Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health

World Mental Health Day: Living the (anxiety) dream.

Today is World Mental Health Day. This week I have had approximately seven anxiety dreams. And it’s only Wednesday. The irony has not escaped me.

Today is World Mental Health Day. This week I’m running a half marathon for probably the country’s most well-known mental health charity, MIND, and I’m currently the most anxious I’ve been in months. The irony has not only not escaped me but is enveloping me, like an invisibility cloak, but the cloak has a face, with a raised eyebrow, and its own personality, laughing contentedly at my misfortune. Basically it’s not an invisibility cloak, it’s the Sorting Hat. Thanks for bearing with me on that one.

In the first dream tarantulas appeared on my body; some kind of torturous manifestation of stress. They felt like dish scourers and were the size of side plates and before you ask, no, I have no idea why the tarantulas are all kitchen-themed. I could feel them under my feet, my back, beneath my hair line and the more I grabbed them by my hands and chucked them out the window the more they attached themselves to me, like Velcro, or a bad reputation.

Do I think it’s a coincidence this dream happened in September, aka spider season? No. Do I think it’s a coincidence this dream happened the night I washed my hair and left it in a scrunchy so that loose strands kept sticking to my back, my arms, my neck in an uncannily spider-like way? No. Do I think it’s a coincidence this dream – and the others, if only I had time to tell you about the scotch egg one – is happening at a time I’m busy, run-down and at risk of imploding? To quote the chef in The Little Mermaid, Non, non, non, mes poissons.

The problem with anxiety is just because I’ve got better at controlling it doesn’t mean it’s gone away. Actually, the older I get (at the wizened age of 28) the more I’m becoming convinced it’s just changed form.

I used to experience random, generalised, unpredictable bouts of fear and dread – sat in a hairdresser’s chair convinced they’d find some kind of cancer when giving me the special leave-in shampoo treatment (as if I’ve ever been able to afford the special leave-in shampoo treatment, they were just brushing it). Panic attacks working front of house for no reason (not even the time there was a terror threat and I was the one on cloakroom looking for potential bombs in suitcases and Harrods bags – that would be far too understandable). Filling up the car at the petrol station, sitting in the cinema, answering anonymous phone calls, walking to work, in the shower, in the supermarket – all-consuming, impossibly hard to recognise and even harder to solve.

I am in a position now where a lot of the time I can recognise the symptoms and solve them before it’s an issue. Go me. I spent the money I saved on special leave-in shampoo on some special leave-in psychoanalysis and counselling and worked out why my brain is the way it is. I can drive by myself now, I don’t freak out at the hairdressers anymore, I can even feel up my boobs in the shower without giving myself a death sentence. I understand the way my brain works and know when it’s misbehaving. I know when it’s a bad time for me to think about googling symptoms, I know when I need to get some fresh air and go on a run, I know when I need to sleep or eat or cry. I’m more honest with myself about when I’m struggling and spend more time saying no, looking after myself, and talking out loud.

I’m a way happier, calmer person for like 80% of the time. Now triggers for me are more circumstantial and less frequent but when they do happen they’re equally debilitating. I get anxious if I’m bored or unsatisfied or in limbo and I get anxious if I’m too busy and over-worked and burning out. What a conundrum. Working in the creative industries is a path I’ve chosen, not one I’ve been thrown into, and it’s an industry of extremes, so it’s my responsibility to get the balance right and most of the time I do. I might be working on a million projects alongside a full-time job but I still find time to eat carbs and watch Killing Eve and exercise and step on crunchy leaves so I stay sane. I’m happiest when I’m in control – whether that’s bulk-cooking vegetarian chilli or planning my week meticulously in my diary, mapping out evenings to exercise or to just lie down and contemplate the universe.

That other 20% though. That’s the mind number. It just seeps out, sometimes, seemingly, as a tarantula dream, and sometimes as disrupted sleep, butterflies, chewing the inside of my mouth, IBS, getting a cold, losing my voice, feeling exhausted, not being able to make decisions, procrastinating, crying or wanting to cry for no reason, nerves, nausea and general blues. All the shades of blue – the colour of the sea in Cornwall that one day of the year it isn’t grey, Daniel Craig’s eyes, the sky, the Microsoft word logo. You get where I’m at. And that’s what today is like. Ye olde Mental Health Awareness Day.

It’s no wonder, really, because after a summer of waiting for things to materialise now, on top of my actual job, I’ve got to finish one play in the next month, another by the end of the year, am performing every week, rehearsing every other, doing a live podcast in ten days and I can feel myself getting ill and it’s supposed to rain on Sunday and I have to run 13.1 miles. WHAT. At this point it’s highly likely I’m going to forget I’m getting married next year too. Someone remind me nearer the time.

