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.

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)

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).

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.

 

Thnks fr th mmrs

Here’s the thing, I don’t show my friends enough gratitude. They’re the best people I know and they deserve to know that. I think I, like everyone else, get so tangled up in my own world that I forget to ask how they are, or tell them I love them. So that is what I’m doing, but there’s a twist – I’m not naming anyone. This is mostly because I will no doubt forget someone who deserves to be acknowledged and I want to make sure everyone feels appreciated. Maybe some of these apply to more than one person, maybe some are extremely specific. You can guess for yourself, my friends.

So, thank you to the friend who inspires me daily. You go out of your way to make me, and others, smile each day. You’re relentlessly positive and that rubs off on others, despite having all your own reasons not to smile.

Thank you, silent friend, but ever present. You’re not a loud one, but that always leaves me more able to breathe with you. I know, no matter what the situation, if I needed you, you’d be there. And that is what matters in a friendship.

Thank you to the friend who has not always been a friend. There was a time when you weren’t my favourite person, but over time that has brought us closer together. It brings me great comfort that you, unlike so many people, can understand the depths of my mind so well.

Thanks to the one who encourages me to be the best version of myself. You define so many things I want to be myself, pushing me to improve. Sometimes, the most important things I need to hear can also be the hardest things to hear, yet you say them to me with such sensitivity that they become gentle.

Thank you, friend who is always there to give me a pep talk. You are such a kind person, selfless and understanding, and you don’t tell me what I want to hear, you tell me the truth. You encourage the self-love which I sometimes find impossible to give.

Thank you to you, for giving me the funniest memories of my life over the past 7 years. You light a dance inside me which I can’t help but let shine through. You have protected me in so many ways, fought my corner so many times and taken care of me so much.

Thank you to the friend who inspired me to be smarter. You probably haven’t realised you have done so, but every day through school your intelligence and drive pushed me to work harder. You deserve to run miles in your future career and have the wit and confidence to do so, even if sometimes you don’t see it.

All these friends I have mentioned, and anyone else I consider to be a friend, have brought glimmers of hope into my life and encouraged me to keep fighting. Every day my friends show me how to live my life and how to enjoy each moment, without even realising they do so. My friends teach me lessons that have shaped and will continue to shape me into the person I am.

So here’s one final thank you to everyone in my life, whether you have said only one word to me or have been there through every pit and every peak; thank you for everything you have done.

You are appreciated, even if I forget to show it sometimes.