My inability to rest

I’m on holiday. Since starting my holiday I have written 2 blog posts, signed up for an antiracism education course, created a list of my publications to date, and entered numerous in-depth discussions on – among other things – sexual representations in gaming, the impact of lockdown on mental health and body image, queer appreciation and allyship versus appropriation, navigating public spaces post-pandemic.

Not really what you’d consider resting.

I was ill in June with a fairly nasty kidney infection and while still on antibiotics and having only felt somewhat ‘better’ for 24 hours, I went back to work for a full day. That ended in a migraine and my recovery being set back. In reality, I’m still recovering. I lost a lot of strength from several weeks of little activity and eating. My endurance has plummeted – a 4 mile walk on Monday had my hip flexors screaming halfway through and the backs of my knees are still pretty grumpy with me for making them go so far on my first proper trip out in a month.

My last conversation with the mental health advisor I meet with at uni went something along the lines of “Your professionalism and work ethic are some of your biggest strengths, but they can also be your biggest weaknesses when you let them become more important than your wellbeing”. It’s safe to say I cried a lot on that phone call.

It’s absolutely true that I don’t know how to rest. My time dealing with the kidney infection was pretty miserable – on top of the pain, nausea, side effects from the medication and generally feeling low, I was unbelievably bored and guilty. I didn’t know what to do that wouldn’t drain what little energy I had. Trying to find shows that weren’t overly energetic, bright or brain-heavy was a challenge. In 3 days I watched 2 seasons of QI. Even then, I caught myself analysing the tired jokes, the (lack of) representation on the panels, just how bland a show it is. Easy watching? Absolutely. An exemplary showcase of comedy talent and diverse panelists? Not so much.

See? Even when I was sweating buckets, vomiting daily and crying pretty much every 40 minutes after I’d nearly drowned myself in another bottle of water, my brain was still picking things apart. It’s exhausting.

There’s also a firm hand of guilt gripping me when I even think about taking time off. Which I recognise is entirely hypocritical because I always preach that rest is revolutionary and it’s impossible to give to others if your own cup is empty. But internalising that, not holding myself to an impossibly high standard because I Should Do Better, seems somewhat unattainable. It’s pretty narcissistic, really. I’m not sure why I consider myself more special. I think it’s partly a worry that I’m not doing enough – that there’s so much more I could be doing to use my privilege and power to support those who need it. I can’t help everyone, but I can surely try – and in doing so reach more people than I would otherwise. It’s flawed logic, but it’s a hard belief to shake. I live with an abundance of privilege. It feels wrong to not do everything I can with that privilege to even the playing field for others where possible. It’s not healthy or the best motivation. I’m working on it – and in doing so, I’m adding more to the mounting pile of Things To Think About, but what’s the alternative?

I don’t know how people do it. Rest, I mean. Enjoy things for enjoyment’s sake. How does ‘switching off’ even work? I don’t know how folks sit and watch a show or read a book and not analyse the creative decisions and characterisation and wider social and political contexts or implications in real-time. That sounds ridiculous and makes me uncomfortable to admit (probably because I’m worried people will read it and take it to mean this is somehow better or more than when I don’t mean that at all), but it’s how my brain works. It has been a long time since I just *existed* without the wheels turning at a hundred miles an hour. Honestly, I don’t remember what it’s like to not think, overthink and get a little dizzy from the constant thoughts.

None of my usual pass-times or hobbies at the moment feel like rest. I haven’t had the motivation to get back into embroidery but I’m going to try and force myself to give it another shot this week. I have a week and a half to get myself to a place of understanding what rest means and how I achieve it. Hopefully it’ll be bubble baths, face masks, podcasts and other grossly stereotypical “self-care”. Honestly, I’m not sure I have the energy for the harder stuff at the moment.

It was important for me to blog about this so I don’t forget how I’m feeling down the line when the stress levels do ease off and my brain calms a bit. I’ll wonder why I made such a drama out of feeling this way. But it’s okay to be realistic and frank about how what I’m experiencing right now, even if it seems small, unimportant, cringeworthy or too self-absorbed later.

Anxiety – In Your Head?