However. I’m very much living the dream, not the nightmare. I’m going to be fine. I am alive. I am lucky. I have people around me who I can talk to. I have a job. I have really comfy pillows. I have time. Time to run. Time to chase a dream. Time to eat. Time to laugh. Time to make mistakes. Time to crash and burn. Time to heal. Time to work out what I’m doing and who I want to be.

Here are the little things I’ve done today and last week and the week before when I felt myself tearing up and feeling breathless, just in case it helps: I told someone. A problem shared and so on. I treated myself (to an over-priced, bad-for-the-planet, orange and cayenne pepper shot from Pret – don’t shoot me). I trod on some leaves in the park in the sun. I made a gratefulness list. I did some stretches in my bedroom (where I realised my carpet will never be free of my hair). I helped someone out. I gave myself a break.

Every day is mental health day – this one just gets special attention because we all love a hash tag. I didn’t write this blog to plug my FUNDRAISING PAGE – I wrote it because I felt like I had to. But if you’ve made it to the end then can forgive me for shoving it in your face. I’ve spent the last however many weeks and months training to run my first ever half marathon and it’s all for MIND. I’m about sixty quid away from doubling my target and raising £1000. Even a fiver means the world. Thank you – take care, talk to someone, check up on your friends and family, and get out on those leaves before they go soggy.

 

 

birthday, Home, Humour, Lifestyle

A decade of adulthood.

Ten years ago today I turned 18. I threw my first ever house party but, because I was a nerd, not a rebel, I didn’t plan it on a weekend where my family were away, so my parents, two brothers and my dog were unofficially held hostage in my mum and dad’s bedroom, banned from making a public appearance, except to clear away some leftover chicken drumsticks and to help fix my bed frame, which had mysteriously broken.

It was cocktail themed. Everyone had to come dressed as a cocktail and bring a lot of spirits. The craziest things that happened were we crowd-surfed in my lounge, the aforementioned broken bed was propped up with bricks for the next three years, and apparently two people had sex in my dog’s basket, but the dog never confirmed that. My entrance into adulthood was official.

Today I am 28 and last night I left a work party before 10pm because, ten years on, I’ve discovered I don’t really like parties. At least not when they’re on weekdays and I’ve had to organise them and they don’t include fancy dress.

I’m at this conflicting time in my life, where I still look like a teenager and feel like an imposter in adult places, like conference centres and the M1, but in many ways I have definitely, absolutely aged. Matured, like a cheese, but not an old cheese, not stilton or the ones that come wrapped in paper, like they might fall apart from old age if you don’t hold them together, and not a young cheese, a Babybel, a cheese string, that would be even more ridiculous than this analogy. Somewhere in between. But where exactly is that?

Brie? Double Gloucester? … Laughing Cow?

At 28 years old there is still so much I don’t know; when to use ‘who’ and ‘whom,’ why you have to rinse rice, what the collective noun is for a group of rhinos (just joking, it’s obviously a ‘crash’.) But just because school stopped a decade ago – along with my legwarmers obsession and ability to keep down peach schnapps – doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.

I’ve learned loads, actually.

I’ve learned it doesn’t become easier to grate things with age. Cheese will always be slippery and run out within five minutes. Both lemons and limes will become more elusive and you will end up grating your own skin into a citrus meringue pie for the work bake off. Carrots will fuck you over every time.

I’ve learned that if you forget to have dinner before you go out on your 21st birthday you will be sick on yourself, your shoes and someone else’s shoes, and the worst possible solution is to pour a pint of water over yourself to disguise it. I’ve also learned that your best friends are the ones who have the photo of you soaked in water and vomit as their desktop background for the next five years.

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I’ve learned I’m not yet responsible enough to own a herb garden, nor am I capable of not spilling hot drinks either down myself or on important documents. And by important documents I mean my favourite postcard of a highland cow that has my exact morning hair, and my ticket stub from Celine Dion; I’m not yet adult enough to hold onto anything that is actually important. I also don’t know whether I should say ‘an herb garden’ or ‘a herb garden.’ One makes the inside of my skin feel funny but I guess if grammar were easy we’d all be spending a lot less time learning about commas in school and a lot more time learning about mortgages, and tax returns, and why you should always eat dinner before going clubbing.

After a decade of driving I still can’t parallel park when people (or squirrels) are watching and filling up the petrol tank makes me more anxious than disease. I iron my clothes about once a year and when I do I use my hair straighteners.

My idea of rebellion has not improved. The most daring act I commit on a regular basis is that even though the back of my hair conditioner says keep in for five minutes I get bored after 30 seconds and wash it out anyway. And sometimes I still eat dry pasta.

