Being Emotionally Honest

This week was Mental Health Awareness Week and all week I’ve been wanting and meaning to write something to share with you, my lovely readers. But I’ve had a funny mental health week and have just not quite been in the right frame of mind. I’ve felt edgy, restless and anxious, as if something is bubbling just under my surface. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.

When anxiety starts to prickle like this, I try to acknowledge the feeling. In the past, I used to work hard to ignore it, or would make myself feel guilty about it, which only made things worse. It has taken a surprising amount of effort to reach a point where I can allow myself to just feel what I feel, without judgement. Like much else in life, there always seem to be ‘should’s and ‘must’s crowding in, making me feel bad about my feelings, wants and needs. But by acknowledging the truth of what I’m feeling, without trying to tell myself I should feel something different, I’m far more able to deal with those emotions. This is true of more than just anxiety.

Emotions are human. And as humans we experience a full spectrum. It’s no good trying to repress what might be seen as ‘negative’ emotions. If you feel angry, be angry; if you feel resentful, be resentful; if you feel sad, be sad. These aren’t necessarily pleasant things to feel but feel them we do. If, when one of these emotions crops up, we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be angry, or we should be grateful, or we have no right to be sad, we are denying some of the truth of ourselves. And the real truth is that you can’t force an emotion away. You can pretend. You can try to bury it in falsehood. But that emotion will still be there and, if you let it, it will fester.

Like a festering wound, a festering emotion can make you very ill indeed. You have to let the ‘bad’ stuff out if you ever want to heal. One of the things that I used to worry about a lot was how my emotions might make other people feel. When something or someone made me angry, I didn’t want to be angry with them in case it upset them, especially if that person was someone I loved, who loved me, and who I knew probably didn’t mean to make me angry. When something or someone made me resentful, I didn’t want to behave resentfully towards them, and when something or someone (or often nothing) made me sad, I didn’t want to show that sadness because I thought my privileged life meant I had no right to be sad. But by being so focused on what other people might feel in response I put myself in some really dark and painful places. And the thing is, allowing yourself to feel what you feel isn’t about rubbing it in someone’s face. You don’t have to take the festering wound and smear it on the person who accidentally gave you a paper cut, or whose success distracted you from what you were doing so you accidentally gave yourself one.

It takes a conscious effort but I will now (most of the time) deal with those emotions in one of two ways: I will acknowledge it out loud or in writing, just to myself; or if it’s really eating at me, I will speak to a friend or family member who is outside the situation and, as honestly as I can, explain what I’m feeling. These acknowledgements are usually prefaced with lots of ‘I know I’m really lucky to have X, Y and Z, BUT…’ or ‘I feel like I’m being a bitch/ungrateful/overreacting, BUT…’. With the effort of being honest about my feelings, to someone else in particular, comes the need to qualify that I know I speak from a place of privilege. The process at the moment is still partly one if seeking approval for what I’m feeling, which I hope to move beyond eventually. But this has been a huge step forward for me because I used to keep everything I considered vaguely negative bottled up inside. I would not allow myself to be imperfect in my emotions. I would not allow myself to be human.

What I have found is that once I have acknowledged whatever it is out loud, I either feel better immediately and am able to move on, or it gets me to a place where I can then address the person/situation with a greater degree of honesty and clarity. My feelings will usually have subsided to a point where I can express them in what feels like a reasonable and healthy way. It’s a work in progress and sometimes it still takes me a while to realise I’m letting something fester, but I can feel the difference this has made to my emotional life.

I’m also getting much better at self-care and making time every most days to check in with myself and have a moment of honesty. Some of my favourite ways to do this are by reading, listening to a podcast, taking photographs, writing and journaling. Here’s what that looks like currently:

Reading:

The Self Care Project by Jayne Hardy

Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Circe by Madeline Millar

(I know, I know, four books at once seems a lot. I always tend to have a lot of books on the go because I’m such a mood reader!)

Listening To:

The Happy Place

The Guilty Feminist

Harry Potter and The Sacred Text

The Quibbler

Made of Human

Photographing:

Books

Nature

My dog!

