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.

 

 

Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Secret Diary of a Tall Girl, Travel

Secret Diary of a Tall Girl #4: Cyprus Diary

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Part of me worries I’m only capable of writing posts about bad things, like losing my dog, or that the thing tampons do from time to time where they sort of dry out inside you and you have to hobble around until you can find a toilet or discrete bush to sort yourself out in. So here’s a happy holiday post for you instead.

I’m not capable of having a glamorous or romantic holiday. My IBS is usually appalling because I lose all willpower when I get into airports and eat between one and seven chocolate croissants for breakfast no matter the time of flight. I never tan successfully, my skin suffers from all the sweat, and let’s not even talk about my humidity hair. So whilst I was queen of relaxation last week for the first time in months, my trip still had a little sparkle of Emma dilemma in for sure.

So last week I gate crashed Ed’s work trip to Cyprus, like the most basic of bitches. Ed works in schools, mostly in places like Northampton and Croydon, so understandably I’ve never felt the urge to join him on his staycations. Every now and then though he gets an international invite. It’s the perfect half time between summer and Christmas, where you’re feeling a bit… dead? Your skin is falling off from all the pollution, your eyes barely stay open because it’s dark constantly, you’re crying out for nap time every hour of the day, and it’s not quite acceptable to get through the day with a six pack of mince pies yet. Time to get away.

Four days. Limassol, Cyprus (I didn’t know where that was either). A lot of ice cream, a few awkward encounters, one flat fish.

Monday

Leaving the house at 6.45am – barely know my own name. Flight is at 11.30am which gives me plenty of time to spritz myself in as many Victoria Secret perfumes as possible. Pret have run out of breakfast pots so I’m angry tweeting them. Going to Nandos instead. Nandos do spicy beans. Who knew?

I spend 4.5 hours editing my play on the plane. Remember this section, because at some point I’m going to be hassling you about it, because it has a wee London run next year.

An entire day has passed by, because Cyprus is two hours ahead, so we’ve landed at 6pm and get to the hotel at 7.30pm. It’s been about 11 hours of travelling door to door, and I’m starting to wonder why I’ve used one of my gold dust holiday days (holiday is rationed at my job more tightly than sugar in a nursery) to travel. But then we have dinner on the beach. In November. There is tzatziki. And courgette fritters. And wine. And everything is okay.

Tuesday

It’s a Tuesday and I’m in Cyprus. Honestly, this never happens. Tuesdays are more stressful than this and nearly always in London. Tuesdays are normally at the very least a full day of work followed by a three hour improvisation class and no time to wash my hair and a peanut butter sandwich for dinner on the bus.

Breakfast is unreal. Made to order pancakes. I could live here. I note you get a lot of weird looks as a woman eating breakfast alone in a hotel. I feel like a cross between Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and a lost exchange student.

There is an unusual amount of kittens in Cyprus.

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I spend the morning reading the new His Dark Materials book by the pool and I’m in seventh heaven. Then I venture out to the supermarket to get some lunch, have some difficulty weighing a tomato in a foreign country, and the cashier asks me where my parents are. I feel vulnerable.

We spend the evening walking about 3-4km to a marina, counting kittens, and eating the most enormous vegetarian mezze platter at a restaurant on the seafront.

On the walk home we can barely move. Ed thinks he’s dying. I’m kind of feeling a Maxibon but even that might be over-doing it. Anyone else have a separate sugar stomach?

Vegetarian food here is really good. I think I’m in love with an aubergine I ate for dinner.

Wednesday

It’s a Wednesday and I’m in Cyprus. Again, this is unusual.

I forgot to mention, I have extremely sore boobs on this trip. I’m prolonging my PMT a bit to try and not bleed in Cyprus, and as a consequence my hormones are eating me from the inside.

Ed has a half day at work, so I take it upon myself to do nothing again, because one of us should right?

I venture into a less psychologically damaging supermarket for lunch.

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I try and discretely eat prawn cocktail quavers in the outside bar without them asking me to buy something from the hotel, because the problem with posh hotels is everything costs money inside and I can’t bill Ed’s work for cocktails. I prep all my research for my podcast recording this week, and I feel pretty on top of the world.

I wonder if travel bloggers get thigh chafage.

We go to the gym when Ed gets back, because it makes sense to try and use it once. Here, the gym is a man’s world. It is full of testosterone and competition and weird stares. I defiantly listen to the Moana soundtrack and try not to break a rib on the weights.

Ed and I make a pact not to over-eat at dinner again and fail.

Thursday

It’s our last day. I’ve never done the whole winter break thing, and I’m sold. It is extremely good for the soul.

Ed has a free day, and we see a flat fish camouflaged in the sand in the sea. We feel like David Attenborough.

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We see an ancient Greek amphitheatre and ruins of old houses and baths in the mountains above the ocean. It makes Bromley look pretty beige.

I make the mistake of checking my work email at the airport and scare myself with the reality of having to be a working woman again tomorrow, and not a super chilled, read-aholic, freckly, wannabe professional gelato taster. I think about having lots of wine on the plane.

Now I’m on the plane. There are a lot of drunk old people. Someone is massaging their wife’s feet across the aisle as she bends over. The people next to me sense my concern and give me a home grown satsuma from their Greek plantation. I think I might have to marry both of them.

