Getting Over ‘Summer Body’ Anxiety

Getting Over ‘Summer Body’ Anxiety

It’s been pretty warm in the UK lately. Alright, “warm” might just mean anything over 10 degrees for us, but still. We’ve had a little bit of sunshine and summer finally seems to be on its way. For a lot of us, that means getting our limbs out, or, to be more frank, our cellulite and stretch marks. That can be pretty scary.

As a fully grown 22 year old woman, my legs are full of cellulite, stretch marks, stubble, and scars from various activities (falling off a swing as a child, cutting myself shaving in the same spot 24 times as an adult), and my arms are hairy, pale, and absolutely not toned at all. When I was younger, I was an actual twig. 14 year old me had smooth, skinny, scar-less limbs that tanned easily, and I was all too eager to whip out the summer dresses at the first glimpse of sunlight. I had no shame when I lay out my little flat body on a beach in a bikini. I had nothing to hide, because I had a child’s body. Then I put on weight, AKA grew into my womanly body, and things changed. Cue the sudden worry about purple marks, orange peel thighs, and a slightly protruding stomach.

I wasn’t used to all of this. Being a slim child, I’d never had to worry about this kind of thing before. Adulthood sprung upon me suddenly and mercilessly. It took me a long time to understand that as an 18 year old, I wasn’t supposed to look the same as I did when I was just hitting puberty. Boobs were inevitable. My hips were bound to get wider, because that’s biology. My metabolism slowed down, but my eating habits didn’t. I still wanted to fit in the dresses I loved when I was 16, but my body just wasn’t the same shape and size anymore. I eventually realised that that’s just the way that things are, and I couldn’t have possibly maintained my childhood body no matter what I did. That’s not how life works. We grow into adults, and with that comes a few marks and scars.

I am fully aware that my body is perfectly healthy. I am not overweight or obese, but you don’t have to be either of those things to have cellulite or a podgy tum, and it’s normal to be self conscious about these little things.

But at the end of the day, that’s all they are: little things.

Yeah, my legs have dimpley fat-pockets. They have scars and spots and cuts. They have shaving rash, and big patches of hair that I missed while shaving. But who’s looking that close anyway? And what does it matter to them?

I am about to tell you something absolutely groundbreaking: nobody will die, or be sick, or cry, at the sight of your bloated belly or cankles. Really! They will not run away from you, because you are not a monster. They will actually carry on with their normal lives around you, maybe buy an ice cream, and get on with it. They’re probably worrying about their own wobbly bits, or that one weird toe that everyone can see in their flip-flops, or that they forgot to shave their armpits while they’re wearing a sleeveless top. Everyone has got their own things that they worry about, and nobody looks like a Victoria’s Secret model that’s been edited and airbrushed for the cover of a magazine.

In case you haven’t heard, websites like ASOS have given up editing out stretch marks and the like. Taking a quick peek at the swimwear section of their website, you can see that even the most toned, slender models have got stretch marks. It’s part of growing, and it’s normal. Having them doesn’t make you fat or ugly or undesirable. They make you a person with skin. You won’t catch these things on the cover of Vogue or Glamour, but even celebs and models have got wrinkles, discolouration, and stomach rolls. Don’t be fooled by their supposed perfection.

Here’s the good news: you grew a body! It reached adulthood. Your adult body looks different to your childhood body, and it’s supposed to, because it develops. Your body might have grown a whole human being in there and pushed it out, or it might have run a marathon, or it might have been the hand somebody held while they got a really scary injection, or it might have done none of those things and just really enjoyed eating slices of cake like mine has. Anyway, as long as you’re healthy, it’s fine. You have a body that is alive and functions and loves you. It keeps you alive by doing things you don’t even notice, like making new cells and attacking viruses. So maybe treat it to some sunshine and an ice lolly.

Bodies are gross, but not for the reasons you think they are. They’re gross because they make weird smells and your skin cells shed everywhere all the time. They’re not gross because they have a few scars. And if somebody thinks that your body is gross because of that, then maybe you should point them to the whole skin cells thing. That might give them some perspective.

