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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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, Lifestyle, Mental Health

One for my dog.

When I was 13 I was awkward. I spent all my evenings after school writing medical drama fan fiction, eating marmite rolls because I was vegetarian but didn’t like any vegetables, envying my friends for their clothes, faces, hair clips, and wondering why some kids ended up in S Club Juniors and I only ended up as the least useful part on the netball team.

And then we got a dog. His name was Mahley, much to my dismay, because everyone’s first reaction was “Oh my god, like the film?” and I had to explain it was not a copy, it was spelled with an H, because my parents gave him a cute version of their favourite composer’s name, Mahler. I didn’t forgive them for approximately seven years until I realised it was cool to have musician parents, forgivable to be a bit middle class, and Mahley looks fun written down, and sounds like a sigh, with a diva twist.

And that was Mahley in a nutshell. Both horizontal as a lazy Sunday, full of love, warmth and endless affection, and a bloody liability.

Mahley grew up with us. Our house has never had a life without him. He came on long car journeys to drama school auditions, athletics tournaments, funerals, weddings, holidays, leaving a trail of white fur wherever he went. What’s the point in life without an unclogged hoover?

Mahley ate everything. My Nokia 3310, a packet of batteries, a box of creme eggs. Several condoms he found on the street. My mum’s engagement ring. He almost choked to death digging one of my very first tampons out the bin so he practically went through puberty with me. And nothing solidifies a relationship between girl and dog more than having to manually pull shoelaces out his bum in the queue for the cash point.

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For understandable reasons, Mahley got his head stuck in the bin lid.

Mahley greeted everyone. From postmen, to paramedics, to people I actively tried to ignore in the school car park. He humped my best friends at every sleepover without ever asking permission – experiencing teenage awakenings with us at every moment. He gatecrashed parties, pub visits, theatre trips, old people’s homes. Life was all about Mahley. The world was his best friend, his curiosity was boundless, his enthusiasm for everyday life was unstoppable. Like Alec Baldwin in Friends, but better.

Mahley was broken from the start, but his flaws made him. He had epilepsy as a puppy, which was a right barrel of laughs. Followed by an allergy to beef (much to his dismay) and chronic bronchitis despite never smoking a day in his life. As an old dog he got severe arthritis, but still somehow managed to escape through the front door to greet someone on the opposite side of the road, get hit by a car and walk away unharmed.

Mahley could swim for days.

Mahley could share.

Mahley once looked after a huddle of lost ducklings who had lost their mum.

Mahley didn’t understand the concept of “fetch.”

Mahley was more scared of guinea pigs than they were of him.

Mahley knew nothing about personal space.

Mahley could fly.

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Mahley could never bark – not until doggy dementia got him at the age of 12 and he howled like Lupin at a full moon.

Mahley was everything.

13-year old me was delighted to not only have an Andrex puppy rolling around the house, but a companion, a reason to invite new friends over, an endless source of funny stories. And it stayed that way forever – until, 13 years later, he finally left us.

I left home when I was 18 and haven’t been home for longer than about two weeks ever since, which means Mahley is my most successful long-distance relationship to date. But it also means I’ve learned to live a life without him already. Which must be why, when he got really ill, and it looked like it might be the end, I was a bit of a robot.

Out of everyone in my family I was the only one who couldn’t be there on the day – because you know, work is a thing – and I felt slightly outside of myself, as I talked to everyone on the phone, pondered from afar how you bury a Labrador successfully, and psyched myself up to go to a three hour improv class that night, because comedy cures everything right?

So I didn’t cry. Not on the day – or the day after. Or when I went home at the weekend. I didn’t cry for another three weeks. To the point where I thought I might be dead inside.

And then on Friday night when I got home from work – out of nowhere I got into bed and cried in the most deranged way. Wailed. Heaved. Sobbed for my dog. For how I miss having to get his fucking fur off my school blazer every single morning and how I miss resting on his giant thigh like a pillow and watching him swim and watching him try to eat an ice cube and telling him stories and comforting him and getting comfort from him and seeing him in the back of the car asleep and seeing him in the front of the car with his paws on the wheel like a human and thinking he looks like a seal and showing him off to people on the high street and watching people love him as much as we do.

So I finally got some of the dog sadness out of my system – and it probably wasn’t a coincidence.

It’s a rubbish time of year for my family. A year ago we lost my treasured uncle very quickly so whilst it’s crisp and sunny outside and Christmas is around the corner and ghost pumpkins seem to be a thing this year it’s also, for my family, definitely now a time of absolute, permanent change, healing, remembrance and grief.