Alongside all those particularly life-defining experiences, some other things have happened in my adult life. I got a degree (but I have no bloody clue where the certificate is). I’ve discovered a taste for red wine. I’ve changed what I want to do with my life over 5000 times. I’ve written lots, laughed lots, cried lots. I’ve lost approximately seven pairs of headphones. I’ve developed IBS. I’ve gone from being able to run a bath to being able to run 8 miles and I’m still going. I’ve fallen in love with the same person twice and in my tenth year of adulthood I’m going to marry him. One of the main reasons I’m spending the rest of my life with him is because he’s really good at inventing games and activities at parties – he started the crowd-surfing at my 18th whilst dressed as a pink lady.

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I have zero clue what my next ten years of adulthood are going to be like. I have so many dreams.

I’d like to get paid to write. For real.

I’d like to adopt a staffie and call it Lego. Or adopt two staffies and call them ‘Fizzy’ and ‘Laces.’

I like to think I will be able to pull off mom jeans.

I’d like to have a baby without completely destroying my vagina and call it Lyra whether or not it’s a boy or a girl.

I’d like to become more confident about using spices in cooking.

I’d like a cupboard where all the mugs are different. No matching sets. Lots of personalities.

Mostly though, I want to spend the next 10 years making more mistakes. Being unafraid of failure. Improvising. Laughing. Because the biggest thing I’ve learned is that life’s too short for anything else. Oh, that, and to never ever wear a waist belt out in public again.

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anxiety, Health, Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Emma, in the park, with the iron bar.

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In order to get a good title, I may have twisted the truth. It was not me who brandished an iron bar in this board game life event. In order to paint an effective picture of the scene though, I need to rewind the clock a little and give you a brief but thoroughly illuminating insight into both my mental health and state of training for a half marathon.

Anxiety has been bothering me as an adult for over half a decade but I think it’s been going on a lot longer than that without me realising. As a five-year old, before swimming lessons, I used to bite the skin around my fingers until they bled all over the changing room floor, and the smell of antiseptic cream can bring it all back in an instant. As a pre-teen I started biting the inside of my mouth without even realising – until I saw it on a poster on the inside of a toilet door and became aware it was a thing. The butterflies, the bad habits, they’ve been around for as long as I can remember.

Fast forward to 2018, and I’m a month away from turning 28. I still bite the inside of my mouth and I live in fear that it will end up being the thing that kills me, from infected scar tissue, a jaw that slowly crumbles from friction in the wrong places, or that I’m so focussed on trying to loosen a bit of skin from my bottom lip when I’m crossing the road, that I accidentally get hit by an ice cream van. I stay in a coma for six months, then go to hell, not heaven, because no kids got ice cream that day and that’s a punishable offence, and hell is just one giant mouth, and now I’m the skin inside, being chewed for eternity, that is my sentence.

Most days, though, in spite of my wild, uncontrollable imagination, I’m functioning. I’ve had a good dose of therapy, although it’s been over eighteen months, and I think I should probably go back for more. I get my eyebrows tinted and waxed, I should probably keep an eye on those wayward thoughts of mine too. They’re just as invisible as my eyebrows but equally worth a look at. Too bad my “luxury items” budget on my four day a week salary covers eyebrows only on a good month and mental health is somewhere under “Sensodyne even when it isn’t on offer.”

I’m a strong, independent woman. Not superwoman by any means. Strong enough, say, to hang the washing up on the line without getting achy arms, and independent enough to put a tampon in without supervision. And it was in a moment of feeling particularly confident in my abilities that I signed up to a half marathon. I wanted to do something for charity, challenge myself to do something big, prove to myself I can do anything. I’m running for Mind UK, who do incredible work supporting people who are suffering with mental illness and fighting the stigmas that surround it.

Anxiety can be really inconvenient. Usually I feel the warning signs coming on, and when I do, running is one of my go-to remedies. It makes me feel strong, fills me with the good kind of adrenaline, gets me outside, often results in a return journey via Co-Op where I can pick myself up a well-done-for-exercising white Magnum. Sometimes though, events or situations happen that take me by surprise – from unexpected smear test results to anonymous phone calls – and there’s not a damn thing I can do to control it. And when these things happen during a run… well, see for yourself.

Picture the scene.

Eduardo and I ate our weight in carbs on holiday. Ed is also running the half marathon in October for a different charity. We have two months of training to go and have not yet run over 10km in training. We have some serious work to do. So we decide to run 11km on this sunny Sunday and to my surprise it’s going well.