In your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie
What’s in your head, in your head
Zombie, zombie, zombie-ie-ie, oh

I was really saddened by the passing of The Cranberries’ lead singer Dolores O’Riordan. Zombies was the theme tune of my adolescence.

It’s totally iconic and on listening to it the day after news broke that she had passed away, I laughed (somewhat ironically) at just how much more the song now resonated with me. More and more I’m seeing songs and films in a new light.

Mental illness has a way of revealing as much about the world as it cloaks in times of internal crisis. Go figure.

It’s all in your head…or is it?

I’m none too ashamed to admit just how ignorant I was about anxiety before it sunk its claws in me.

I thought it was a mental health issue. Turns out, that’s not the whole story.

While anxiety may be a psychological disorder, it manifests in a variety of ways – including a whole laundry list of physical symptoms.

I thought I’d go through some of the more common symptoms that I experience on a regular basis. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives a pretty good insight into how anxiety can manifest in physical ways. For more information on symptoms of anxiety, I found the NHS website really useful.

Racing heart

You know in cartoons when a character falls in love and their heart is visibly beating out their chest? I feel like my heart is trying to do the same thing on a daily basis.

My most frequent symptom is a too-fast heartbeat. It’s uncomfortable, it triggers other physical symptoms and makes falling asleep incredibly difficult most nights. Heart palpitations can be really disconcerting, but when I’m calm enough, breathing exercises help to reduce the heaviness of each thud.

Insomnia or broken sleep

Anyone who knows me well will know how much I love my bed. My relationship with my duvet is sacred, if it doesn’t work out with Tam, I know that my second true love is ready and waiting. For me, not being able to sleep is one of the most frustrating parts of anxiety, and only feeds my anxiety further.

Trembling or shaking

This is one of the most disconcerting physical symptoms I experience. For me, this can be obvious shaking or it can be an internal trembling which is as unnerving as it sounds. The only way to describe it is that my chest, or sometimes my entire skeleton, feels like it’s vibrating.

It’s a horrible feeling and can make easy tasks like brushing my teeth, typing, or even just sitting still feel like a monumental effort.

Tension and muscle pains

I don’t think I realised just how tense my anxiety makes me until I started receiving monthly massages at work. Stuart is an absolute saviour for my poor back, neck and shoulders.

I have more knots in my shoulders than a game of Knots and Crosses. It’s painful, but the massages help.

As do regular baths to soothe my tense muscles.

Shortness of breath

When I’m in an anxiety spiral, it can be really difficult to catch my breath. Having asthma definitely doesn’t help. It’s another panic-induced symptom and it really sucks. I mean, all anxiety symptoms suck, but this one is particularly sucky. ASMR videos and guided meditation videos can be a quick fix, but other times it’s just a case of riding it out and reminding myself that it’ll calm down eventually.

You know how when you have a cold all you can do is think about all those times you didn’t have a cold and how easy it was to breathe? That’s kinda what it’s like when I’m short of breath with anxiety. Only it’s harder to remember what it was like being able to breathe. It’s more a case of PANIC STATIONS.

Excessive sweating

Not exactly attractive, but then neither is anxiety. When the panic rises and the thoughts start speeding like a runaway train, I start sweating. It makes me grumpy and super self-conscious which doesn’t help calm me down. It’s a physiological response to stress.

There’s not much I can do about it, except always carry a wee deodorant in my handbag and stay hydrated to help keep my body temperature regulated.

This list is far from exhaustive, and doesn’t even cover all of the physical symptoms I experience, but it gives you an idea of the sorts of things I deal with on a daily basis. Some days are worse than others, and some days I don’t have any symptoms at all.

Anxiety is no walk in the park. There are some handy tools and tips that can help make a bad day better, and a good day great! But, at the end of the day, I’ve found that the most important thing is to remember that anxiety is temporary. I will feel better, happier, stronger. And if that doesn’t work, a couple rounds of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes or a load of star jumps makes everything a little more silly and a lot less scary.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, or any other mental illness, please reach out to someone you trust. Ask for support – you deserve it.

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Oversharing? I Don’t Think So

Attention seeking?

