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:

The Family We Choose

I have known from a very young age that family is important. I have been blessed to have a family that knows this too. My family, both immediate and extended, has always been a close one: we enjoy spending time together, take care of one another, love one another, and treat each other with respect. This has always been important to me and I have always been grateful for the family I have. I know not everyone is so lucky.

The care and closeness between us is always especially apparent at times of grief or trouble. When the chips are down everyone pitches in and we hold each other up. I could write a considerable amount about my wonderful family and the way in which we rally round each other in good times and bad, but I actually want to write about something else. I want to write about the family we choose. I want to write about friends.

I have never been one for having hundreds of friends: a small number of particularly close friends has always suited me better. I have been very fortunate over the years to have made friends with some incredible people, and they have become the family I chose. They have rallied round and held me up through good times and bad. They have celebrated with me in triumph and have consoled me in sorrow.

I have more friends at this point in my life than I have ever had before and I have been truly overwhelmed by their love and support as I come to terms with my family’s latest loss. There have been small gestures in the form of text messages and post it notes simply saying ‘I love you’, ‘Ring if you need anything’, ‘Have some cake’ (left with cake!). There have been specific pages in specific books, bookmarked and left for me, from friends knowing there is nothing they can say to make it better but that I might find comfort from the words of a favourite character or author. 



There have been deliveries of beautiful flowers, late night visits with doughnuts and more flowers, thoughtful gifts to make me smile: the list goes on. The care and attention my friends have given over to lifting me up when I feel down has moved me deeply. I feel so blessed to have this family that I chose as well as the one I was born too.


I’ve run out of words. I don’t quite know how to express what’s happening in my head and my heart. So I’ll finish with this: to all my friends, thank you for being the incredible people that you are and for the love, care, and friendship you have shown me. Whether this has come as messages, hugs, book pages, flowers, gifts, cake, or simply a smile, thank you. It means more than you know.

Xx

Anyday Musings

This ‘Anyday Memewas stolen from: Aromantic Aardvark


1. What is your dream career, and what path do you plan to take to get there? 

This has changed so much over the years that I’m not really sure right now. I love the career I’m in, supporting young people in school to succeed in English, so I guess that’s the path I’ll continue to persue as long as I continue to enjoy and do well at it. I officially received notification of my HLTA status last week (yay) so there aren’t any more qualifications I need to be able to do this job, however I’m always interested and excited to develop as a professional and I would like to get more involved in whole school literacy work so maybe there’s something to look into there.

That said, if we are talking dream dream careers then recently I keep daydreaming about being a writer…

 2. Who do you aspire most to be like? 
Oh gosh that’s tricky! I don’t think there is any one person I aspire to be like. I aspire to be a combination of all the people I look up to most; my mum, dad, brother, husband and best friends all top that list.

 3. What do you like in a best friend? 
Someone I can be silly with. Someone I can belly-laugh with. Someone I can cry with. Someone I can have intellectual conversations with. Someone I can sit in silence with. Someone who just ‘gets’ me and who I just ‘get’ in return. Someone who it doesn’t matter if we haven’t seen each other, or even spoken, for ages because when we do it’s like we never stopped. I’m lucky enough to have more than one of these people in my life!

4. Do you currently have any squishes (people you really want to be best friends with)? 
I really want to be best friends with the people I’m already best friends with…so that’s handy! Although I do have a bit of a celebrity squish on Emma Watson…

5. What is your ideal platonic relationship? 
Ummm….this seems like a strange question…see answer to Q.3.

6. Best late night IM/phone conversation story. 
I’m usually sleeping late at night so don’t have many of these, I’d probably have to go way back to when my now-hubby was just a friend. We had some awesome MSN chats! We used to have conversations about what music we were listening to, except rather than giving a straight answer we’d just send a lyric and then the conversation would turn into us messaging the entire song back and forth. Good times. 😊

7. List one person you’d like to wear the sweater of, one person you’d like to bake cookies with, and one person you’d like to drive around and get lost with. (can be celebrities or fictional characters, has to be three different people and not all the same person) 
Really I could do any and all of these things with any and all of these people, however since you’re making me choose…

Wear the sweater of – hubby dearest. I always used to steal his sweaters, harder to do now we live in the same house, he can just steal them back!
Bake cookies with – one (or all) of my favourite ladies: Mum, Heti, Rach – can’t choose between them but I know they’d all be up for baking cookies!!
Drive around and get lost with – my dad. I love driving with my dad, although honestly it’s very unlikely I’d ever get lost with him.