I may not leap at the chance to put on a pair of short shorts like I used to do in my teenage years, but I’m still going to whack on a dress without tights (wild, I know) when it’s hot out, because, well, it’s hot out, and I don’t want to get all sweaty and uncomfortable. FEEL THE BREEZE ON YOUR KNEES! ACCIDENTALLY DRIP MELTING ICE CREAM DOWN YOUR FOREARM! EXPOSE YOUR SHOULDERS TO POTENTIAL WASP ATTACKS! But wear sun cream, that’s important. If you’re getting out all of your appendages, they do need to be protected from the sun.

To sum it all up, it’s okay. Bodies on the beach are okay. Bodies in the park are okay. Bodies with minimal clothes on are okay. Bodies with lots of clothes on are okay. Bodies, in general, are okay. Enjoy the sunshine, friends, because your body is okay. Over and out.

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18 Things You Can Do If You’re Feeling a Bit Crap

18 Things You Can Do If You’re Feeling a Bit Crap

Hello there. I’m feeling a bit rubbish.

After a few months of feeling gloriously good, I appear to have hit a little bit of a wall and have been feeling, to put it bluntly, a bit crap for a few weeks now. At first I thought it was just PMS, but two periods came and went and, well, here we are.

So instead of moping about and digging myself into a little hole, I thought I would share with you some of the things that I’ve been doing to make myself feel a little better while I wait for the wave of sadness to pass over me. Because we all know it isn’t going to last forever.

Self care is kind of a subjective thing, so all of these things might not work for you. But I know that the one-size-fits-all “just put a face mask on and relax” approach is a bit tiring for me now, so here’s a few fresh tips to try out if they tickle your fancy.

1. Make quick, easy comfort snacks

Sometimes I just want to curl up in bed with a bowl of cake and watch cat videos. So that’s what I do. I’ve found a really easy vegan recipe for a cake that takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and make, and I highly recommend giving it a go if you’re craving some comfort food.

1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons of hot chocolate powder

3 tablespoons flour

3 teaspoons sugar

Pinch of salt

A sprinkling of baking powder

2-3 teaspoons oil of your choice (coconut oil is a fab one, but vegetable oil works too)

3 tablespoons milk of your choice (chocolate oat milk is delicious, as is almond)

You can add in flavourings too, it’s all down to your taste!

Whack all the ingredients into a microwavable bowl, mix them all up, and pop the bowl in the microwave for a minute and a half. And that’s it! It’s super quick and easy, and really delicious too.

2. Start a bullet journal

Bullet journalling has honestly made the biggest difference to my organisation, and my mindset. Planning out everything that I need to do every month, week, and day has helped me to tackle all tasks, no matter how big or how small, and it really helps to keep me motivated when I don’t feel my best. Plus, it’s really fun to get creative with my spreads each week, and it gives me some quiet time to myself while I plan and decorate.

3. Delve into a good book

When I started to feel down, I was plodding through Nabokov’s Lolita. As much as I was enjoying it, it become a little heavy going for me once I started to feel low, and I stopped reaching for it. I was craving something a little more lighthearted, so I switched it up. Books are a great comfort if you can pick the right ones for your mood. If you’re curious, the book I’m currently digging into is Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres – I highly recommend picking up Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by de Bernieres if you haven’t given that one a go yet, too. They’re great summer reads to dig your heels into.

4. Spend time with animals

Animals aren’t like people. They will happily sit there in silence while you weep on them or tell them all your problems, and they never ask any questions. Luckily for me, I have two snuggly guinea pigs on hand, but if you find yourself lacking in the animal department then there are some things you can do. Borrow My Doggy is a website where you can sign up to spend time with other people’s dogs, or you can always find out where your nearest animal shelter is and spend some quality time with the animals there.

5. Disconnect for a little while

Time away from your phone and social media is a cleansing experience. You don’t have to cut your phone out of your life completely, but reducing your time online can be really helpful sometimes.