Writing:

Poetry

Blog posts

A young adult fantasy novel…

Journaling:

Quotes

Doodles

Tracking sleep, mood, steps

Daily gratitude

This Mental Health Awareness Week, and beyond, I encourage you to be emotionally honest with yourself, make the time for self care, and help continue the conversation about mental health, whether online, with friends and family, or even with strangers.

What do you think is important for maintaining mental health?

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Finding Happiness

Today is International Happiness Day. I have been thinking a lot about happiness recently; I think I am generally a happy sort of person. I have a wonderful life and there are many things in my everyday that make me very happy indeed. I also sometimes feel profoundly unhappy, for no discernible reason, and subsequently make myself feel even more unhappy by berating myself for feeling unhappy in the first place. I am surrounded by happy people, but I am struck by the fluctuations in their happiness too: one of my very dearest friends has recently suffered a blow which is causing her deep unhappiness, whilst another has just experienced what will probably be one of the happiest moments of her life. Happiness is a strange and intangible thing which can both live inside the darkest of times and can dominate whilst unhappiness resides within it.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the many small things that can be little happinesses in themselves and that can contribute to a bigger happiness. I believe these little everyday happinesses are fundamental to our ability to cope when we are faced with unhappy events and moments. I believe that everyday happinesses are different for everyone but that they DO exist for everyone. I encourage you to create a ‘happy list’ of your own, to help you find comfort when it seems there is none. For now, I’ll leave you with a snippet of mine:

– Watching a puppy chase it’s tail or run to its hearts content.

– Laughing until you cry and your sides hurt – especially if the thing that made you laugh wasn’t actually that funny…

– Reading something that speaks directly to your soul.

– Receiving one of those really great hugs that feels like it’s squeezed all of your brokenness back together and finding that afterwards you feel just a bit stronger than before.

– Seeing spring flowers begin to emerge.

– Hearing a certain song that you just can’t stop yourself from singing and dancing along to.

– Dancing.

– Singing songs from musicals at the top of your voice.

– The smell of that particular moisturiser that reminds you of mum and makes you feel like a child again.

– The taste of risotto that reminds you of dad and makes you feel like a child again.

– Toast with lots of lurpak, cut up into small squares, because that’s how gran used to make it.

– Knowing there are people who love you no matter what.

What are some of your everyday happinesses?

It’s #TimeToTalk, Now

It’s easy to be too busy

Or say

It’s not the right time

To worry that you’ll make it worse

So you accept their fumbled

“Fine.”

It’s hard to find the moment

For hearing truth

And depth

But really we’re just finding excuses

To keep ourselves

Deaf

To all the pain that gathers

When people can’t speak

Truth

And have to keep it bottled up

For fear of hurting

You

But what happens when you leave it?

When you let the silence

Grow?

What if their pain is your pain too

But not asking means

You’ll never

Know?

So let’s all breathe together

Hold hands and take

A dive

Into conversation

With neighbours

Strangers

Friends

And lovers

Because

Now

Is The Time.

  • JH

***

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

Please do not struggle alone.

Whatever The Weather

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur.

We’ve gained a family member in the shape of the most beautiful springer spaniel puppy; I’ve been more poorly than I’ve been in a very, very long time; my less than lovely anxiety beastie has been going a bit haywire, causing me all sorts of exciting issues when it comes to, you know, functioning; an work has been busy, busy, busy and I’m starting to come to know more of the challenges of my new role.

I’m not going to lie, some days have been really, really difficult. Some days it has felt like it is only my skin holding me together. I have felt lost and vulnerable and scared and wondered what on Earth I am going to do.

And then I realise: I’m already doing it.

Difficult though it can be I am doing it. I am getting up every day and, even when I feel anxious and panicky, I am living my life. Even though my proud streak makes me delay longer than I should, I am asking for help when I need it. And through all the hard, horrible, dim, grey days, there is always a little sunshine. There is my wonderful husband who knows just when to hold me quietly and just when to distract me and make me laugh; there is our gorgeous puppy who, even though she can be mischievous and is SUCH hard work, greets us every day with complete adoration and has brought even more love, fun and laughter into our lives; there my fabulous friends, who are always there with a kind word and a hug; there are my incredible colleagues, who are beyond supportive and make my job a joy even on the crappy days; and all my amazing family, whose love, support, wisdom, and understanding is abundant and invaluable.