I’m not shy when it comes to talking about my feelings (unless I’m in an anxiety-fuelled spiral, or that time when I spent months pretending I wasn’t head over heels for my boyfriend, but those are stories for another day). I’ll happily broadcast my thoughts, experiences and emotions for all to see on social media and my blog. I guess I wouldn’t have created this blog otherwise.

However, it seems to be something that makes some people uncomfortable. They don’t understand why I “overshare”. The assumption from a lot of these people is that I’m attention seeking. I’m often branded a “drama queen” (the jury’s still out on that one) and loud (guilty as charged). My openness has elicited more than a few eye rolls and shudders of discomfort.

I thought it might help to explain my reasons behind living like Gina Linetti – out loud.

I think I caught feelings

I wrote an article last year on the concept of “radical softness as a weapon“. If you haven’t read it yet, you should! Basically, the term is attributed to artist Lora Mathis who considers open and vocal emotional vulnerability to be a form of activism against our oppressive society which hampers emotional expression.

Radical softness is the idea that unapologetically sharing your emotions is a political move and a way to combat the societal idea that feelings are a sign of weakness.

Think about the weird relationship we have with our emotions. Sometimes we comfort those who are crying by telling them to “let it out”. At the same time, Britain is notorious for its Stiff Upper Lip mentality and emotionless approach to life. We’re squeamish about feelings. And heaven forbid a male displays any sort of emotion other than aggression – that’ll surely result in his sexuality being called into question. (I have HUGE problems with this behaviour, but again I’ll save my rant for another time). So boys don’t cry, but criers should let it all out, while never allowing emotion to rise and it’s unattractive for women to get angry (or sad, or political, or horny, or anything really, depending on who you’re talking to). Talk about mixed messages!

So, I’m challenging our collective societal discomfort and pushing myself – and maybe you – to question WHY we are so uncomfortable receiving an honest answer to possibly the most asked question around the world: “How are you?”.

#NoFilter

Another reason for my “radical softness” is that I don’t want to fall a further victim to filtering my entire life and only exhibiting the ‘good bits’. It’s unrealistic, unhealthy and unnecessary. Ignoring valid experiences and feelings like this feeds the poisonous train of thought that we somehow fail when we are unable to provide evidence of a happy, successful, fulfilled life. In reality, we all have our ups and downs. Mass media is pretty lacking in the realities of normal life – that includes the bad days, illness (mental or physical, but especially those that are invisible), and general quiet spells where nothing Insta-worthy occurs. We run the risk of manufacturing alternate realities for ourselves that coincide with our quiet, “unfulfilling” lives, which in turn breeds further malcontent as to how we view ourselves and use those around us as a benchmark for our own satisfaction.

I will continue to share my struggles and bad days. I will keep on showing the “unflattering angles”. Why? Because they happen. In being open about my fluctuating mental health among other things, I hope others realise that they are not alone in feeling down, anxious, low or in some way not good enough because their life doesn’t reflect what they see around them.

The truth is that social media can create further isolation, but has the potential to connect and unite people in ways that we rarely see offline.

I have bad days, just like you. In being open about mine, I’m taking a stand against the oppressive Stiff Upper Lip mentality, reaching out for help and support when it seems so difficult to ask for it and hopefully reassuring others that filtered lifestyles of social and mass media are exactly that – filtered.

That isn’t to say that I’m giving up my Valencia or dog filters. I still love me a good selfie, and Valencia raises my photos to the next level. I’m just trying to document my life as it happens and keep my feet planted firmly in reality.

#liveoutloud

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My Mental Health – A Reflection

It’s World Mental Health Day. More than just a hashtag, for many it’s the one day a year that provides open dialogue they rarely get to experience otherwise about their mental health.

Today, I thought I’d share 6 things I learned (sometimes the hard way) about depression, anxiety and self-perception.

Until I started experiencing it, I had no real clue what depression was. I had friends who’d lived through it, or who were experiencing it there and then, but I never really understood it. I certainly wasn’t prepared to face the embarrassing truth that I believed much of the stigma and prejudice and stereotyping that I hated in other people’s uneducated rhetoric.

Happiness

This is probably the most ridiculous one, but I didn’t know that I could be depressed and happy. I didn’t understand that depression could still allow me to genuinely enjoy things. I didn’t think the anxiety tearing my brain apart would give me time for laughter.