6. Keep something soothing on hand

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by day to day life. I’ve found that having something small that I can distract myself with has made a big difference to my anxiety levels. This kind of thing will be different for everyone, and it might be something as simple as a little token that brings you peace, a bobble you can fiddle with, or an app that works on calming you down. I’ve tried a lot of apps targeted towards soothing anxiety, but one that I’ve found works the best for me isn’t actually made for anxiety at all. You’ve probably heard of Neko Atsume, the cat collector game. It’s available on Android and iOS, and it was kind of a hit a while back. Though I didn’t jump on the kitty collecting train the first time around, I found myself thinking about it a few days ago and decided to give it a go. The cute little animated cats and chirpy music are somehow a great comfort to me, and I’ve found solace in this strange little game over the past few days. Their faces are just so darn happy!

7. Make a list of things that you’re looking forward to

This helps me to think forwards rather than letting myself get lost in my current low mood. Don’t worry if the things that you’re excited about aren’t monumental or life changing, and don’t put any pressure on yourself to think of an exact number of things. Right now, I’m excited to start my new job, move in with my other half, and graduate, but I’m also excited to have pie for tea at some point in the near future and to use my Tesco Clubcard for the first time (yes I am a boring adult, why do you ask?). The little things can be just as exciting as the big ones, so don’t skip out on listing them.

8. Let yourself cry

That’s it, let it all out. It’s all absolutely fine. Remember that it’s okay to cry and to get frustrated, as long as you can acknowledge that this feeling isn’t going to last forever. Trying to shove these feelings to the back of our minds and pretend they’re not there isn’t helpful. Understand that your mind is having a bit of a wobble, and let it do its thing.

9. Find your comfort show, and watch it

We all have that one TV show or film that makes us feel a whole lot better when crap starts hitting the fan. For me, that’s Bob’s Burgers (it’s an adult cartoon, but without being rude. A real feel-good show you can watch with your mum), but you can throw on whatever you like. Just surround yourself with comfort from all angles.

10. Wash your sheets

Everyone loves the feeling of fresh sheets. Need I say more?

11. Don’t be tempted by sad songs

My default when I’m feeling sad is to shoot straight for my sad songs playlist, but they actually make me feel a whole lot worse. Putting on something that’s soothing but not so tear-jerking, or skipping out on the music altogether, can really help. Don’t allow yourself to sink into listening to Radiohead on repeat – I tend to gravitate towards my friend Ezra’s Proper Mellow playlist, because it’s chilled out but not sad. An all-round good combination.

12. Set small goals that are easily achievable

Giving yourself little things to achieve throughout the day, week, or month can give you something to work towards, and make you feel great when you accomplish them. Whether it’s deciding that you’ll wash up all the plates you’ve left in your room today, finishing a book by the end of the week, or saving up enough money to buy the jumper you’re lusting after by the end of the month, taking little steps towards doing the things you want to do actually add up, and can help to boost your mood.

13. Have a social media cleanup

Delete, unfollow, and unfriend. Having a declutter of your social media sites and removing all the people who you’re not in touch with anymore, make you feel a bit rubbish, or you compare yourself to can lighten up your feed and your mood. It feels like a big weight has been lifted off your shoulders when you whittle your Facebook friends list right down, trust me.

14. While you’re at it, declutter your wardrobe

Get rid of all the things you don’t use anymore. There’s no point clinging onto things that have only been sat in your cupboards and drawers for months on end. Clearing out your belongings can give you a new lease of life, I’m telling you. Get your stuff to the charity shop, or sell it if you’d like. You can use the extra cash to treat yourself to something nice.

15. Communicate your needs to others

Whether you’re gently letting your friends know that you need your space and alone time, or if you’re asking for specific help, it’s important to let the people around you know what it is that you need from them, if you need anything at all.

16. Try to go outside, or at least open your windows

Fresh air and sunshine are underrated. Even if you’re just popping into the garden to eat your breakfast or nipping to the shop to stock up on more biscuits, you might feel a real difference.

17. Keep your mind active

Even if your body isn’t up to doing much, try your hand keeping your mind active. You could try learning a new language by spending five minutes a day on a site like Duolingo, or start a free online course in something you’ve always wanted to learn. Distractions are good, and you’ll feel even more productive.