8. Describe your current best friend(s). 
Se answers to question 3 – this is exactly what all my best friends are like.

9. What is a strange, little-known fact about you? 
Daddy longlegs freak me out.

10. What is a career you wanted to have when you were younger, and still kind of want to have now? 
Ballerina. Artist. Interior designer.

11. If you could have tea and pleasant conversation with one person, who would it be? 
I could go for pleasant conversation with most people really…but I don’t drink tea so make mine a hot chocolate or a fruit juice!

12. If you had a time machine, what era would you go to? 
Early 19th Century.

13. What celebrity or historical figure would you love to have as your best friend and why? 
Emma Watson because she is awesome! Seriously though, what an incredible young woman and role model for all: UN ambassador for women, founder of HeforShe, played one of the best female literary characters ever, has not allowed fame and fortune to go to her head or stand in the way of her education and has used it to become an advocate for people around the world who may struggle to use their own voice…I don’t think I need to go on. And she always seems so lovely and down to earth!

14. What fictional character would you love to have as your best friend and why? 
Hermione Granger.

15. If you could have one wish, what would it be (cannot be related to romance or sex)? 
To never feel unnecessary fear or anxiety, or experience a panic attack, ever again.


16. If you were trapped on a deserted island and could only take one item, what would it be? 
A book…please don’t ask me which one…
Am I allowed a pencil as well?

17. If you could pick one career other than the one you are pursuing/plan to pursue, what would it be? 
Writer.

18. What is your best memory you have with a friend? 
I’m really not sure I can pick one, I have too many good ones!  

19. Do you have any peculiar interests that most people don’t know about? 
Not peculiar ones, no. At least I don’t think so.


20. What were your favorite childhood toys? Do you still have them? 
Playmobile, which I don’t still have, my teddy bear Snowy, which I do, and a ton of children’s books (yes they count as toys) of which I still have my favourites.

21. Favorite baked good? 
Cake! Of the sponge variety with melted chocolate on top. Or chocolate chips. Or butter cream.

22. If your best friend were here right now, what would you do with them (cannot list best friend as your romantic/sexual partner) ? 
Talk and laugh and watch Disney films probably.

23. Who would you love to play video games with? 
I don’t really love to play video games but when I do my favourite person to play them with is my hubby.

24. If you could visit any country, which one would it be? 
Why do you keep making me choose one thing?!

Probably either New Zealand or Canada.

25. Are there any friends you miss having around?
I miss having Rach around because she insists on living far away.

This Girl Can – Empowering or Undermining?

If you haven’t already seen it, you really need to watch the Sport England, This Girl Can video. This one right here:

Now when I first saw it I loved it! I thought “Hooray! Real women who look healthy and happy!”. It made me want to go to dance glass with my friends, go to the gym, get sweaty and not care about it. Even better, for once it wasn’t because I thought I needed to do something to get in shape, or change my body, but because the video reminded me how good it feels to do exercise I enjoy.

Then I read this article which gave me pause for thought. Is the positive message of body acceptance really undermined by the use of the word ‘girl’ as opposed to ‘woman’? It is really still giving in to societal norms of objectifying female flesh?

The article really made me pause and think about the video and the message it was actually sending…and I stick by my original feelings. I think the video is empowering and positive. I think it encourages women to feel comfortable with their bodies and to do exercise, not because it will give them the ‘perfect’ body, but because it will keep them healthy and happy. I don’t feel patronised or undermined by the use of the word ‘girl’ because although I know myself to be a strong independent woman there is, and always will be, part of me that feels like a little girl. The part that finds wonder in everyday things and lets her imagination get wildly carried away with itself and loves disney forever.

I also think the video shows women engaging positively with each other as friends and teammates. I think the whole idea behind the campaign is great and I really hope that it inspires women to feel more comfortable with who they are.

#THISGIRLCAN

😃

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

Words of Wisdom

Yesterday I had the loveliest evening with one of my favourite ladies. We ate good food and watched a good film and had a lovely old catch up. During the course of the evening this lovely friend of mine also came out with a real gem of wisdom. So important is it’s message I decided it needed it’s own blog post. And indeed it’s own motivational poster format…

IMG_7040.JPG

Read it well and take it to heart folks. Truer words there never were!

Love you H. ❤️

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