We reach 9.5km, and we’re on the final stretch of road before the park that lies between potential asthma attack and home, and I’m feeling positively resplendent when a car reverses along the pavement in front of us. It’s fast, so we stop and hop to one side, to avoid, you know, a spine-crushing entanglement with a Vauxhall Corsa. We’re in marathon-mode, so we don’t stop, and instead run along the side of the car, whose driver still hasn’t seen us and decides to accelerate in front of us to get into the football grounds to our left. At which point Ed (not me, when I get to over 6km on a run my ability to form words is diminished significantly) yells at her (maybe with some expletives, he’s not an angel) to look at where she’s going. The driver is ultra defensive and wheel spins towards Ed telling him to get out her way.

It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, but that could also be because I’ve stopped running at this point, and the inside of my groin is seizing up. I feel slightly anxious, because in a fight or flight situation I usually run off, apologising over my shoulder for no reason, but this woman is turning her car around and has followed us down the road, where she proceeds to get out her car, with a two foot iron bar in her hand.

Of all the things I thought would prevent me getting to 11km on a post-holiday slump, it’s not a real life Cluedo weapon being brandished at me by an angry driver. In her words, we “could have damaged her car” when in reality, as we explained, she could have damaged all of our limbs and maybe our skulls too. It went on a bit and in the end she got back in her car, still holding the bar, and said she was “going to watch out for us and we should be careful where we run in the future.” All very comforting stuff.

I got through the final kilometre and a half but all joy of running the furthest I’ve ever run in my life had dissipated. I felt sad, and stressed out, and a bit lost for words, and could feel something inside my chest getting tight. What if she has a son who is in a gang and they find out where we live and batter us to death? What if I never feel safe going on my normal long-distance running route again, because she could turn up in her Vauxhall with the same iron bar, or worse, the rope, or the wrench, or the fucking candlestick. What if she calls the police and somehow makes it seem like we were in the wrong? Were we in the wrong? And, please, God, don’t let her get Colonel Mustard involved.

I get in the shower to try and clear my head, I have somewhere to be. When I get out the shower, I almost cheer up because my tan hasn’t entirely disappeared on the plane, and I decide to moisturise so I don’t dry out like a fig, and then I notice my ribs hurt. They feel bruised, unusually painful, and this is new to me, and number one trigger for anxiety attack for Emma = unusual pain. So I do what I never, ever let myself do when I’m functioning sensibly, when I haven’t been threatened by an iron bar in the previous hour, when anxiety strikes and I start to think about cancer. I google it.

No one is ever reassured when they google symptoms. Everyone knows this. It’s one of those facts we have inside our heads, and we don’t know when we learned them but we know they are true, like “don’t put metal in the fridge” and “George Clooney is gay.” I enter a rabbit hole death trap called “symptoms of bone cancer and how to spot them” and start to have a panic attack.

What a day. We should be celebrating our half way point in training, but somewhere between feeling fit and feeling frightened, I’ve lost my mind and think I’m about to die. One of the many reasons I’m marrying Ed is because when I come down to the kitchen in tears explaining I’m worried I’m dying, he takes me seriously – my anxiety that is, not my imaginary cancer. Eventually I begin to rationalise. Obviously there is a small, small chance I do indeed have Ewing’s sarcoma, but more likely than not, my brain has latched on to a pretty easy trigger and let rip.

Needless to say the afternoon is a write-off. There are many things that make anxiety the absolute balls. Intrusive thoughts, yes, inability to make decisions, absolutely, sense of overwhelming dread, my personal favourite. Logistics, speaking on the phone, social situations, driving, crowded places, dentists, hell, even the hairdressers. But it’s the physical effects that wipe me out. The headache that lasted until bedtime, the hoarse voice that’s a happy after-effect of your throat restricting, and the butterflies that turn into stomach pain and discomfort and zero appetite.

I wanted to write this post because, even though I feel embarrassed, a lot, about my own irrationality, you can pretend everything is great on social media, or you can be honest. I still feel shit this morning – probably because in all the madness I forgot to stretch when I got home, and my muscles currently feel like lead (if you read lead pipe, well done). I promise this isn’t emotional blackmail to get you to donate to my funding page, but if you do feel sorry for me right now, then I’m linking the fundraising page at the bottom of this post. But, I implore you, don’t pity me for my anxiety. These things happen and there are a lot of things I have to be grateful for – my limbs, my fiancé, and the inspiration to write a blog, for instance. If you want to feel sorry for me, just join me in feeling gutted that in all the commotion neither Ed or I managed to use a Cluedo reference as a retort or (my personal favourite) “pipe down, will you?” to the driver of the Vauxhall. A missed opportunity, and one that we have to live with now.