18. Don’t feel bad if the sad feelings don’t pass as soon as you’d like them to

You can follow every rule of self care in the book and still feel low. Let these feelings have their time, understand that sometimes these things are beyond your control, and just do the best that you can. There are heaps of things that can contribute to low mood, whether it’s hormones, diet, stress, or whatever else, and there’s no magic wand you can wave to make all those things disappear. Ride the wave, because it won’t last forever. You’ve got this.

 

 

Dumping Fast Fashion: Why Buying Second Hand is the Way Forward

Dumping Fast Fashion: Why Buying Second Hand is the Way Forward

In an age where instant gratification is just so darn achievable, it’s hard to say no to something we want right this minute. Everybody wants cheap clothes, and in an ideal world, they would all be produced ethically. It’s all well and good picking up Primark’s finest bits and bobs without having to deal with a hefty price tag, but can we really guarantee that the places our clothes are coming from are ethically sourced? And it’s not just the low-cost companies that are the problem: with bigger, more expensive brands like Victoria’s Secret and Beyonce’s line Ivy Park being called out for unethical practices, can we trust anyone at all?

It’s easy to shove all that ethical and environmentally friendly business to the back of our minds and pretend that it doesn’t concern us when we’re browsing Topshop’s latest stock, but in reality it does concern us. We are responsible for our planet, and we are responsible for the health and happiness of our fellow human beings, whether they’re people we know personally or not. These are the things that we should be training ourselves to actively think about when we make a purchase, because it has become all too common to sweep it all under the rug. Does it really matter that the person who sewed your garments is a child, or is paid a suitable amount for them to survive, or has clean water that isn’t polluted by dyes? Does all that stuff matter when that dress looks so good on you?

It’s time to start having a guilty conscience and making active changes when it comes to the way we think about fashion.

The average consumer spends over £1000 on clothes each year – a pretty hefty amount. That can add up to a whole lot of new items, and inevitably a whole lot of clothes ending up as waste. Fast fashion is a fun concept for anyone – the ever-changing fashion industry is fun to follow online and in magazines, and even more fun to join in with – but it’s having a devastating impact on our environment that goes way beyond the sweatshops we’ve all heard plenty about. Dyes used on the fabrics that make our favourite prints and patterns are polluting water worldwide – in fact, textile dyeing is the one of the largest contributors to the pollution of clean water, second only to agriculture. On top of that, microfibres that come off our clothes when we wash them are making their way through our drains and into our oceans, and they don’t biodegrade – that poses a huge threat to our fishy friends, who go on to consume these tiny fibres, and if you eat fish, you’re more than likely consuming those microfibres through them, too. Not to mention that cotton is often picked by children in dire conditions, and it also takes a whole lot of water to grow, causing a higher risk of draught in these areas.

In addition to the questionable sources of the clothing that we fork out our cash for, we should really be considering the aftermath of fast fashion, too. In the UK, we throw out more than a million tonnes of clothing every year. Clothing that, for the most part, could have been donated, recycled, or sold on to another loving home. The more we buy, the more we chuck out, and all of our once-fashionable pieces are sadly ending up in landfills.

I know we’ve all been through the “I’ve got nothing to wear!” drama whilst staring into a wardrobe that’s fit to burst. There are a multitude of reasons why we might abandon our once-loved (or even never-before-touched) items of clothing: they don’t fit, they have a stain or a rip, we don’t like them anymore, or they just don’t go with anything. But instead of going straight to the closest black bin bag with all those things and then heading straight to the shops for a brand new look, think about how your old apparel can be reworked or rehomed, and how you could give a new home to something else. Selling to your friends or on sites like eBay or Depop will gain you a bit of cash back, or even better, you could donate to one of your local charity shops who will sell it all on for good, or donate to people and places that could use the help. It seems like common sense, but with the amount of clothes ending up in our landfills, it sounds like a lot of people are overlooking these simple steps and just opting for the closest bin. If you didn’t know, there are even clothing, shoe, and textile recycling points that you can take tattered, stained, or ripped bits and bobs to if you don’t think they’re worthy of a new home, so that even your most bedraggled attire can find a new use.