And seeing as I write about pretty much everything else on this blog, I just felt somewhere on here there needed to be a tribute to my dog. Because even though he was “just a dog” of course, without a doubt he made our family who we are today. Of course we exist without him – but he definitely exists in us too. In all our madness and strange illnesses and eccentricities and uniqueness he’s one of us.

mahley dog

So here’s to you Mahley dog. Thanks for the fun, the mess, the moments. You were one of a kind.

Graduates, Home, Humour, Lifestyle

What I think about doing every day but never do.

Just gonna come out and say it, I am really enjoying being twenty-something right now.

I know, shut the front door.

I love the freedom. The friendships. Pure nostalgia combined with anticipation of the future. Being on the brink of real adulthood whilst still thinking a lot about roller skates. I am so grateful to be at an age where I can spend a whole day with friends in Brighton and an hour on the 2p machines without feeling bad about it. Today I went to a farm and stroked a horse and felt full to the brim with joy (on the other hand the horse couldn’t give a shit). 

I don’t want to jinx it but this is happening more and more at the moment, like I’ve finally got over the hurdle of feeling all the fear, unable to relax in case a big cloud of doom starts rolling in, and come through on the other side where I can just be content with how things are.

The little things have got my back. A great packed lunch, sunshine, clean bedding, sports day in the garden, bike rides, Pimms. It’s taken some work, all this soul-searching, but I’m proud of myself for digging deep into what makes me happiest to just enjoy being in the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I still panic over sore boobs. It’s just I’ve learned not to drive myself into darkness on Google’s symptom checkers and just take painkillers like a normal person. I still cry sometimes when my skin is really bad even after being on the pill for two months, and wonder whether the risk of blood clots is worth it. But sometimes crying about your first world problems is healthy and how lucky that we can.

So because I feel like I’m managing to manoeuvre the day to day reality of being twenty-five with hair the same colour as a croissant, I want to talk about the BIG THINGS for a change. The things that at some point we’ve all gotta deal with because we can’t live in amusement arcades, however much fun that would be. I’m not bringing these up like a kid throwing shit at a party, more in an ironic sense, that there are aspects of adulthood on the horizon for all of us and well, LOL at that.

If you’re me, when you’re 25, you’re at an age where you overthink a lot about your past, present and future but don’t necessarily do anything about it. While the topic of adulthood and responsibility is on everyone’s lips these days, I’m still at the stage in life when I haven’t yet got my priorities straight so I’d still hand on heart sacrifice any certainty in my future for a slice of carrot cake when “in the moment”.

So I thought it would be just lovely to document the things I hear, think about, see (or just acknowledge exist) every day but have yet to actually kick my head and heart into gear and do. 

Too many people I know are being grown-ups and buying houses whereas I still feel bubbly with fulfilment when I identify a ripe avocado. The house thing is a weird one for me because I just don’t feel that urge yet but wonder perhaps whether I should?

Thing is though I have no savings and the closest thing to inheritance my grandparents have given me was a bag of walnuts. True story. My grandad thought it would be funny if I stuck them down my tights and pretended I have varicose veins. I’m glad I inherited a less warped sense of humour.

A mortgage is pretty far outside the realms of possibility today even if I did want to buy a place. It’s more likely I’d meet Penelope Cruz on the way into work tomorrow or wake up with an ability to speak to owls. Even so, instead of thinking practically about savings, and either making the decision to put everything I usually spend on strawberries a week into an ISA, or just do the complete opposite, like jet off somewhere or open up a micro pig farm, I’ve been distracted. I’ve had a bit of glass in my thumb for a week and I’m enjoying trying to get that out at the moment. I make a fair few cups of tea every day. I think a lot about pugs.  

Travelling has been on my mind. There are so many places I want to see and I’m not quite sure how to get there. Broomstick? I need to get New York before long – I’ve somehow still never made it. Thinking about it it’s probably because I spend less time booking flights and more time thinking about my favourite flavoured gel pen at school. So I’m making a pact with myself to put money aside each month now I’m finally out my overdraft so that I can do some weekend breaks to Europe, eat more croissants than normal, and fix that bug. 

Every day at work I think a lot about quitting sugar and not raiding the biscuit tin. But then 3pm happens (and by 3pm I mean from 10.30am onwards) and suddenly I’m three custard creams down. THIS HAS TO STOP. I don’t want to be that girl that thinks about hobnobs more than she thinks about global warming. This week I’m setting myself the healthy snack challenge and sticking to it. Time to fall in love with nuts.