Looking back, I’m pretty ashamed to see how deeply ingrained some serious prejudices were in my understanding of mental health. Hopefully, with more open discussion and better education on the subject, others won’t have this realisation smack them in the face the same way I did.


(credit: Veronica Dearly, one of my fave artists on Instagram)

Sex

I didn’t know that I could be depressed and horny.

Despite feeling trapped in a pit of despair and emptiness, I could still want and enjoy sex. That took some getting used to. It does make sense, though. There’s a rush of endorphins released during sex. That feeling is addictive.

I was definitely not prepared for my anxiety to kill my libido, though. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t orgasm because my brain was too busy running so fast I could barely understand all the information it was throwing at me. I couldn’t switch off and just enjoy being in the moment. I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who is incredibly understanding and who refuses to let shame enter into that mortifying conversation.


(credit: Gemma Correll)

It’s not a conversation many people are comfortable having, but it needs to be talked about more. Like every other aspect of your life, mental ill health will very likely affect your sex life. Coming to terms with that can be frustrating, embarrassing, upsetting and a million other things. Give yourself time and allow your mind to catch with the horn your body is throwing down. You’ll get there. And then you can get back to doing the sex.

(I would apologise to any family/friends/strangers who feel weird about this section, but I’m not sorry. Sex happens. We’re adults. Your discomfort feeds into the lack of discussion. It’s time we get over our discomfort around sex and get honest.)

 

Energy

I’ve been tired before, but depression doesn’t make you tired. Depression leeches every iota of energy from your being and leaves a husk of a human behind. A human who still has to get up in the morning and function and go to work because there are bills to pay. Depression left me feeling empty a lot of the time. Spoon theory can apply to mental ill health and sometimes this accurately explains how my days go when I’m not well.


(credit: Gemma Correll – a brilliant artist with endlessly relatable Instagram uploads)

Filled to the Brim and Endlessly Empty

I didn’t know I could feel more than just depression. I didn’t know that I could feel nothing but depression. I didn’t understand how my head and heart could be a cacophony of emotion and feeling and mess and noise that would overwhelm me to the point of tears.

The way I describe it is a runaway train where you can hear and feel all the passengers’ thoughts and feelings, while your heart keeps in time with the ever-quickening wheels. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.


(credit: Gemma Correll)

Self-care

It took me a while to get to grips with self-care. Understanding that calling devouring a tub of ice cream is not necessarily self-care, but it’s also not something to agonise over for hours after. Finding healthy routines to practice as self-care took a while and I’m still bad at keeping up with them. There are days where getting in the shower seems so arduous the thought reduces me to tears. But I know that taking the time to wash and condition my hair and use my yummy-smelling body wash always makes me feel better. I have to push through the fog and continue the routine.


(image source)

Cross stitching, reading, adult colouring in books. They all give me a little time to be productive while also contributing to self-improvement in some fashion, reducing the guilt I’d otherwise feel for not spending my time doing more “worthwhile” things.

Getting back into musical theatre has been incredible too. Pushing me out of my comfort zone again, forcing myself to socialise and surround myself with music and activities I love.


(credit: Gemma Correll)

One thing I wasn’t prepared to have to do, though, was to step back from friendships that weren’t good for my mental health, no matter how much I loved the people. It’s hard accepting that someone is bad for you, but you have to make yourself the most important thing. Toxic relationships only work to undo the effort you put into your wellbeing. Assessing the health of your relationships is difficult, but can be incredibly freeing when you are able to lessen the strain that relationship had on your health.

Love

I wasn’t prepared for the good days to feel so damn incredible and my heart feel like it could burst because it was so full of love. I certainly couldn’t imagine that people could still love me despite me not loving myself. It can be hard not pushing those people away in a fit of shame and anger – how do they see something worth loving when I can’t? I’m learning that my perception of myself and the world can be skewed by depression and anxiety. That, no matter how real it might seem, Tam is in fact just sleeping and not silently fuming at you for not saying “I love you” 9 times instead of 8 that day. That, despite the many niggling thoughts of unworthiness I have, I am really worth people’s time. I actually do have a lot to offer. I’m a lot more capable than I sometimes give myself credit for.