There’s even more you can do: shop second hand and love clothes for longer. You can find pretty much anything you want for second hand, whether it’s online or browsing vintage stores and charity shops. Minimise the amount of clothes ending up in landfills and the amount of strain placed on the fast fashion industry by buying preloved – Depop is my personal favourite second hand platform, where I’ve picked up brand new items, still with the tags on, for half the original price, or at the very least things that have been worn a few times but are still in perfect condition. In fact, the bulk of my wardrobe is full of clothes from either eBay or Depop, and all of my favourite pieces are second hand. Second hand doesn’t necessarily mean old, but we all know that the vintage look is always a winner anyway.

Making small changes to the way we shop all adds up – set yourself a challenge to buy no new clothes for a month or two, or to only shop second hand for the next five pieces you buy, and you’re already on your way there. It feels good to be greener!

Want to see a lookbook of my favourite preloved garms? Let me know!

 

6 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use (And Save Our Oceans)

6 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use (And Save Our Oceans)

It’s time to get serious.

We all know that there’s a global plastic problem, and it’s impacting on our oceans more than ever. Forbes have recently reported on another whale found washed up on the coast of Spain, and the cause of death was determined to be ingesting 64 pounds of plastic waste. And this isn’t a rare occurrence either. Last year, a whale was found dying off the coast of Norway with 30 plastic bags in its stomach. Sea life is swallowing, choking on, getting tangled in, and trapped amongst our plastic waste on a daily basis.

There’s no beating around the bush here: we caused this. Every time one of us buys veg in plastic wrap, a plastic water/coke/lemonade bottle, a disposable coffee cup from Starbucks, or a plastic bag, we are contributing to the mammoth plastic problem.

A quick Google search will tell you that plastic takes up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills, and yet most of us use plastic items every single day. In fact, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced every single year, and a measly 10% of that gets recycled, but a whopping 8 million metric tonnes end up in our oceans. We only seem to care about what’s in the ocean when we go for a dip in the Mediterranean and find ourselves floating amongst a dirty nappy and somebody’s absconded bottle of sun cream, but it’s a global problem, and one that we need to start thinking seriously about. So what can we do to cut down, and how can we help?

1. Actually reuse your bags for life.

This is a really easy one. They’ll save you 5p every time you do a shop, so there’s no reason to leave them behind. Or, if you’d rather, you can invest in a cute canvas tote bag if you want something a little more personal. There are tonnes or reusable bags on the market, so there’s no excuse to still be picking up new plastic bags every time we shop when we all have a drawer filled with 100 at home.

2. Pick up a reusable water bottle.

I haven’t bought a plastic bottle in months since I copped this bottle from Amazon. You can get them in a million colours and styles, so there’s something for everyone. I opted for this one because it’s a full 500ml, as some other bottles can be a little small. These are so handy to have because you can fill them up pretty much anywhere – ask in a coffee shop or bar and they will happily refill your bottle for you. This will save you money in the long run, as you’ll no longer have to pay for water when you’re out and about, and it also keeps your drinks colder (or hotter) for longer! Plus, if you didn’t know, plastic can release harmful chemicals into your drinks which can impact on your chances of having a baby and increase your risk of heart disease, so a reusable bottle is better for your health too.

3. Invest in a reusable travel mug.

Every year, 100 billion single use coffee cups make their way to our landfills. Even if you don’t pick up a coffee that often, having an eco-friendly travel mug on hand saves our land and oceans from one more plastic lid, and lots of chains have started offering money off your drink when you bring your own cup, so this investment could actually end up paying for itself. I got this super cute one from Amazon for the occasional hot chocolate I grab from Costa, and it keeps my drink hotter for way longer than your standard disposable cup. This one is made from naturally organic bamboo fibre, and it’s biodegradable.

4. Grab some metal straws.

I’m telling you, this has been one of the best purchases I have ever made. I picked these ones from Amazon because the packaging was plastic-free, the straws themselves come in a little bag that makes it so easy to pop them in my bag, and they even come with a handy little cleaner so I can clean them super easily. In the UK alone, we go through approximately 8.5 billion straws a year – a number which makes me feel sick to my stomach. Instead of dishing out plastic straws with every drink, we could easily make a swap to paper, or even better, these metal ones, to save a sea turtle from choking.