Was just sick in my mouth a little bit.

After watching Cowspiracy I keep trying to be vegetarian and failing. It’s all well and good giving yourself a pat on the back after successfully eating a carrot, or Cheerios, but I forget about all the other things, like non-vegetarian Percy Pigs. And Nandos. Writing this down means I’m going to try harder to think responsibly about what I’m putting in my body and how to protect this planet. The next aim is to cut down on dairy. I rarely eat meat because courgettes are my bae but chocolate is a different story. But. I bloody love cows and my nightmare hormones mean I can one hundred percent relate to sore udders. So I should know better.

Today I talked myself out of going for a run because I thought it was a pretty decent workout hanging bed sheets on the washing line. In my life, algebra is more included in my regular routine than regular exercise. 

Literally can’t remember when I last did some algebra. 

It is so easy to think about being active and so much harder to actually go to a pilates class. I do really want to be that person who swims twice a week, jogs to work and doesn’t get tired getting a duvet into its cover, but instead I’m on the sofa feeling the backs of my arms and wondering why they are a bit bumpy. 

There is so much more out there.

I want to learn a new language, or at least remember all the Spanish I once knew. I want to read all the classics before I die. I want to start singing again, learn to do the splits, do stand-up comedy, be able to meditate, get over my addiction to lip balm. I want to do my own show.

These things make me feel excited and inspired to be building myself up to something bigger. Rather than doomed to fail or too afraid to look. Because I have all the little things as my foundation stones. I’m rehearsing a lot at the moment and I’m actually writing a play. WHAT. So I might not have booked flights to Antarctica yet but some dreams are underway. I feel pretty certain that I will never not get excited about cereal. Or the discount aisle. Or crop tops. It’s in my soul. But I’m ready to fight for some of the bigger things in life. Day by day. Step by step. Nut by nut.

What about you?

Love X 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, realism, Travel

On Being 25 and Acting My Age

Picture the scene. I’m writing this blog from Ibiza (or wherever the cool kids go these days). I’m so hungover I’ve started crying at the thought of a World War One poem I studied at school. There’s pizza on my face, a stranger in the bath, an overwhelming smell of spilt peach schnapps on my pillow case and a tight knot of regret in my stomach. This is all happening in the background while I’m trying to drink enough water to make it back out again tonight without being sick all over myself. Again. 

These are my roaring twenties, full of people, parties and photo potential.

Except they’re definitely, definitely not my roaring twenties. 

Because, alas, I’m not in Ibiza. 

It turns out, when I hit 25 in September, instead of living life to the large, like Taylor Swift but with less money and more shame, I actually aged sixty years and am now, officially, my grandmother. Case in point: ‘alas’ has become part of my vocabulary. 

Let’s face it, I’m not writing this in Ibiza today. I was in Ibiza, three years ago. I met a guy at a pool party there and as he watched the sun go down on the beach I watched his brand new tattoo melt off his arm and into the sea. Those days are long gone, just like his ink. 

This post is actually coming to you from the heart of the Brecon Beacons. That’s Wales, guys, hollllla. To be precise, it’s Cwmdu, which has a population of about 13 sheep. I’d hesitate a guess that the only thing Cwmdu and Ibiza have in common is that they share the same sun and I’ve been to both of them. 

The reason why I’m telling you all this, though, is basically my way of coming to terms with the fact that however much I want to hate escaping to the middle of nowhere with Ed, to wear no make up, drink tea, play board games and climb a mountain, it actually feels so good…

I’m pretty smug right now, not because I blagged a load of free drinks last night or found a cheeseburger on the side of the road, but because I just completed an exceptionally difficult part of a 1000-piece jigsaw. The very experience of using a teapot is filling me with so much pleasure, as are the free cakes in our airbnb and the thought of having my second bath in 24 hours. 

So despite feeling positively ancient, a little concerned that I’ve done my back in hunching over to examine 250 shades of jigsaw cloud, and being one comment about the weather away from retirement, life is rather lovely and I could definitely get used to it.  

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And all this very non-cool, non-vibey, but positively glorious behaviour, it’s got me thinking about age. We live in  a pretty damn confusing world that makes a big deal about age all the time. “Why don’t you act your age for a change?” We skip from wanting to look older, sneaking into 15 movies or staying up past midnight secretly watching American Pie, to trying desperately hard to wind the clock backwards as we cry at our first wrinkle, like me, last week, googling ‘if I eat enough jelly, will my frown line disappear?’