So this half term week, as I balance rest and relaxation with puppy training and quality time with hubby, I will keep finding that sunshine. I urge you to do the same.

Even the tiniest glimmer is still a light in the dark and I’ve never known a star shine alone.

Here are just a few of my sunshiny stars:

God Bless, Take Care, Love You


There’s frost on the ground, but the sky burns

With the flaring amber of the setting sun.

There’s grief in our hearts, but joy in our souls

For that life lived and the love we’ve known.

There are tears on our cheeks, but laughter on our lips,

For the memories shared and tales retold.

He is

         Embracing his best love, with tears of joyful reunion.

We are

          Feeding the ducks on Langold Lake, with him telling jokes by our side.

He is

          Racing around on a long coveted Harley, chuckling like a school boy.

We are

           Playing dominoes for coppers, being tricked into extra pocket money.

He is

          Indulging in the biggest Yorkshire pudding he’s ever seen, with extra gravy of course.

We are

          Sitting at his feet watching cartoons and competing for who can laugh loudest and longest, at Pingu, Gromit, Tom and Jerry.

He is

          Saying: Goodbye,

                                  God bless,

                                           Take care,

                                                     Love you.

We are

           Saying: You too.

There is frost on the ground, but the sky burns

With the flaring amber of the setting sun.

The Opening at the Close

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A slightly belated happy New Year lovely people! I hope you had a wonderful and restful Christmas.

So another new year begins. As with them all it opens at the close of the last. I don’t know about you but 2014 was quite a year for me and mine. There was an awful lot of joy, happiness and exciting changes. There was also a lot of sadness, difficulty and heartbreak, both for myself and for people I love. Beginnings and endings all tied up together resulting in a rather confusing jumble of emotions.

There is a lot to reflect on from the last year: some good, some bad, some just…there. The thing that has really struck me from the last 12 months is how very very blessed I am with friends and family.

I have always considered myself lucky in this area but this last year has seen my gratitude for the presence of those closest to me soar. I truly have the most incredible people in my life. The love, support, encouragement, faith, constancy, fun, comfort and laughter brought by these amazing people is constant, and leaves me overwhelmed with love for them all.

In happiness and heartbreak I am always enveloped in the warmth of my friends and family and for that I am eternally grateful. To all of you wonderful people, you know who you are, thank you for all you bring to my life.

May 2015 be a very happy year for you all.x

Today’s the Day…

Seven years after starting my degree, today I finally graduate!

Warning: here comes the soppy bit…

I absolutely could not have done this degree without all the wonderful friends, family and colleagues who have supported me and there are a few who need special thank yous. My wonderful husband Dave; thank you for staying up late to read through my assignments; for putting up with my mini breakdowns every time an exam came round and for generally being incredibly supportive and encouraging. I know I spent a lot of time working trough the evening and weekends instead of spending time with you and not once did you complain. Thank you.

All my incredible parents, Neville, Cathy, Thel, Paul, Sue and Tony; thank you for talking me into it! For being so confident I could do it and do it well; for offering encouragement and advice when it got tough; for giving me somewhere to live and for helping me out so I could afford the fees for the last few years; for always being so happy and proud when my results came through. For being generally wonderful. Thank you.

My incredible mentors Susie and Cat; I literally could not have completed it without you! You gave up evenings to come and observe me; you always gave me encouraging and helpful feedback; you supported me when I hit tough spots; you fought my corner; you listened to my ideas and praised me and inspired me the whole way. I am a thousand times better at my job for having had you two awesome youth workers to guide me. Thank you.

Thank you to the Open University; without the opportunity you presented I’m not sure I would have ever completed a degree. So thank you for existing and operating the way you do.

There are many more people who have been part of this journey with me (you know who you are!). Thank you to you all.

Love you x

Summer Highlights

It’s that time already. Summer is drawing to a close, it’s time to head back to school, but before we do that I though I’d share some of the loveliness that has filled my summer this year…

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We had a fab visit from my oh so lovely sister in-law who had the honour of being the first guest to stay in our new house. We enjoyed the sunshine with walks and ice cream and BBQs. Lovely.