5. Opt for beauty products with less (or at the very least, recycled) packaging.

Taking a few steps towards a zero-waste beauty routine, or at the very least a zero-waste shower routine, would cut down on our plastic use drastically. Think about all the things in your bathroom that are made out of plastic: containers and packaging for liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face wash, and so much more. Not forgetting that pesky plastic toothbrush. Pick a couple of things in your bathroom to replace with plastic-free options, and you’re already doing your bit. Opt for a luxurious bar of soap that comes packaged in paper wrapping rather than plastic, switch to shampoo and conditioner bars (Lush have a great range of zero-waste stuff, and of course they smell amazing), grab you and your family a pack of bamboo toothbrushes, and you’re well on your way to converting your bathroom to a plastic-free space.

6. Say no to plastic cutlery.

Disposable cutlery is so easily avoidable, so whether you opt for a wooden alternative or simply carry round a standard fork or spoon in your bag, it’s a really easy change to make. You can even get portable cutlery kits that come in handy little cases that you can carry about with you!

I’m well aware that most of these tips involve splashing a little bit of cash, and not everyone has the opportunity to do that. But every little change makes a difference, and just starting with the small stuff can help you on your way to bigger changes. I’m by no means suggesting that I’m some kind of zero-waste queen, but I try to do my bit where I can, and I think that everyone else can find small ways to chip in too. Just being more conscious of your plastic usage is the best way to start tackling our plastic problem.

Got any more tips? Let me know!

Homeware Heaven: 5 Things That Will Make You Want to Unleash Your Inner Interior Designer

Homeware Heaven: 5 Things That Will Make You Want to Unleash Your Inner Interior Designer

I’ve been getting really into homewares recently. Maybe it’s because I’m super excited to be moving into a house of my own soon as opposed to student halls, but I feel the need to decorate everything in sight. Recently, my boyfriend’s house has been subject to my endless interior design desires, and I’ve been slowly introducing new pieces into his bedroom (including two little guinea pigs called Max and Minnie, but of course they’re not decorative) that he seems to be liking too. So let’s address a couple of bits and bobs that I’m loving (and yearning after) lately.

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I have been super into scents of late – candles, diffusers, and incense have stolen my heart. I picked up a miniature version of this candle and the matching diffuser from Next, and the scent is to die for. It’s so fresh and pretty subtle, but it really lifts up the room. Plus, candles are so cute and cosy, it’s hard to resist picking up one or two – the mini candle was only £3, and it burned for a good few hours, so I think I’ll end up picking up a few more in the future.

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Plants are another big one for me, and they score any room some homely bonus points. I’ve flooded my boyfriend’s room with a bonsai and succulents (which may or may not be fake, but that’s okay), and I don’t intend to stop any time soon. I’m lusting after this gorgeous trailing succulent (also from Next) which I think would make the perfect addition to the end of any book shelf or a bright kitchen windowsill.

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I can’t help falling in love with every yellow cushion I see lately, but I can’t bring myself to splash the cash. This one from Zazzle would add the perfect pop of colour to a charcoal grey sofa or navy bed, and the price isn’t too steep either. I’ll have ten please.

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I know that my teenage years are well and truly behind me when I start to get excited about dinnerware. But can you really blame me with all of the gorgeous plates and mugs that are calling my name? The Anthropologie home section is the source of all my happiness, and these bowls are the stuff of dreams. Plain tableware is dead, and patterns are dominating the dinner table.

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I feel like every blogger and their mum has this chair from Ikea, but honestly, I don’t blame any of them. The perfect addition to any living room, bedroom, office… just imagine propping one of those fun yellow cushions on it, or maybe draping a lovely knitted blanket over the back of it, and making it a cosy little reading corner! This chair is going to the top of my wish list when I have the money (and space) for one of these bad boys.

What homewares are you lusting after lately? Are there any websites I should be browsing? Let me know!

A Long Awaited Diagnosis

A Long Awaited Diagnosis

Okay, so I think it’s about time that we sit down and have a conversation. Well actually, let me just make things simple by saying this.