We set ourselves goals in line with our birthdays without even the remotest essence of logic (11-year old me would be very disappointed to see I’m not carrying my third child right now) and then freak out when we inevitably fail. I feel guilty, like now, when in my head I’m acting way older than I’m supposed to, but also when I feel like I’m not maturing quickly enough (getting excited by toys in cereal). 

So where’s the line? Would all this behaviour be acceptable for twenty-somethings if Ed and I turned Scrabble into a drinking game right now and spiked the teapot with vodka? Whilst part of me would still be well up for that, I’d also be apprehensive at not being able to fully enjoy saying hello to the chickens tomorrow morning because I now get blinding hangovers. 

I’m not limited to being old though, oh no. I often get told I look, sound, and act younger than I am (remember THIS?). Perhaps that’s a fear of growing up and not knowing where I want to be. A consequence of feeling so averse to heading down any kind of normal direction, I just sit on the floor eating gingerbread men and missing the days of having that bubble bath man whose head changed colour in the water. 

What’s really dawning on me though is that either way I don’t seem to have an in-between – where I should be, aged 25, a quarter of a century. Feeling old-old, in my head, is very different to feeling like an adult. I don’t feel like a grown-up at all, more like I’ve skipped a generation. 

On my commute, at work, at dinner with friends on a Friday night, proper twenty-something occurrences, I still sometimes feel like I’m playing pretend and at any moment the teacher will call me out the playground and I’ll go back inside to making things with pipe cleaners. Really, until I set foot in Whistles for the first time, stop biting my nails, or getting tempted by the kids menu, I’m as far away from adulthood as I am from Ibiza.

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Can I see my future from here?

However…all this tea and bath time and sheep and country air has given me ample time to sit back and reassess all this and in doing so I think I’ve found the answer I’m looking for. This is what our twenties are all about, right? Way more than being able to afford to shop/go out/holiday where Time Out recommends, more than making progress in your career, earning all the money, finding a partner and having the perfect Instagram account. It’s about self-discovery and asking questions. The time to live life as you and discover who you are before you get pulled into a definite direction. 

Whether that’s finding out how good you really are at Scrabble, to where you rank in pub golf, to deciding on a favourite tea once and for all, perfecting the healthy lunchbox or choosing to go back to Ibiza to get your own tattoo it’s about finding some answers. Wherever you damn well like and however you damn well please. 

This weekend, despite feeling like I shouldn’t really be stepping into Wales until I’ve finished what I’ve started, I’ve brought the kid inside me along too just to even things out. I’ve eaten nothing but Babybel, Frubes and hot chocolate with marshmallows and for every jigsaw piece I complete I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll counteract it with Jagerbombs at some point in the near future. 

There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now and that’s not because I’m running away from anything or pretending to be something I’m not. It’s because I know myself a little bit better. I know doing puzzles relaxes me even if it cricks my neck. It feels good to eat a box of Cadbury’s milk tray to myself on the sofa while Ed takes over the jigsaw because I’ve spent the last two weeks in London avoiding sugar to improve my skin and spots don’t matter in Wales because the sheep are too busy birthing lambs. It feels seriously good to be with Ed, because despite living together we don’t seem to ever spend time with each other in London. We both kinda busy, dudes, Ed trying to live a normal life and master the perfect poached egg, and me, trying to get famous and dragging him down with me. 

Before you think I’ve gone insane though, don’t worry, it’s not romantic in the slightest. As is tradition, when IBS kicks in half way up a mountain and Scrabble nearly ends in divorce, romance is gobbled up by a nearby sheep and gone for good. Just how we like it. 

Wales, it turns out, is as good for the soul as losing your mind to Tinie Tempah in the Baltics. It’s completely silent, the perfect antidote to life in the city and I’m a little sad to be coming home. But alas, I have a life to be living and there’s plenty more time for that. 

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Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health

Anxiety Remedies from A to Z.

Hi friends. You’ll never guess what I got given this weekend?

(Unless I’ve told you in person.)

A cup of tea “with added perspective.” Actual bottled perspective. In my tea. Such is this modern world. It was after the best only vegan massage of my life, so for anyone who cares, liquid perspective is definitely plant-based. 

Now I love tea, and inhaling bath bombs for well over an hour had left me parched, so I downed it in one. And I like to think that the absorption of liquid perspective into my gut is the reason I suddenly feel so inspired to alphabetise my favourite anxiety remedies.

It will either be really helpful or really wanky but what else is one supposed to do with an English degree?