August is an expensive month. If you have any money left after holidays or Edinburgh Fringe or that aircon unit you invested in for your bedroom during the record-breaking temperatures, then may I direct you to my fundraising page, right here. It’s for a genuinely brilliant cause and the only thing that will get me back out there, running, praying I don’t encounter any more weapons. Other ways you can do good – look after each other, look after yourself, and never drive on the pavement.

 

 

 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, realism

Coming Clean.

I have something to confess to you all.

There is a dress at the bottom of my washing basket that has been there for one year. It’s hand wash only and in twelve months I haven’t found the motivation, inspiration or remotest sense of interest to sort it out.

I hate hand-washing clothes for a number of reasons. It’s time consuming. It’s faffy. I have to go upstairs to use the good sink. It’s boring. But it’s absolutely no excuse, is it? I should be ashamed. On a shame scale I’d say it’s probably worse than forgetting about a satsuma at the bottom of the fruit bowl and only discovering it one month later after it’s grown its own ecosystem, but it’s not as bad as, say, leaving your child in the supermarket and going home to watch Gogglebox?

Either way though, I refuse to be ashamed, because, let’s face it, this entire blog centres around confessions and smashing filters to smithereens and if I really was ashamed of myself, I’d probably be doing something about it, instead of pointedly ignoring said item of clothing and writing about it instead.

I’m taking it as a sign that today is my one-year anniversary of not giving a shit. In the age of clean, I’m embracing the obscene (and rhyming, apparently.) Because the thing is, I know, deep down, I am just the kind of person that cares more about having a choice of cereals in the morning than a choice of presentable clothes.

It isn’t even a time thing. I take a lot of time making cool packed lunches in multi-coloured Tupperware. I spend time straightening my hair so I don’t look like an (albeit anaemic) Aslan. I spend time writing, sitting on my hands so I don’t bite my nails, thinking about the future, thinking about puns, and – I’m self-conscious enough to feel like I have to defend myself here – washing everything else. Because I’m still a clean person. I wash all my other clothes – very regularly. My towels. My face. My hair. (Sadly, even though my loathing for hair washing rivals my loathing for complicated laundry items, I can’t get away with leaving my head at the bottom of the washing basket for a year.)

And the dress isn’t soiled or anything. I don’t think I even sweated that much that evening. Come to think of it, I probably didn’t need to wash it. I probably could have just sprayed it with Febreze and hung it back up. And my laundry basket is this kind of plasticky stand-alone Ikea one, so I don’t think it’s prone to germs or infestations. Basically I don’t think I’m endangering myself or anyone I live with by leaving it in there, getting it out every time I do a normal wash, and putting it back in.

It’s just one of those can’t be bothered adult things that I’ve let get the better of me. Like descaling the kettle. And getting a proper job.

Maybe I’m a late developer. I mean, let’s face it, I still haven’t got boobs. Perhaps when I hit 30 I’ll finally learn how to do it all. How to shave my legs without maiming myself, how to stop all my woolly clothes from going bobbly, how to just hand wash a damn dress. Or maybe, maybe, I’m not responsible enough to do washing. Perhaps I can skip that bit of adult life out. I tried to wash my denim jacket earlier and forgot I’d left a crème egg in the top pocket. It’s now fucked. Truly fucked. And the worst part is, I’d bought the egg as a present for someone. It wasn’t even for me. No part of the situation is fair.

It seems ironic, given London’s illegal levels of pollution, that we seem to be living in a clean age. Instagram grids are flawless, fridges are jam-packed, no, not even with jam, but with spinach and spirulina and self-love (mine is actually full of cheese strings left over from my noughties play). Everyone is living up to this idea of perfection that’s probably inspired partly by Scandinavia and their damn perfect interior décor, partly by Reese Witherspoon, and partly by that person you went to school with on Facebook who you don’t really like, or know anything about anymore, but who posts photos of her baby in immaculate bibs (why does it never dribble)?

But it’s not sustainable, is it? Just like fossil fuels, this mining of Youtube and Instagram and Pinterest for lifestyle inspiration and the perfect bath (if I took a photograph of my bath and put it on Instagram I’d probably get reported for being triggering), means at some point if we haven’t already, we’re all going to end up having a breakdown. Perhaps we all need to take a step back and start leaving more things at the bottom of the laundry bin.

I’m not writing all this in reaction to the clean scene, because honestly, actively ignoring that dress at the bottom of my laundry basket isn’t an act of protest. But it does fit nicely with the theme. I’ve given up chasing perfection and trying to be something I’m not. I spent pretty much all my teenage years trying to escape my own body and be someone else. It resulted in a bad fringe, two months spent trying to be a ballet dancer, and a lot of self-loathing.