(credit: Veronica Dearly)

While I don’t always feel like I have fight left in me, I don’t want to be this way forever. Especially when there are other, far more important things in my life I’d rather focus my energy on.

At the end of the day, regardless of the state of my mental health, I’m still me. And I think that’s the thing I was most surprised to learn.

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Personal Space – The Importance of Self Care

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and social media was abuzz with hashtags, conversations and motivational memes on the subject.

Be kind to yourself every day 🤗💗 #MHAW17

A post shared by The Young Women’s Movement (@youngwomenscot) on

With my hyper-active brain, neverending list of projects to get stuck into, reliance on lists to keep some semblance of order in my life, whacky sleeping pattern and a bunch of other quirks you all associate with my kookiness, I often get run down. Like last week, which put publishing this post on hold until today. Kinda ironic.

But now, I’m feeling brighter and more on top of everything, I’m going to take a bit of time and run through my self care routine.

Self care is something I started intentionally practicing about eight months ago. Far from a social media soundbite and tool to get more love on Insta, this has become a necessary part of my health routine and often saves me from slipping down the rabbit hole and ending up in a dark spiral leading to exhaustion.

The usual candidates in a self care checklist do exist on mine – a decent amount of sleep, an abundance of vegetables (I love making myself a Greek-inspired mezze platter of raw peppers, olives, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and a variety of dips when I feel depleted and in need of a clean, fresh boost to the system) and an indulgent shower or bath.

Some of my other self care activities are maybe slightly more obscure, but important to me nonetheless.

Firstly, I cut my nails. It’s a chore I am forever pushing down on the to do list until my poor nails can take no more and snap painfully close to the nail bed. So, when life is starting to get on top of me, I make sure to spend some quality time giving myself a speedy mani.

Usually just cutting them down, a quick file and a thirst-quenching moisturiser. One of my nervous ticks is picking at the skin on my fingers, but pretty nail polish is a great incentive for me to leave the poor skin alone.

This self care technique requires enough concentration to distract me momentarily from any outside stresses and is a productive use of time so I don’t feel guilty for procrastinating from the ironing pile. Double win.

I also write. It might be teen angst inspired, embarrassing awful poetry, a to do list or an overview of what I’ve done that day.

As my blog posts indicate, I’m a good rambler. I purge my thoughts until I cry, sigh or reach some other state of release. It’s incredibly important for me to get my thoughts and feelings out in the world by writing or typing away until I have fully purged.

Usually I reach a solution by writing, or can reach a place where my rational side negotiates my emotional mess down from teetering on the edge.

Another self care love of mine is colouring in.

While my doodles don’t tend to end as violently as Deadpool’s, I do own 5 adult colouring books, 3 sets of colouring pencils and a steadfast opposition to venturing outside the lines.

Snuggle puddles are also a total self care necessity.

Teddy (original, I know) and Piglet have been with me since birth, Alaska Bear was a slightly later addition.

Bunny, Toothless and Rocky flopping after a long day of whatever it is toys do.

I am currently sharing my bed with 9 teddies of all shapes, sizes and animal types. Some are as old as me, others are more recent additions. All are equally adored.

Apart from my raccoon, Rocky, who has been through the best times and the worst times with me. A dear friend of mine who understood my trash panda obsession gave me him when I was 16 and have rarely gone a night without him in my bed ever since. He even comes with me to my boyfriend’s sometimes.

Rocky and a lizard friend he made at Tam’s, along with Mr Fox and an equally foxy hot water bottle.

This bunch of cute and cuddlies are the perfect counter-offer to human contact, when I just want to be left alone but am in dire need of affection. They are the real deal.

Sidenote shout out to my boyfriend who makes a great substitute to the snuggle puddle on nights that I do want human contact. That boy is a hot water bottle load of snug – seriously, his body temp runs higher than most saunas.

Finally, the most important ritual of my self care routine is self-acceptance.

I often find myself buried under a mountain of guilt, frustration and a slew of other negative feelings when I start to get run down and feel low.

Reminding myself that the low point isn’t going to last forever and that the world will not end if I can’t make myself smile once that day is really important.

