely true of our relationship. It is something that we have had to face to make it work, because my worst moments are inevitable and worse than you can imagine unless you suffer from mental health problems yourself. So, the first thing about being in a relationship with mental health problems is that you show your weakest points and lean on your other half to keep you alive sometimes.

I struggle when he can’t understand my brain. I don’t expect him to, because to be honest I don’t even understand it myself! However, it can be hard when something small triggers a huge response from my “bad brain” and he doesn’t really understand how even the tiniest things can turn my entire world upside down. When you’re ill like this, you turn into an eggshell, one little tap and you crack. It makes us both angry, and inevitably we argue and things get worse and even then he doesn’t understand why I got so upset in the first place, or how we got to the point of screaming at each other. The difficulty is that, when I get into these states, I find it impossible to explain my thoughts and rationalise them, which makes me very frustrated with myself and I often end up shaking and hitting myself, in these sort of spasms, which only makes the situation worse, but I can’t help it and I need his help to calm down. He has to figure out how to handle me in the exact moment, what to say, what not to say. It is not easy as my mind isn’t the most consistent, it definitely puts a strain on our relationship because one day one response might be perfect and the next it might ruin everything and that’s something with which we both have to cope.  But I have to make allowances for when he gets it wrong, because he’s only human and he can’t carry all my weight on his shoulders and predict how every little thing will impact me. All you can ask your partner to do is be there for you and take care of you when they do crack your shell accidentally.

It has taken him time to understand my illness as much as he does now, and with every down I have he learns more how to handle it. He’s not perfect at all, and sometimes I get so angry because I expect the world from him in those moments, when really he can only cope with so much at a time. So, I suppose that the second thing about being in a relationship when you suffer from mental health problems is a lot of give and take, much more so than in any normal relationship. You have to be understanding that your other half can’t always fix everything, and be grateful for whatever they try to fix anyway.

When you’re in a relationship and also have mental health problems your mind constantly tells you horrible, untrue things and claims that’s what your partner thinks. So, mine tells me that I’m not good enough for him, that he’d far rather be with a skinny girl, that he’s going to break up with me any minute. There’s not much to say about that other than you have to look to your other half for reassurance; I constantly beg him to remind me he likes me just the way I am, to tell me that it’s just my stupid brain speaking. And sometimes I don’t believe him, sometimes I let my brain win because it’s just easier, but I am always honest with him about how I feel. There. That’s the third thing. You have to face horrible, bullying thoughts and ask your partner to help you knock them away. Punch them right in the face. The thoughts that is…not your partner.

So, there you go. Three things about being in a relationship with mental health problems; I’m sure there are so many more but those are the three main things I wanted to talk about. It’s normal if you’re suffering from mental health problems and these are some difficulties you face in your relationship. That’s what I’m trying to do, remember, make sure you know that your illness doesn’t make you weird and point out the normal effects it can have on your daily life.

Until next time, World. Remember, you’re not weird because you’re ill, you’re wonderfully imbalanced.