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We had the nicest day and night out in Stratford celebrating our first wedding anniversary (eek! A whole year!) followed by…

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…a wonderful week in and around Bath (read Baaaaarth!) with all my lovely in-laws. Lots of exploring local landmarks and touring the National Trust tea rooms!

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Then there was the gathering of the clan at the traction engine rally. This was in honour of my amazing Gran, who unfortunately was too poorly to be there with us. So we mooched around on her behalf, drank cider, enjoyed the dodge’ems and the merry-go-round, and sat round a log fire late into the night. I absolutely adore my fabulous family. 🙂

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We squeezed in a fab night out at Manchester’s Albert Hall to see Beirut. Boy can those guys play!!! Amazing music, amazing atmosphere and a great little venue.

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I had a longer-than-usual visit from my beautiful bestie Rachel, which unfortunately I didn’t take many picture of because we we’re too busy acting like five year olds. However we did document our baking disaster (above). I’m sure you’ll agree that our honeycomb free-from brownies look delicious in their raw state…and not so much once they had been baked into something that, quite frankly, you could build bridges out of. It was that solid. Note to self; do NOT put honeycomb in brownies. It doesn’t work.

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We did a bit of demolition on the outside of our house…

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And a bit of building too…

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And now it’s starting to look quite pretty! We just need a new path, a rebuild front step, and some foliage in pots and hey presto, we’ll be done. It’s very satisfying seeing these little areas come together.

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This week, just to finish off, I taught my first ever English classes! Super scary but went fairly well I think, and all good practice for my brand shiny new job as an English HLTA and mentor. Which I start next week. And am VERY nervous about. And excited about. And not really sure what I’m doing about. However I know I am going to be working with an amazing and lovely team of people who I can run crying and screaming to when it all gets a bit much. (Fingers crossed for not much on the crying and screaming front though!).

I’m now just enjoying the last couple of lazy days before the mayhem of a new term begins. Although to be honest I’m quite looking forward it. I always was an autumn girl…

Off On the Right Foot

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This has popped up on my Pinterest feed a lot recently. I think I may have pinned it about four times, calmly ignoring the ‘looks like you already pinned this‘ warning, because it is me to a T. I think it is absolutely one of the best things to find yourself in conversation, where you started out chatting about something possibly rather ordinary, like a book or a film, and seven hours later you’re still talking, having moved through every topic under the sun to now find yourself in deep space contemplating the origins of the universe.

These conversations are special because whether you’re talking to your mum or your best friend, or someone who you sat next to on a train, a deep connection is forged. They are the sort of conversations you will remember in years to come. You may not remember exactly what was talked about, but you’ll remember it happening. You’ll remember the feeling of connecting with another person, even if your views were opposing, because it’s just so HUMAN. There is something remarkable about a shared contemplation of life, the universe and everything. So next time you find yourself in a meandering conversation, where you started at A and suddenly find yourself at Llamas, embrace it! You never know when you might stumble across a better answer than 42.

 

Image found here.

Home Sweet Home

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This week something epic happened.

We bought a house.

Or rather we finished the long process of buying a house.

And moved in.

So for the first time in our lives, and after six years of working and waiting and saving, we now live in a house that is OURS. Not our parent’s, not our friend’s, not rented from a landlord, but actually properly ours.

It has been a VERY long time coming but I’ll tell you something…it was worth every second of waiting and every penny saved. It is the MOST amazing feeling to go home to a house we know is ours, and to be able to start making it into our perfect little home.

Something else that has to be said at this point is that we absolutely could not have done it alone. We are so very blessed to have the support of our amazing families and we quite literally would not be here if it wasn’t for them. They’ve given us places to live so we could save some pennies rather than have to pay enormous amounts of rent, they’ve stored our stuff, (a lot of it. For years.) They’ve lent us money, they’ve given us money, they’ve encouraged and supported us, and celebrated with us each time we got closer. They’ve helped us move, they’ve cleaned and built furniture and brought food and been generally the most fantastic group of people we know. So from the bottom of our hearts THANK YOU and we love you more than you know.

Thank you also to my wonderful hubby, who has also been incredible every step of the way and has kept me calm when it’s been stressful. Thank you for wanting to share this wonderful life with me and for everything you do to make it so fabulous and happy.

Now I’m super excited about getting stuck into lots of projects to make our home sweet home even better!