I’m happy with who I am now but I don’t take myself seriously enough to start trying to paint an image of perfection online. I barely know how Instagram works, although I did recently discover when posting a podcast, that if you use the hashtag #adultfilm a lot of porn stars start following you so that’s exciting. It’s actually quite hard being an adult and managing to do lots of different things. We don’t get wet break time. We don’t get rewards for doing unpleasant things like tax or epilating. We have to be responsible for our own tax. Not nearly enough of our clothes have pockets in.

So happy anniversary to me. Cheers to being messy. To celebrate, I might do a hand wash tonight, because now I’ve put the dress out into the world I feel like I really ought to do something about it.

Well. At least before I turn 30.

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health

This Valentine’s Day, I choose me.   

As I write this, it’s Sunday and I’m in a strange place. It feels familiar – but like I might not have been there for a long time. It’s warm. I’m under a blanket. I have a mug of Gingerbread Green Tea next to me which makes me a wanker but a happy one because it’s delicious. I’m watching Julie and Julia and wishing with all my heart that Nora Ephron was still alive to write parts for women like this. I’m looking at Airbnbs and one of them has a pet pig and I might have to move in there. It’s cosy. It’s dark outside. I’m alone.

I’m on the sofa.

Guys, seriously. I’m on the actual sofa. Chilling the fuck out. What happened to me?

Is this… is this self-care?

Let’s rewind.

2018 has not got off to the start I was hoping for. Nothing terrible has happened. There are a lot of things to be happy about. I have a job. I have two sharks. I can afford to buy Eat Natural bars. But I’ve not been that happy.

If we can take a moment to remember Anastasia and her famous words, I’m sick and tired, of always being sick and tired. Where are you now girl?

If we want to be specific, lyrically and contextually Anastasia is talking about how sick and tired she is of her boyfriend being a dickhead. Not a great Valentine theme. Eduardo – “my man” – if I dare to claim him, is pretty much my only constant source of inner peace at the moment and that’s not even an innuendo.

Nevertheless, I’ve spent most of this year feeling sick and tired. And I’ve decided enough’s enough. That shit’s gotta change. Which is why it’s pretty monumental that I’m chilling my beans on a corner sofa right now.

There are a lot of great things about working in the arts. You can wear what you like. (Most) people have great personalities. Every now and then you meet Sharon Horgan (yeah I had to bring that up again.) But there’s also a lot of stress. It might be stress about your bank balance. The late nights. The competition. (The sexual harassment and abuses of power.) Or the fact that everyone in the industry seems to have the most perfectly white teeth and by comparison you think your teeth look like you’ve been smoking 40 a day even though the only thing you’ve ever smoked is a sherbet dip dap by accident.

To give you an idea of where I’m at, in the last six days, on top of a job that takes me out the house from 8.30am – 7.30pm, I did a live podcast recording, finished a draft of my new play, rehearsed my current play, started to read a book to report on for a film company because I need the extra £££, sent off a bunch of press and industry emails every day to try and get them to see my show AND had to maintain appearances of sanity and fun and energy and coolness on all social media channels so, you know, people still like me and come to my play. It’s lucky Ed was working away because seeing my boyfriend on top of that, as well as my friends, speaking to my family, cooking meals with vegetables in, not spending too much money and doing the occasional bit of exercise, was IMPOSSIBLE.

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I mean, don’t get me wrong, seeing our faces and names on a wall makes it ALL worth it.

It’s no surprise, really, despite eating a lot of tomatoes and Berocca and walking to work every day and trying to avoid the underground if possible, that this January I got the flu. And I got sad. And I felt guilty. And it took some wise words from my friend, that I don’t live in a war zone and I have all my limbs, to give me some perspective.

Because I’ve been doing it all wrong. I need to stop saying “I’m really busy, or ill, or tired” out loud or I’ll just let it happen and do nothing about it. My life does not have to be this way but I have made a decision to want it all – all by myself like a grown up (although to be honest – I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a grown-up until I can use the word smorgasbord in a sentence). If I just stuck to having a day job and a social life I would have – in many respects – an absolutely banging life. It could be enough. I could buy WAY MORE than just Eat Natural bars. Everything would continue just fine without me.

So I’ve decided it’s time for me to start having fun again. Because if I’m eternally miserable chasing a dream I should just go and get a well-paid job in the city and start spending lots of dollar in Cos, or something, whatever those people do.

Two weeks ago I went down to four days at work. It’s a horizontal step. My bank balance is frowning, but my soul is happier. I have time… time to dedicate to my own projects without it eking into my weekend so much. Time and breathing space. A little bit of risk and a little bit of pressure to keep me inspired.