Home. Lots of people have asked me the big How Are You question this weekend and for the first time in forever I’ve honestly answered great. I’m relaxed. I’m anxiety-free. I’m nourished (not least because I made about 45 gingerbread men yesterday). I always forget the whole taking time off thing does good for your soul, but I feel like a new woman ready to rock.

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Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health, Secret Diary of a Tall Girl

Secret Diary of a Tall Girl #1

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I thought it could be fun to do a wee diary series on the blog. I’ve never done one before, except (from memory) when I was travelling in Australia and had more interesting things to write about than finding jammy Wagon Wheels on sale in the supermarket and coping with a pretty aggravating shaving rash.

However, right now I’m (once again) at a time in my life where I feel really unsure of what I’m doing and putting a lot of pressure on myself to work that out. Basically, my head is full of dilemmas, big and small. I’ve been preoccupied trying to think of life-changing topics to tackle, stories to write, plays to begin, and instead I’ve lost sight of why I started writing about my life in the first place.

You see, I’m obsessed with real life stories of the most mundane kind. I’d much rather know what each of my friends have for their packed lunches every day than at which point in their lives they are committing to marriage or being responsible for a vegetable patch. It’s all about the little things, the snapshot moments that make you who you are, and form your every day.

Life is so unbelievably silly even at the best of times and perhaps I was put on this earth to overshare, to tell the small stories, because someone has to, as not all of us are holidaying on tropical islands, or buying our first home, or getting books published. Some of us are just tootling on in life slower than a sloth in custard, taking pleasure in taking our bras off at the end of the day, travelling as far as Tesco, or viewing success as not having cystitis for the time being.

So welcome to the first Secret Diary of a Tall Girl blog post; a place where I just write for writing’s sake and stop over-thinking it. You’ll have to excuse the name, I came up with it in a slightly fevered state in the middle of the night earlier this week (this is what happens when your brain can’t switch off). I’ve been completely wiped out with this piece of shit summer virus and I can’t be sure all of the decisions I’m making are the right ones.

Obviously it depends what you classify as tall. I’m taller than most of my girl friends. Taller than a lot of the boys I kissed in my early twenties. Not quite tall enough to wear tall jeans, but too tall to wear normal jeans, so I always have to make the decision to either rock the ankle bashers or roll them up to the point of looking like I’m wearing swimming bands round my ankles. What’s actually funny is that it’s my body that’s abnormally long, not my legs, which makes the average t-shirt a crop, and playsuits eat my crotch.

Anyway. Enough about my torso. This isn’t Cosmopolitan. 

It’s Saturday. I’m writing this from under a blanket on the sofa, binge-watching episodes of Riverdale and feeling a bit guilty about my only real achievement this week being getting to the end of a giant Toblerone I treated myself to from the airport a couple of weekends ago. That whole trying to eat well so you keep fit and don’t get ill goes completely out the window when you get ill anyway. So does exercise. I’m a shadow of my former Couch to 5k-ing self and back to the person who gives herself a pat on the back for walking up the escalator without needing a saline drip.

It’s my sixth day of being ill, and whilst it’s been the absolute pits, I’m not gonna lie, genuinely nothing is going to bring me down today. I’m going to wash my hair, put some deodorant on, get drunk on cough syrup, and make my way to Greenwich because tonight, friends, my dream is coming true.

I’m seeing Celine Dion live.

Despite feeling pretty gross, and the fact that every time I’ve tried to practise my backing vocals to My Heart Will Go On from the sofa this morning I’ve had a coughing fit, really this concert couldn’t have come at a better time.

A funny thing has happened in the last few weeks, where I’ve gone from thriving on how busy work is, and how few hours there are in the day, and seeing how many shows I can squeeze into one week, to feeling like I’ve lost the plot. I cannot begin to describe how obsessively I am biting my nails at the moment. Genuinely, I cannot keep my fingers out of my mouth. I’ve got three weddings in a row starting next week and feel a bit guilty I’ll be throwing confetti with stumpy little unpainted hobbit fingers.

This week I had my improv class show on Monday night and was already coming down with this gem of a wheezy bug. On the way home, despite the show not being a disaster, I fell apart, cried into my train seat, sent my boss an emotional email, and thought about moving to an old world war one shelter in the countryside to take refuge until I hit at least 45.

In retrospect, checking my work emails to make the train journey go faster, and being sad I didn’t have the appetite for a vegetable pasty might have been the catalyst. But either way, it’s made me want to make some changes. After a week at home, I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself, but I think I need to stop taking everything so seriously, so personally. I need to stop comparing myself to other people. And I need to remember I’m not a machine.

So I’m beginning a bit of self-reparation. Evenings in actually do a lot of good, as does sleep, as does television. Before this whole Riverdale malarky I couldn’t remember the last time I watched anything, and it turns out sitting on the sofa drowning in pints of Ribena and American small-town drama is really good for the soul. I’ve learned being the busiest person doesn’t make you anything but tired, hungry and offensively sweaty.

Enter Celine. I’m ready for a night of pure, golden inspiration with a twist of French diva, with one of my favourite people in the world at my side. Sometimes it’s the little things… and sometimes it’s Celine Dion.

See you on the other side. Have a dazzling weekend y’all.