As a perfectionist, I get caught up in my own head, obsessing over everything, especially my perceived shortcomings and what I think others expect of me. I take this time to acknowledge that I’m not feeling 100% and realise what I expect of myself.

Whether that’s getting myself into the shower, socialising or just enjoying my own company; it’s a vital exercise I need to keep myself feeling more grounded and less like the world is slipping through my fingers.

Self care is exactly that – for yourself. You might read my list and scoff. You might run or bake or cry or knit or host a dinner party as part of your self care. Those are all legitimate forms of looking after yourself.

We all have different aspects of ourselves that need a little more attention than others. Recognising, accepting and acting on those needs are what keep us happy, healthy and able to live our best lives.

Look after yourself, you deserve it.

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New Year – New Approach

Happy 2017!

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It’s been a bustling start to the year for me, work came round pretty quickly and there was no easing back into the routine. We hit the ground running with a live stream to prepare for and a huge research-and-write project to get stuck back into.

With life being pretty hectic, I hadn’t really had the chance to put much thought into my New Year’s Resolutions.

In the lead up to Hogmanay, I had thrown the usual remarks

“I’m going to get skinny”

“I’m going to stop eating so much”

“I’m going to exercise more”

But as expected, January 1st rolled round and I didn’t touch a single vegetable. Quelle surprise.

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A few days later, I had a really interesting conversation with my flatmate. She told me she doesn’t believe in New Years Resolutions because they’re damaging. At first I didn’t understand, but for some people – myself included – it makes perfect sense.

New Year New Me is a slogan cashed in on by many a brand. It’s everywhere in the run up to Christmas. People lamenting how much food they ate on Christmas Day, but it’s okay because they’ll start being healthy again in the New Year.

This is a problem for 2 reasons.

Firstly, it can breed illness. This sounds a tad dramatic but for lots of people the build up and quasi-determination and nothing-but-lettuce diets and extreme exercise regimes are unsustainable. This is an exaggeration, for sure, but you get the idea. This punishing and super strict mindset ends in disappointment and – more often than not – a negative self-image. I know I’m guilty of it. For some, this will result in illness, poor mental health and often poor physical health too.

The second problem is the now societally-accepted ‘festive overindulgence’. There are articles all over the news just now about sugar being the most readily available drug on the market, but as we draw closer to December 25th, we throw all good intentions about healthy eating out the window in favour of Chocolate Oranges, Christmas cocktails and fancy nibbles.

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This “I’ll be good in the New Year” mentality makes excessive overindulgence not only acceptable, but expected. This is almost worse than the gung-ho diet and exercise overhaul people put themselves through afterwards, because their minds and bodies have gotten used to the sugars, fats, alcohol and unnecessary treats they’ve allowed themselves. This makes falling off the bandwagon so much easier.

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These are both things I have been guilty of in the past. The very recent past. But it gave me a lot to think about. I still wanted to be healthier, but maybe I didn’t have to buy into the whole overhaul-your-life philosophy? While it fits some people and they see real, sustainable results from their new resolution efforts, it obviously hadn’t been working for me, so why not take a new approach?

My flatmate gives herself goals without a specific deadline. They are achievable processes that won’t mean she goes into the following year having ‘failed’, because instead of completely changing something, she focusses on improving or learning more. So I decided to do the same.

I have decided to focus on kindness (thanks to a wonderful colleague for giving me the idea).

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I want to be kinder to myself, especially with the nonsense my brain has been putting me through recently. I will actively give myself more time and patience to work through things, and focus on relieving stress in productive, fun ways.

To keep up the self-kindness, I’m going to carry on doing things that make me happy. One thing I am absolutely determined to do is to pour more attention and energy into my blog. I enjoy it, similar to journalling, and it’s a good way to force myself into new situations so I have things to write about. (As a side note, watch this space for some teenage-angst-born creative writing that I’ll be sharing with you next week. Trust me when I say they make me cringe.) I do struggle sometimes to think of things to write about, but I’ll be getting my planning cap on over the weekend to map out some potential convo topics. I say convo, but it’s really just a one-sided ramble…

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Crafting is another thing I want to get better at. Hobbies are a soothing, productive passtime and provide the downtime I need to maintain a healthy work/play balance. The repetitive, but brain-engaging nature of my chosen activities will be kind to my mental wellbeing (although at times, perhaps not my sanity…). So far I have knitting, calligraphy and photography to be getting one with. There is definitely huge room for improvement on all creative fronts and I’m determined to take up my passions again and fill my evenings with little rays of sunshine in crafty forms.