I’ve changed my commute – I leave five minutes earlier so I can avoid going underground in the mornings, stay sane, look at the sky and get some work done on one train with a seat without having to get off at Victoria station which I have to say I find more traumatic than the end of The Notebook.

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Anyone else think King’s Cross is a total megababe?

And I have a new resolution. FAKE IT UNTIL I MAKE IT: to be positive, to work hard and to chill the feck out in equal measure.

I will no longer be that person who says “I’m busy, or tired, or stressed, or down” when someone asks how I am. From now on I will say “I’m good, I’m working hard, I’m hungry” (because, sadly, that I always am.) So this Valentine’s Day I’m making an online promise to love myself (not that way) that little bit more. To stop comparing myself to others, or beating myself up for not making it yet, or overdoing it. I’m going to drink more tea, sit on the sofa more, get outside for some fresh air, and floss. Because no matter what, we should always floss.

If you’d like to come and see my show SPLIT, co-written and performed with the brilliant comedian Tamar Broadbent, you can do so HERE. Use the code BESTFRIEND for £5 tickets – it runs from 28 Feb – 04 March 6.15pm as part of Vault Festival. 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

Why do I love the supermarket so much?

I’m just a girl, standing in front of Sainsbury’s, telling it I… actually love Tesco more.

There are many signs I’m turning into my mother. When people come round my house I offer them every single drink that is in my house before they’ve sat down. I make up songs on the spot. I bulk cook food and freeze it like an absolute queen. I seem to be getting younger with age. But perhaps the most noticeable thing is the fact that I literally cannot get enough of the supermarket.

Just the thought of doing a “food shop” gets me going. You only have to say the word “Waitrose” and I’ll lie down and roll over. I know most of the Sainsburys basics slogans by heart even though I shop in Tesco. Honestly I’d be happy to watch somebody else do their food shop – just for pure spectator joy. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed that when the courgette crisis happened my life stopped entirely until the shelves were replenished. Before I started writing this post, I was making a list for a potential Greek feast, and honest to God I think I got more of a kick out of it than my school pop idol competition.

So you get the idea. It’s not that I’m a fan of capitalism. Or consumerism. Or even all kinds of shopping. The other day I walked into Zara and came out in hives because there is no structure to that shop, I’m telling you. I’ve had adequate training in not spending extravagantly from a little lifestyle choice called “working in the arts” and I don’t even have any real free time – most evenings and weekends are spent seeing plays, or performing for attention, or, supposedly as of this year, training for a half marathon, which in reality means running for approximately fifteen minutes until I start thinking about how I’d rather eat my own hair than run 21k.

What is it about supermarkets that gets my heart pumping full of endorphins? Is it the freedom I should have experienced as a student getting to buy my own food for the first time, if I’d chosen to go to a university in the regions where I would actually have had money to spend? Is it because my first Saturday job was a checkout girl in Somerfield (RIP)? Because I like lists? And all the cereals? And the discount shelf? That cooking has changed from being my idea of hell to something I might, god forbid, enjoy? Or do I just worship anything that gets me out the house, not thinking about any weird symptoms and a lack of progression in my playwriting career?

Some people find food shopping stressful. My boyfriend for example. Within seconds of trying to locate celery he’s showing signs of a nervous breakdown: sweating, pupils dilating, tears in his eyes. While he’s in the corner by the toothbrushes wondering if he’ll ever see the light of day again, I’m practically giddy. Writing food lists, recipe ideas, wondering around looking at the colours of vegetables genuinely appears to be one of the best things for my anxiety. It turns out Tesco is like therapy – but way cheaper and I rarely cry.

I do like to challenge myself. Sometimes I put a time limit on it. Park, get in, grab the ingredients for a chilli faster than Usain Bolt, get out, feel like a rock star. Since committing to vegetarianism it’s been a lot more fun. Who has the best quiches? Is that a quorn chicken nugget family bag I see on sale? Do you think it’s possible to live in the pastry aisle? I never liked the meat aisle in the first place. It was cold and full of carcasses. Plus now I have more money to spend on granola. And gin.

The challenge continues. I’m trying to reduce my plastic consumption, to be a slightly flexible vegan (don’t hate me) whilst at the same time being as sustainable as possible. It’s hard, I’m not going to lie. If I did it properly I’d have to be up in the early hours making things like oat pate. But I keep reading about how we shouldn’t be buying quinoa, or almonds, or coconuts, or anything with palm oil in (that’s EVERYTHING by the way) or even bananas because of the air miles, and I’m easily influenced.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing this post is because I want to write more posts where I don’t overthink what I’m talking about – so prepare for more insight into my daily life and my worst habits. And it’s also because something tells me I can’t be the only person who thinks about Waitrose before I fall asleep at night.

