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.

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).

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.

Are we, the student minority, silenced?

According to a study by the Adam Smith Institute, eight out of ten universities are left-wing. And, though it can clearly be argued that right-wing are the majority by simply looking at the government in power, left-wing are definitely the majority within students and young-adults.

What frustrates me is that right-wing supporters are seen as homogeneous, while it is perfectly believable that one might be only slightly left-wing as opposed to an extreme communist. Yet, if I admit to being right-wing, the assumption is made that I am a fascist and a racist. (Plot twist: I’m not)

I am a centrist – however I definitely lean further towards the right; I might even go as far as to say I am a small side step to the right from centre. I liked David Cameron, I hate Jeremy Corbyn, but I was a Milifan (bring back Ed) and I don’t think Theresa May is the best prime minister we could have by any stretch of the imagination. I am NOT a Brexiteer. I think Donald Trump is a ridiculous person to be leading the most powerful country in the world, however it is undeniable that in some ways he has made America great again – just look at the statistics.

I could make the unfair assumptions about left-wing supporters that are made about right-wing supporters but that isn’t fair. Yes, if someone tells us they support UKIP we are bound to question exactly why they do. But if they provide me with a valid reasoning, for example changes in taxes or the greater support for the NHS, I can respect their opinion and understand it. That isn’t to say I’m going to suddenly support UKIP, but I am able to see why they choose to. But if I went to a Corbynite and said I am a Tory, immediately harsh assumptions would be made about me, let alone if I claimed to be a UKIP supporter! Right-wing supporters are not all bigots, they are not all racists, they are not all homophobic, they are not all sexist, etc. That’s not to say none of them are,  but equally there are bigoted, racist, homophobic and sexist left-wingers.

Let’s focus on bigots. Controversial line coming up, but in my personal opinion, I would say left-wing students tend to be more bigoted than centrists or mild right-wing students. There seems to be an identity attached to being left-wing that involves being loud, angry at the world and extremely opinionated with no leeway for changing their minds. We’re all angry at the world at this point. Look at it. Nothing seems to really be going right. Haha punny. But the hostility left-wing students thrust out there is only making the world a more bitter place to exist. I understand being left-wing, I agree with some of their policies, and I don’t believe all left-wing people are judgemental and whatnot by any means – I am speaking generally based on personal and social experience.

I, among many others like myself, have been afraid to admit my political views. Because, what if I get branded a spoilt, racist, bigot before anyone has even heard what I have to say?

 

 

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!

I HATE LOVE ISLAND

Confession: I do NOT watch Love Island. WHAT?! HOW!? BLASPHEMY! You say. It’s true, I do not watch Love Island. Sorry, I’ll stop saying that now, I know it’s hurting some of you. 

However, in order to be able to appropriately argue my corner I had to endure two episodes of it, just to get the gist – frankly it was hell on earth, worse than my previous bout of tonsilitis this month. 

Let me explain why I have this bitter hatred towards that show from watching only two episodes, wincing at the number of times they say “d’you know what I mean?” and wondering whether I should start a drinking game with it in an attempt to enjoy myself a little more. 

THE GIRLS. Okay, you’re not all stupid, you’re fully aware the girls have had work done. But, there are fourteen year old, twelve year old, ten year old girls watching that! If I had watched girls like that running around in bikinis EVERY DAY when I was ten, I’d definitely have felt even more self-conscious than I did anyway about my body – my lack of perky breasts, my tiny lips and my not perfectly curled thick eyelashes. Yes, you and I know that these women have had work done, but there are so many girls out there who will now strive to look like these women, some of them so much so that they will push their bodies to unhealthy levels. Let’s not beat around the bush, eating disorders such as anorexia affect so many people, please can we just stop adding to that number ITV? It’s not fair to push these subconscious ideals onto young, impressionable girls without them realising. 

THE RELATIONSHIPS. So the premise of the show is to create relationships, yeah? With a bit of drama sprinkled here and there. But these people have known each other all of one month and they’re already saying they love each other?! That’s something we did when we were twelve and it was ridiculous – but there are twelve year olds watching this who will think it is completely normal to tell someone you barely know that they’re the love of your life. It isn’t, in case you didn’t realise. Okay, yes, sometimes you do just know but that’s a very rare exception. In the episode I watched whatsherface and whatshisname (after doing some research I discovered I am referring to Olivia and Chris…or maybe it’s Tyla and Jonny – you tell me) were saying how much they love each other but can’t be themselves around each other. Let me just say, if you can’t make it work in the first month it’s very unlikely it will work beyond that. But then there will be massive drama if one of them gets with someone else, and I’m pretty sure there’s some love triangle between Tyla and Jonny and someone – inevitable when you essentially hot box a bunch of single people looking for love. “Looking for love”, I regret that choice of words because if they’re looking for love they wouldn’t be on a dating show designed to ENTERTAIN people A.K.A designed to create drama in early relationships. Put simply, the people on Love Island are looking for fame, which is absolutely fine, but don’t mislabel it please. 

THE SEX. Okay, I’m not prudish and I have no issue with what order people decide to do things in when it comes to sex and relationships. But, in a time when rape culture is rife and young men’s attitude towards sex with women is, generally speaking, misogynistic, why are we being presented with a norm of sex (and everything else under the sun) before actually getting into a relationship? The problem being that it sets up a new option of “persuasion” (I prefer the word “pressure” in this case though) whereby men can say “we don’t have to be in a relationship to do this” – which you don’t, if that’s what you’re comfortable with, but don’t publish it on national television for all the country to see and be influenced by. ITV, you are essentially giving men a scapegoat for being called out on sexual pressure. 

Maybe I’m old-fashioned and need to relax a bit, but with every rant/message/natter I post I hope to make a difference to the media-controlled, still bustling with inequality society we live in. We should live in a world where women and men don’t feel pressure to look a certain way because of the media, where relationships mean more than just a label of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” and where sex isn’t a poker chip in the game of love. If I can take any step to get closer to reaching that point, I can be proud of something I have achieved. 

HOPE YOU ENJOYED MY RANT. Over and out.

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.