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Finally, I have a goal with a deadline. I want to, after 6 months, be able to say that I’ve sustained a manageable exercise routine. Kindness to my body is as important and works in tandem with my kindness to my mind. I sounded so sage and wise there…I think.

I have signed up for a 2-hour Tuesday yoga class and am hoping to drop into a dance class every Wednesday. For someone as unfit and asthmatic as me, that’s enough to get me started. Plenty of achievement and progression to be seen from those activities if all goes well, so sticking at them when the going gets tough is the first hurdle!

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So, there you have it. My first post of 2017. Kindness through happy thoughts, crafting, exercise and a hell of a lot more writing appear to be on the horizon for me. I hope you have big dreams and high expectations for the year ahead – no matter what form of resolution, goal setting or planning you subscribe to!

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Me and My Brain

Brains confuse me.

I mean, they’re great. But I don’t understand how they work. I’ve studied them to a certain extent in relation to how they handle language, but that’s just one tip of one iceberg in a world full of Titanic-sinking lumps of frozen water.

They’re extraordinary and mind-boggling and scary. They control us, and we control them, but we also have no idea just how powerful they can be sometimes.

I get on with my brain most of the time. I’m kinda thankful for it, because it makes sure I carry on breathing and living and thinking and doing the things I like to do.

It lets me sing and fail at dancing and concoct recipes from a countertop full of random ingredients that shouldn’t really go together. It helps me think up presents for people and create art projects in my brain that will likely not translate well in the real world, but it’s the planning that I enjoy the most. It lets me laugh and love and surprise myself with things I remember and things I forget.

It also makes me obsessively try and learn the last 4 digits of every car’s reg plate I pass. It sometimes forces me to count my steps in 10s. Lists become a necessity in my daily life when I feel like I’m not completely in control. It convinces me I’m a burden and too difficult for people to want to spend time with me. It tricks me into believing that I have done something to upset people, unrelentingly convincing me until I’m suffocated by the guilt and I feel their frustration hang tangibly in the air, even though it doesn’t exist to them. Every so often it lets my imagination run so wild I struggle to leave my flat for fear that some unknown thing will happen to me and it will be bad.

My brain is a fickle friend. It’s always there with me, but I can’t always trust if it’s working with me or against me.

I have lots of good days. To read the above you’d think I was mostly unhappy and a bit crazy. Crazy, yes, but not unhappy.

I feel happiness the majority of the time. And joy. And love. I am able to appreciate the little things and have a heart so full it feels like it could burst.

But when I’m not feeling those things, when I am sad and low and scared, I get frustrated.

See, my brain doesn’t just cloud my judgement and pull wool over my eyes. I am kind of aware that I’m being tricked. I just don’t have the power or energy to fight it. Sometimes it’s so overwhelming, I am completely convinced that I am being rational in my beliefs and that person really doesn’t want to spend time with me because I know in my heart of hearts that I am being annoying.

My brain is an extraordinary thing. Even when it’s working against me, I’m in awe of it. I am aware but not aware, I believe but I’m incredulous. How can one small organ have so much control? How do I regain it? Maybe I don’t. Maybe that’s the way everyone’s brains work. Or even just some people’s brains. But how will we know that until we start talking about it?

How can we learn about what’s okay and when to ask for help if no one will talk about their personal boundaries and breaking points?

Talking is a gift my brain allows me. It’s a gift I want to use to help myself and anyone else who needs it – reassurance that brains are the weirdest, most frustrating, most brilliant things we could ever have. And we can still get angry with them for tricking us and tripping us up and upsetting us.

We can get pissed off that we still have to sleep with the duvet over our shoulders and no limbs hanging off the mattress because it’s so good at convincing us that monsters live under the bed even though we’re too old to believe in ghost stories.

Because where would you rather they lived? Under the bed? Or in your own head?

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