I won’t bore you with the details of my average weekly food shop. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I did just type it out, in prose, and some items rhymed, but I realised that I might be the only person nosy enough to find that interesting. There isn’t really an ending to this blog, either, because where does it really end? Providing none of the symptoms I’ve been worrying about turn out to be anything actually worth worrying about I will have many long and happy trips to Tesco ahead of me.

It’s mostly just to share the love. The love for Sainsburys – its 12p shortbread and its wonderfully meaningless basics slogans, like “Basics grapes: normal grapes, but fewer of them, smaller and cheaper” and “Boneless salmon: little bits and pieces of it.” The love for Waitrose – its £1 peppers (same as everywhere else guys) that last twice as long, its essential artichokes and outrageous tofu selection. The love for Tesco – because it’s my bae and has the best satsumas out of them all. The love for Aldi – even if I only go there in other countries.

Is it just me? Could anyone else happily spend a Friday night in the biscuit aisle? Let me know. And – because I’m not a total dickhead – make sure you grab something for the food bank on your way round, gang. It’s easy and makes an indescribably big difference to people out there struggling. You know what to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

Highlights, waxing and everything in between.

Oh January. You crept up on us all didn’t you? It only seems like yesterday I was moisturising my chafing thighs in the summer heat and suddenly it’s winter and 2018 and all my shoes leak. Over Christmas I was feeling a bit in limbo. It was impossible to actually do any work because there was always brie nearby waiting to be spread onto a cracker but I couldn’t escape a feeling of stress bubbling under my skin at what the New Year might hold, whether it’s selling my show in a city where literally no one cares who you are or my hair dryer exploding.

Then, just like that, it’s the 1st January and suddenly I don’t feel so scared anymore. A little bit because FRIENDS is now on Netflix and the world seems to have righted itself. And a little bit because I only have a dread of things actually happening – once they’ve happened it’s not so alarming. The only exception to that rule is when I tried to wax my own bikini line – I thought it would be terrible and I did in fact end up glueing said wax to myself for two days, surpassing even my own imagined levels of horror.

I know it’s only been one day but I’m loving 2018 already. I’ve spent it eating leftover jelly, hanging out with my favourite humans in the countryside, watching FRIENDS re-runs and thinking of some killer resolutions. But before I get to all that here are just some of my 2017 highlights. Life is a whirlwind – one minute it’s your 21st birthday and you’re being sick on your own shoes in a nightclub and the next minute you’re an actual adult and own an Oyster travel card worth over £2000. So I’m all for sitting still for a moment to take it all in.

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For the first time ever I saved some money and paid off my credit card which when you work in the arts is no mean feat. I completed my improv course and actually performed it live in front of other human beings. I stuck to vegetarianism right up until New Year’s Eve when I forgot and ate jelly babies. I ran my first 10k. I also wrote my first solo play, entered a competition and I got into the final 100 writers (out of 1000) which made me feel slightly better about spending so much of my time dreaming about being the next Sharon Horgan. Then I actually met Sharon Horgan and told her I love her. Tamar and I ended the year how we began, performing Split to a sell-out crowd in Surrey. My podcast  launched an entire season and the next one is on its way. I managed my anxiety better than I ever have before. I got braver at admitting what I want and saying it out loud. I got angrier and started speaking out at things that make me mad. I started to give myself a break – to stop thinking of myself as a failure and be proud of who I am.

And now for this year. I’ve thought long and hard – sort of. I’m quite hungover and still watching FRIENDS in the background. But here we go:

  • Give blood – I chickened out this year and am determined to do it in 2018
  • Run a half marathon – GOD BLOODY HELP US ALL
  • Write something every day – even if it’s just a spectacularly good tweet
  • Use less plastic – no more buying soups out and straws can fuck right off
  • No more snooze button – it’s simply not allowed
  • Be able to do an actual press up by the end of the year – come onnnn Emma
  • Visit three new places – this was fun and I’m doing it again
  • Wear less make up – excluding eyebrows, I need eyebrows
  • Use my phone less – bring on tech-free evenings

So there we are. The good, the bad, and the holy shit balls I just remembered I haven’t done my tax return. WHY GOD WHY.

2017 was a blast really – sure it had its bad bits but given various worldwide events that have happened this year I think I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. I’m heading into the New Year with a whole lot of ambition but also a better sense of self-care (in every area other than bikini waxes that is). It’s all well and good piling on the pressure to make something of my life but at the end of the day, I get to come home every day to a house with its own Oxo cube tin, a pretty epic girl power Lego collection and two sharks. That’s more than enough for me.

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Happy New Year y’all. x