I have bipolar disorder.

It’s a long story, so let’s try to make this short. The first time I went to the doctors with an inkling that something maybe wasn’t so right with me, I was probably around 18. I made an appointment with my doctor, sat down, and said, “I think I have bipolar disorder,” or something to that effect. After she heard me explain myself, detailing my mood swings, patterns in behaviour, and unsettledness, she answered something along the lines of “it’s quite possible.”

Now, at the ripe age of 21, newly medicated and relatively hazy, I wonder why she didn’t do anything about that possibility at the time.

I have spent the last three years in and out of doctors appointments in different cities, surgeries, and offices, repeating the same story, same symptoms, same everything. I’ve had every response you can think of, and been turned away with nothing more times than I’d like to expose the NHS for. I’ve sat in doctors’ chairs suicidal and in bits, only to be met with a horrid “oh, that’s a shame,” and a prescription to “spend time with family”.

My last doctor’s appointment was in December. I saw the same doctor I had seen three years earlier, and over the course of the previous few months, she’d promised me progress and help. I was hopeful, and desperate for a referral to anyone who could help me. I was tired of being ignored, shunned, and let down at every appointment. Doctor Guinevere promised me a kind of support that I’d never had before.

Until that final appointment.

My tears and insistent begging for help were met with nothing more than aloof responses and a sudden “what do you want me to do about it?” attitude that broke my heart. She told me that there was “no point” in referring me to an Access and Crisis team, or anyone at all for that matter. And with that, I was sent away with nothing. Again.

For my absolute glorious angel of a mother, this was the last straw. As I cried in the car on the way home, she told me, “we’re going to do this ourselves. They’re not going to do anything for you, but I’m your mother, and I’m going to fix this for you”.

Within an hour, I had my first appointment booked with a private psychiatrist.

Seeing a private psychiatrist was a world apart from the millions of appointments I’d had with GPs. I spilled my heart out, told him everything, like I usually would, except this time I got a whole hour to do it. In the 10 minutes I usually had with doctors, they would brush off my experiences and feelings, tell me it was all down to anxiety, and send me on my way. Seeing a psychiatrist gave me all the validation I needed. He understood everything I’d ever needed anyone to understand, asked all the right questions, and even had my mum in to ask about her perspective. He told me within half an hour that I had a mood disorder. By my second appointment with another psychiatrist, I was armed with a diagnosis, a prescription, and a plan for therapy. Within just two sessions, I’d been given everything that the NHS were unable to give me for years beforehand.

I am now on two different medications to balance me out. Antidepressants and antipsychotics come with a myriad of side effects that had me down and out for a good few weeks. Now I’m up and about again, feeling great, and having regular therapy.  But does it really have to come at such a cost?

I was lucky enough to go private, but most people aren’t. The NHS failed me for years, because it is underfunded and under strain – mental health services are undeniably poor, and everybody should be able to have access to the kind of treatment that I have had, but it just isn’t as easy as it seems. I have heard hundreds of stories from people who have been in, or are currently in, similar situations to mine. Mental illness deserves the same action as physical illness, and the same care and attention, without having to empty your pockets.

Now, I’m able to get on with my day to day life in the way that I should have been able to almost four years ago. It’s been a long and exhausting process, but now I’m finally where I need to be. At the end of the day, the doctors were right to tell me to spend time with family – it was my family who listened, who made sacrifices so that I could get the care I needed, and who continue to support me every day.

Mental illness stretches further than depression and anxiety. Sometimes it’s more severe than that, and sometimes people don’t want to talk about those scarier sounding diagnoses. Support for mental health needs to stretch beyond the more commonly talked about illnesses, and that’s why it’s important for me to be public about my mental illness.

If you have any questions about my diagnosis, or bipolar disorder in general, don’t be afraid to ask! Drop me a tweet and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem With The Tortured Artist

The Problem With The Tortured Artist

Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh, Ludwig Van Beethoven… what do all of these artists have in common?