For anyone who has stumbled upon this blog for the first time, alongside documenting the everyday chaos of being a twenty-something chasing big dreams in shoes that don’t fit, I sometimes travel into the pretty lush territory of living with anxiety. The funny and relatable bits of incessant hypochondria and perpetual butterflies. To demystify mental health and get it all out of my head and onto paper. 

Right now I’m prettyyy good. If you don’t count the day I actually cried over spilt milk and the fact that my skin is so bad I could weep. When will the day come that I’m not queueing in line with people still worrying about their Year 9 Sats to try the new Freederm range? I feel relaxed, on top of things, happy, and less fluttery than usual.

Because, perspective…

So I thought, while I’ve got all this rationale in my digestive system, I would make a list of what gets me out of a funk, in the hope it might help anyone else desperate to be a superhero but constantly tripping up on their cape. My anxiety alphabet is a combination of things to build into an everyday routine to try and maintain a more positive outlook, as well as those in-case-of-emergency spoonfuls of sugar. Remedies for the symptoms rather than the causes but every little helps and this girl don’t have time to dig that deep today.  So without further ado…

A is for… Air

I’m talking fresh air, oxygen, space. Venturing outside, preferably with all the trees, a beach and at least one animal to rescue. Getting away from the panic zone, realising the world ain’t going anywhere, and putting one foot in front of the other until you’re back on track. 

Breathe 

Slowly realising the first two on my list make it look like I’m writing a First Aid training manual. Totally feel like I’m in Casualty. Anyway. Integrating deep breathing into your daily routine, and not just when you’re feeling overwhelmed, is vital. Your brain the oxygen and it’s a good excuse to play sleeping lions IMO.

Cleanse

Clean clothes, clean sheets, clean skin. However wanky it sounds, it’s a simple and effective way to calm the hell down. Also easy to build into a routine and good for the soul innit – dare you to put on some whalesong at the same time. Feed back and tell me if it’s too much. 

Distractions

Anything to get you out of your own head and doing something that isn’t beating yourself up (or googling symptoms.) This might be cooking if you’re not me and regularly burning water or playing the piano… For me right now it’s getting competitive on my boyfriend’s playstation. It feels good when the biggest thing you’re worrying about in the evening is capturing an escape pod on Battlefront. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d say. 

Exercise 

I’m very rubbish at exercising frequently. I struggle to run unless someone’s legged it with my Krispy Kremes and I’m pretty sure Pilates gave me a hernia. But there’s literally nada better for raising your endorphins, Lena Dunham swears by it and she is the gospel, and it sure as heck feels good when you get your donuts back AND look 0.5% more like Jessica Ennis.

Friends: your Anxieteam.

The people who will listen to you and get you through it. Because you’re never alone. I overshare because I lack a filter but my goodness I’m so grateful for the people who at a moment’s notice will sit on Skype and feel their boobs to assure me I’m normal. Find an Anxieteam and create an emergency WhatsApp group who’ve got your back. 

Gratefulness

Feeling lucky can often be enough to snap you out of the blues. Even if it’s sitting in bed with a hot chocolate at the end of the day and being grateful you didn’t burn your tongue on it (just me?), jotting down in a notepad the good things in your life is grounding and builds a positive state of mind.  

Hot drinks

My mum taught me that at times of real stress, sipping a hot drink is distracting and calming. She is bang on and this is one of my ultimate faves. It also completely justifies stocking up on Teapigs.

Ink

Writing. It. Down. It’s not for everyone but materialising worries makes me rationalise them, break them down, see them for what they are. Which is mostly my imagination. Which one should reserve for Antonio Banderas fantasies and nothing else. 

Joy 

Being happy about the little things in your life. It lifts your mood, your perspective, your values. Also finding things you are happy with about yourself. I’m guilty of placing more value on Tupperware than my own brain and I’m working on being happier with who I am, even if that means accepting I may always gag on my toothbrush. 

Kindness

Be kind to yourself. We all have that little voice in the back of our heads, more poisonous than the primary school bully who stole your gel pens. Time to be a bit nicer to ourselves. Having anxiety does not make you weak or stupid. It makes you brave, strong, unique. Remember you did good today going underground/having that blood test/doing that presentation. Time to toast yourself with some wine and wotsits. 

Laughter

Laughing is the best. I started listening to the My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast and it is the most hilarious remedy ever. Twenty eight minutes in and I nearly weed myself on the tube three times yesterday. Someone needs to tell Mary Poppins that an adult analysing his dad’s erotica is without a doubt the sugar of the twenty-first century. 