We glorify artists riddled with mental illness, pore over their poems or paintings, and immerse ourselves in their music. We lie in wonder, weaving our ideas of their internal struggles in with their works of art, thinking how each chest-punching anxiety attack, terrifying psychotic vision, or life-ruining bout of alcoholism contributed to the masterpiece in front of us. How awestruck we are at the sight of such traumatic beauty. How admirable that they could create such delicacy from such pain, and showcase the mess inside their head with words on a page or a lick of paint on canvas. What a cause for celebration.

But when it comes to real mental illness, here, now, within the people we love, we put it to one side. We hide it, overlook it, complain when we have to live with somebody so irritable or sensitive or unpredictable. So what’s the difference?

We analyse tortured art until we’re blue in the face, trying to figure out what the artist was thinking or feeling, and diagnosing them with modern labels that just seem so obvious to us as we evaluate their work, all whilst ignoring the thoughts and feelings of the people right next to us. Once the depressed, the manic, and the psychotic put their pen to paper, brush to canvas, fingers to piano keys, something in our brains lets go of the negative stigma around mental illness, and we glorify their misery. Such hidden talent! A beautiful outlet for a tortured mind. How commendable that somebody can produce such great art inspired by, or in spite of, their mental illness. We are all too ready to applaud the artistic few who can convey their feelings through decorative means.

Art that carries the burden of mental illness, no matter its form, is fascinating and invigorating to the spectator. It lends you a peep to a world you haven’t seen before, or it acts as a relatable comfort. A praising comment here, a patronising one there. If they can do this with such a troubled mind, then why can’t X, Y, or Z compose such wonders when they suffer the same, or less? We place ourselves, or others, in the artist’s position. We fail to see the difference, to distinguish between the intricacies of what makes one person’s mental illness different from another’s, and why not everyone with a prescription for antidepressants or mood stabilisers is the next Virginia Woolf. But to the artist, this isn’t just something to hang in a gallery – it’s their everyday life. Your coffee table book is their mind pressed between pages, and your vinyl collection is the voice in their head on repeat. It’s frightening and frustrating. But they have the amazing ability to reveal their mind’s inner workings and communicate through their art. Not everyone can do that.

Mental illness isn’t necessarily the propellor of great art, as much as we like to envisage every mutilated mind finding solace in a creative outlet. It is all too often the block: the locked door against great ideas and creative freedom. It’s the head-in-hands in the office when you can’t focus on anything for more than 10 seconds, the inability to get out of bed for the interview that you really need to nail, the staring at the wall as time crawls by behind the bar of your local pub. It’s the ordinary – more so than it is the revolutionary, and it crushes creativity as often as, if not more than, it spurs it on.

Mental illness needs to be appreciated in a context outside of the artistic. Yes, admire the masterpieces. Immerse yourself in the theatre and the films sprinkled with body dysmorphia and suicide, but don’t lap it up at face value, and don’t ignore the everyday. Do not praise the tortured soul of your favourite artist and then slash the suffering barista with the same tongue. Do not compare the portrayal of one person’s mind with the reality of another’s.

We glorify the hand that mental illness plays in an artist’s life, then sneer at the same hand that taunts our neighbours. Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and OCD are more than just a catalyst for creating art, and they need to be recognised as such. We are not all Edvard Munch. The mentally ill work regular jobs, or maybe live in supported facilities. They are the people you move away from when they talk to themselves on the bus and the ones you gawk at for being “too skinny”. There’s your tortured artist and beautifully tormented soul. A cast out member of society, made to feel alone by a lack of understanding for what they’re going through and failing mental health services. Had you known Sylvia Plath in person, you may have viewed her differently. You may have looked down upon her with the same merciless criticism that you are so quick to fire upon those in psychiatric hospitals today. It won’t do to whisper “did you hear that Becky’s brother has been sectioned?” with disdain, but then tuck yourself into bed with a copy of The Bell Jar and a great appreciation for Plath’s way with words.

As talented as the mentally ill are, we are not just your Netflix series or weekend trip to the gallery. We deserve thought and recognition more often than when you binge watch 13 Reasons Why or catch a glimpse of The Scream. We need awareness more than just one week a year. And we need the same respect and thoughtfulness that you offer to your favourite artists, no matter what our day job might be.