Mindfulness

Not gonna lie. Still haven’t quite got the hang of this because if I focus on the present I mostly see pigeons, chewing gum and recycling bins. However I do try and be mindful in the shower (when I’m not checking myself for all forms of cancer or pulling hair out the plughole). To train my brain to focus instead of wander. I’m including this as motivation more than anything. Perhaps motivation should have been my M word. Hm. 

No 

It’s okay to say no sometimes. Put yourself first. A lot of anxiety comes from the pressure of not letting anyone else down, worrying what people think, committing to too much, piling on the pressure. It’s okay to say no to drinks one night and just go home and order Dominoes. As long as you order extra garlic bread. 

Own it 

For me, realising I’m having a bit of a crazy anxious moment is the first step to sorting it out. So owning anxiety and then learning how to handle it makes you feel a whole lot better about progress. It’s very difficult to treat when you’re in denial but easy to get help if you recognise it, and definitely, definitely, not something to be ashamed of. Own it gal, wear it like Louboutins and it won’t trip you up. Unless you suck at heels. Then own it like Uggs. 

Projects

Motivation. Creativity. Something to take pride in. That’s yours. Whether it’s colouring or couch to 5k, if you have something on the go it builds your confidence, helps you discover a new side of yourself, gets you out of your own head, introduces you to new people, and makes you happy. Writing this blog has become the best downtime activity I could have wished for with the exception of caramel nibbles and Twitter stalking. 

Questions 

I worry about irrational things, like  having cancer, or constantly losing my phone/purse/mind. Treating this rationally helps to separate the logic from the fantasy, to conquer them. Useful questions: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” “How likely is that?” “What can you do to make you feel better?”

Room 

Make room for anxiety in your life. It’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon so just shift a bit of space around to accommodate it. The less unwelcome it feels the less intimidating is and the more manageable. Secondly find a room, somewhere, that makes you feel happy, comforted, and anxiety-free. Mine is my lounge. It’s full of candles (I’m so bloody middle-aged) and there are Nobbly Bobblies in the freezer RIGHT. THERE.

Smells 

I’m a bit obsessed with nice smells at the moment. Aforementioned candles. Also linen spray. They are very comforting and oh my god I’ve turned into my grandma. Abort. Abort. 

Treats

Treat yourself gang! The other night I rang my mum upset because I was worried and beating myself up for not feeling better after a doctors appointment and basically drowning in despair. Good old madre told me to go to sleep then wake up and treat myself to something the next day because, yes, I’d been putting up with a lot of shit, in my body and in my head, and I deserved a break. As a culture we probably don’t do this enough. It’s about working the hardest and competing to be the most exhausted or stressed. This is not cool. Living in London is lameeee sometimes. So’s being a girl/being 25/paying rent. Time for some rewards just because. Who’s with me?

U-turn

I was going to say underwear as it sounds all sassy and life-changey but when I’m anxious I can forget to put underwear on so it’s not really a thing for me. My U-turn is recognising something that’s making you miserable and instead of just putting up with it, side-stepping the hell away and changing your life for the better. I ran away from real life this time last year and flew to Australia and it was the best decision I could have made. 

Variation 

Now don’t get me wrong – I love a routine. But I also get alllll the fear if my life starts to feel too mundane. So mix it up a little so you don’t feel trapped. That could be switching up your packed lunch or doing stand up comedy. Either way it’s exciting, it’s plucky, and at the very least people around you will get crudite envy. 

Water

It’s good for everything. It should be on every list. There is nothing better beginning with W except maybe ‘wishes that come true’ and ‘wizards’ but neither of those exist in our world. So water, water, water. 

X-tremes 

Pushing yourself towards the healthy kind of adrenaline rather than the adrenaline that wakes you up in the morning with all the fear. It’s realising you can do anything if you put your mind to it. For me this was climbing a mountain and riding a rollercoaster with a loop in the same week. Neither of which I thought I could do. Literally rock and roll. But it could be smaller – like jumping into a swimming pool, dancing in the rain or trying olives. 

You

You got this. Be proud of who you are. Anxiety doesn’t define you and won’t stop you doing anything. It’s just finding the path that’s right for you to do it your way. 

Zzzz…

Total cheat but Z is for sleep. Sleep’s a tricky one as sometimes stress and anxiety = hello insomnia. But I still live by the rule that everything feels better in the morning (except pizza digestion). Starting a new day afresh is the way. 

Thanks for reading mes amies xxx xxx